IV. More Signs and Opposition (John 5:1–10:42)
IV. More Signs and Opposition (5:1–10:42)
A. Healing the Disabled, Feeding the Hungry, Walking on Water (5:1–6:71)
5:1-6 Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival (5:1). Near the pool, called Bethesda, there were many blind, lame, and paralyzed people waiting for a supernatural healing (5:2-3). Jesus saw a man there who had been disabled for thirty-eight years and asked him an interesting question: Do you want to get well? (5:5-6). It suggests that some people have been stuck in their negative circumstances for so long that they have given up hope that things can ever change. God’s work occurs in cooperation with our will.
5:7 In response, the man told Jesus that every time there was a healing opportunity he never had anyone to help him into the pool. The healing was so near and yet so far away. The man’s situation was hopeless, and he had no one to offer him aid.
5:8-9 So Jesus told the man, Get up . . . pick up your mat and walk (5:8). Wherever your bed is, that’s where your home is. Thus, this man would no longer be sleeping in a place of despair. His home was changing. Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk (5:9).
5:10 In spite of Jesus’s miraculous healing, there was a problem: that day was the Sabbath. It wasn’t a problem for Jesus, but it was for the Jewish religious leaders. They considered picking up a mat to be work (!) and, therefore, prohibited on the Sabbath, so they rebuked the man. They had taken a divine command that provided physical rest for God’s people and erroneously turned it into a human restriction on acts of mercy.
5:11-13 The man who made me well told me to pick up my mat (5:11) indicates that the healed man preferred to listen to the one with the miraculous power, not leaders who were just practicing religion! He had lain there for thirty-eight years, and the religious leaders had never aided in his healing. So when an unknown healer fixed his legs and commanded him to carry his mat, there was no question about whom he would listen to. The leaders wanted to know who this miraculous healer was, but Jesus had slipped away (5:12-13).
5:14 Later Jesus found the man in the temple and said, See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you. It’s possible, then, that the man had been stuck because of unaddressed sin in his life. Sin carries long-term consequences.
5:15-16 Having encountered Jesus again, the man who had been healed found the Jewish religious leaders and pointed out to them the man who had done the healing (5:15). One would think that they would have been excited to meet Jesus. Instead, they began persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath (5:16).
While Jesus was changing lives, the leaders were playing religion. No matter how much religious activity you are engaged in, if you’re not in the business of changing lives, then you’re not in the business of Jesus.
5:17-18 Jesus justified his activity on the Sabbath by telling them, My Father is still working, and I am working also (5:17). God the Father was engaged in kingdom business, and so was his Son. When they heard this, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus—not only because he was breaking the Sabbath, but because he was calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God (5:18).
They hadn’t misunderstood Jesus; they knew exactly what he was saying. The Son shared the Father’s divine nature. He had the DNA of deity. As John himself has already said, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). But as far as the leaders were concerned, Jesus’s claims were blasphemy.
5:19 But Jesus wasn’t committing blasphemy. He was acting in perfect harmony and solidarity with the Father. The Son does only what he sees the Father doing. Their relationship is so close that they function simultaneously. So whatever Jesus was doing, the Father was doing. Thus, healing the man on the Sabbath was not blasphemy but an act of God.
5:20-21 The Father loves the Son. The Godhead is united in perfect love, transparency, and intimacy. This line, then, is a subtle warning to the religious leaders. The one whom they wanted to kill (5:18) was dearly loved by God the Father. And because of that, the Father would show him greater works than these so that they would be amazed (5:20); these works included raising the dead (5:21). So in a way, Jesus was telling them, “You think you’re upset now because I healed a paralytic? You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until you see what I do with Lazarus!” (see 11:1-44).
5:22-23 God the Father has also turned over all judgment to the Son (5:22). Jesus Christ has been made the final Judge of all mankind. Why? So that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Those words from Jesus are another clear and explicit claim to his deity. To be honored as God is to be God. In fact, Jesus told them, Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (5:23). It’s a family matter. To reject Jesus is to reject God altogether. There’s no true religion without Jesus Christ.
5:24 If Jesus is the Judge of humanity, how does one escape divine judgment on sin? Jesus gives the answer: Anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. To believe in the Son, then, is to pass from death (eternal separation from God) to life (eternal relationship with God). That’s eternal security. Faith in God’s promise through Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to all who believe in him for it. Assurance is the essence of saving faith.
5:25-29 The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and live because the Father is the source of life and has given the Son the right to grant life (5:25-26). Eternal, spiritual life is available through Jesus. To him, the Father has granted . . . the right to pass judgment (5:27). One day, all who are in the graves will hear the Son’s voice and come out—either to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of condemnation (8:28-29). There will be no exceptions. Whether people experience eternal life or condemnation after the resurrection will depend entirely on their response to Jesus in this life. If they believed in Jesus, they will have done good things because of the eternal life in them. If they did not believe in Jesus, they will have done wicked things because of the lack of life in them (5:29).
5:30 Everything Jesus did, he did at the initiative of his Father. He did not seek [his] own will but the Father’s. That, in fact, is what a life looks like when it is completely yielded to God.
5:31-35 Jesus wasn’t merely speaking on his own behalf. In fulfillment of Scripture, John the Baptist testified to the truth about him (5:32; see 1:19-36). John was a . . . shining lamp, bearing testimony so that they might be saved (5:34-35). Though they listened to John at first, eventually they rejected him (5:35).
5:36-40 But there was a greater witness than John that testified to Jesus’s identity. That witness was Jesus’s works (5:36). The miraculous signs he performed were evidence that he was the Messiah sent from the Father. So in essence, Jesus told them, “My deeds are my validation.” Everything had been done before their eyes. Moreover, the Father also testified about Jesus, but the religious leaders had rejected this too. They didn’t have God’s word residing in [them] because they didn’t believe in his Son (5:37-38). They thought they had eternal life because they studied the Scriptures. Yet those very Scriptures pointed to Jesus, and they refused to go to him to have life (5:39-40).
