Listening

Do you ever just stop when reading your Bible? You’re reading and moving along and then all of a sudden your read something and it makes you slam on the brakes? I love it when that happens because it reminds me that the Bible, this amazing book is more than just a book of stories. It is more than just a record of what happened. It does more than just communicate the past because it is alive.

Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is alive and active. In the NLT it says “it exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” which is pretty amazing when you think about it. The words in this book can in an instant expose our innermost thoughts, desires, and fears.

This morning I was finishing up the book of John for the hundredth time and I read John 20:16 where Mary is looking for the body of Jesus. Mary is confused and crying, not know where His body was. Jesus was there with her but in her pain and confusion, she could not see Him. That changed when He called her name. Just her name from His mouth made her see.

How many times in my own life do I miss Christ and think that I cannot find Him because of my circumstances? How many times do I miss the Lord? Yet the whole time He is right there. Something changes when He calls our name. When He speaks our name, we can see anew and come alive. Jesus called Mary’s name and she could see Him and was comforted. Jesus called Lazarus’ name and he came out of the grave. Jesus called my name this morning and my worry ceased. Something happens when Jesus calls your name, we just need to be listening. Are you listening?

Just a thought.

Mike

An exegesis of John 6:47-58

Living Bread gives life:

An exegesis of John 6:47-58

 

Main idea & Outline

Main Idea

Jesus, is the living bread from heaven and is fully sufficient for eternal life. The life He offers is real and must be taken in faith. Additionally, Christ brings with Him a close intimate union with Himself like the relationship He has with the Father.

Outline

  1. Jesus is the living bread from heaven and offers eternal life. (John 6:47-51)
  2. Believers are bonded with Christ because of His death and resurrection. (John 6:52-56)
  3. Jesus has the right to give life. (John 6:57-58)

 

Introduction

     In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes at least 7 I AM statements and performs 7 miracles or signs. Each statement is designed to “allude to the Old Testament name of God” and each action or miracle is a sign that points to divinity.[1] Jesus being a first-century Jewish man spoke to the people and performed miracles in ways they understood. The people of Jesus’ day understood His use of I AM statements to be a message of equality with God. What will be focused on here in John 6:47-58 is the statement that Jesus is the bread of life and that one must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life which is a reference to His death and resurrection. Christ here presents Himself not only as the sufficiency for life but union with Him is required for the life He offers. This statement is important for several reasons including the implications brought on by it and the difficulty in interpreting it. In truth, the statement is so difficult to understand that after making it many disciples left Jesus because they claimed this teaching is hard (John 6:60).[2]

Context

Historical Context

     There should be little doubt that the author of the fourth gospel was a disciple of Jesus. The details that are recorded require an intimate knowledge of the not only the people involved but the situations themselves. It could be argued that a later writer added in details or stories like that of the woman caught in adulty in chapter 8 but even if this is assumed the bulk of the work still requires a close knowledge of the situation and characters involved. It has been suggested that the gospel was written by a Johannine community, but recent research and scholarship has been showing that “distinct gospel communities can no longer be assumed.”[3] By removing later writers and a Johannine community the options are limited to a disciple of Jesus as the author.

Excluding Judas Iscariot, there are eleven possible authors that remain and while much could be said of each of them space does not permit an in-depth detail. In summery Matthew and Luke already have accounts to their credit and while Mark was not a disciple most believe, partly on Papia’s testimony, that Peter was the “authority behind Mark’s gospel.”[4] This leaves only eight possible candidates. As previously mentioned the details recorded in the Gospel of John require an intimate knowledge suggesting the writer to be one in Jesus’ inner circle. However, because James the brother of John is recorded as being killed in Acts 12:2 and the Gospel was not written until later he is not a viable candidate. There are additional points that could be made for John being the author of the gospel but for brevity, it should be said the best research and historical evidence point to John as the author.

Moving on to date and original audience, most evidence points to John writing the gospel in Ephesus around mid to late A.D. 80 to early A.D. 90. This in part is because John “lacks reference to the Sadducees” and John’s gospel seems to have been after the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70.[5] Irenaeus in Against Heresies writes that John was not only the disciple leaning on Jesus at the Last Supper but that he wrote his gospel account “during his residence at Ephesus.”[6] The larger question remains did John only intend for the residence of Ephesus to read his gospel? To answer this question the purpose for writing must be examined.

John records in 20:31 that his reason for writing is so that the reader may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing they may have life in His name. This simple statement allows the reader to not only interpret everything written through that lens, but it shines light on original audience. While the first audience would have been the residence of Ephesus and as previously mentioned there seems to be little support for “distinct Gospel communities” it is easy to see that the message put forth in John was to travel.[7] Further, the text of the gospel itself has John assuming his readers are “unfamiliar with Jewish topography” because of the way he details the location of events (see Jn 5:2).[8]

Literary Context

            True to his purpose for writing John continually presents Jesus not only as the Messiah but as the one in whom true life cconsists Jesus is presented as one who understands His role, divine nature, and mission.[9] There is little doubt that Jesus is not only aware of His mission but that He is actively engaging people to reveling Himself and the life He offers. For example, the discussion Jesus has with Nicodemus in John 3, the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, the I Am statements of Jesus, the recorded signs, the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17, and so on all together help to showcase not only the importance of Jesus as the Messiah the Son of God but that He was aware of His mission and role.

