John’s presentation can hardly be called “narrative.” The events of Jesus’ life are typically used as introductions to what John really wants to share with you – Jesus’ teaching about Himself, and the responses that it raised. Trace the arguments, rather than the physical map, as you read through this Gospel.
At the Pool of Bethsaida in chapter 5, Jesus encounters a man who had been “an invalid for thirty-eight” years. The dialogue of this story is launched with a curious question: “Do you want to be healed?” The answer is so obvious that the question begs notice. What follows is a healing, as we’ve come to expect, followed by a challenge from the Jews, which we’ve also come to expect.
What might be unexpected is how Jesus seems to tease them on. In the middle of chapter 5, John records that the Jews “were persecuting Jesus” because of His healing on the Sabbath. Out of all possible responses, Jesus replies “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” So, in John’s words, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
Jesus follows this with a logic test. “I can do nothing on my own,” he tells them. “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true…” But, “the works that the Father has given me to accomplish…bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”
Jesus then calls them out: their unbelief is not for lack of information, but because they “do not have the love of God” within them. Pay attention to the characteristics of those who believe and disbelieve throughout this book. Also note why they believe or disbelieve – John is great at acknowledging motives – and how these stories help John develop a theme.
We turn then to chapter 6, with signs leading into questions which lead into sermons. Listen closely as another pattern is replayed: Jesus makes a cryptic, seemingly concrete offer – with the Samaritan woman it was living water and here is it “true bread,” His listener asks for what is offered, and then Jesus launches into a deeper explanation of what He meant. But as the call gets more difficult, more real, and the crowds thin, Jesus turns to the twelve and asks, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Our verse for this week is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John chapters 5 and 6. Now let’s read it!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.