John – Part 4 – Chapter 5, verses 31-47 and Chapter 6, verses 1-15

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Jesus answers the Jews who wish to kill him…continued

John Chapter 5, verses 31-32

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.

Commentary

In a court of law, a man’s unsupported testimony was not allowed to stand. Jesus knew the Jews did not believe him —why should they believe someone who made himself “equal with God”?

Jesus, however, did not rely on his own word alone to prove his point. If he had no other testimony, the Jews could call him a liar. But there was another witness whose testimony was unimpeachable.

We think immediately of God the Father, who at Jesus’ baptism had declared from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love” (Matthew 3:17).

John Chapter 5, verses 33-35

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

Commentary

The Jews had heard the witness of yet another person, namely, John the Baptist. John had identified Jesus as the Son of God, the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world. John’s testimony was true and still valid even as Jesus spoke.

But Jesus did not refer to John’s testimony as if he had to depend on it or the word of any human being to verify his claim. He mentioned it so that some of the Jews might recall the testimony and be saved. He reached out to his enemies.

For a while the Jews had seemed to listen to John’s words and enjoy the light of his wisdom. But that lasted only for a time, and they did not believe his witness of Jesus.

John Chapter 5, verse 36

“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.

Commentary

The Jews not only had rejected the testimony of John the Baptist; they rejected an even greater witness, even though it presented itself before their very eyes. Jesus’ works, which the Father gave him to do, were clear evidence that he came from the Father. Only someone sent from God could do the works Jesus did.

What more did the Jews need? Nevertheless, when they saw the invalid fully healed, they only looked for ways to discredit Jesus and get rid of him. They missed the truth Jesus’ works told.

John Chapter 5, verses 37-38

And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.

Commentary

The all-important witness, whose testimony about Jesus is “valid” (verse 32), was, and is, God the Father. The Father had testified about Jesus through the prophecies of the Old Testament as well as in the words he spoke at Jesus’ baptism.

The Father’s voice spoke of Christ and continued to speak through Christ. The Father showed himself to the Jews in the person of Christ. Still, they never heard the Father’s voice or saw his image.

The word of the Father did not dwell in them because they did not believe in Jesus, who was sent from the Father and revealed in the Word. Remembering the opening verses of this gospel, we might say the Word (God the Son) hadno part in them, since the Father’s Word did not remain in them.

John Chapter 5, verses 39-40

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Commentary

The trouble wasn’t that the Jews didn’t have access to the Father’s Word. They had his Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, and they had studied those Scriptures, searching for eternal life.

They studied, but they didn’t learn. They looked, but they didn’t see. The Scriptures were all about Jesus. Now Jesus came with signs, and they didn’t believe. They did not want to come to him for the very life they were seeking.

We need to read carefully and see where the fault lay. The Jews refused to come to Jesus. Their wills opposed God’s promised Messiah.

John Chapter 5, verses 41-44

“I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

Commentary

Jesus wasn’t jealous of receiving praise and honor from men. He wasn’t trying to establish his authority by attracting adoring subjects. He wasn’t perturbed because the Jews didn’t play the part.

No, the problem was much different and bigger than that. Jesus spoke bluntly: “I know you don’t have the love of God in you.” These Jews did not truly love God. They did not have the love of God in them, motivating them and guiding them. Therefore they clashed with Jesus.

In contrast, false Christs would come in their own names, and the Jews would hail them as messiahs. It had happened and would happen again.

The Jews were too caught up in mutual admiration. They sought and received honor from one another, something like honor among thieves. They paid attention to human, earthly vanities and neglected to seek the honor that belongs to and comes from the only God. The very thing they accused Jesus of they did themselves: they made themselves equal to God. No wonder they could not believe in Jesus.

John Chapter 5, verses 45-47

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Commentary

These Jews didn’t have to take Jesus’ word for any of his claims. And Jesus didn’t have to accuse them before the Father. They were accused already by the one person whose authority they accepted above all else—Moses.

The Jews drew their inspiration and hope particularly from the five books of Moses. But they demonstrated they didn’t actually believe Moses when they failed to believe Jesus. The logic is incontrovertible because Moses wrote about Jesus. His entire message centered on Christ: from Genesis 3:15 to Deuteronomy 18:15, from the Passover lamb to the sin offering. The Jews saw only the law in Moses and missed the message of Christ that gives eternal life.