The Gospel is filled with comparisons, dualism, and words or phrases that have deeper meanings which create difficulties for readers.[10] An example of deeper meaning can be seen in the prologue of John where John discusses the Word (logos) being both with God and being God. Logos itself has a simple definition meaning “the expression of thought” but it also carried different ideas for first century Greeks and first century Jews.[11] John uses the simple word logos but the way he uses the word creates a new meaning and gives a new depth to the understanding of who the Messiah is. Another example can be seen the discussion Jesus has with the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4. Jesus on this occasion uses the situation of water gathering to explain that He can provide water that will leave a person to never thirst again. Jesus is of course not discussing physical thirst but spiritual thirst. As often seen He uses physical examples to showcase a spiritual or eternal message.

In chapter 6 Jesus is seen feeding five thousand men with the donation of fives loaves and two fish. This sets the stage for a long discourse of bread and idea of sufficiency in Christ. The discussion of bread and sufficiency is started with the feeding of the multitude and ends with a discussion of eternal life. The flow is seemingly broken up with the recording of Jesus walking on the water. However, this is an important event because it shows Jesus’ mastery over the earth and because of Jesus statement to the disciples of “it is I” which as William McDonalds points out literally means I Am.[12] In 6:35 Jesus moves to a more declarative public statement saying I am the bread of life. What is seen through the chapter is a miraculous transformation of a small amount of food to being enough to feed a multitude, Jesus having mastery over the earth with a veiled I Am statement, and finally Jesus’ first public I Am statement.

CONTENT

6:47-51

     John chapter 6 shows that while Jesus is obviously concerned with physical needs He is more concerned with eternal life. Jesus states that He offers eternal life and that He is the bread of life. Jesus is comparing, and contrasting Himself, with the manna and what it represented. The wilderness experience was known to all Jews and the provision of manna was and remains an important miracle in the wilderness story. What exactly was the manna and what did the Israelites mean when they called it manna? That is a question that is still not answered as some say it is a statement while others argue manna is a question.[13] The simple fact remains that the Jews of Jesus’ day would have known it to be a miraculous provision by God for the daily needs in the Wilderness.

The manna was miraculous for a few reasons namely that it appeared daily, it managed to fill an individual, and it only lasted the day except for the double miracle of the Sabbath portion and two-day shelf life.[14] The manna was to be expected and collected for their daily needs. If someone attempted to save manna for the next day, it bred worms and smelled (Ex 16:20). While miraculous the manna was temporary both in that it was a physical item that decayed and second in that it was only provided during a specific time (i.e. the Wilderness).

The people who partook of the manna in the wilderness received daily portion yet died. Jesus states that whoever takes part in Him will not die if they first believe in Him. Faith or belief is required to receive the eternal life that He offers. He distinguishes Himself as living bread and as such He does not last only for the day but is eternal. The flesh statement made by Jesus is directly connected to the Word becoming flesh in John 1:14.[15] Jesus is claiming equality with the known God by saying I AM a second time and He is claiming that He can provide life for those who partake of Him.

6:52-56

            The response to Jesus’ statements from the crowd is one of shock because they assume they must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood to gain eternal life. This should not be thought that Jesus in any way was suggesting cannibalism as the practice of cannibalism was rejected in nearly every culture that would be receiving John’s Gospel. At first glance, it could be supposed that John recorded this encounter and chose the phrases of eating flesh and drinking blood to refer to the sacrament or ordinance of communion but that is not clear from the text. Craig Keener suggests that John does not record the last supper but instead chooses to show Jesus as the Passover lamb.[16] Read in this light Jesus may be showing that just as the Passover lamb is to be eaten and the wine is to be drunk for participation, dependence on His impending death is needed to show the “believers absolute dependence” on Him.[17]

Adding to the confusion, however, is that John records Jesus as saying that His flesh and blood are real food (see 6:55). Kostenberger suggests here that real “carries the connotations of eschatological” fulfillment of the Old Testament types such as the manna.[18] Jesus again is reiterating that not only is He real but that what He offers is real and tangible. What is seen then Jesus hinting at His sacrificial death and resurrection which will provide atonement for the sin of those who receive Him. There remains a possibility that John also included the words real to further dispel the idea that Jesus was not God in flesh but spirit only.

In verse 56 John records that the believing ones who eat and drink the flesh of Christ remain in Him. The Greek word remain (or live in the HCSB) is menō and carries with it the idea of remaining in a condition and in this context remaining with intimacy.[19] This can be seen as a reference to eternal security. The union that a believer has with Christ in eating and drinking Him is like the act of consuming food in that the food becomes one with person but more so because as Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown remark believers “become spiritually one life, though personally distinct” with Christ.[20] This is echoed later in John 17:21 where Jesus prays for a “perfect bond of unity” for believes like that of the unity He shares with the Father.[21]

6:57-6:58

     Jesus equates the intimacy of this union like His union with the Father stating that just as He is present in physical form because of the Father so too the believer will live because of Him. Jesus here combines the fact that the Father sent Him, and He claims that He has the right to grant life. This can be seen as a connection to John 1:12 where John says that to those who believe Jesus gives the right to be called children of God. Jesus then presents Himself not only as the one who can provide eternal life but as the one who has the authority to do this.

This is markedly different than the manna that was provided during the wilderness experience as that was a shadow of what was to come. The temporary miracle of manna was provided for a time and for a reason. The living bread that comes from heaven is now provided for all time for those who believe in Christ and take Him by faith. The people ate the physical food and died. The bread from heaven is spiritual food that is real but eaten by faith and results in eternal life.

