John follows Jesus' speech (5:19-47) with further disclosure of Jesus as the one who can give and take life; he is the life-giver and the judge. Jesus has said that Moses "wrote about me" (5:46), and now we learn how this is the case. Under Moses' leadership Israel escaped through the Red Sea, traveled through the wilderness and miraculously received food there. These stories are now echoed in Jesus' miraculous feeding of the five thousand (6:1-15) and his rescue of his disciples as he walks to them on the sea (6:16-21). These miracles clearly reveal Jesus as sovereign over the forces of nature. But in his teaching that follows and the controversy it arouses, we discover that he is not merely one who works miracles within the realm of nature, nor merely a leader of God's people like Moses, but the source of eternal life itself (6:22-59). He fulfills the role of Moses and utterly transcends it.
The revelation at this point, however, is too difficult to accept even for most of Jesus' disciples (6:60-71). This gracious revealing is itself a test of hearts and thus a judgment. Jesus tests Philip (6:6), and then, as we see the reaction to his teaching and the events leading up to it, we find that the crowd and the disciples are all being put to the test. As God tested his people in the wilderness, so here the Son of God tests hearts. As with Israel, many grumble and fail, yet Jesus does find some who are receptive enough to pass the test.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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