A person can diligently study the Bible (the written Word) and still miss Jesus (the living Word). Knowing God’s written Word is absolutely essential, but if your knowledge of it doesn’t lead you to the living Word, then you have completely missed the point. This sad fact was illustrated when Jewish leaders told the wise men that Scripture foretold the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem, but they never bothered to make the trip to worship him (see Matt 2:1-6).
5:41-43 Jesus confronted the religious leaders with hard truth: You have no love for God within you (5:42). Why? Because Jesus had come in his Father’s name, but they wouldn’t accept him (5:43). They thought they loved God, claimed they loved God, boasted that they loved God. But they were unwilling to accept Jesus. Therefore, their professed love for God was a fraud. You simply can’t have the Father without the Son. You can’t have God without Jesus Christ.
5:44 What was keeping them from Jesus? Rather than seeking glory that comes from the only God, they were accepting glory from one another. In other words, they enjoyed being popular. Unconcerned with pleasing God, they sought to please each other.
5:45-47 Jesus told the religious leaders that he wouldn’t be their accuser. Instead Moses, the very person whose words they were reading in the Old Testament, would accuse them before God because they hadn’t learned from him (5:45). Moses, Jesus told them, wrote about me (5:46). For example, Moses (who authored the books of Genesis–Deuteronomy) wrote about the Passover lamb (see Exod 12:1-28), and John the Baptist had identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (1:29, 36). Moses wrote that God would “raise up . . . a prophet” like him from among God’s people (Deut 18:15; see 1:14; Acts 7:37). But the religious leaders were unwilling to accept that Jesus spoke for God. They had read Moses; they just weren’t paying attention to him. So, if they wouldn’t believe Moses, they weren’t going to believe Jesus (5:47).
6:1-6 Jesus had been ministering in Galilee, and a huge crowd followed him because of the miraculous signs he performed (6:2). The Passover was near; therefore, many people were gathering and would be making their journey to Jerusalem (6:4). Jesus saw the crowd and asked Philip where they could buy bread for everyone to eat (6:5). But he knew what he intended to do and was saying this to test Philip (6:6).
Teachers give students tests to allow them to apply what they have learned. When God tests us, he grants us opportunity to apply spiritual truth to the challenging circumstances we face. With thousands of hungry people gathering, Jesus gave Philip a pop quiz he’d never forget.
6:7-9 Philip responded that two hundred denarii (over six months’ wages) wouldn’t be enough to feed the crowd (6:7). And he was right. But Jesus wasn’t asking about the cost; he was asking where the food would come from. Andrew at least pointed to a food source: a boy with five barley loaves and two fish (6:8-9). However, he observed, What are they for so many? (6:9). Neither man could see a solution to the dilemma.
6:10-11 Jesus had the people sit down. The number of men was five thousand (6:10). Thus, were women and children included (see Matt 14:21), there could have been over fifteen thousand people present. Then, taking the loaves and the fish, Jesus gave thanks—thanking God for what was not nearly enough! After that, he distributed the food and, miraculously, everyone ate as much as they wanted (6:11). Jesus took insufficiency, thanked God for it, and provided more than enough. Don’t let your lack of resources limit what God can do. Offer prayers of thanksgiving even in the midst of your insufficiency.
6:12-13 When everyone was full, Jesus had the disciples collect the leftovers, which filled twelve baskets. That’s one doggy bag per disciple, each a reminder of God’s supernatural provision for each disciple.
6:14-15 When they saw the sign, the people exclaimed, This truly is the Prophet who is to come into the world (6:14; see Deut 18:15-18). They recognized that Jesus’s miracles pointed to his identity. So far, so good. But when Jesus realized that they wanted to take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself (6:15). As we’ll see in 6:26-27, they only wanted the physical benefits he offered. They wanted the blessings without the blesser.
6:16-19 While Jesus was still on the mountain, the disciples got into their boat and started across the sea since he had not yet arrived (6:16-17). A high wind started to blow, and the waves began to churn (6:18). As if that weren’t bad enough, they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and the sight terrified them (6:19). They feared he was a ghost (see Matt 14:26).
6:20-21 Jesus calmed their fears and assured them that he was no specter (6:20). So they were willing to take him on board. Then, at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading (6:21). So, one moment they were in the middle of a stormy sea; the next moment they had miraculously reached their destination! Don’t miss that once they were willing to receive Jesus into the boat, he dealt with their problem and delivered them where they needed to go. When believers recognize and respond to the presence of Jesus in the midst of their struggles, they invite the supernatural into their negative circumstances.
6:22-25 The next day, the crowd that had been left behind was puzzled. The disciples had departed in a boat, but Jesus hadn’t been with them. Yet Jesus was nowhere to be found (6:22-24). So they sailed to Capernaum and found [Jesus] on the other side of the sea (6:24-25). How was that possible? He hadn’t left in the boat. So they asked him, When did you get here? (6:25). They suspected Jesus had arrived in some supernatural way.
6:26 In spite of their pursuit of him, Jesus could see the motivation of their hearts: You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. They hadn’t sought him for who he was, then. They sought him for what he could give them. They didn’t want him, but his blessings.
God isn’t opposed to blessing people. He is opposed, however, to people who simply want to use him for his blessings—people who only want him for the stuff he can provide. He’s looking for those who don’t want his blessings without him.
When the Israelites sinned against the Lord by constructing a golden calf, he told Moses that though he would give them the land of Canaan, he himself would not accompany them (see Exod 33:1-3). But Moses would have none of that. He didn’t want the promised land unless God would go with them (Exod 33:15). When you want God more than you want his blessings, you will receive him—as well as whatever he graciously plans to give you. We are to pursue more of God not just more from God.
