Jesus Speaks at Tabernacles

John 7:1-24

This chapter begins with discussions about whether or not Jesus would travel to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles.  This feast, also known as “Festival of Booths” was a week-long celebration of God’s provision of the nation during the 40 years in the Wilderness as well as for the late summer harvest  (see Lev. 23:34-43; Deut. 16:13-15). It was one of the three pilgrimage festivals to which Jewish men were expected to travel (Deut. 16:16). While at the festival, the attendees would live in temporary huts in remembrance of the way their ancestors lived during their trek through the Wilderness.

Jesus’ brothers (James, Joseph, Judas and Simon according to Mark 6:3) are encouraging Jesus to attend the Feast, and they have good worldly logic: You can’t be a public figure if you don’t show yourself to the people, and everybody will be there.  They do not seem to believe in their brother at this point, and this seems a little bit like a nice brotherly taunt.  We know that after Jesus’ resurrection they came to belief and were important leaders in the Jerusalem church. (Gal. 2:9)

Jesus tells His brothers that He won’t go because His time has not yet come.  Notice the reference in v. 1 that there were some who were awaiting His arrival to kill Him.  This statement on His part is meaning that the time for His death on the cross was still in the future for His earthly ministry was not yet completed.  He also makes another interesting observation in v. 7:  The world hates Him because He testifies that they do evil. Of course that isn’t what people usually enjoy hearing and His brothers are not involved in this, since they don’t believe Him anyway.  They can pack up and go any time… Verses 10-13 tell of Jesus’ going later to the Feast and of the whisperings of the Jews at Jerusalem.

Jesus arrives secretly and suddenly appears at the Temple and begins teaching.  Those who hear Him are amazed at the power of His teaching, and in typical worldly fashion wonder how He could teach like this without being formally trained.  A similar situation today might occur if we heard great teaching from someone who hadn’t been to College; it wouldn’t occur to anyone that the Holy Spirit might be involved.

In vv. 16-19 Jesus is responding to their wonder.  In vv. 16-17 He tells them that His teaching is from the Father and not from Himself.  He makes an interesting comment here when He says that anyone who chooses to do God’s will can tell where His teaching came from.  The word “chooses” is the one to focus on, for it says so much!  Do we “choose” to do God’s will, or do we “choose” to do our own?  If doing God’s will is a choice, then when we do not do His will that must also be a choice, and if we are not doing God’s will we cannot blame anyone or anything except ourselves, for we have chosen our path.  We have made a choice even when we decide not to decide.  In other words, if we choose to consider doing God’s will later… we have just chosen not to do His will now.  I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a little bit convicting!

In 18-19,  Jesus moves in another direction; one that has an interesting logic.  If a man speaks for Himself, he does so to gain honor for himself, that is to say he does it so that his audience will applaud.  Keep in mind that many want Him dead…  He is using this obvious observation as demonstration that His teaching came from God; He certainly isn’t gaining honor if everybody wants Him dead.  Then He mentions the Law of Moses, saying that none of His hearers have kept the Law. (Breaking the Law carries a death sentence).  This is to say that those who condemn Him are the ones who deserve to die.

If Jesus was trying to win the praise and honor of men, what He says in verses 20-24 is a poor way to go about it.  The reaction to His last comment above is strong: You’re nuts!  Who (as if they didn’t know) is trying to kill you?  In 21-23 He refers to the incident that got the leaders all riled up which was His healing of the crippled man at the pool in chapter 5 on the Sabbath.  He uses the example of circumcision, which must be done on the eighth day Sabbath or no as a justification of His miracle being done on that day, accusing people of making their judgments on mere appearances and not being willing to think through the actual truth of a situation.  He finishes by calling on them to start making better judgments.  In this, He speaks the truth plainly, so much so that He isn’t likely to gain any love from those to whom it applies.  This is an interesting example for us because you will notice that in this case, Jesus wasn’t exactly being overly concerned about their delicate feelings…

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The Bread of Life, part 2

John 6:42-71

If you haven’t read part 1 of this discussion, I would strongly recommend that you do so before you continue…

And now, the thrill-packed conclusion:

43-52:  Jesus tells them to stop grumbling amongst themselves, always a command we need to keep in mind, for while we grumble we neglect what He is teaching.  He goes on to give a memorable passage in which He tells them that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, and that we must eat of Him to have life.  We must eat of His flesh which He will give for the life of the world; physical bread will not give eternal life. The people, who are always stuck on the mere physicality of life are horrified!  Yuk!

