Readings for this week:
May 17 - John 5:25-47
May 18 - John 6:1-21
May 19 - John 6:22-44
May 20 - John 6:45-71
May 21 - John 7:1-27
May 22 - John 7:28-53
May 23 - John 8:1-27
This week’s readings contain a lot of heavy reading which can be difficult to wade through. For example, in John 5:25-47 Jesus talks about his ability to judge and to give life. He does it in such a way, though, as to confront the Jewish leaders with their unbelief (5:33). The basic point Jesus is making here is that the Pharisees were looking for love in all the wrong places. They were students of the Scriptures (v. 39) and were a little excited by John the Baptist (v. 35), but they never really got what God was up to: sending Jesus. They read the Books of Moses (Torah), but Moses himself would condemn them because the writings of Moses pointed to Jesus (v. 46-47) and they didn’t get it.
Not getting it infuses the rest of this week’s readings. We are all familiar with the feeding of the 5000 (6:1-15), one of the few miracles that appears in all four Gospels. John uses the occasion to have Jesus explain a bit more about Himself. He is the Bread of Life (6:33) who feeds people’s deepest hungers, but even the rest of them have a hard time “getting it,” as they are focused on physical bread rather than spiritual food (6:26-27). This is one of the major blockages to people finding what Jesus really has to offer today. We want Him to heal our diseases and meet our immediate needs for a good life, but he wants to give us much more. He wants to give us an eternal connection with heaven (v.51).
This distinction between materialism and spirituality is difficult even for some of the disciples and they begin to desert him because they don’t get it (6:60-66). I find this to be one of the greatest struggles for Christian growth. We come up against something we don’t immediately understand or like and we bail on the deeper truth Jesus is trying to teach us.
A similar lesson is to be found in Jesus’ appearance at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:1-24). The Feast of Tabernacles was a Jewish feast which recalled God’s provision in the Wilderness and looked prophetically forward to the day when Gentiles would come and worship God in Jerusalem. On each of the days of the feast, water would be drawn from the Pool of Siloam and poured out as a sign of God pouring out His Holy Spirit. It was a fun, hopeful festival filled with celebration. Jesus disrupts the celebration by telling the people that what they were enacting as a religious ritual had come true in him (vv.37-38). He was the source of all thirst-quenching and the provider of the Holy Spirit (v.39). He tried to get people to look beyond ritual to reality.
In today’s terms it would be a bit like getting people to look beyond the pageantry of Christmas or Easter and really allow themselves to be revolutionized by the living God. In my experience as a pastor I have seen many people cling to ritual as a way of making themselves feel better but avoid a more radical engagement with Christ. The Jewish leaders get irked with Jesus for messing up their ritual the same way people today might get upset with Him for disrupting an order of service to draw people to his salvation.
The last story where people had a hard time “getting it” was Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery (8:1-11). The Pharisees bring him a woman caught in adultery (where was the man?) and challenge Him to respond to the Levitical command to stone adulterers (8:4-5). He answers with that famous line: “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (v. 7). In that one response he underscored the fact that the Pharisees had missed the whole point of the Torah which is about God revealing his patient love to a sinful world. Jesus was pointing out that we are all more like each other than any of us is like God, and we all need a Savior. That is still hard for people to grasp today.
So the challenge for this week is to ask yourselves in all your interactions: “Am I getting it?” or am I being frustrated because the values of God’s Kingdom are so different from our own.