Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #3 (6-8)

JohnIn this post we continue reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. The Gospel of John chapters 6-7 begin a new section in which Jesus shows His divine glory (he makes alive and judges) in his relationship to two Jewish festivals: Passover and Tabernacles. In both, he is not just a participant. Instead he is the God that is worshiped in these festivals. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 6 shows Jesus as superior to Moses because He is the God of the Passover and Exodus event. The  feeding of the 5000 identifies him as the Passover lamb and the one who provided bread in the wilderness to sustain the life of his people. Walking on the water presents Jesus in terms of the way Old testament theophany presented YHWH, as ruler over the chaos. It also shows that Jesus is the One who gets his people across the water, as when God miraculously parted the sea to allow Israel to escape from Egypt. When the crowd asks Jesus to explain the miracles, he says "I am the bread" that comes from the Father. Jesus Himself is the one that sustains life now and provides eternal life (physical and spiritual) in the age to come. The only way to get this life is a daily regular, pictured by eating and drinking, trust in Jesus that humbly listens to his word and relies on his provision. He then provides the Spirit who enables this supernatural quality of life. Most of the crowd responds to this revelation the same way they responded to Moses in the wilderness: they grumbled and complained and many quit following Jesus. The question to us becomes, are we willing to acknowledge who Jesus is and make the daily commitment to base our entire lives upon him and what he provides. 

We do not expect a small amount of food to feed many people nor the surface of the water to support a human being, and neither do we expect body and blood to bring us eternal life. But, just as Jesus is far superior to Moses, so too the salvation he brings is far more than the provision of physical food and the protection from physical danger. John 6.1-21, 149–150

Our primary work is being receptive to God. All our actions and plans are dependent on the most important action—union with God in Christ by the Spirit. Ultimately it is not a matter of our working for God, but a matter of God’s living his life and doing his work through us as we trust him and align ourselves with him by his grace. John 6.22-30, 154

Along with the revelation of God’s sovereignty is the revelation of his desire that all be saved (1 Tim 2:4)...It is a mystery how salvation can be open to all yet dependent on the will of God...In practical terms, this dual teaching of Scripture leads us to two responses. The first is a life of praise and joy in the revelation of a gracious heavenly Father who is utterly good and completely for us. The second is a life of real effort, taking seriously our Lord’s call to enter the narrow gate (Mt 7:13) and to persevere to the end. John 6.30-71, 160

The next section (7-8) intensifies the conflict about Jesus, as he reveals himself even more clearly at the Feast of Tabernacles. The issue here is the origin of Jesus. Those who reject him are looking at Jesus as just a teacher from Nazareth, while Jesus' claim is that he came from the Presence of the Father. He has come from God and supplies the "bread" and "water" (37-39) of the age to come because He is the presence of God in the flesh and will provide God's continued presence to people through his giving of the Spirit. His credential is not from a rabbinic school, but from the Father as attested by his miracles and teaching. Jesus says that he handles the law correctly and truly understands its purpose, to reveal God and teach people how to image God in their relationships. This is why Jesus is justified when he heals on the Sabbath. The response is mixed with many of the audience, the temple guard and even one Pharisee, Nicodemus, listening to Jesus, but the almost all the Jewish leadership opposes him. Jesus forces us to take him on his terms alone and to interpret scriptures with him as the guiding principle.

If Jesus is Lord, then he cannot be wedded to any other religion or philosophy. Rather, he is the standard of truth by which we assess all other claims. There are elements of truth in all religions, but we are able to recognize those elements precisely because they cohere with Jesus, the truth incarnate. If Jesus is not the truth, then he cannot offer us life. John 7.1-13, 181–182

This call to right judgment is a challenge to each of us, for we are all guilty at times of judging by appearances. The only way to avoid such shallowness is to be united with God and to share in his truth about Jesus and about our own lives. This requires that we will God’s will (7:17), which means God’s will as God knows it, not as our prejudices and sins tailor it. To will God’s will is to have a purity of heart and a clarity of vision that come through death to self. Until we have found our own heart (which lies deeper than our emotions and imagination) and made contact with God there, we will be in danger of judging by appearances instead of with right judgment. John 7.14-36, 187

When Jesus cries out at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles on this particular day, the worshipers meet God in his sanctuary—in the person of his Son. The longing for God is met with God’s invitation to come and be satisfied. In Jesus, God’s own desire for man is expressed and the desire of man for God is met. All that the temple represented is now found in Jesus. John 7.37-39, 194

Like these Pharisees it is all too easy to mistake our interpretations of God’s revelation for reality. We should hold firmly to what has been revealed in Scripture under the guidance the Spirit has given the church, but we must do so in an abiding relationship with the living God in whose presence we live. We must hold firmly to him in his objectively real presence and allow him to correct our personal, faulty understandings of him and his ways. The truth is in Jesus in perfection, but our apprehension of him is not yet perfect. John 7.40-52, 203

The next section was certainly not originally part of John's Gospel. Whitacre sees it as a "patch" from one of the Synoptic writers which, though it does not do it with the language and style of John, fits the theme of this section. Jesus acts with the authority, and mercy and grace, of God to forgive a sinner and restore relationship with God.

Jesus' noncondemnation is quite different from theirs. They wanted to condemn but lacked the opportunity; he could have done so, but he did not. Here is mercy and righteousness. He condemned the sin and not the sinner. But more than that, he called her to a new life. The gospel is not only the forgiveness of sins, but a new quality of life that overcomes the power of sin. John 7.53-8.11, 209

The rest of chapter 8 deals with Jesus' teaching, during the "lamp-lighting ceremony" of the feast, to be the "Light of the world." Again Jesus is identifying himself with YHWH of the exodus experience who led Israel as a pillar of fire to light the night and lead the way. Jesus is the greater light who overcomes the spiritual forces of darkness, sin and death. Because the people do not understand the metaphor, Jesus makes his claim more concrete by claiming to be the One from above, who comes from the Father, reveals the Father, and distributes the blessings of the Father. When his opponents reject him again with accusations of being demon possessed, Jesus directly addresses their problem: they act like the devil who tries to live in independence from God and thus takes a stand against truth and life. Jesus then makes the explicit claim to be the "I AM" which they also reject. This is the decisive turning point of the Gospel. Though many Jews have believed in Jesus and received his message, the official leadership has rejected him and the nation will be judged. Jesus will now form his kingdom community apart from the temple. 

The world lies in darkness and death because it has rebelled against God and thus broken contact with the one source of light and life. Jesus claims to be the light that brings light and life back to the world and sets it free from its bondage to sin. All the salvation that went before, such as the deliverance celebrated at this feast, was a type of this deepest and truest salvation that Jesus now offers. John 8.12-20, 212

In this section we have Jesus’ very clear statement of his divine identity, of the necessity to have faith in him and of how the cross will reveal most clearly his identity as I AM. John 8.21-30, 218

Jesus has claimed to be I AM, the divine presence. So when he leaves the temple it is nothing less than “the departure of the Divine Presence from the old ‘Holy Space’.” He will not return again to the temple; he will come only to its outer precincts (10:23). His formation of a community apart from the temple will now become more apparent. John 8.31-59, 233–234

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