53-59:  Since the people are determined to be stuck on the physical, Jesus gives them physical.  He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood as though He were going to offer Himself to a bunch of cannibals.  Of course the traditional Sunday school lesson will teach here that Jesus was only speaking of Communion: Not likely.  Again, we only see physical things.  Jesus was talking about what Communion represents; the reality of Communion.  Communion has little to do with its physical aspects; it is all about redemption and what sustains a new life.  When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup are we nourishing our bodies?  Hardly…

We do this in remembrance of what He did for us; this is important.  We go through an act that symbolizes taking Jesus into ourselves to sustain our lives spiritually. When you eat a meal food enters you body, and in due course provides energy and nourishment to your body; the elements that make up the food become one with your body on a molecular level. Thus in a sense the food becomes a part of you.  When we take the Spirit within us (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) the Spirit becomes a part of who and what we are spiritually, and grows within us when we allow it  this gives us eternal life.  This gives us fellowship with God, which was God’s purpose for creating Man in the first place; and completes the cycle of redeeming and reclaiming Mankind for God.

 

  Experience of Israel in Exodus Expectations of the Crowd in John 6 Jesus as the Bread of Life
Frequency Eat manna daily Eat bread daily Eat Bread once
Giver Moses Prophet like Moses God through Christ
Recipients Jews Jews All mankind
Spiritual Lesson Ate & learned nothing Eat and learn nothing Learn Christ
Result Died Die Eternal Life

 

Section 4: John 6:60-71

Upon hearing all of this, the people following Jesus largely abandoned Him. Of course we now know that this is typical of people who cannot allow themselves to discern spiritual truth.  People will often follow Jesus for a time, but when they realize that this involves more than a “get out of jail free” card, and that it will result in growing far beyond the merely physical they bail.  Jesus spoke one more great line here, one that we should commit to memory: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  This is truly something we must always keep in mind, for they are the key to unlocking the things of God.

Conclusion

It is important to note that Jesus in this discourse used typology in His treatment of manna and bread.  The manna is the type, Jesus is the antitype or the reality that the type represents.  God gave provision to the Israelites in the Wilderness with the manna; it sustained them.  However this was not God’s ultimate purpose.  His ultimate purpose was to redeem Mankind to Himself through Christ, thus the manna as sustenance was the type of Jesus the Redeemer and sustenance unto eternal life.  A related type would be the Communion elements: they are not what redeemed us, they are the representation of the body and blood of Christ: Christ is the redeemer. Of course, the Old Testament in particular is full of typology. Moses as the leader and redeemer of the people was a type of Christ, the Promised Land is a type of Heaven, and so on…

Something New is Coming

I wrote a post on Monday called “My oldest friend just retired” and as I was doing so, I had a thought; why not start a weekly feature in which I just write about “stuff”? You know, things that don’t fit the typical format here. Things that deal with random thoughts, random experiences or everyday life; or to put it another way, whatever strikes my fancy…

That Monday post was one of those things.

I have little thoughts that come to mind fairly often that would be fun to write about, but usually I don’t, figuring that my followers really don’t come here for such trivia; I have a “format” to follow and all that technical stuff. As I think about it some more, why not give it a try?

This Saturday afternoon, I think I’ll start a new feature called “Random Ramblings” (Yes, very original) that will be little pieces about whatever comes to mind. If it’s well received, I’ll keep going as long as I can think of something; if not, then it will randomly go off into the sunset.

So, this Saturday, will be the first of these, running a 12 noon Eastern (US) Time; see you then!

The Bread of Life, Part 1

John 6:1-42

This chapter is divided into four sections which, when considered together paint us a twofold picture of the human condition and God’s response to it.  We see the human tendency to put spiritual concepts into physical categories, and we see God’s response to human need as spiritual reality.  We also can see the result of the clash between the two: most people will fall away from God.

Section One: John 6:1-15

This is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  This great miracle of Jesus really gets the attention of the people because not only was it amazing to behold, but it also included a free meal.  To some in the crowd, Jesus leapt out as a man they should listen to, for He had performed a miracle; He must be in good with God!  To others, Jesus brought them hope that they could support their families for free; surely God was at work!