6:27 Jesus urged them to give the spiritual priority over the physical: Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. They were striving for miraculous physical food (like the prioritization of the material over the spiritual in prosperity theology), when the Son was offering the free gift of spiritual food—that is, eternal life.
6:28-29 They wanted to know what works God required of them (6:28). So Jesus clarified: This is the work of God—that you believe in the one he has sent (6:29). The only thing God demands of those wanting to receive the free gift of eternal life is belief in his Son, Jesus Christ.
6:30-35 That wasn’t good enough for them. If they were to believe in him, they wanted to know what sign he would perform (6:30). They pointed to the Old Testament miracle when Moses supplied Israel with manna—bread from heaven—in the wilderness (6:31). But Jesus corrected them. Moses hadn’t given them any bread. God was their source, not Moses (6:32).
In fact, God was offering them something greater than mere bread. He offered them true bread—the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (6:32-33). But the crowd was still thinking about food. Give us this bread always, they said (6:34), which may as well have been the cry, “We’re hungry!” So, once again, Jesus made himself clear: I am the bread of life . . . No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again (6:35). That’s Jesus’s way of describing the gift of eternal life.
We must consider Jesus our source of life. If we “feed” on him (i.e., “believe in” him, 6:29) as the bread of God (6:33), we will never go hungry again (i.e., we “will never die,” 11:26). This eternal life is permanent, secure, and irrevocable.
6:36-40 Though the people had seen Jesus’s works, they refused to believe (6:36). They desired physical blessings over spiritual ones. But Jesus assured them, Everyone the Father gives me will come to me. So, just whom does the Father give to the Son? All those who believe in him. Whoever believes in the Son is a gift from the Father to the Son. They come to Jesus, and he will never cast them out (6:37). It’s God’s will that the Son lose none of those whom the Father gives to him (6:39). This means that when you trust in Jesus Christ, you are eternally secure. If you come to him for salvation, you cannot be lost again. Not only does the Son vow not to lose you, but he also promises to give you eternal life and raise you up on the last day (6:40). As Jesus was raised from the dead (20:1-29), believers will also be raised.
6:41-42 Rather than believe in him, though, the Jews started complaining. How could this guy call himself bread that came down from heaven? (6:41). They said to one another, Isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph? (6:42). That is to say, “We know him. He’s not from heaven; he’s from Nazareth!”
6:43-46 But Jesus rebuked them for their complaints (6:43) and spoke of God’s ministry of drawing people to himself: No one can come to [the Son] unless the Father . . . draws him (6:44). Jesus is “the true light that gives light to everyone” (1:9). It’s what a person does with that light, then, that determines whether or not he will come to Jesus, who is the only one who has seen the Father (6:46). This drawing is universal (see 12:32; 16:7-11) and can be rejected (see Acts 7:51).
6:47-51 The beautiful promise of the gospel is that anyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life (6:47). When Jesus said, I am the bread of life (6:48), it was the first of his seven “I am” statements recorded in John’s Gospel (see also 8:12; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). He would also say “I am” in an absolute sense to emphasize his divine identity (see 8:58).
The Jews wanted Jesus to give them physical bread like the manna God had given to their ancestors in the wilderness (see 6:30-31, 34), but Jesus reminded them that physical bread would only keep them alive for so long (6:49). Those who come to him—the bread that comes down from heaven—as their spiritual sustenance, however, will not die (6:50). In the same way that we eat bread to sustain our physical lives, we must eat the living bread (that is, believe in Jesus) to live forever (6:51).
The bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (6:51). Jesus was speaking of the sacrifice of his body (his life) on the cross for the sins of the world (see 1:29; 19:18). On the basis of this sacrifice, those who trust in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for their sins will receive eternal life.
6:52-59 Since the people hadn’t made the mental jump from the physical to the spiritual, they thought Jesus was talking nonsense (6:52). Nevertheless, Jesus insisted on the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to have eternal life (6:53-56). He wasn’t talking about cannibalism, of course! He was using a rich metaphor to emphasize that believing in him is essential. Just as you will die without physical food, so also you can’t have spiritual life apart from Jesus. You must eat him—that is, receive him, trust him, believe in him, have faith in him, partake of him. The one who feeds on [him] will live because of [him] (6:53, 57).
Also, it is the believer’s continuous act of faith through partaking spiritually of the body and blood of Christ in Communion that the benefits, power, and blessings of the new covenant are increasingly accessed (see 1 Cor 10:16, 17; 11:23-20).
6:60-62 Many of his disciples were confused and couldn’t comprehend what he was talking about (6:60). Jesus asked them, Does this offend you? (6:61)—that is, “Is this teaching tripping you up?” What would they think if they saw him returning to heaven (6:62)? Would that change their minds?
6:63 The flesh doesn’t give life. Only the Holy Spirit . . . gives life. Jesus’s words are spiritual and life-giving. The Holy Spirit takes a person’s belief in Jesus’s words and activates Jesus’s life in that person to give him spiritual life. Salvation cannot be attained through human effort.
6:64-65 Given his deity, Jesus knew those who did not believe in him, as well as the one who would betray him: Judas (6:64). Therefore, he said, No one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father (6:65). In other words, God only grants to Jesus those who are willing to respond to him. The Father cooperates with a person’s decision to believe in his Son.
6:66-69 After this, many of those who had been following Jesus no longer accompanied him (6:66). When he asked the Twelve if they planned to leave him as well, Peter spoke up and expressed his faith: Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life (6:68). He recognized what those who departed did not: Jesus’s words “are spirit and life” (6:63). He alone is the Holy One of God (6:69). Only those who continue with Christ in the school of discipleship will receive more understanding from him. Those who drop out will not.
