This week again, I am again convicted of how poorly I have read the Gospel of John prior to this class. I am intrigued; maybe astounded is a better word for how I feel, by how the author frames Jesus against the backdrop of Jewish feasts. Since Jn. 1:16-17, we see Jesus as the gift that is the fulfillment of a gift. As the narrative has unfolded, the author has continually held Jesus up as one that supersedes/fulfills some aspect of Jewish worship. As our text for the week unfolds, we see Jesus fulfilling the Sabbath, then in chapter six, Jesus is presented as the one who fulfills/supersedes Passover. (I know in the coming weeks we continue to read this large thought unit that portrays Jesus attending feast days with the fulfillment of Tabernacles and Dedication coming up.) As chapter six opens, the echoes of the Moses narrative are all over. In the opening of chapter six, Jesus is doing what Moses did, in that he crosses a body of water, a large crowd gathers, he goes up the mountain, and he feeds them, he crosses the water again and offers the true bread from heaven to those that will take him into themselves, eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
What stands out to me this week the most, is the portrayal of Jesus as judge and giver of life (Jn. 5:21-22). The Jews hear Jesus correctly, he is indeed breaking the Sabbath, Jesus doesn’t deny he is working, but he is calling himself equal to God. The Jews misunderstand what Jesus is doing and says, and see his words as a statement of independence, when in actuality Jesus is really claiming dependence. Moloney helps frame what takes place here, when he writes, “The Son is not another Sabbath God, but in a totally dependent relationship where the Son has the privilege of intimacy. The Son sees all that the Father does, and thus is able to do exactly what the Father has done” (Moloney 178). I like what Moloney says just a little later as well, “Only the Lord of the Sabbath is the master of life and death, but because of the relationship that exists between the Father and the Son this has activity has passed on to the Son” (Moloney, 179). Jesus is doing the works of God, and is described as an apprentice to the Father. Jesus is one who sees and hears what the Father is doing and has done, it is a two fold work that Jesus is engaged in. The key here, is heeding the words of Jesus. For those that are apparently blind and deaf to the presence and words of the Father, if they would but pay attention to Jesus words and works they would see the Father.
What follows in the text, is Jesus presented as being on trial, and then he offers four witnesses for his accusers. John the Baptist is the first witness (Jn. 5:33), the works Jesus does witness to what and why he is working (5:36), the Father is testifying on his behalf of his Son (5:37). And then Jesus offers the fourth and final witness, Moses or the Scriptures (5:39). Jesus comes down hard on the Jews for staking their defense and claim to eternal life coming from their diligence in studying the Scriptures, and points to their misinterpretation of the Scriptures by missing the true source of life, Jesus.
Jesus words about studying the Scriptures to find life are intriguing. How many conversations have we had in churches were someone or even ourselves have claimed that the Scriptures give life. Jesus is not dismissing the Scriptures. Afterall, they point us to Him. But, the foundation for ministry, the foundation for life is Jesus. He is the lifegiver.