Theological Interpretation & Application

     Substitutionary atonement is seen in the verses discussed above as Jesus teaches that “His death is vicarious” providing eternal life and providing union with Him.[22] The Law and the Manna were only shadows of what was to come. Jesus however, lays down His life for His sheep and takes it back up again so that they may be forgiven and have fellowship with God. The law could not provide righteousness and manna could not provide life. These come through faith in Christ, His finished work on the Cross, and His return to the Father.

The eternal union with Christ is also seen in these verses. Man was made to be in fellowship and union with God. The fall not only brought sin and death into the world but man’s relationship with God was fractured. Jesus came to not only restore the relationship but to abide in man and man in Him. This is not something man could accomplish on his own as life from God requires life in God. Paul in writing to the Galatians says that the life the believer lives is Christ living in them (Gal 2:20).

However, this must all be received in faith because without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Gerald Borchert says in his commentary on John, speaking of the Israelites in the wilderness, that the words they ate, and they died make “an interesting tombstone inscription” and that it could be said of contemporary Christians as well.[23] One cannot simply like Jesus or think Him to be a good teacher; instead, they must take all of Him.

Bibliography

Bailey J. L. and L. D. Vander Broek. Literary Forms in The New Testament A HandbookLouisville: Westminster/John Knox Press 1992.

Cirafesi, Wally V., The “Johannine Community” in (More) Current Research: A Critical Appraisal of Recent Methods and Models. Neotestamentica 48. Issue 2 (July 2014). Accessed October 5, 2017. SA ePublications Service.

Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Rev. ed. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2014. Accessed October 31, 2017. Apple iBook.

Freed, Edwin D., The New Testament a Critical Introduction 3rd Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2001.

Irenaeus. Against Heresies 3.1.1.

Keener, Craig. The Gospel of John: A commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Pub, 2010.

Kostenberger, Andres. Encountering John. The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Kostenberger, Andreas J. John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004). Accessed October 27, 2017. Axis 360.

Kostenberger, Andreas, J. L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Lion and the Lamb New Testament Essentials from The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012).

MacDonald, William. Believers Bible Commentary: A Complete Bible Commentary in one  Volume. Edited by Art Farstad. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.

Stuart, Douglas K. New American Commentary – Volume 2 – Exodus. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2006, 323. Accessed October 13, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed. Peabody: Hendrickson Publ.

Zvi, Ron. “‘What is it?’ Interpreting Exodus 16:15. Jewish Bible Quarterly no. 4: 234.            RAMBI, EBSCOhost accessed October 13, 2017.

 

[1] Andres Kostenberger, Encountering John. The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2013), 27.

[2] All Scripture taken from the HSCB unless otherwise notes.

[3] Wally V. Cirafesi, The Johannine Community in (More) Current Research: A Critical Appraisal of Recent Methods and Models, Neotestamentica 48, Issue 2 (July 2014): 361, accessed October 5, 2017, SA ePublications Service.

[4] Edwin D. Freed, The New Testament a Critical Introduction 3rd Edition, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2001), 124.

[5] Andreas J. Krostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Lion and the Lamb New Testament Essentials from The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 108.

[6] Irenaeus’ testimony not only helps with the location of writing but as a proof of John’s authorship as well. Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.1.1.

[7] The implications for removing distinct communities that carried their own version of Christianity has implications for authorship, intent, and intended audience. See Cirafesi, The Johannine Community 361.

 [8] Kostenberger, Encountering John, 78.

 [9] J. L. Bailey and L. D. Vander Broek, Literary Forms in The New Testament A Handbook. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press 1992), 172 – 173.

[10] The dualism in John is about this age and the one to come. See Kostenberger, Encountering John, 29.

[11] Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ) s.v. λόγος, 1252.

[12] William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary: A Complete Bible Commentary in one Volume, edited by Art Farstad, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson 1995) 1501.

[13] Ron, Zvi. “‘What is it?’: Interpreting Exodus 16:15″ Jewish Bible Quarterly no. 4: 234, accessed October 13, 2017, RAMBI, EBSCOhost.

[14] Douglas K Stuart, Exodus. New American Commentary Volume 2, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2006), 323, accessed October 13, 2017, ProQuest Ebook Central.

[15] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group 1996), 249, accessed November 1, 2017.

[16] Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ 2010), 690.

 [17] Ibid.

[18] Andreas J. Kostenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 235 accessed October 27, 2017, Axis 360.

[19] Vines, s.v. μένω, 12.

[20] Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments (WORDsearch Corp, 2013), accessed October 31, 2017, WORDSearch 2013.

[21] Ibid

[22] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Rev. ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2014), 200, accessed October 31, 2017, Apple iBook.

[23] Gerald L. Borchert, 250, accessed October 25, 2017.

Reading John with glasses on

The Gospel of John is my favorite book of all time. I may have said this before but it is worth repeating. One of the reasons is because John tells us how to read his book. Mind you he does not tell you until the end of the book but he tells you nontheless.

In John 20:31 John writes “But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” Now this may be a simple statement and maybe I am making a bigger deal out of it then I should but…

Let’s think about this and break it down into two parts. First, John says that everything he wrote he wrote so that you would believe Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God. So when we are reading something difficult like “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” we can read it through the lens John provides and know that this is there so that we can beleive Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God. We can also look at a verse like John 8:56 where Jesus says that Abraham rejoiced to see His (Jesus’) day. We can read that and see again that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God.

For the second part John says that he wants people to have life in His (Jesus’) name. Now this one can mean either life as in eternal life meaning being saved or life as in living the resurrection life of Jesus (think Gal 2:20). There is some really good discussion that you can have with that but for now I would say it does not matter too much for an intro to reading the book.

