John 6:12-13 + 6:44-46
“And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.’ And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.”
“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”
For clarification, Jesus also said, “Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” I’ve lost track of how many times John and Jesus have made a similar statement. The dubious dogma that “Jehovah” is the father should be obliterated by now but even amongst my friends, it is still held as definite doctrine. Another dubious dogma held high by many, if not most of my friends, is dispensationalism. I also have friends who speak in tongues. Why is it so difficult to dispel dubious dogma?
The most difficult thing for a person to admit is when they are wrong. It wasn’t easy confessing my sin to my children but it was necessary. I wish you could have seen the look on their faces as I confessed my sin of obliviousness, ignorance, pride and complacency; first to my son and then to my daughter. Both had the same look of confusion and wonder but my daughter, after a few seconds of thought, verbalized it brilliantly– “so, my theory of going back to bed while everything works itself out isn’t the answer?” I told her “no, we have to work.” This she had theorized because when some sort of ill fell upon our household, she would return to sleep as someone else would work out the problem. Jesus didn’t call on us to sit on the sidelines or keep pews warm with our backsides but to work, using our spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4).
Paul wrote two timeless truths, principles of which I truly take to heart, among many others. First; “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Yet he also told Timothy; “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
I don’t write for fortune or fame, obviously– I don’t even tell you my last name but give enough information to keep me accountable– “let not many of you become teachers…” God is watching me. I write because we are supposed to love each other and tell the truth to each other. Don’t discount the discourse outright because you don’t agree with me or because you don’t appreciate my “tone.” Sometimes sharpness is required between brothers. We all have been wrong before, and it’s not always our fault but we need to let the Scripture change our minds, it’s why it was written.
I thought that one simply prayed a little prayer and God would rescue them from this wicked world. I thought that the world as we know it was about to end and good riddance to it, even though John 3:16, a verse propped up above all others states that God loves the world. I thought that I was fulfillment of prophecy because I thought that Jesus would certainly return in my lifetime– as have many people for many centuries. My problem was that I was egocentric. More accurately, I was full of pride. I prayed a prayer, repeatedly, just in case and therefore I was eternally secure and not apostate because I prayed a prayer and I was rapture ready. I prayed a prayer and I was headed to heaven because I multiplied my many prayers, just in case. Yet Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” I was entirely egocentric, even believing this verse to be about a rapture rescue. Pride loves to rip verses out of context.
It was what I had been taught. Sunday school, Christian camp, children’s church, you know, all these programs one sees laid out in the New Testament with great detail, even at the university. All sarcasm aside, if it were not for these systems stemming from supposition, I would not have sought salvation for these showed me my sin and I wouldn’t know Jesus because these showed me Jesus. Albeit a Jesus meek and mild, rarely straying too far from the manger or ethnic Israel. Nevertheless it took several years of self-study to shed the superfluous, taught traditions. One doesn’t have to be a psychiatrist, psychologist or even a detective to ascertain my main aspiration to my audience– the reason I write is simple– People need to read the Bible, letting the Bible interpret the Bible, utilizing a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method, where; context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions, so that we conform to it and grow.
Ironically it was self-study that showed me my pride and my egocentric attitude. It was also self-study that made Handel’s Messiah come to life– there is something about Scripture set to music that can either amplify the Scripture or water it down, depending on the ears of the hearer. For the next few missives we will be approaching the Scripture like Messiah, without the sensational score or musical masterpiece. We’re looking for the Messiah and not ourselves in the book about the Messiah. We are looking for metaphorical meanings and symbolism in the miracles of the Messiah as recorded by John the apostle. But before we can see the symbolism we have to have a firm foundation on fulfillment of prophecy and not egocentric attitudes.
I typed “was 2” and nothing more into my search engine and the first suggestion was almost identical to all the other suggestions; “was 2020 the worst year ever?” While I am nervous about a hair-sniffing, shell of a man leading any country, while I hate facemask, while I was not able to minister in a certain communist country in the Caribbean and while I was quite sick with a mysterious illness in January of last year, while my grandmother was isolated in a nursing home and eventually died, I have not been sick a single day since, I have made more money than any other year in my history (though not by much and certainly not accounting for inflation), I have had food, toilet paper, and the like this year while many others in the world went without, as they do every year. It’s not about me and my experiences which are relative to all of history and even my contemporaries.