6:70-71 Jesus had chosen these twelve followers to travel and minister with him. Yet he chose one of them, knowing that he was a devil—an unbeliever who would hand him over to his enemies for money (6:70). John lets his readers know in advance that Jesus was talking about Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. He would betray him (6:71; see 13:21-30; 18:1-5). But none of this would take Jesus by surprise, and God’s plan would be fulfilled even though it involved using Satan and his followers to accomplish it.
B. Living Water, the Light of the World, and the Good Shepherd (7:1–10:42)
7:1-5 Since Jews in Judea were seeking to kill him, Jesus remained in Galilee (7:1). However, it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters (7:2), when Jews would travel to Jerusalem (in Judea). So Jesus’s brothers (sons of Mary and Joseph who were younger than Jesus) tried to convince him to go there so that everyone could see the miraculous works that he was performing (7:3). They wanted him to go put on a public show and make front-page headlines (7:4). But ultimately, John tells us, not even his brothers believed in him (7:5). In fact, they thought he was crazy (see Mark 3:21).
Like many others who encountered Jesus, his brothers got excited about miraculous signs but were unwilling to embrace his true identity. The same is still true today. Many only want what Jesus can do for them, but they are unwilling to believe in him for eternal life and follow him as disciples.
Matthew 13:55 identifies Jesus’s brothers as “James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.” James believed in Jesus after his resurrection, became a leader in the early church, and authored the New Testament letter that bears his name (see, e.g., Acts 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19; Jas 1:1). Judas (better known as Jude) is the author of the New Testament letter that bears his (see Jude 1).
7:6-7 In spite of his brothers’ pleas, Jesus told them, My time has not yet arrived (7:6). It was not yet the moment for his public presentation as the Messiah (see 12:12-19). Jesus knew that his death would follow soon after this open acknowledgment. The world didn’t hate his brothers; after all, they were still a part of the world system. But it did hate Jesus because he testified to the world’s evil deeds (7:7).
7:8-10 Since his time had not yet fully come, he told his brothers to go to the festival without him (7:8). Later, though, he went secretly to the festival (7:10). Jesus does things according to his Father’s timetable, not ours. And God’s timing is perfect (see Gal 4:4-5).
7:11-12 During the festival, people were looking for Jesus and murmuring about him (7:11-12). Yet nobody was talking publicly about him because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders who hated Jesus (7:13). When a man eventually did speak favorably of Jesus in public, the religious leaders banned him from the synagogue (see 9:13-34).
7:13-16 When the festival was already half over, Jesus started teaching in the temple (7:14). When they heard him, the people were puzzled that he was so learned since he hadn’t been trained by the religious leaders (7:15). But Jesus made clear who the source of his teaching was: My teaching isn’t mine but is from the one who sent me (7:16). He accurately represented the Father in everything he said.
7:17 Jesus also made clear what was necessary for true spiritual insight: If anyone wants to do [God’s] will, he will know whether the teaching is from God. A willingness to receive God’s words and obey them must precede understanding. God does not want to waste his truth.
If we approach God with a mindset of obedience, he will give us clarity into his Word and discernment. I have been in counseling situations in which I have asked, “Are you willing to do what God says? Because if not, it’s a waste of your time and mine to continue to talk about the next steps.” Clarity comes through commitment.
7:18-20 Jesus sought God’s glory alone and confessed that there is no unrighteousness in him (7:18). He is perfect and sinless. Nevertheless, even though the Jews had the law, they didn’t keep it and yet wanted to kill Jesus (7:19). The crowd denied this and accused him of being demon possessed (7:20).
7:21-24 Many of the Jews had become angry with Jesus because he healed a lame man on the Sabbath (7:22-23; see 5:1-13). Yet Jesus pointed out their inconsistency. The Jews obeyed the law of Moses by performing circumcision on “the Sabbath” (7:22). So if the act of circumcision didn’t break the law, how could making a man entirely well break it? (7:23). Jesus exhorted them to judge rightly and not by outward appearances (7:24)—that is, they were to use God’s standards for judgments and not their personal preferences.
7:25-29 More speculation arose concerning Jesus’s identity. They wondered why the Jewish authorities weren’t trying to stop him and whether the leaders had concluded that Jesus was the Messiah (7:26). Others assumed he couldn’t be the Messiah since they knew where Jesus had come from (7:27). At least, they thought they knew. But Jesus told them that he had come on behalf of the one who had sent him—that is, he’d come from God (7:28-29). Though they thought he was merely a preacher from Nazareth, he was much more. He was the Son of God from heaven.
7:30-32 This kind of talk from Jesus was apparently the last straw, so they tried to seize him. But notice this: No one laid a hand on him because his hour had not yet come. An angry mob wanted to lay their hands on Jesus. He stood before them, alone and defenseless. But nothing happened, because it wasn’t in God’s sovereign schedule. When the Pharisees heard that many from the crowd believed in [Jesus], they sent servants to arrest him (7:31-32). Apparently, they didn’t realize that seizing Jesus wasn’t working out too well! (No matter how bad your circumstances appear, nothing can harm you outside of God’s will and timing.)
7:33-36 Jesus told those listening that he would only be with them for a little while longer. They’d look for him but be unable to find or follow him (7:33-34). Though Jesus was talking about his return to heaven at his ascension (see Acts 1:9), the Jews were still thinking on the physical level rather than the spiritual, and they wondered where he was planning to go (7:35-36). Approaching God’s Word at the purely physical level will inevitably result in confusion. We need our antennae tuned to God’s heavenly broadcast.
7:37-39 On the last . . . day of the festival (7:37), the Jews engaged in a water-pouring ritual. While this was happening, Jesus called out, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. There is only one oasis for those who are in a spiritual desert. If you’re spiritually parched, go to Jesus. He won’t merely quench your thirst, he’ll provide internal streams of living water (7:38). But it gets better. His is no impersonal water supply; this living water is actually the Holy Spirit, the person of the Godhead who comes to dwell within believers to give them eternal life. Yet Jesus would first have to be glorified—that is, crucified and resurrected (7:39).