The important thing is that you read it with the lens that John wants to you to have life in Jesus name. For example, we can look at John 8:32 and read that Jesus says you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. In it’s most basic form it just means that Jesus wants us to be free in His name. We meet Jesus find out we are apart from God, find out God loves us, and find freedom (life) in Jesus. Another example, would be the story of the woman caught in adultry. We can read that and see that Jesus is not only the Messiah, because He can forgive sin, but that He has life in His name, because the woman is not stoned.

The book of John goes so deep but in truth it all starts with reading it the right way and through the right lens. My suggestion for you this week is to go back and re-read the Gospel of John but while you read it keep these three questions below in your mind.

What is John trying to point out here:

  1. Jesus as Messiah?
  2. Life in Jesus name?
  3. A mix of both (this one happens the most)?

Enjoy!

Just a thought,

Mike

Pruned Like an Apple Tree

In John 11:6 Jesus hears that Lazarus was sick and about to die. Jesus’s response was to wait two more days. I briefly talk about this on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/BTuogAvh9KL/) so feel free take a quick detour and read that.

Today I want to quickly look at John 15:2 where Jesus says that every branch that bears He (the Father) prunes, that it may bear more fruit. I am not a gardener but I have been told that that is an accurate statement about how you get a plant to produce more. I think that is fine for plants but I am not sure I like it for me. To be honest the pruning process is hard and often long.

I have recently been thinking that the last few years have been a pruning process for me. I have grown tremendously and while I am thankful for that the process has been painful. There has been long days and nights, lonely days, thankless work, removal of selfish desires and plans, and so on. I am not perfect by any stretch but I am better off than I was before the process started.

This is not at all to say the whole time has been painful as there have been some bright spots but overall, I think it was a pruning process. I am still not sure I like it. Again, I am thankful for it but that does not mean I need to like it. The question I have is why does God prune us if we are bearing fruit?

Well in short, because He loves us and because He is a good Father. He prunes because we are producing and wants us to produce more. It is an odd thing but it works. Think of in terms of apples. If you are currently producing 5 apples then that is good. But God being a good gardener sees your potential and wants you to live up to that potential so He prunes you back a bit and next year your produce 10 apples. This harvest is even better so the process repeats. Next thing you know you are producing bushels up on bushels. Now all the trees in the garden are envious and want to be like you, yet they do not know the pain that was endured to produce so much but you do and you know it was worth it.

God is good like that. He wants the best for you and sometimes the best requires pain to get there. I am not sure this season of pruning is over. I would like it to be but if not, I still trust that God is good and that He has the best for me. The funny thing is that even if this season is over there will be another later on. I suppose that is good news even though I still don’t like it. Of course, the alternative is not be pruned and not produce fruit but we know how that goes

Just a thought,

Mike

Born to grow

It should be no secret to anyone who reads my little thoughts that the Gospel of John is my favorite book. It should be clear that when I say it is my favorite book I don’t just mean my favorite biblical book either. No, it is my favorite book of all time. Moreover, my favorite part is the prologue section (verses 1-18). There is so much depth, beauty, and theological truth in that one section that it captivates me every time I read it. I will be honest, and I am sure this does not happen to you, but sometimes I have a tendency to read my Bible and skip over things I am familiar with and while this does happen on occasion with John’s prologue I always go back and re-read it carefully because it draws me in.

As I have mentioned elsewhere the main point of this section is verse 12 because it sits right in the middle of the chiastic pattern. The beauty of it is highlighted by John 20:31 where John says that everything that has been written was written so that you might believe Jesus is the Christ and that in believing you might have life. The beauty is that Jesus just wants you to live and to be a child of God.

But as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believed in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 (NKJV)

I have been following Christ for a long time now and I am still captivated by this simple idea that God loves me and wants to call me son. He does not have to but He wants to. He does not require me to do something to earn that sonship, He does not force it upon me, and He does not threaten to take it away. He just loves with a passion for me. I cannot escape that simple yet profound truth.

God’s great and wonderful love compels me to be different. Yes, Christ places commands upon me but His love compels me to comply. I do not do things differently because I must but because I desire to please the one I love. I desire to be better because He believes in me. I desire to grow, to live sacrificially, and to mature because the one who loves me sees me that way. The funny thing is that the more I grow and mature the more I realize I am not as good as I previously thought. The more I control my temper the more I realize I have much work to do. The more I give the more I realize I am not as giving as I desire to be. The more I love others the more I realize I do not express it enough. The more I become like Christ the more I realize I am still too Mike.

I catch glimpses of who I am to be but the picture is not clear. I daily confirm what Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12 that I see in dimly in a mirror. My prayer is that of the hymn Come, Jesus, Reign in Me “All foes cast out, let this poor heart Be filled with love divine; Securely fixed, no more to part. From this poor heart of mine.” And to be clear it is not a pressure or a feeling like I am not good enough but a desire to be more like Him who loves me. I desire to be that man. I desire to be that son.

The love of God should change you and if it does not you should question whether or not you understand that love. It would be like saying that you do not desire to be different for your spouse. Not that you have to change for them to want you or love you but because you are in a relationship with them you naturally want to be a better husband or wife. The love that exists between the two of you creates an environment where you can grow. If you do not think you have growing to do then I would suggest there is much growing to do. The relationship you have with God our Father does not only create the environment to allow for change but because the Holy Spirit indwells believers you also have the power to change. God gives us the desire, the environment, and the ability to change. All we need to do is walk it out in humble obedience. Trust me on this, the walk is worth it.

