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 with the fourth of seven signs in John – the feeding of the 5,000 from a basket of bread and fish.
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. Priorities that Move from the Temporary to the Eternal. Clearly, with the questions that came from this miracle, Jesus is not concerned about filling their stomachs, but their hearts and souls. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life. This is the same message Jesus gave his disciples: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work…even now he harvests for eternal life (4:34-36).
2. Understanding the Limitations of the Old Testament and the New Covenant in Jesus. The Old Testament was a yoke of bondage precisely because it could not change the heart. It produced fear and guilt, but no inward, spiritual incentive for obedience. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life, and was a ministry of death. (2 Cor 3:6-7). Righteousness could not come by the law and the Old Testament ((Gal 3:21).
3. God’s Timeline for the Ages. Jesus is using these miracles as witnesses to authenticate himself, his message, and his future work on the cross. So that there is no misunderstanding, this is not a deranged cleric wandering through the hills of Palestine. This is Him who speaks with the power and knowledge and authority of God, verified by multiple witnesses from the Old Testament, the prophets, John the Baptist, and now by these miracles. They were not for entertainment. They were to announce the coming of God among us, of the promised redemptive work necessary to bring those who believe in Him and receive Him from death to life.
Now Jesus is teaching about God’s work from the inside out. The Word is implanted or inborn (James 1:18). ‘For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (Rom 7:22). Therefore, being a Christian involves being dead to the Old Testament law and being married to a risen Savior and Lord, carried on by the Newness of the Spirit.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:4-6).
We are under grace in Jesus. Rom 6:14. Essentially, the Christian message is that we have been redeemed from the penalty of death and delivered to life and hope because of the applied righteousness of Jesus. The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent. This should be a great and regular encouragement to us in the trials and challenges of life. God’s best this week.