7:40-43 As happened previously (see 7:25-29), the crowd was divided because of him (7:43). Some thought he was the great Prophet who was to come (7:40; see Deut 18:15-18). Others argued that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah, since the Messiah wasn’t supposed to hail from Galilee but from King David’s offspring in Bethlehem (7:41-42).
Of course, they didn’t realize that Jesus actually was born from the line of David (see Matt 1:1-17) in Bethlehem as Scripture had foretold (see Mic 5:2; Matt 2:1; Luke 2:1-7) but grew up and ministered in Galilee—which Scripture had also foretold (see Isa 9:1-2; Matt 2:19-23; 4:14-15).
7:44-46 Though some of them wanted to seize him . . . no one laid hands on him. Trying and failing to arrest Jesus, then, was becoming a habit (see 7:30-32). Frustrated with the servants whom they had sent to seize him, the chief priests and Pharisees asked, Why didn’t you bring him? (7:45). All the servants could respond with was, No man ever spoke like this! (7:46). In other words, they said, “We intended to grab him, but then we heard him talk and changed our minds!” Jesus’s sermon was so mesmerizing that it prevented them from obeying wicked men.
7:47-53 The Pharisees rebuked the servants: Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in him? (7:48). Well, actually, there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus who had been captivated by Jesus’s teaching. But he had kept his interest under wraps by only visiting Jesus at night (see 3:1-13). Interestingly, though, when he heard these words, Nicodemus spoke up: Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it? (7:51). Thus, he wisely sought to calm everyone down and to urge them against condemning someone without proper investigation. But the Pharisees had no need for investigation since they knew that no prophet arises from Galilee (7:53). Not only were they wrong about Jesus’s birthplace (see 7:40-43), though, but they also were wrong about no prophets coming from Galilee. Jonah’s hometown of Gath-hepher was located there (see 2 Kgs 14:25).
8:1-5 While Jesus was in the temple teaching, the scribes and the Pharisees brought before him a woman caught in adultery (8:2-3). The law of Moses said to stone her, but they wanted to know what Jesus thought they should do (8:4-5). They assumed they had Jesus in a catch-22. If he opposed stoning her, he would be opposing the law of Moses (see Deut 22:22). But if he advocated her death, he would be in trouble with the Romans because the Jews (under Roman rule) weren’t permitted to execute anyone (see 18:31).
8:6 Clearly, they had no interest in a righteous application of the law. As the author tells us, they were deceitfully trying to trap Jesus so that they might have evidence to accuse him. Moreover, if the woman was “caught in adultery” (8:3), where was the man? The law required that both the man and the woman were to be judged (see Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). This, therefore, smells like a setup. But they didn’t realize whom they were dealing with.
Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. Just as the Ten Commandments had been “inscribed by the finger of God” (Exod 31:18), whatever Jesus was writing was a subtle way of communicating to them that he himself was the divine author of the law. Writing on the dirt was also an allusion to the fact that the law had been given to mankind who had been created out of dust and were therefore vulnerable to weakness and sin.
8:7-8 When they persisted in questioning him, Jesus proposed a test of his own: The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her (8:7). He wanted to know which of them was qualified to judge her. The obvious answer? None of them were. Their hypocrisy was revealed because they had failed to produce the man, since she was “caught in the act” (8:4). Then he stooped down a second time to write with his finger (8:8), just as God had written the Ten Commandments on two tablets a second time after the Israelites had sinned and Moses smashed the first ones (see Exod 34:1). The second giving of the law meant God was giving his people a second chance just as he was about to do with this woman; something these hypocritical leaders were unwilling to do.
8:9-11 Each man knew that he himself was guilty of the same or similar sin, which disqualified him from acting as a legitimate judge (see Matt 7:1-6). Because of their malicious intent, they would be subject to the same judgment they were seeking to impose on the woman (see Deut 19:16-19).
They all walked away. When only Jesus was left, he asked the woman if any accusers remained (8:9-10). Once she said, No, Jesus made a staggering statement: Neither do I condemn you. . . . Go, and from now on do not sin anymore (8:11). Notice that he demonstrated grace and mercy to her (removing her condemnation) before he told her to start living right. A true understanding of grace and mercy does not endorse or promote sin; rather, it’s designed to produce gratitude and holiness (see Rom 6:1-7).
We do not obey God in order to earn forgiveness. Rather, grace and mercy are to motivate our obedience. When we truly understand God’s amazing grace, we do not go out and merely sin less—we go out and seek to sin no more.
8:12-16 Jesus declared the second of his seven “I am” metaphors (see also 6:48; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1): I am the light of the world. Those who follow him (i.e., his true disciples) will never walk in the darkness (8:12). In response to this invitation to discipleship, the Pharisees accused him of simply bragging on himself; therefore, his testimony [was] not valid (8:13). On the contrary, Jesus told them, My testimony is true, because I know where I came from (heaven) and where I’m going (heaven) (8:14). The divine Son of God isn’t capable of giving false testimony. Nor is he capable of rendering false judgment (8:16). The Pharisees, on the other hand, lacked spiritual perception, judging Jesus according to human standards (8:15).
8:17-18 Jesus pointed to the law of Moses, which declared the testimony of two witnesses to be true (8:17). Jesus’s words passed this requirement. He testified about himself through his messianic claims, and the Father also testified about him through his miraculous deeds (8:18; see also commentary on 5:36-40).
8:19-20 When they asked about his Father, Jesus said, You know neither me nor my Father. Thus, he publicly condemned them: the religious leaders of Israel did not know God. Then he explained that knowledge of the Father is intertwined with knowledge of the Son: If you knew me, you would also know my Father (8:19). Anyone who rejects Jesus cannot know God because the former provides access to the latter (see 14:6). On 8:20, see the commentary on 7:30-32 and 44-46.