For perfect love I long have groaned,
I would be wholly Thine;
Yes, I would have the Lord enthroned
In this poor heart of mine.

Come, Jesus, reign in me,
My heart Thy throne shall be;
Oh, tarry in Thy throne,
’Tis Thine, and Thine alone.

All foes cast out, let this poor heart
Be filled with love divine;
Securely fixed, no more to part
From this poor heart of mine.

Let perfect love my portion be,
To Thee my all resign;
O Holy One, come dwell in me,
And rule this heart of mine.

No earthly language can express
The love in Christ I find
’Tis boundless and it’s measureless,
In this poor heart of mine.

Come, Jesus, Reign in Me

H.R. Jeffery, 1885

Just a thought,

Mike

 

AN EXEGESIS OF JOHN 7:37-44

THIS IS THE CHRIST:AN EXEGESIS OF JOHN 7:37-44

AN EXEGESIS OF JOHN 7:37-44

 

Main Idea

Jesus is the Christ, and the Prophet promised in the Old Testament. He is the source of new life, and because of this belief in Him is the requirement to live out this new life. All who believe in Him are given the Spirit to flow in them like living waters.

Outline 

  1. Jesus has living waters for those who thirst and believe in Him. (John 7:37-38)
  2. The living waters are revealed to be the Holy Spirit. (John 7:39)
  3. Jesus meets the requirements for Messiah and Prophet. (John 7:40-44)

 

Introduction

In chapter 6:1-20 John records two sign miracles; the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water. He then moves to record the first I Am statement of Jesus in 6:35 where Jesus says that He is the bread of life and that all who eat of Him will never be hungry and all who drink of Him will never be thirsty. These statements culminate with many disciples leaving Jesus and Peter’s statement that Jesus has the words of eternal life. While there is an undisclosed time span between John 6:70 and 7:1 the teachings of Jesus had been building for some time as He continued to show Himself as Messiah, Prophet, and God incarnate. His teachings were in line with the Old Testament, although, not compatible with the teachings and doctrines of the Pharisees. Jesus had not made an appearance in Jerusalem since the rulers had sought to kill Him for healing on the Sabbath and making Himself equal with God (see John 5:18). Before Jesus makes His proclamation at the end of the feast He answers accusations against His authority (7:16-19) and addresses the question of His previous healing on the Sabbath (7:21-24). From there He is able to move to His proclamation that He is the source of living waters (7:37-38).

 CONTEXT

Historical Context

             Due to the ambiguous way the author chose to identify himself simply as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:7, 20) there is not have a positive identification for the author. As expected this has led to debate as to not only the author, but the location, time of writing, and original audience. While tradition assigns authorship to John the son of Zebedee other candidates have been suggested ranging from Apostle Thomas, Lazarus, an unnamed disciple, and even second century Christians as the author(s) of the Fourth Gospel. Although theories range, tradition dating back to the mid 100’s teach, and it is generally accepted John the Apostle wrote at least, or was the authority of the bulk of the book.[1] As mentioned there are those who have argued that the Gospel of John is a second century work written to battle Gnostic teaching, but as John Drane points out the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in 1945 shows us there “was a vast difference between the world of John’s Gospel, and the world of classical Gnosticism.”[2]

Regarding the location of the writing, again this is not a concrete matter, but it is believed that John wrote his Gospel in Asia minor around the area of Ephesus with most scholars giving the date of the writing in the mid 90’s.[3] It should not be assumed that this community was the target audience but the first audience. John’s stated purpose for writing is that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).[4] With this in mind it is easy to see that the book was meant to travel beyond its original location.

There is division amongst scholars as to if an editor or editors went back through the book to add in details for second century Christians who might not be familiar with the topography or customs of first century Palestine.[5] While it is possible that some revisions took place if it is to be accepted that the author was indeed an eyewitness (21:24) then not all details can, or should be attributed to revisions. John’s audience was that of Greeks, and Jews who were not of the location where events took place, and as such he was highly selective, and detailed in what he chose to record making the Fourth Gospel “theological historiography.”[6]

Literary Context

From the first verse to the last John seeks to present Jesus as Messiah, and God incarnate. As such Jesus is continually shown not only as coming from, and returning to the Father, but in fact, being one with Him (10:3; 17:21). This is accomplished through the selectivity of the sign miracles four of which are unique to John, and the seven great “I Am” statements of Jesus.[7] Each  “I Am” statement of Jesus adds a layer of exclusivity to the fact that Jesus was not the messiah the people expected, but God in human form. Finally, the dialog that is contained in the book is different than that of the Synoptic Gospels in that there are no parables and few short sayings, but longer discourses in which Jesus expresses His awareness that He is divine.[8] Jesus is often found using words with double or deeper meanings as well. A notable example would be John 3:3 where Jesus tells Nicodemus that you must be born again where He uses the adverb ánōthen which means both “again”, and “from above”. Nicodemus assumes Jesus is referring “to again”, but He is of course, speaking of “from above.”

Moving on to John 7, John opens by saying that Jesus was in Galilee because the Jews of Judea sought to kill Him. He goes on to record a conversation between Jesus, and His brothers. Jesus’s brothers argue that if He was indeed the Messiah then He would do His works at the Feast of Tabernacles so they could be seen by others.[9] The response of Jesus about His “time” is somewhat vague and has been used by some as meaning time for His death. The idea of proper times is a recurring theme in John, and Jesus here could be using the word in two ways. First that it is not the proper moment to leave for the feast and second that it was not time to make Himself known in that way which would lead to some want to take Him. From here we see that Jesus then waits to attend the feast until after His brothers have left so He may go in secret (7:10).

