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).
This is a bitter-sweet time in the early ministry of Jesus. The text is clear. Because of Jesus’ teachings, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. John 6:66. But this is also a time of clear affirmation of the Person of Jesus among the core of the disciples. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68. These twin truths will frame the remaining years and work of the biblical narrative.
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) John 6:66-71.
1. The Challenge. You do not want to leave me too, do you? Amidst wholesale desertion, Jesus asks a rhetorical question, for which he knows the answer. It reaffirms His position with the disciples. I believe he asked this question, not to get information from his disciples – he knew that. But He wanted them to speak to and reaffirm their relationship and ministry going forward.
2. The Reality – No Other Option. Peter states, To whom shall we go? This doubles up the point above where Jesus is the sole and singular One from God and to be followed. No other options for true seekers of the Kingdom.
3. Knowledge Also Requires Belief. Knowledge of God or Jesus alone does not bring salvation. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shutter. James 2:19. Knowledge alone does not bring redemption. The 18 inch gap between the head and heart is required. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. That was the difference between the curious, the casual listener, the critic, and the disciple. It is faith, belief in Jesus.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10.
So this is a bitter-sweet historical period. A time of desertion, of predicted betrayal, and yet a time of affirmation of Jesus in his work leading to the cross. One more level of resistance coming next week. Even the brothers of Jesus did not believe in him. And others rejected the signs and miracles demonstrating His authority. Stay well this week.