8:21-24 Once again (see 7:33-34), Jesus told them that he would be going somewhere they couldn’t go. Instead, they would die in their sin because of their rejection of him (8:21). When they heard this, the religious leaders assumed that Jesus was talking about suicide (8:22), demonstrating that their spiritual insight hadn’t improved. So Jesus got straight to the point: You are from below. . . . I am from above (8:23). He and his interlocutors were approaching their debate from two different realms, the physical and the spiritual. Unless the Jewish leaders could see Jesus from a heavenly perspective, they would experience eternal judgment. Unless they believed that Jesus was the Messiah and received his payment for their sins, they would die in [their] sins (8:24).
8:25-27 When they asked Jesus, Who are you?, he responded, Exactly what I’ve been telling you from the very beginning (8:25). In essence he said, “You keep asking me the same old question. I answer it. And you refuse to listen.” He had been speaking the Father’s word, but they didn’t even know he was speaking to them about the Father (8:26-27).
These people weren’t making a spiritual connection because they were rejecting what had already been revealed. This is an important spiritual principle. When you reject what God has revealed, spiritual truth becomes even more difficult to understand. On the other hand, when you are willing to receive what God has revealed, he provides further spiritual clarity.
8:28-30 Though the Father had sent the Son into the world, he had not left [him] alone. Jesus affirmed that the Father was with him because he always [does] what pleases him (8:29). In response to these words, many believed in him (8:30). Those who likewise place their faith in Jesus can have confidence that God will receive them—not because of their perfect faith but because of Jesus’s perfect obedience. He always does what pleases the Father.
8:31 To those who had believed in him, Jesus said, If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. So notice that you can believe in Jesus but not continue in his word and, thus, not function as a true disciple. Justification does not automatically result in continuous discipleship.
8:32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, “What is truth?” (18:38), and the answer to that question is “Jesus” (see 14:6).
Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage.
8:33-36 Hearing him, the Jews appealed to their lineage from Abraham and denied that they needed to become free (8:33). They were basing their spiritual status on their physical link to Abraham. However, Jesus corrected them: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin (8:34). But if the Son sets you free, you really will be free (8:36)—that is, delivered experientially. Only the Son can set a person free from enslavement to sin. But remember what the Son requires for freedom: “continue in my word” (8:31).
For true freedom, we need the living Word and the written Word. The living Word (Jesus) provides us with legal freedom from sin through his atoning death on the cross; thus, we no longer stand condemned before God. But we must continue in his written Word (Scripture) in order to enjoy freedom from the sin to which we can be enslaved in our daily lives.
8:37-43 Jesus and the Jews who opposed him engaged in a paternity dispute. Because they were trying to kill him, Jesus said they were following the counsel of their father (8:37-38). They claimed that Abraham was their father (8:39). However, Jesus insisted that they weren’t behaving like him but like their father (8:39-41). What “father” did Jesus have in mind?
Next the Jews claimed that God was their Father and also jabbed at Jesus with a low blow: We weren’t born of sexual immorality (8:41). In other words, they said, “We know all about your illegitimate birth, Jesus! Your mother was pregnant before she was married” (see Matt 1:18). But Jesus said, If God were your Father, you would love me, because I came from God (8:42). Thus, he denied their accusation; his birth wasn’t immoral but supernatural. Moreover, he denied that God was their Father. God had sent Jesus, yet they refused to listen to [his] word (8:42-43).
8:44-47 But if Abraham wasn’t their father, and God wasn’t their Father, who was? Jesus didn’t pull any punches: You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires (8:44). These Jews had lied about Jesus’s mama (8:41), but he was telling the truth about their daddy!
The devil was a murderer from the beginning (8:44), and they wanted to kill Jesus (8:37). The devil is the father of lies (8:44), and they rejected Jesus because he told the truth (8:45). In other words, their opposition to Jesus was Satanic in origin. They wanted to do whatever their father did. Like father, like children. This explained all of their actions. Their religion was a fiction, and their allegiance was to the wrong kingdom. They were not from God (8:47).
8:48-50 Instead of repenting, the Jews fired more insults at Jesus, claiming that he was a Samaritan and demon possessed (8:48; see commentary on 4:1-4). While they dishonored the Son, the Son steadfastly honored his Father, and the Father glorified the Son (8:49-50).
8:51 If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. Every person who believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior will escape death. When a Christian dies, he or she is immediately ushered into the presence of the Lord. Have no fear. Physical death is merely a transition into eternity.
8:52-55 Still thinking purely from the perspective of the physical rather than the spiritual, they were now certain that Jesus was crazy. How could he say that those who keep his word won’t die? After all, Abraham died and the prophets died. Did he think he was greater than them (8:52-53)? Again, Jesus denied that they knew the one whom they claimed as their God (8:54-55).
8:56-58 Then, since they brought up Abraham, Jesus made an amazing claim: Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad (8:56; see Gen 22:1-4; Heb 11:19). What?! That sent the Jews reeling. How could Abraham have encountered Jesus? They said, You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham? (8:57). If that statement upset them, his follow-up would really send them over the edge: Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am (8:58).
This is one of Jesus’s most profound claims to deity in the Gospels. He didn’t say, “Before Abraham was, I was,” but “I am.” The former wording could be ambiguous and misunderstood, but not the latter. Not only was he claiming to have existed in Abraham’s day, but he was also claiming divine identity.
When Moses asked God his name so that he could tell the Israelites who had sent him to them, God responded, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exod 3:14). Thus, Jesus identified himself as the God who had spoken to Moses. That is an astounding assertion. But it simply confirms what John has already said: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
8:59 The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying. They thought he was speaking blasphemy (see commentary on 5:17-18). That’s why they picked up stones to throw at him. But, once again, it wasn’t Jesus’s time, so he was hidden from them and went out of the temple.