The Feast of Tabernacles is the third of the great annual feast, and would have given Jesus access to a large crowd. The timing of the teaching seems to harken back to Jesus’s words in v 6 as the middle of the feast were half holy days which allowed for people to interact in a more relaxed manner and purchase items needed for the feast.[10] His teaching first is to show that God is the one who gave Jesus the authority to teach, and not one of the rabbinical schools (7:15). John then records how Jesus points out that the some are plotting to kill Him for healing a man on the Sabbath. His teachings begin to cause some in the crowd to question whether or not He is the Christ, and if the rulers have accepted His teaching as well.

 CONTENT

 John 7:37-39

During the feast of Tabernacles, the Jews, would present or give a water offering that was poured out near the altar.[11] The crowds would stand watching as the procession moved throughout the streets. Water brought from the Pool of Siloam would be poured out while the priest recited the Great Hallel as the crowds watched and followed along.[12] Jesus made His bold proclamation on the last and great day of the Feast. John records this by saying that Jesus stood and cried out. The verb used for cried is krázō and is used for a raven’s cry, crying out in agony, or to speak with a loud voice as in this case.[13] The same verb used for when the crowd calls for Jesus’s crucifixion before Pilate in Matt. 27:23 is used here showing that Jesus was loud and intended all to hear His words.

Jesus’s statement that anyone who thirsts should come to Him is at least two-fold. One, being that the Feast of Tabernacles is a remembrance of the Wilderness experience this would contrast with Moses who struck the rock at Kadesh (Exod. 17:6). While water was provided in the wilderness this was temporary refreshment, and only for the body. Jesus offers permanent refreshment that cannot be taken away, nor is His provision merely for the body.  At the same time, this seems to echo Isa. 55 as well as other places where God declares that everyone who thirsts can come to Him and freely receive. The gift of water or life is free, eternal, and God given. This also marks the third mention of thirsting and life-giving waters in John’s Gospel. First, with the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4, second when Jesus declares that He is the bread of life in chapter 6, and now here in chapter 7.

Jesus continues in verse 38 to say that the Scriptures themselves speak of Him. He does not appear to be alluding to one particular section of the Scriptures instead that the whole of Scripture testifies for Him. Specific verses such as Isa. 12:3, and 43:20 which reference water in connection with salvation are helpful to see a connection between this statement and water. However, what Jesus is saying here is that the Scriptures point to Him as the Messiah, and source of eternal life. From the protoevangelium in Gen. 3:15, to the Messianic prophecies in the Torah, prophets, and wisdom literature the plan of salvation has been recorded and leading up to Jesus.

Jesus places belief in Him as a requirement upon those who wish to receive the living waters. John uses the Greek verb pisteúō (believe) more than the other Gospels with 99 occurrences compared to Matthew’s 10, Mark’s 10, and Luke’s 9. Pisteúō does not simply mean to be persuaded of, but to place confidence in, or as Vine’s says “reliance, not mere credence.”[14] In Acts 5:14 the verb is used to describe those who were being added to the Lord.

As seen in verse 39 the “living water” that Jesus refers to is the Spirit Himself. This is a dynamic shift away from the classical thinking of the Holy Spirit. The phrase “Holy Spirit” is only found three times in the Old Testament; once in Ps. 53:11, and twice in Isa. 63:10, and 11. Typically the Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of the LORD. Between these titles, and the actual function of the Spirit in the Old Testament the prevailing thought was that the Spirit was an agent of God and that He was the immediate source of all life.[15] The function of the Spirit to empower people to do God’s work has not changed and is found throughout Scripture, however, a more fully developed understanding is not found until the New Testament. The idea of the Holy Spirit living or indwelling a believer is a prominent New Testament teaching.

The idea of the Spirit being a “river of living water” draws a parallel between the life-giving waters of Ezek. ch 47. The waters flowing from under the temple not only bring life but also turn the foul waters fresh (Ezek. 47:1,8;9).[16] What is being stated is that no longer will the Holy Spirit be an external force that comes upon the people of God, but the very one who gives life will flow out from within those who believe in Jesus. Christ here is then showing that the Holy Spirit will have a place in the believer. This can also serve to show the interconnectedness of the Father, Son, and Spirit as the Spirit comes from the Father because of the Son.[17]

As previously mentioned John explains that the rivers of living water is the Holy Spirit (v39) which would not be received or given until after Jesus had been glorified.[18] Speaking on the Spirit, Jesus says in 16:7 of John’s Gospel that He must return to the Father so that the Spirit may come. Only by the perfect sacrifice and resurrection does the connection to the Father that was lost by Adam become reestablished. The glory that is received is not just the sacrificial death, but the resurrection of Jesus as well.[19] First the Son was to be glorified, and then the Spirit was to be given. The glorification of Jesus makes the giving of the Spirit possible, however, only to those who believe in Him (v38). In Acts, chapter 2 Luke records the receiving and first filling of the Holy Spirit by the disciples at Pentecost.

