I am continuing my attempt to view—Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord—as a definition of love (ἀγάπη) rather than as rules. This particular essay is focused on the story of Jesus feeding five thousand plus people in the light of his assessment of the Jewish authorities (Ἰουδαῖοι) as an answer to how the Father seeking his own is not self-seeking. I don’t know the official status of the “Jewish authorities.”
The Ἰουδαῖοι (translated, Jewish leaders) sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask [John the Baptist], “Who are you?” I’ve assumed that the Ἰουδαῖοι called out the big guns (though they may have sent their servants to do their bidding). In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman John explained, For Jews ( Ἰουδαῖοι) use nothing in common with Samaritans. This sounds like a description of “Jewishness.” The Ἰουδαῖοι (translated, Jewish leaders) said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and you are not permitted to carry your mat.” The healed man didn’t immediately drop his mat, but he didn’t blow off the Ἰουδαῖοι completely either. He felt obliged to answer their charges in some fashion, at least to turn their gaze (and wrath) toward Jesus.
I certainly think of the Jewishness of the moment as the true adversary in this story (and perhaps all of John’s gospel narrative). I might be more accurate to call these “authorities” accepted exemplars of then current Jewishness, but I’ll probably stick with Ἰουδαῖοι for now.
It’s getting pretty deep here. I need to remind myself what is at stake just to follow through with this level of detail. First is my own issue: Rules leap off the page and dance lewdly before my eyes. Love and grace have always been more difficult for me to see in the Bible. I’ve already written about how 1 Corinthians served to undo almost everything I thought I had learned in Romans. Perceiving Romans 12:9-21 as rules to be obeyed clearly began that process.
My reason these days almost shouts, “Of course these are definitions of love. How could the one who said of God’s law— no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law—turn back, institute his own rules and expect any sane person to take him seriously?” My experience of human nature, however, argues that we perceive that fault in others of which we are most guilty. It makes perfect sense then that one who accused others of ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness would deny the efficacy of God’s law vis-a-vis righteousness only to establish his own rules of righteousness. These arguments are mutually canceling. I need to do the work studying the words to find the love and grace embedded in these apparent rules.
1) You people have never heard [the Father’s] voice nor seen his form at any time, nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent.
2) You study the scriptures thoroughly…it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.
3) If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.
On point number 3 I want to clarify my own thinking. The Bible begins: In the beginning ʼĕlôhı̂ym created the heavens and the earth. Then in chapter 2 one of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym is specified: This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created – when the yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym made the earth and heavens. From this point on the Bible becomes his story. If you believe (as I did) that yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym corresponds to the Father in the New Testament, Eric Chabot has an article online detailing the few times Moses wrote about Jesus.
These days I am thinking that yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym corresponds to the Son in the New Testament. I think that was Jesus’ point when He said, I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am! God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) said to Moses, “I am (hâyâh) that I am.” And he said, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘I am (hâyâh) has sent me to you.’” God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) also said to Moses, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘The Lord (yehôvâh)– the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of your fathers, the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Abraham, the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Isaac, and the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.’”
I think this was John’s point when he penned: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
And I think this was Paul’s point when he prophesied of Jesus: who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
What this means to me here is that I take Eric Chabot’s list and add virtually everything else Moses wrote to it. In this light I’ll continue to look into the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children.
Jesus and his disciples left by boat for an isolated place outside of Bethsaida. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns, and arrived there ahead of them. John added the reason they followed Him: they were observing (ἐθεώρουν, a form of θεωρέω) the miraculous signs (σημεῖα, a form of σημεῖον) he was performing on the sick.
Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place.
Matthew 14:13a (NET)
|Then the apostles gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest a while” (for many were coming and going, and there was no time to eat). So they went away by themselves in a boat to some remote place.
Mark 6:30-32 (NET)
|When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida.
Luke 9:10 (NET)
|After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias).
John 6:1 (NET)
|But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
Matthew 14:13b (NET)
|But many saw them leaving and recognized them, and they hurried on foot from all the towns and arrived there ahead of them.
Mark 6:33 (NET)
|But when the crowds found out, they followed him.
Luke 9:11a (NET)
|A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick.
