The Gospel of John now moves to the early ministry of Jesus, both in demonstrating his authority as from God, and reaching out to all beyond Israel alone. The message of Jesus has gone out from now from multiple witnesses, not just Jesus. From John the Baptist, following on the predictions and words of the Old Testament and of Moses. And even so: I know you do not have the love of God in your hearts (5:42), how are you going to believe what I say (5:47). And the challenge has been: No fence sitting now about the person of Jesus. The miraculous signs of John’s gospels now speak to the identity and authority of Jesus as the Son of God:
- Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11);
- Healing the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46-54);
- Healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (Jn 5:1-15);
- Feeding the 5,000 (Jn 6:5-14);
- Walking on water (Jn 6:16-21);
- Healing the man born blind (Jn 9:1-7); and
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:1-45).
The narrative continues in rapid historical fashion with now the fifth of the seven signs from John:
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:26-29.
1. Lessons for the Disciples. These miracles and signs had a tutorial purpose for the disciples. That they not fear their circumstances when with Jesus. Caught in a storm, the waters and winds stilled by Jesus, who walks on water toward them to rescue them. The lessons are straightforward. Do not be afraid (John 6;20). And that they not doubt (Peter, Matthew 14:22-33). Doubt and fear will be the constant obstacles to faith and belief for the disciples during their travels with Jesus. Their task – keep their eyes on Jesus rather than their physical circumstances.
2. Lessons for the Crowds. A second tutorial is for the curious, the crowds. They did not understand the Kingdom purposes. They wanted to make Jesus their king, and physically bring in the nation Israel over their Roman conquerors. 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:15. They had no concept [yet] of issues of redemption and the approval of God by belief in Jesus.
3. Proof of Unbelief. As Jesus elaborated on the purposes of God and the need to believe in the Son of God, using physical vs spiritual bread as an illustration – do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life with the Son of Man will give you – they grumbled and complained – they began to grumble – Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph?
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:32-40.
You would think, now, that the lines are drawn, the groups are defined:
1. The disciples – the believers. The spiritual followers of Jesus – the disciples.
2. The unbelievers – despite seeing the miracles. And the curious crowds who do not believe despite the miracles.
3. Deserters. But a surprise to us, not to Jesus, not occurs. Many of his own disciples will desert him – ‘this is a hard teaching, who can accept it? (John 6;60). Understanding the need for perseverance and faith during trouble and testing is next for the disciples following Jesus.
Stay well this week.