9:1-5 Jesus spotted a man who had been blind from birth (9:1). Many at that time believed such serious birth defects were the product of personal sin. Therefore, his disciples wondered whether it was the man’s sin or his parents’ sin that had resulted in his condition (9:2). But Jesus corrected their thinking: Neither this man nor his parents sinned. . . . This came about that God’s works might be displayed in him (9:3). Sickness, disease, and defect are not necessarily the result of personal sin (consider Job!). Sometimes God allows negative conditions and circumstances in our lives in order to accomplish positive goals: our good, his glory, and bringing benefit to others (see Gen 50:19-20; Rom 8:28). God had granted blindness to this man so that he could do amazing works in his life. As the light of the world, Jesus had come to do the works of God (9:4-5).
9:6 Jesus spit in the dirt (the substance from which man was made; see Gen 2:7), made some mud from it, and put it on the blind man’s eyes. Thus the word of God (i.e., spit from Jesus’s mouth) mixed with humanity (i.e., dirt from which man was created) provided the basis for the miracle. By using his saliva, Jesus was imparting divine DNA to the human defect in order to bring about a supernatural transformation of his humanity. This was to serve as a physical illustration of the supernatural spiritual transformation Jesus came to bring (see Isa 35:4-5)
9:7 Then he told the man to wash. Thus, his healing required an act of faith on his part. Jesus gave the man something to do, and the man did it. When his face was washed, he could see for the first time in his life.
9:8-13 At first his neighbors didn’t believe this was the same man they knew (9:8-9). So he had to keep saying, “It’s me!” (9:9). They pelted him with more questions. Though he gave credit to the man called Jesus for healing him, he didn’t know where he had gone (9:10-12). After all, he had never seen him! So the crowd took the man to the Pharisees (9:13), where the moment of rejoicing would turn sour.
9:14-16 As it turns out, Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath (9:14). The Pharisees had already tangled with Jesus previously regarding his healing activity on a Sabbath day (see 5:1-19). So it’s really not surprising that they were unwilling to celebrate. Instead of rejoicing over the miraculous healing of a man who had been born blind, in fact, the Pharisees complained about the day of the week on which he’d been healed. After the man explained what happened, some of the Pharisees scoffed: This man is not from God, because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath (9:15-16). Others insisted that a sinner couldn’t perform such signs. So they were divided over Jesus (9:16).
9:17-23 They asked the man who had been healed what he thought, and he hailed Jesus as a prophet (9:17). But, since they were unwilling to accept this praise of Jesus, they tried to obtain evidence to deny that the miracle even happened. So they summoned [his] parents and asked them (9:18-19). But the parents were too interested in self-preservation. They were afraid because they’d heard that the Jews planned to ban from the synagogue anyone who confessed [Jesus] as the Messiah (9:22). They acknowledged that their son was previously blind. But they claimed to know nothing else and instead said, Ask him (9:20-21).
Nothing much has changed today. If you publicly confess Christ, you will likely experience some form of ridicule or ostracism. Believing in a generic “God” is safe; confessing Christ will earn you mockery.
9:24-25 The Pharisees turned again to the man who had been healed. They urged him to give glory to God because they were convinced that Jesus was a sinner, and they wanted the man to agree (9:24). Given the man’s limited experience with Jesus, he simply confessed the one thing he knew to be true: I was blind, and now I can see! (9:25).
9:26-29 When they asked him to give another account of his healing, it was clear that they hadn’t believed him the first time (9:26). So the man was blunt: I already told you . . . and you didn’t listen. He wondered whether they wanted to hear his story again in order to become Jesus’s disciples (9:27). That riled them up! They ridiculed the man, claimed to be followers of Moses, and said they didn’t even know where this man (Jesus) had come from (9:28-29).
9:30-34 This is an amazing thing! (9:30). Though the man’s parents may have feared the religious leaders (9:22), he himself boldly challenged the illogical thinking of the Pharisees. He laid out the facts: They didn’t know where Jesus was from; Jesus had granted sight to a blind man; God doesn’t listen to sinners but to those who do his will; no one has heard of someone opening the eyes of the blind (9:30-32). How do you explain such supernatural activity, if it’s not from God? The man could only reach one conclusion: If this man were not from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything (9:33). In going toe-to-toe with the Jewish religious leaders, he had bested them. Humiliated by this humble, once-blind beggar, they told him he was born entirely in sin, rebuked him for trying to teach them, and kicked him out of the synagogue to limit his influence on others (9:34).
9:35-38 When Jesus heard that the man had been persecuted in this way, he showed up. Whatever negative consequences you experience for confessing Christ are not the last word. He knows what you’ve been through. Jesus was aware of the blind man’s circumstances, and he tracked him down.
Then Jesus asked him, Do you believe in the Son of Man? (9:35). Remember: the man had never even seen Jesus. He wanted to believe in the Son of Man, but he didn’t know who he was (9:36). That’s when Jesus introduced himself: You have seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you (9:37). So the man confessed, I believe, Lord, and worshiped him (9:38). There’s only one being in the universe worthy of worship, and Jesus didn’t stop the man. As John says at the beginning of his Gospel, “The Word was God” (1:1). Accepting worship was a declaration of deity. Were Jesus not divine, it would be an endorsement of idolatry.
9:39 Jesus articulates his purpose for coming into this world: so that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind. But he wasn’t primarily talking about physical blindness. He used the man’s physical blindness to teach a spiritual truth. Jesus had come into the world to give spiritual sight to those who desperately acknowledge their spiritual blindness. But to those who claimed to be spiritual know-it-alls, Jesus promised the judgment of becoming even more spiritually blind. Humility brings sight; pride leads to darkness.