Speaking of my maternal grandmother, I could compare my life to her’s and juxtapose my generation to her generation which should be somewhat similar as our lives overlapped for forty four and a half years. I could juxtapose 2020 with 1931, 1944, 1967, 1979 and this alleged “worst year” pales in comparison. Yet it most likely was my grandmother’s worst year– at least it was her shortest but she still experienced greater trials in the past. However I would rather compare myself to my paternal grandfather, who looked like me only older, at every stage of life, who lived through the great depression as a father of three, lived through the Spanish flu, measles, mumps and rubella, had his life altered from polio and was forced to go to work fulltime at the age of fourteen to feed his brothers. By the time he was a father of four, he had lived through two world wars– segregation was still in the south. He lived through Mao, Stalin and Hitler. Born the bastard son of an adulterous father, he had to be rescued with his family from a flood by a boat from their second floor window. After this he left town and moved to the high ground and purchased a tiny farm with a luxurious, double-seated outhouse. But while high, they were far from dry, as flood gave way to mud, now living on ledge on the side of a hill, they had other struggles. Far from town they could no longer attend the church they helped birth because cars were in their infancy, gasoline was not available on every street corner and both of these cost money, which was in very short supply.
I could go on about my paternal grandfather or I could write of my maternal grandfather, who along with other men from his unit, escaped the clutches of the Nazis and had to hide under the floorboards of a barn for days, hearing the footsteps of the enemy surrounding them constantly. I could write about Rosa Parks, Corrie ten Boom, Ida B. Wells, Susan B. Anthony and the struggles they saw. We could go back further in history and see the wars, famines, earthquakes and the life expectancy at certain periods– we would also see sin, murder, oppression, violence of every kind.
We could compare the relatively isolated incident and murder of George Floyd with the multitude in the middle passage. We could compare the riots in Minneapolis to those in Watts. We could compare Donald Trump to Genghis Khan.
Nevertheless, there are a reported, yet impossible to confirm, 1.85 million deaths due to Covid19 in the world in over a year. It has been hard and heartbreaking but it pales in comparison to the heartbreak of the Spanish flu. I don’t like numbers because they are cold and impersonal but they tell the best stories. The world population exceeded 7.8 billion people in 2020, 1.85 million are claimed to have been killed by Covid19. In 1918, the world population was less than 2 billion people yet an estimated 50 million people died from the Spanish flu. Also, there was a little skirmish between most of the world, in which tens of millions of people were killed. You may have heard of it, they called it “The war to end all wars” (eternally optimistic I suppose), we call it Would War One. I’m no mathematician or statistician but it looks like 102 years ago was much worse than today. Yet we think we are the terminal generation, why? Egocentric attitudes and taught traditions– pride, as ironic as that sounds.
Does it not sound like the opposite of pride to think that one lives in the worst of times? Even as I wrote that rhetorical question the answer was obvious. Those of us who enjoy flushing toilets should remember our history. We’re all depressed and rightfully so relative to 2019 standards, but even then, the dogmatic dispensationalists and extreme environmentalists told us our time was short– none of them saw the Coronavirus coming and don’t let them tell you they did with clips or soundbites from the past because they try but the pieces don’t fit. 2020 was far from catastrophic, again, relatively speaking. This may have been your worst year ever but for others it may have been 2019, others 2008 and still others, 1992. The question is not how are you doing but what is the status of the world concerning its status to an eternally holy God? Whether a dogmatic dispensationalist or an extreme environmentalist, your presupposition demands that the world is worse now than it ever was. Dogmatic dispensationalist discourse demands that the world has to be waxing worse and worse because Jesus comes to rapture his church when things are at their worst, ergo egocentric attitudes. Things must be worse because I see the signs (even though they proclaim the “rapture” is signless) and I am in the generation of which Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24, therefore things are awful. This is the epitome of ego-circular reasoning. And if you think that I am not allowed to make up words you are probably correct; but I used a hyphen.
Let me explain “ego-circular reasoning;” it begins with a presupposition and places oneself at the center, surrounded by an alleged and attempted proof which is in fact that which one is attempting to prove, citing sources that don’t pertain to oneself, interjecting oneself into a scenario, assuming facts not in evidence. For example; “we are in the last days of the earth as we know it because things are getting worse. We know that things are getting worse because we are in the last days– Paul told Timothy that this would happen and we are witnessing it.” Paul told Timothy, not us. We don’t want to write ourselves into the context of the first century but we do want to learn from it and not repeat it. If nothing else, take the following away from this missive: be careful when telling another how God sees the world. Enough with my words, let’s look at the Messiah in his own words and build a firm foundation on interpreting prophecy.
But first, please put aside your presuppositions, taught traditions and ego-circular reasoning, if only for the moment, and let Jesus interpret his words. See the sublime string woven throughout the Scripture. For time’s sake, we will only hit the highest of highlights but consider the context during your own study and it will only increase your understanding. Context is king, figuratively, Jesus is king literally.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…and it was very good…And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden…”
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die…’ Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made…When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened…Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?'”
“And the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall abruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.'”