Since the Jews did not believe God’s words written by Moses, naturally they would not believe God’s Son, though he spoke the same truth.

Jesus feeds over five thousand people

John Chapter 6, verses 1-4

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.

Commentary

Some time had passed since Jesus healed the invalid at Bethesda. It was near the Passover time again, probably two years since the Passover mentioned in 2:13,23 and up to a year since the festival in 5:1.

By now Jesus had worked enough miraculous healings that a great crowd of people who had seen his signs followed him. However, it seems they followed him mostly because he worked miracles and not because he was the Savior. Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to the northernmost shore with his disciples to have some time alone. He came to a mountainside, a grassy slope rising from the sea, and sat down with them.

John Chapter 6, verses 5-6

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Commentary

In time the crowd caught up with Jesus; however, they had trekked a distance and were still far from most towns or villages where they could get food. Jesus immediately sized up the situation and put his disciples to the test. He asked where they could buy food for such a great crowd. He spoke directly to Philip, who lived in nearby Bethsaida. Before Jesus spoke, however, he knew what he was going to do. His question helped prepare the disciples for his impending miracle.

John Chapter 6, verses 7-9

Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Commentary

The disciples, we might say, didn’t pass Jesus’ test. They called attention only to the “insurmountable” obstacles instead of trusting Jesus to provide. Similarly today we face tests and see obstacles in our way. But instead of letting obstacles dishearten us, we can trust Jesus to provide.

Philip didn’t bother to suggest where they might get bread. It was obvious to him that they couldn’t afford to buy it if it were available. Eight months’ wages would not buy enough so each could have a small piece. But even if they could manage that much, it wouldn’t satisfy their hunger.

Simon Peter’s brother Andrew noted further that the only food readily available was five loaves of barley bread and two small fish that a boy had brought along. The poorer classes of people ate barley bread. The boy’s offering wasn’t much, and it was poor people’s fare.

Not enough money and not enough food: the situation looked hopeless for the crowd to get supper that night.

John Chapter 6, verses 10-11

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

Commentary

The disciples knew it would take a miracle to feed such a crowd, and Jesus was ready to perform one. He had the disciples seat everyone on the grassy slope in groups of 50 or 100 (Mark 6:40). They counted 5,000 men, not including women and children (Matthew 14:21). If there were as many women as men and again (merely) as many children, Jesus faced feeding upwards of 15,000 people.

Jesus took the bread the boy gave them. The next phrase, “gave thanks,” passes the reader almost unnoticed. But look at the precedent our Savior set for us. Recognizing that all we need for body and soul comes from God, we too should give thanks each time we sit to eat our life-sustaining food.

Jesus distributed the bread—five loaves—and the fish—just two—to the thousands seated there. The supply never ended until all the people had “as much as they wanted” to eat.

John Chapter 6, verses 12-13

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Commentary

The miracle didn’t end with the distribution. There were leftovers, enough pieces of barley bread to fill 12 baskets— one for each disciple.

Some who read this account, however, fail to see any miracle. They suggest, for instance, that the people, when they saw the example of the boy sharing his food, were led to share food they also brought along, so that everyone had plenty to eat. It’s a nice story that some would say is miraculous in its own right. But such an “explanation” doesn’t agree with the clear Word here.

The Word says:

• Jesus distributed the bread and fish that was identified as coming from the boy.

• The people ate as much as they wanted from what Jesus distributed.

• The disciples filled the 12 baskets with “pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”

If Jesus only managed to fill 12 baskets with five loaves, he worked a miracle, but those were the leftovers after the thousands had eaten.

John Chapter 6, verses 14-15

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Commentary

The people who ate thought Jesus worked enough of a miracle to identify him as the prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18:15, who would be like Moses. They wanted to make Jesus their king. Maybe they remembered how their ancestors had received water, manna, and quail under Moses in the wilderness, because it’s clear they wanted this prophet also to feed them. So they served up essentially the same temptation to earthly power that Satan had used with Jesus earlier, in the wilderness temptations (Matthew 4:8,9).

The people had missed the real sign in Jesus’ miracle, namely, that he was the promised Christ of God sent to bring them spiritual bread. Before they could act on their intentions, however, Jesus, who knew their thoughts, retreated alone to a mountain.