Section 2: John 6:16-24

This section includes another sign that the crowd did not get to see: Jesus walking on the water.  He left the place where He fed the crowd and the disciples followed Him by boat.  A storm blew up on the Sea and suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them.  When He got into the boat, they reached shore.  Not bad for a night’s work; two miracles in one. The next day, the crowd realized that Jesus was gone, and they went out to look for Him.  Eventually, they got into boats and sailed for Capernaum where He had gone, and we move into the central part of the chapter…

Section  3: John 6:25-59

In the third section, Jesus disappoints the crowd by telling them that He isn’t giving them another free lunch, but that the true bread of life is Jesus Himself.  Before getting into the particulars, we must understand that to these people, “bread” symbolizes life.  If a person has bread, he will not starve this day.  If he has the supplies and the ability to make bread tomorrow he will not starve then either: where there is bread there is continuation of life. Bread remains the staple aspect of Western cuisine to this day, much in the same way that rice is in the Far East.

25-27:  Jesus confronts the notion of free meals right away, pointing the people instead toward the spiritual truth behind the feeding of the five thousand.  The people could only see the physical, practical aspect of receiving food from Jesus.  Jesus on the other hand was more concerned with the truth behind the miracle: life depends on a life-source that transcends mere biology for the true nature of life is spiritual not physical.

28-29:  OK, they seem to say, what must we do?  They are looking for a new rule or an activity by which they could obtain a loaf of bread that will be able to automatically replenish itself: they were making a serious category error.

29-31:  The answer Jesus gave was classic: The work for you to do is to believe in Jesus. Great, say the people: give us a sign. It’s hard not to laugh at this… Wasn’t feeding the five thousand enough of a sign? What will Jesus need to do to convince the people, rise from the dead or something?  I’d bet people wouldn’t even believe Him if He did that! I know, why don’t  you start the manna flowing again…

32-33:  Here Jesus tells them that if they want manna from God, it isn’t the kind that Moses had, but rather it will be true bread (as opposed to literal bread) This true bread is Jesus Himself.  Jesus gives life; it doesn’t come from the grocery store, for life is a much more profound force than the continuation of a biological process in the body.

35-42:  Ok fine, give us some of this bread… Jesus tells them that He is the bread of life; all life forces come from Him.  If you take within the bread that is Jesus, you will have eternal life, not just your little lifetime here on earth.  This starts not with just eating some whole wheat or rye, but rather when you decide to believe.  If you don’t decide to believe then you can go no further down the road of eternal life, but when you make this huge choice, eternal life is within your grasp, through Christ Himself.  Quite naturally, the people didn’t want that, for they were only looking for physical things, and they grumbled and complained as people like to do.

To be continued…

Telling it Like it is

John 5:16-47

Picking up from our last  text about Jesus healing the man on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders are not pleased.  They aren’t interested in the miracle, they could care less what has happened for the man who was crippled for over thirty years, they only care that he carried his mat on the Sabbath.  In this text, we will see that Jesus makes a defense that contains within it not only His message about the gift of God, but the message of who Jesus is.  It will be followed by a proof of His claims, and is clearly the sort of thing that the leaders of the day would not put up with.

Jesus explains that God works on the Sabbath and so does He, for He does what the Father does.  The Jewish leaders are quick to understand what He is telling them: He is on an equal footing with God.  Quite naturally, their reaction is not one of rejoicing as it should have been; instead they are anxious to kill Him!

Jesus ups the ante so to speak by going a step further. Not only is He on an equal footing with the Father, but He will also raise from the dead those whom it pleases Him to raise.  This is the “gift of God” that we came across when He was talking with the woman at the well in the previous chapter.

In 22-30, Jesus goes further still telling the leaders that He will be the One to judge all men and that those who dishonor the Son also dishonor God.  In short, He was telling them that He and the Father were One. We must pause here to consider the fact that by making these statements, Jesus was in violation of the Law… that is of course unless He was God Himself.  He goes on to further discuss God’s gift of eternal life for those who believe His Word, and with every sentence He digs His hole a little deeper in the eyes of those Jewish leaders who do not wish to hear such things.  His boldness in speaking of the resurrection, a controversial topic among those very leaders, and its connection with Him personally must have driven them wild with fury and the lust for blood.

Continuing in 31-35, He begins to prove the things that He has just said, beginning with the testimony of John the Baptist.  Reminding His hearers that they have heard John’s testimony about who He is, He also reminds them that they were, if not supporters of John, giving credence to him for a time. In fact, they had even asked John for his views on Jesus.  Jesus tells them that He is pointing this out to them so that they might be saved, that is to say so that they might believe Him.