John 6:2 (NET)
Though Jesus had gone away with his disciples for rest and perhaps an opportunity to grieve, when He got out of the boat he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on them. He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing. He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (ποιμένα, a form of ποιμήν).
|As he got out he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14 (NET)
|As Jesus came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he taught them many things.
Mark 6:34 (NET)
|He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing.
Luke 9:11b (NET)
The people had many Ἰουδαῖοι who did not have God’s word residing in them, though the Ἰουδαῖοι studied the Old Testament scriptures thoroughly, because they thought in them they possessed eternal life. The Ἰουδαῖοι functioned as thought police not as shepherds of the people. Thought police exert their influence from the outside. Shepherds feed the sheep.
I didn’t always recognize this distinction. I remembered that the good shepherd breaks the legs of lambs that wander away from the flock. I had to decide whether I would believe the shepherd lore I was taught as a child or the Word of God, as shepherds must decide whether they will feed the lambs shepherd lore or the Word of God (John 21:15-17 NET).
Then when they had finished breakfast [that Jesus had prepared for them], Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (ἀγαπᾷς, a form of ἀγαπάω) me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.” Jesus told him, “Feed (βόσκε, a form of βόσκω) my lambs.” Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (ἀγαπᾷς, a form of ἀγαπάω) me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd (ποίμαινε, a form of ποιμαίνω) my sheep.” Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (φιλεῖς, another form of φιλέω) me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love (φιλεῖς, another form of φιλέω) me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.” Jesus replied, “Feed (βόσκε, a form of βόσκω) my sheep.
The Word of God does its work from the inside, unleashing the power of God (Hebrews 13:20, 21 NET):
Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd (ποιμένα, a form of ποιμήν) of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, equip (καταρτίσαι, a form of καταρτίζω) you with every good thing (ἀγαθῷ, a form of ἀγαθός) to do (ποιῆσαι, a form of ποιέω) his will, working (ποιῶν, another form of ποιέω; in other words doing) in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
And, of course, every shepherd must decide for himself whether he trusts God’s power enough to forego leg-breaking and thought police (Hebrews 13:20, 21 CEV).
God gives peace, and he raised our Lord Jesus Christ from death. Now Jesus is like a Great Shepherd whose blood was used to make God’s eternal agreement with his flock. I pray that God will make you ready to obey him and that you will always be eager to do right. May Jesus help you do what pleases God. To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever! Amen.
Here, I think, is a prime example of Bible translation as interpretation tailored to fit a lesser confidence in God’s power. My obedience is the real key. And I think it entirely fair to ask why Jesus, who only may…help, should rob me of my glory for my obedience. This is the second-chance-gospel I grew up believing, a second chance to keep the law. It is not God Himself doing in us what is pleasing before Him.
When evening arrived, [Jesus’] disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But he replied, “They don’t need to go. You give them something to eat.” On this Matthew, Mark and Luke agree.
|When evening arrived, his disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But he replied, “They don’t need to go. You give them something to eat.”
Matthew 14:15, 16 (NET)
|When it was already late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place and it is already very late. Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”
Mark 6:35-37a (NET)
|Now the day began to draw to a close, so the twelve came and said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in an isolated place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.”
Luke 9:12, 13a (NET)
It left me with the impression that after Jesus spent a long day doing the will of the one who sent Him, having food to eat that they knew nothing about, it fell to his disciples to consider the practical matter of feeding so many hungry people. But as I turn to John’s Gospel narrative I think this is precisely the false impression he wrote to correct.
John didn’t reiterate that Jesus healed the sick or taught the people many things about the kingdom of God. That had been written already. He wrote that Jesus went on up the mountainside and sat down there with his disciples. Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?” (Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.)
Jesus was concerned about feeding the people from the very moment he saw them following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick. It is exactly what He had promised them in the name of his Father (Matthew 6:25-33 NET):
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith (ὀλιγόπιστοι, a form of ὀλιγόπιστος)? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
I’ll take this up again in the next essay.
 John 1:19 (NET)
 I am beginning to think that might be overstated. Don Richardson, for instance, might argue that with me. I would listen to him, but for now I will stick with this understanding of the Old Testament.
 John 14:10-13 (NET)
 2 Timothy 3:5 (NET)
 John 4:34 (NET)
 John 4:32 (NET)