A curse and a promise of redemption. Surely this promise of redemption and the curse of the crushed head find their fruition in the pages of the Scripture. Almost always in the Bible when one sees a curse, one also sees redemption. Keep this in mind as it is a central theme, because Jesus is a redeemer but also the judge and the standard.
“And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull,they gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots; and sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. And they put up above His head the charge against Him which read, ‘THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’ At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.”
It was no coincidence that the place where Jesus was crucified was called the place of the skull. However I don’t want to go too far too fast. We are attempting to build on, and establish, firm foundations.
Isaiah prophesied about Satan and his history; “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”
Satan is described in Scripture as the ruler of the age, the strong man, a fallen angel, a murderer, the father lies and even the father of apostate Israel.
John 8:44; “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”
But what was the context and to whom was Jesus speaking? Remember that Jesus is the light, the word, the good shepherd and God made flesh and that John was an eyewitness and a Jewish apostle and he wrote the following in chapter 8, not me: “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone…’ Jesus answered them,..’I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you…If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham…If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of flies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.'”
You read that correctly; “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him…” what do you suppose Jesus said to those who did not believe him?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves…You fools and blind men…You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel…full of robbery and self-indulgence…you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?”
Does this discourse remind you of anyone?
“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, ‘Repent, [change your mind after being with] for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT…’ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'”
What does John mean when he says that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from stones; was Israel not the seed of Abraham? What does our Old Testament tutor say?
Genesis 12; “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'”
It’s utterly ironic to me that the dogmatic dispensationalists insert “The Nation of Israel” (eisegesis) into this text. Notice; “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” It is not only clarified in the Old Testament but Paul further expounded on this.
“And He [Jesus, YHWH, the Word] took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants [seed] be’ Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness…On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants [seed] I have given this land…As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.'”
What did the “Hebrew of Hebrews,” the apostle Paul say concerning this exchange?
“Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer…He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.”
See also Romans 4. Dogmatic dispensationalism demands that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans but Paul says otherwise with his illuminating illustration of an olive tree, cultivated by Christ.
“And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.”
We don’t believe in replacement theology and see that antisemitism is absolutely absurd because we are grafted in, adopted in to true Israel but not faithless Israel. Faithless Israel was reserved for fire as John the Baptist promised. Yet John the Baptist himself was also promised by the prophets and Jesus confirmed this after the Transfiguration in Matthew 17. “‘Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.” Malachi promised this in prophecy like Isaiah did.
“‘Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD, as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me.'”
And if John was promised by the prophets, how much more the Messiah; besides what we have seen already in Malachi? Actually, Zechariah says the same thing as Malachi– that immediately after John the Baptist, Jesus comes to his Temple.
Zechariah 9; “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.“
Jesus was going to have dominion. In Psalm 2 we read; “He said to Me, ‘thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.'”
How was Jesus to obtain this dominion and why? “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son…that the world should be saved through him.” He purchased the world back, that is all the nations, by resisting the devil and the sons of the devil and dying on the cross, on the place of the skull, crushing the devil’s head. Ironically enough, the devil offered Jesus the nations if Jesus would worship him. But Jesus was sent to not only redeem but also to judge, the prophets promised this.
Zechariah wrote; “”I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.’ Then he said to me, ‘This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. “I will make it go forth,” declares the LORD of hosts, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.”‘”
Isaiah 24: “Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants. And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the LORD has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.”
“Earth” should probably be translated “land” based on the context of an everlasting covenant. Nevertheless we see the curse and Jesus came to reverse the curse and restore the land, judging the covenant breakers at the same time. What does judgment look like in the Old Testament?
In Isaiah 18 we read; “Alas, oh land of whirring wings Which lies beyond the rivers of Cush…And as soon as the trumpet is blown, you will hear it. For thus the LORD has told me, ‘I will look from My dwelling place quietly Like dazzling heat in the sunshine, Like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest…They will be left together for mountain birds of prey, And for the beasts of the earth; And the birds of prey will spend the summer feeding on them.'”
Isaiah 19 begins with the following: “The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt; The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.”
In Ezekiel 30:3 we read; “For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.” In Joel 2 we read; “A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.”
The Lord speaks through Jeremiah concerning the judgment of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon; “When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, And brings forth the wind from His storehouses. All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery; In the time of their punishment they will perish. The portion of Jacob is not like these; For the Maker of all is He, And of the tribe of His inheritance.”
With the coming salvation came also judgment against Jerusalem. Lord willing we will focus on this fulfillment next time as we continue to see the metaphorical meanings in the miracles of Jesus. Remember what Jesus said in today’s text: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” It’s not difficult– most of Israel wasn’t Israel. We’ll come back to this next time, Lord willing.