Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Lesson 12: John 5-6

Posted by cherylem on April 10, 2007

I am not posting my entire lesson outline here because the format does not come through, and the format is very important in this lesson. Through the way I’ve formatted my lesson notes, I am suggesting a way of reading these two chapters – this is my attempt to make these two dense chapters accessible to the lay reader.

Therefore I will post a link to the word document (or Robert will) at the bottom of this post, and anyone who is interested can go there.

My most important points are these:

John 5
Jesus performs a provocative act by healing on the Sabbath. The reason this is provocative is this: Only God can work on the Sabbath. Sabbath work is God’s privilege – no one else’s. And God’s Sabbath work is comprised of three things: 1) giving life, 2) judgment, and 3) rain. That is, men are born and die on the Sabbath, and it rains. Therefore it follows that God’s work continues in this area.

When Jesus heals on the Sabbath and then says he is doing the work of God, he is making himself one with God – a truly radical claim. He is giving life, and then he continues by saying not only can he heal (give life) in this way but he also will quicken (give life) where he will, just as the Father raiseth up the dead (John 5:21). This continues the radical claim, one that enflames his listeners.

Then, in v. 22 Jesus adds that God has also commited all judgment to the Son. So this is a broadening of the radical claim of Jesus. Jesus continues to expound on this theme, expanding it until he is discussing the resurrection of life and of damnation (v. 28-29).

So Jesus heals, gives life, and says he also judges – all the unique work of God on the Sabbath day.

Jesus then gives witnesses to this radical claim: 1) another (God the father? The Holy Ghost?), 2) John the Baptist 3) Jesus’ own works, including his miracles 4) The Father and 5) the scriptures/law/Moses.

Jesus then teaches that even though he is the judge, his listeners will be accused not by him, but by Moses, whom they revere. He claims that Moses wrote of him (v. 46).

John 6:

The new sign in John 6 involves the feeding of the 5,000 “nigh” to the time of the Passover. I have chosen to accept the idea that the 5 in 5,000 refers to the Torah, or the convenant. The 12 baskets gathered up refer to the 12 tribes. That there is more than enough demonstrates that there is sufficient bread to spare in all Israel.

Also, it is interesting that the multiplication of the barley loaves in 2 Kings 4:42-44 is repeated here. The loaves are barley loaves, not wheat loaves, so those participants who knew their history would bring this story to mind.

People, seeing this sign of the multiplication of the loaves, try violently to make Jesus king, but he departs from them.

The next sign is given when Jesus walks on the sea. The Passover significance of the two signs in John 6 strengthens: Manna began during Passover and ended on a Passover eve. The Passover haggadah celebrates the escape through the Reed sea.

One of the most profound questions asked during this section is 6:25: Rabbi, when camest thou hither? The greater question is: When did you come here? Where did you come from? Jesus, as the bread of life, came from heaven.

After these two signs, Jesus begins to teach about the Bread of life. This teaching can be divided into three parts: 1) teachings to the crowd, 2) teachings to the Jewish leaders, 3) the leaders think over what Jesus has said.

When Jesus teaches the crowd he tells them to labor for that which endures, and the enduring meat is a gift from the Son of Man. He explains that faith is a work; the all important work that pleases God. But the crowd doesn’t understand and demands yet another sign.

Jesus then states: I am the bread of life (v. 35ff) Throughout this discourse, Jesus reverses what was done in the Garden of Eden. That is, in Gen. 3, Adam is told not to eat of the fruit of the tree, lest he die. Man is driven out of the Garden of Eden, lest he eat and live forever. In this discourse, Jesus says that the bread that comes from heaven is such that a man might eat it and never die. Anyone who comes to Jesus will never be driven out. Jesus says that the bread that he gives is his own flesh, which he gives for the life of the world (v. 51)

But the leaders, upon hearing this, murmur, again bringing to mind the wilderness journey of the Israelites. After they murmur, Jesus compares the bread of life (himself) to the manna which the Lord provided in the wilderness. The manna was not the food that leads one to live forever, however.

The leaders then think about what Jesus said, asking how it’s possible to eat Jesus’ flesh. Jesus then says something that seems startling to us: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

But to the people of that time, this simile is very familiar (eating flesh, drinking blood). References include Psalm 14:4, Micah 3:3, 2 Samuel 23:17, Matthew 23:30, and there are others. This is a way of talking about death. When Jesus uses this simile he is talking to the people who will be responsible for his death, and he is saying plainly that he will die. The reference in Samuel is interesting because there King David refuses to drink water that three brought him at great risk to their own lives. Instead he pours it out as an offering to God, saying, “Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?”

In the case of Jesus, who is providing living water and the bread of life, the answer for all of us, is yes, we must drink and eat, because this is precisely the work for which Jesus came.

Using this stark simile talking to this particular audience is also a [possible] way of telling even his enemies that they have to participate in his death in order for them to live forever. That is, everyone, the just and the unjust, will benefit by Jesus’ death. (This is also very close to the third Sabbath day work of God: rain, which falls on the just and unjust.)