9:40-41 When the Pharisees heard this, they smugly asked Jesus in essence, “Are you calling us blind?” (9:40). If they had been willing to admit their blindness—their lostness, their sinfulness—Jesus would have shown them grace. But since they claimed to see, their sin remained (9:41). Their treatment of the Son of God confirmed their lack of sight. When you think that nothing is wrong with you (see 1 John 1:8), everything is wrong.
10:1-5 After highlighting the spiritual blindness of the Jewish religious leaders—those who should have been Israel’s spiritual shepherds—Jesus explained the difference between shepherds and thieves. The one who climbs the fence of the sheep pen is a thief and robber, but the one who enters by the gate is the shepherd (10:1-2). Satan and his followers have no concern for the well-being of the sheep. They enter the sheep pen for their own gain. But a true shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them (10:3-4). In return, the sheep follow their shepherd only and flee from strangers (10:5). Jesus was using this imagery to describe himself and to emphasize the importance of his followers (his sheep) having a personal knowledge of and relationship with him (their shepherd).
10:6-10 Since the people couldn’t grasp the meaning of Jesus’s illustration, he made it plain: Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep (10:7). To enter the safety of the pen or to go out and find pasture, the sheep have to go through the gate (10:9). Jesus is “the way” to safety and life (14:6). We must go through him to be saved (10:9). Thieves come to destroy, but Jesus came to give life and to give it in abundance (10:10).
Jesus doesn’t want you merely to posses eternal life but also to possess the full experience of life. Following the shepherd leads to blessing and joy and a growing experience of eternal life. It allows him to rebuke and reverse the enemy’s attempts at blocking the blessings, purpose, and spiritual fulfillment God has for your life (see Joel 2:25; Mal 3:11).
10:11-15 Not only is Jesus the gate for the sheep to pass through, but he is the one who protects and provides for them: I am the good shepherd. Notice he’s no mere shepherd but a good one. What does a good shepherd do? He lays down his life for the sheep (10:11). A hired hand, by contrast, is only there to earn a living. He doesn’t care about the sheep because they aren’t his. So when a wolf attacks, the hired hand runs away, while the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep (10:12-13). But the good shepherd knows his sheep, and they know him (10:14). Jesus confessed, I lay down my life for the sheep (10:15).
Though it wouldn’t have been clear to his listeners at that moment, Jesus was speaking of his substitutionary atonement when he would sacrifice his life on the cross for the sins of the world. As he would tell his disciples later, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). Though the Pharisees cared only for themselves, Jesus was prepared to sacrifice everything to save the sheep he loved.
10:16 Jesus did not come to give his life for Jews only. God the Father gave his one and only Son because he loved the world—all mankind, without exception (see John 3:16; Heb 2:9; 1 Tim 2:6; 1 John 2:2). The other sheep that Jesus would save are Gentiles who would believe in him so that the church would consist of both Jewish and Gentile believers (see Eph 2:11-22). There will be one flock, one shepherd.
10:17-18 I lay down my life . . . No one takes it from me (10:17-18). Notice two things in this statement. First, Jesus was under no obligation to sacrifice himself for sinners. That’s why it’s called grace. Second, though the Jews would hand him over and the Romans would crucify him, this was only possible because he let them (see 19:10-11). No one takes the life of the Son of God. He lays it down voluntarily. And this is why the Father loves [him]—because he is willing to give his life in obedience to the Father’s command and in love for sinners (10:17-18). Believers benefit from this divine love between Father and Son, as we live in obedience.
10:19-21 The Jews continued to be divided over him (10:19). Some thought he was demon-possessed and crazy; others thought his miracles proved that he was the genuine article (10:20-21). But no one was on the fence about him.
10:22-26 Today the Festival of Dedication is commonly known as Hanukkah, which celebrates the rededication of the temple in 165 BC after its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 BC. During this particular festival, a group of Jews accosted Jesus and demanded, If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly (10:22-24). Yet, he had already told them in word and deed, and they refused to believe. The works he did in the Father’s name were his proof (10:25). They had all the evidence they needed, but they had no interest in listening to him because they had no interest in being his sheep (10:26).
10:27-29 What happens to those who do want to be Jesus’s sheep? He gives them eternal life so that they will never perish. How secure are those who receive eternal life through Jesus? No one can snatch them out of Jesus’s hand (10:28) or the Father’s (10:29). Thus, believers are not eternally secure because of their grip on God but because of his grip on them. If you come to Jesus by faith, he’s got you. When you’re too weak and your hands go limp, he’ll still be hanging on to you.
10:30-33 I and the Father are one—in essence and in purpose (10:30). You don’t get a clearer claim to deity than that. And the Jews knew it. So they picked up rocks to stone him for what they considered blasphemy (10:31, 33). This man was claiming to be God (10:33). But, though they couldn’t accept it, he was telling the truth. Our Creator is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And Jesus Christ is one person with two natures (divine and human).
10:34-38 Jesus pointed to Psalm 82:6: I said, you are gods (10:34). In this psalm, God referred to human rulers, who were made in God’s image and responsible to imitate God’s character, as “gods.” So if sinful men in honored positions could be called “gods,” what about a perfect man?
If Jesus was doing the Father’s works—and clearly he had been—how could they accuse him of blasphemy (10:35-37)? If they had trouble with his words, all they had to do was look at his works. Where had he fallen short? Why hadn’t they believed him? Jesus declares that Scripture cannot be broken—that is, canceled or annulled (10:35). This means that Scripture is inerrant, authoritative, and binding.
10:39 They were trying again to seize him, but he eluded their grasp. You’d think that by this point they would realize that seizing Jesus is a dead end street (see 7:30-32, 44-46; 8:20). No one could take his life from him (see 10:18). But soon he would lay it down. Jesus was sovereign over his own death.
10:40-42 Given the hostility directed against him in Jerusalem, Jesus departed again across the Jordan (10:40). But that didn’t put a damper on his ministry. The crowds simply followed him there, and many believed in him (10:41-42).