John 7:40-44

John records that there was a division in the crowd as to whether Jesus was the Prophet (prophētēs) promised in Deut. 18:18 or if He was the Messiah.[20] This is an understandable confusion given the misunderstandings that surrounded the function of the Messiah. The Prophet was understood to be one like Moses who would speak what God commands in matters of spiritual affairs, conversely, the Messiah would be one who ruled the nation of Israel politically.[21] The issue lies in the incorrect assumption that the Messiah was to come and set the people free from foreign rule. Jesus did come to set the people free, however, this was from their slavery to sin (John 8:31-36), and not from their service to Rome. Some Rabbis believed in doctrines such as the premundane existence of the Messiah, His elevation above Moses and angels, and the suffering Servant. Nevertheless, the preoccupying thought since around the time of the exilic period was one of national re-birthing which caused the rabbinic teachers to focus on an Earthly kingdom instead of the Heavenly kingdom.[22] God had given ample Scripture to show the Messiah was coming, however, due to their circumstances they chose to focus almost solely on national deliverance.[23]

As mentioned above, the Scriptures contain a great deal of information concerning the coming Messiah. For example, Mic. 5:2 speaks of the fact that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem which the crowd rightly remembered. Bethlehem holds significance in the line of the Messiah as this was the place where David was from, and where he was anointed by Samuel. The book of Ruth has most major parts in Bethlehem as well.[24] The Messiah was to come from the line of David, and from David’s hometown (2 Sam. 7).

Both Matthew and Luke recount the nativity story in chapter 2 of their Gospels showing Jesus born in Bethlehem. They also both give a genealogy list showing that Jesus is David’s descendant. Matthew gives the lineage of Joseph showing Jesus as heir through Solomon. Luke gives us Jesus’s genealogy through Mary which traces back through Nathan who is another son of David.[25] All of these things again reinforce that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

Because of the crowd’s confusion on whether or not Jesus was Prophet or Messiah, and the shortage of information the crowd had regarding His place of birth a division arose. Indeed, there were some who believed Him to be Messiah as noted in verse 41. The text does not make clear whether the ones who believed in Him had knowledge of His birthplace, or if they assumed that because of His works and words that He must be the Messiah.

Finally, verse 44 shows that some wanted Jesus taken or arrested, but this was not done. Some of the temple guards of verse 45 are more than likely the ones who are referred in verse 44. The lack of Him being taken could be seen as a look back at the implied meaning of time in 6th and 30th verses of this chapter. This section ends in John 8:20 where John reinforces that His time had not yet come. There was still more for Jesus to accomplish before He was to be glorified. His earthly ministry did not end until He deemed it time as seen in John 19:11 and 30.

 Theological Interpretation & Application

The passage discussed above in the Gospel of John touches on two sections of systematic theology. Firstly, Christology as Jesus is not only the Messiah but the Prophet as well. As such, He not only has the rightful rule as the ultimate king but the connection and authority to speak the words the Father gives to Him. This is seen in verse 38 where He says that the Scriptures testify or speak of Him. The divinity of Jesus is also at the center of the living water statement. By proclaiming that all who believe in Him may receive the living waters Jesus is making a claim that can only be made by the divine.[26] Whereas Jesus places belief in Himself as the requirement for release of the Holy Spirit to flow in a believer, the connection to divinity is made because the Spirit of the Lord or Holy Spirit can only be sent by God and at His request.

This brings in the second area of theology that is discussed by this passage namely Pneumatology.[27] As mentioned previously Jesus here teaches that the Holy Spirit will no longer operate outside of those who believe in empowering for specific service, but internally not only equipping for work but bringing about changes to the heart and mind (see the connection to Ezek 47) which is a drastic shift from the Old Testament. The statement that the Spirit will be inside the believer changes the way believers communicate with and have relationship with God. This could also be seen as a pointing to fulfillment (or at least partial fulfillment) of Jer. 31:31-34 where God says I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts. The Spirit dwelling inside the believer gives them the words and the ability to love God and love their neighbor the way Jesus intends.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bailey, J. L. and Vander Broek. L. D. Literary Forms in The New Testament A Handbook. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.

Bauckham, Richard. Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John. Journal Publication. St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews Scotland, 2007.

Drane, John. Introducing the New Testament Oxford. Minneapolis: Lion Publishing Pub, 2000.

Easton, M. G. Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah Vol 2. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1896.

 

Freed, Edwin R. The New Testament: A Critical Introduction Third Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning, 2001.

 

Harrison, R. K. The New Ungers Bible Dictionary. Illinois: Moody Press, 1988.

Hobbs, Hershel. The Illustrated Life of Jesus. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2014.

Irenaeus. Against Heresies 3.1.1

Keener, Craig. The Gospel of John: A commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Pub, 2010

MacDonald, William. Believers Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995.

Turner, M. and MacFarlane, G. New Bible Dictionary 3rd Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Vine, W. E. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed. Peabody: Hendrickson Publ, 1989.

 

Walvoord, J. F. and Zuck. R. B. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures Ed. John 7:39 Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.

 

[1] Irenaeus writing in 180 said that John was the disciple who reclined on His breast. Against Heresies 3.1.1

[2] John Drane, Introducing the New Testament Oxford: (Minneapolis: Lion Publishing plc. 2000), 215

[3]Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ 2010), 142, 149

 [4] All biblical quotes taken from NKJV unless otherwise noted.

[5] Edwin R. Freed referencing John 9:22 says that Jews who followed Jesus during His ministry would not have been put out of the synagogue combing both the original event and a present situation. [The New Testament: A Critical Introduction Third Edition (Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning 2001)] 340, 341

[6] Richard Bauckham, Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John Journal Publication (St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews Scotland 2007) 25

7 Sign miracles occur in John 2:1-10, 4:46-54, 5:1-9, 6:5-14, 15-21, 9:1-7, 11:1-44, 21:1-14. Note the eighth miracle is contested as a sign miracle because it occurs post-resurrection. The I Am statements occur in John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5

[8] J. L. Bailey and L. D. Vander Broek, Literary Forms in The New Testament A Handbook. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press 1992) 172

[9] It is important to note that John points out in verse 5 that Jesus’s brothers did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah.

