This Week’s Gospel Readings: John 6:1 – 7:36
Yeshua is out among the people saying mysterious things. He evokes Moses, manna, exodus, and scandalously implies that his work is greater. He speaks of returning to the place from which he came, a place his enemies won’t be able to find him. He alludes to a chain of promises in the Torah about streams in the desert, fresh water for the soul.
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From these readings we can draw many lessons. When we wonder about God’s attitude toward us, whether it is critical or benevolent, we have Yeshua’s promise that he seeks our good. When we wonder if Yeshua will really come, we have his assurance that he is who he claims to be. When we wonder if we can ever change, Yeshua tells us it is inevitable because God will make it happen. When we wonder why we should try, Yeshua tells us the sooner the grasp it the sooner we will find our peace.
A Few Highlights from the Greek and the Commentary
John 6:20 — egō eimi mae phobeisthe, ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε, “I am, do not be afraid” [alt., “it is I, do not be afraid”]. The Fourth Gospel all but directly declares again and again that Yeshua is divine. Raymond Brown notes three kinds of “I am” statements in the Gospel (note that “I am” is related to the divine name in Torah, Exodus 3). Some statements have a predicate nominative after the “I am,” such as “I am the bread of life.” Others, as in 8:24, are direct, “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” Verses like 8:24 do not say “unless you believe that I am he.” There is no “he.” Effectively 8:24 is saying, “Unless you believe that I am, that is, unless you equate me with the God of the Exodus, you will die in your sins.” And finally, the third kind of “I am” saying, is like our present example in 6:20, “I am; do not be afraid.” The fact that Yeshua says this while walking on the water is instructive. He has just made a sort of Exodus miracle at a time near the Passover (see 6:4, the feeding of the 5,000 happened just before Passover). Now he is crossing the sea, in an act reminiscent of Exodus 14. Many troubling things are going to happen and the faith of the disciples will be tested. But Yeshua says, “I am; therefore, do not be afraid.” Yeshua’s nature, his intrinsic being, is for our good, and we can trust in his greatness and good will toward us no matter what comes in this life.
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John 6:33 — ho gar artos tou theou estin ho katabainōn ek tou ouranou, ὁ γὰρ ἄρτος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν ὁ καταβαίνων ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, “for the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven.” Yeshua compares himself to manna, which came down from heaven. He has already provided the Passover-like meal (feeding the 5,000), crossed the sea as Israel in the Exodus (walking on water), and now he is also the manna. Part of the richness of the Fourth Gospel, as is also seen in the book of Revelation (likely written by the same author), is the way events and even details in the Bible become symbols referring to Yeshua’s identity. This is not, as some have believed, evidence that the Israelite scriptures were merely symbols of Messiah with no meaning of their own. Rather, as was the custom at the time, a text could be read on multiple levels. The messianic meaning of the text is not primary, but is an elevated way of seeing the text. In the case of manna, it was something ordinary but its origin was transcendent — just like Yeshua, the ordinary man with the heavenly origin and hidden, exalted identity.
John 6:68 — kurié, pros tina apeleusometha; raemata zōaes aiōniou echeis, κύριε, πρὸς τίνα ἀπελευσόμεθα; ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου ἔχεις, “Lord, who would we go to? You have the words of eternal life!” Peter, faced with a sad question from his Lord, answers well. The very human Yeshua faces the reality of losing friends continually. Crowds come and find his message too difficult. What about his band of followers? Will they abandon him too? The truth is, they will all temporarily abandon him. But, as Peter says, they will ultimately cling to him, having found something too wonderful to give up.
John 7:5 — oude gar hoi adelphoi auto episteuon eis auton, οὐδὲ γὰρ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπίστευον εἰς αὐτόν, “not even his own brothers believed in him.” We read something similar in Mark 3:21. In the Mark story, crowds are being drawn to Yeshua, wanting to see a miracle or hear him say controversial things. His family talked among themselves, saying, “He is out of his mind.” Then in Luke 4, the people in Yeshua’s hometown rejected him, leading to the famous saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown.” When Yeshua was arrested, Mark 14:50 tells us, “They all abandoned him and fled.” The Gospels are full of doubt and the opposite of faith. We can easily fall into that path, like they did. It is harder to believe.
John 7:33 — hupagō pros ton pempsanta me, ὑπάγω πρὸς τὸν πέμψαντά με, “I am going to the one who sent me.” In the Fourth Gospel, Yeshua more openly speaks about his hidden, exalted identity. Of course, his hearers do not understand. “Where is he going to go that we cannot find him?” they ask. Perhaps the Beloved Disciple retained more of these unusual sayings in his memory, being the contemplative disciple. While other eyewitnesses tended to miss Yeshua’s hints of divinity, the author of the Fourth Gospel remembered them and added this perspective to the record of the other gospels. It makes sense that Yeshua said these things. But people who were mystified by his words, not understanding their importance at the time they first heard such sayings, might have forgotten them. Yeshua had a strong sense of who he was, why he was here, where he was going, and what he would do for us.
Outlines of the Week, John 1:29-3:30
JOHN 6:1-21 Multiplication of loaves and fish for the five thousand (1-13), Yeshua avoids being proclaimed king (14-15), Yeshua walks on water (16-21).
JOHN 6:22-34 The king-expectant crowd seeks Yeshua (22-24), faith and not bread (25-29), better than manna (30-34).
JOHN 6:35-50 Yeshua as Bread of Life (35-40), Yeshua as true manna (41-44), Yeshua as the revealer of the Father (45-50).
JOHN 6:51-59 Living bread (51), Jewish leaders are scandalized by the saying (52), riddle sayings about the cross and resurrection (53-58), setting given as Capernaum (59).
JOHN 6:60-71 The disciples despair of being able to believe Yeshua (60), Yeshua on unbelief (61-64), the Father’s initiative required (65), many leave Yeshua (66), Yeshua asks if the twelve will also leave (67), Peter confesses faith (68-69), Yeshua speaks of choosing the twelve but of one being a traitor (70-71).
JOHN 7:1-13 Tabernacles and the unbelief of Yeshua’s brothers (1-5), hatred of the world and Yeshua’s time (6-9), Yeshua goes in secret (10-13).
JOHN 7:14-36 The source of Yeshua’s teaching (14-19), Yeshua’s response to the Sabbath controversy (20-24), the people consider Yeshua’s claims (25-27), Yeshua on where he came from (28-30), the people put faith in his signs (31), Yeshua speaks in riddles of his ascension to the throne (32-36).
Read the full commentary on John 6:1 – 7:36. Click here.
More About The Weekly Gospel
Every morning, with my first two cups of coffee, I send out an email to everyone who is subscribed to the Daily Portion. We have readings from the Torah (following the Jewish calendar) and from the four Gospels plus Acts. We read Matthew with Genesis, Mark with Exodus, Luke with Leviticus, John with Numbers, and Acts with Deuteronomy. Click here if you’d like to subscribe (free).
I plan to post weekly summaries here on DerekLeman.com on Tuesdays. You will find outlines of the readings for the previous seven days, links to my full online commentary, and more. I hope this makes it easier for people to engage more with the Bible and follow a consistent reading plan. See more about reading the Bible here.