Jesus moves on to cite further testimony to His veracity: the Scriptures themselves.  Notice that He points out to them that God’s Word does not reside within them, for they refuse to believe the One that God has sent.  It is His contention that the Scriptures themselves testify about Him, and that they of all people should know that fact.

As He continues along this line of reasoning, Jesus  adds that they would accept almost anybody who came speaking for themselves, and yet when He came speaking in God’s name as the One who had been foretold in the Scriptures, and whom they were expecting to come, they reject Him.  His implication is that their rejection of Him comes from their own desire to receive praise from others, and yet they do so at the cost of receiving the only praise that is worth receiving; that praise being from God Himself.

Jesus wraps up His defense with an accusation of His own: They do not believe the Scriptures.  He told them that Moses condemns them, not Jesus because it is the very Law of Moses that they make a mockery of when they go to such ridiculous lengths to appear to love, while at the same time, they carry with them only accusations and disdain for their people.  They do not believe what Moses wrote, so they reject the One He wrote about:  Ouch!

A Sabbath Healing

John 5:1-15

This passage lies at the beginning of a unit within the Gospel that continues through 12:50 that covers the major Jewish festivals.  The specific festival in question here in chapter 5 is not identified by the text, so for our purposes we will not worry about trying to speculate on this point, although there are various theories put forth by commentators; the application here is not affected by which festival is involved.

The pool at Bethesda was stirred periodically, we don’t know how often, and the first lame person into the pool when it was stirred would be healed.  The man who is the subject of our text was so disabled that he was not able to move quickly enough to be first, and had suffered his disability for 38 years. In our text, Jesus will heal him, command him to pick up his mat and walk, and then slip back into the crowd.  The aspect of this event that we will concentrate on today is the reaction of the Jews, while next time we will concentrate on Jesus’ response to them in vv. 16-47.

The first three verses are discussed in the introduction, however you might notice that the NIV does not have a verse four.  It is contained in the footnote and omitted from the text.  The King James renders verse four thusly: “For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.” This verse does not appear in the early manuscripts, yet in the latest ones it suddenly appears.  This is considered to be the result of an early margin note giving the local explanation (myth?) that had later been incorporated into the text.

Jesus walks up to the man and asks him a simple question: “Do you want to get well?”  The man’s reply demonstrates that he had little hope.  Not only had he been in this condition for 38 years, but the pool rules required that he be first into the pool, and only people better off than he had any chance of making it; he appears to have been demoralized.  Jesus did not argue, lecture or pity, He simply gave a command without further comment: The man complied without hesitation.  I wonder if we would be so bold in this man’s condition!  The man believed Jesus; he took Jesus at His word.  There were no questions, arguments or hesitations: He followed Jesus’ command.  All appears to be well until verse 9… it was the Sabbath.

In verses 10-13, we cannot help but be amazed at the ridiculous reaction to this miracle: It was the Sabbath and you aren’t allowed to carry your mat.  Nobody said, “Wow, aren’t you the guy who was crippled for 38 years… and now you are healed:  Praise God!”  No, there will be no rejoicing for what God has done, only condemnation because the guy picked up his stupid mat. The man told them that he had the mat because the guy who healed him had told him to pick it up, and of course they demand to know who had done that. (Conspiracy to break the Sabbath!) The man had no idea…

A curious thing happened: Jesus ran into the man later and warned him to stop sinning lest something worse happen to him and the man ran to the Jews to report who his co-conspirator was.  There are several possible reasons for Jesus’ words to the man although it seems to me that the most likely meaning is to warn the man not to sin lest he receive condemnation at the final judgment.  It seems unlikely that Jesus was talking about carrying the mat on the Sabbath.  Notice also the lack of the man thanking Jesus for his healing, could that be the answer?  In any case, the man ratted on Jesus to the Jews.  Curious, don’t you think? This act, of course sets up the next part in this story which we will consider tomorrow.

For today, it is interesting to consider where all of these Sabbath rules came from.  Rest assured that it was not from the Law, but rather they came from the Jews’ interpretation of the Law, a very strict interpretation that converted a day of rest and relaxation into more of a heavy yoke of obligation that Jesus dealt with over and over again.

Do we Christians make up rules of conduct that Jesus didn’t give us and turn our faith into a heavy burden instead of its being a joy?  This should make for an interesting discussion…