[10] R. K. Harrison, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary (Illinois: Moody Press 1988) 420

[11] Craig Keener says that the water pouring may have been an innovation of the Pharisees around the time of the Maccabees, The Gospel of John: A commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ 2010) 722

[12] Easton suggests that the crowds would either recite with the priest or simply answer back with hallelujah. In either case, the point is that the crowds participated and were engaged in the event. Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (New York: Harper & Brothers 1893) Hallel

[13] Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ) s.v. κράζω 261

[14] The high usage of pisteúō in John’s Gospel is due to the stated purpose for his writing in 23:30. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ), s.v. πιστεύω 118

[15] Ungers sites Ps 104:30; Isa 32:15; Job 33:4; and Gen 2:7, and others in stating that Spirit was not only the immediate cause of physical, but intellectual life. The New Ungers Bible Dictionary (Illinois: Moody Press 1988) 583-84

[16] Craig Keener sees the connection as possibly referring to new Jerusalem where Jesus is the new temple and the waters flow from Him. The Gospel of John: A commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ 2010) 726 -727

[17] This serves as pre-statement to John 14:16 where Jesus prays or asks the Father to send the Comforter or Holy Spirit. It shows the Father, Son, and Spirit operate as one.

[18] The verb glorified (doxazō) is based on the root word doxa which carries a multiple meanings and can mean “an opinion,” “splendor,” “most glorious condition or exalted state.” It is this last usage that is meant by doxazō. In this verse, it is used to refer to the high honor, and glory due to Jesus that will be made manifest after His death, resurrection, and assentation. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ) s.v. δοξάζω 492

[19] The editor of the section on John Edwin Blum says regarding the glorification of Jesus “is His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.” [The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures Digital Ed J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed. John 7:39 (Wheaton: Victor Books 1985)]

[20] While prophet can refer to a spokesman of God in this context it refers to the promised prophet who most believed was separate from the Messiah and would come before Him. This would explain why the Pharisees sent men to ask John the Baptist in John 1:21 if he was the prophet. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged Ed (Peabody: Hendrickson Publ), s.v προφήτης

[21] R. K. Harrison, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary (Illinois: Moody Press 1988) 840

[22] Ibid 840

[23] Alfred Edersheim compiled a list of 456 Old Testament passages about the Messiah or Messianic times. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah Vol 2 (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co 1896) 710

[24] Ruth is important to note here because of her place in the lineage of David and Jesus.

[25] The lineage in Luke does not specifically say that it is through Mary; however, this is generally accepted that this is the case. William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson 1995) 1379

[26] M. Turner & G. MacFarlane also discuss that this passage aids in an understanding of the Trinity, New Bible Dictionary 3rd Ed (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1996) 1209-10

[27] M. Turner & G. MacFarlane New Bible Dictionary 3rd Ed (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1996) 1209 – 10

Tag Team

I used to love watching wrestling. I loved it even knowing it was scripted I just loved it. It was so much fun watching, Hulk Hogan, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, and Macho Man. Those were some of the greats, but there was a bunch of great tag teams too. The Bushwackers, The Steiners, The Nasty Boyz, Legion of Doom, The Heart Foundation, and so many more. Tag team matches were so much fun to watch because you had one guy going at it then he tags his partner and then they are both in there doing their job and it was flips, and drops. Oh it was great!

That is what I think about when I read some of the passages towards the end of John when Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit. You and the Holy Spirit are supposed to tag team life and even though He is the predominant member of the team you are still a part of the team. He won’t do it all but He will equip you to do your part. There is no part of life that He won’t help with either.

In John 15:26-27 Jesus talks about how the Holy Spirit will bear witness or testify of Jesus and how the disciples were supposed to testify as well. Now before you go and say Jesus was talking to the Disciples remember there are enough other verses to support the idea that all Christians are supposed to bear witness of Christ. The point is that both the Holy Spirit and you are supposed to testify of Christ. Now this can be done a lot of different ways but the important thing is that both of you do it. It’s crazy that a function of the Spirit is to help you do your job. As you go about letting your light shine before men or giving an account of what God has done in your life you are being helped by the Holy Spirit. When you’re nervous or scared because you don’t know what to say He gives words. When you feel like you are not getting anywhere with the person you are talking to He is actually doing His part and convicting them and showing them Christ. As a preacher there has been many times I gave a message and someone said how did you know about X, and I’m like I didn’t say anything about that. It was the Holy Spirit working on that person. It has happen to me as I hear others as well.

Like I said there are quite a few things that He does, but for now I also want to point out that the Holy Spirit helps you resist fulfilling the lust or desires of your flesh. Galatians 5:16 says “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” and the word for Spirit there is the same as in John. It is the word “pneuma” which also means breath. So the actual breath of God which is His Spirit is with and in you helping you overcome yourself. Not just overcome the things in life but overcome you. Maybe you don’t need to be overcome but I know I do. I am all too aware that I am my own worst enemy. As you walk in the Spirit you cannot at the same time give into your own desires. It would be like walking down Main Street and Broadway at the same time. You cannot do it because these are two different places.

I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit. So thankful that He is always present to help me because man do I need the help. Knowing that He is in my corner and wants to be tagged in, knowing that He does not get tired or worn down, and that He can win every match I let Him fight in. That is a good feeling.

Just a thought,

Mike