Two more points are:
Section 76 (the degrees of glory) came from the prophet studying the material in this lesson, specifically John 5:28-29, and I reference this in my lesson outline.

The Prophet also expanded the meaning of John 5:19: what work the Son does that is the same as the Father has done. This is also referenced in my lesson. The work that the Father did that the Son also does includes laying down his life and taking it up again, and working out his own kingdom with fear and trembling. The full quote is in my lesson material.

These are my short notes. For more, visit the following link soon to be provided.:

Lesson 12 (cheryl).doc

11 Responses to “Lesson 12: John 5-6”

  1. cherylem said

    Robert,
    Thanks for posting the link.

  2. nhilton said

    Cheryl, your notes on John 6 are fabulous! Thank you so much for your effort here. I will enjoy your fuller post.

  3. Cherylem said

    NHilton,
    Thanks.

  4. John said

    The imagery of flesh and blood in this passage has always been troublesome to me. I appreciate the equally enigmatic quote from David; it helps me to see that there is additional symbolism at work here. If even such things as barley loaves could hold deeper meaning for the Jews, then no wonder that Jesus’ analogy was all the more vexing to those that heard it. The symbolism of the miracle was enough to convince 5000 that Jesus was the promised Messiah (according to John).

    Thanks for the insights.

  5. Cherylem said

    Here is further commentary on the David story:

    “The story of such devotion to a leader became part of Israel’s literary heritage, especially as the leader was humble enough to admit that only the Lord was worthy of such sacrifice. This is why he poured it out to the Lord as a libation; it represented the life-blood of three brave men.”
    –Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 & 2Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary, from the series: Tydndale Old Testament Commentaries, D.J. Wiseman, Gen. Ed. 1988.

    Martin J. Selman, author of the book on 1 Chronicles (where the story is also told: 1 Chronicles 11:19) of the same series writes:
    “The point of David’s pouring Bethlehem’s precious water on the ground is threefold. It highlights a great act of Israelite bravery, it exalts David’s ability to inspire extraordinary loyalty, and it was recognized as an act of worship.”

    Mainly all this points out to a familiarity with the language: drinking someone’s blood, and that this language was not intended to be taken literally. Rather it was like a colloquiallism, again, something familiar.

    Remember, Jews were strictly forbiddin to drink even the blood of animals. So again, the language was not literal.

    We may not be able to completely hear and understand with first century Judaic ears and brains, but I think we can begin to get a sense of what Jesus was saying. It probably had absolutely nothing to do with the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiantion, for instance.

  6. joe m said

    it took me a while to figure out how the David story and Jesus’ statements correlate. is this what you’re saying?:

    david would not drink the water of the men who risked their lives for him, and instead dedicated the sacrifice to God. using the same language, Jesus takes the position of the men who brought david water. he is saying, “i have brought you water, at great risk of my life (the price was my life), please drink.” so, the tables have turned. David, the king, dedicated the sacrifice to the Lord, but the Lord, The King, has dedicated His sacrifice to us, and implores us to drink of his blood (which means here: life, honor, spirit, the Way, or something similar).

    I hope this is what you mean. it is very touching to me, in any case.

  7. joe m said

    i think there are some very deep meanings here, but i cannot seem to find words for them.

  8. joe m said

    ah. i just read this part of long version of your lesson. you are saying that Jesus is saying that we all will profit (and we all need the profit of) His death. Or that we will reap the profits of his death, even though we are the cause of the sacrifice.

    This paints the scene much more tragically than my conclusion in #6. we cannot act honorably like David, and dedicate this great sacrifice to God, but we will drink the blood (water) to live, regardless of the price. This perspective is immensely more tragic, but all profit (all drink) and the sacrifice is already made…

    cheryem thanks for the lesson this week.

  9. Cherylem said

    Joe,
    I am not sure what I mean (“if this is what you mean. . . “). In offering this reference and others, I am trying to point out that we have not understood what Jesus was talking about when he talked about eating his flesh, drinking his blood. I think the meaning is both less than we thought (in the harshness of the image) and more than we thought (in the understanding of the day).

    I think what you have written IS important, but I am not sure it is THE meaning of the text in John. However, I think it is definitely one possible meaning of what Jesus was talking about. In class tomorrow, I’m going to point out that the meaning of the text has to come from the interaction of the individual student with the [newly opened] text and with the Spirit. So if you were in my class and you offered this thought I would try to repeat it back to the class, pause for a good minute or so and let what you said sink in, and let the Spirit then open our minds further.

    I think what you have said, though, is much closer than some other meanings given to this text over the years. And I myself felt the Spirit when reading it.

  10. Cherylem said

    Joe m,
    Also, remember that by this time in John 6 Jesus’ audience is the Jewish leaders, the Judaizers. So I personally think there are layers of meaning here, not least of which is the one you have written.

  11. Cherylem said

    Joe #8,
    I love what you have understood and written.

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