Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | May 19, 2008

John 6:35-47: Literary Analysis Part 2

Thus, in proceeding to verse 38 here Jesus illumines verse 37 by stating that this was the purpose or will of the Father in sending Him.  For it was the Father’s will in sending the Son that those whom He has given would come and partake of the “bread of life”, resulting in their redemption. Here Jesus alludes to His divine condescension (John 1:14) in clarifying that He has come down from the Father in heaven.  This condescension is discussed in a previous discourse (John 3:13-16) of the fourth Gospel where Jesus clarifies that this journey is unique and exclusive to Him.  This phrase would have carried a connotation to those familiar with the Mosaic Law (Deut 30:11-14) in declaring His intention to fulfill it.  This is fitting since it leads into Jesus’ confession that He has been sent by the Father to do His will, which is summed up in the precepts and commandments of the Law.  Consequently, Jesus was so determined to achieve this end (telos) that He would call it His food (John 4:34) and seek nothing else (John 5:30) even until the last days of His life (Matt 26:39). The successful fulfillment of this commission would be the basis of ensuring that all who come to the Father would never be cast out (Rom 10:4-10).

 

This determination of Jesus to realize the will of the Father is further established in the continuation of the discourse with verse 39.  Here He again re-emphasizes the purpose of His divine condescension, which is to ensure that all of those given to Him by the Father are preserved.  In this discourse the point that none will be lost is analogous to the metaphorical illustration given in another area of the fourth Gospel (John 10:27-29).  There, those that are given by the Father are equated with sheep, Jesus is equated with the Shepherd and the task of preservation is depicted as the impossibility of those sheep from being snatched out of His hand.  Thus, both in this text and on another occasion Jesus is assuring the safety and preservation of those particular individuals given to Him by the Father.  That preservation will be manifested through their being raised up on the last day.   This was Jesus’ pledge to all those who believe that the consequences of sin indicative of death (Rom 5:12), would not even be able to separate them (Rom 8:38-39) from His faithful preservation (John 11:24).  Therefore, it is evident from the discourse thus far (especially in these last two verse) that Jesus is declaring to the crowd that He has been sent on a mission to fulfill the will of the Father in order to effectively save a particular people that are given to Him.  Essentially then this divine condescension can be characterized as a rescue mission that will ensure the redemption of a people from death, as will be manifested in their being raised up on the last day.  

 

As the discourse continues in verse 40 the content of Jesus statement here sums up the intent of the preceding verses recapitulating their meaning in a climactic fashion.  This recapitulation supports the proposed literary structure of the text, which accentuates this verse as the central point in this pericope. It is here that the definition of “coming” to Jesus is explicitly manifested as belief or faith in Him.  Moreover, it is here where the convergence of the will of the Father and the mission of the Son are succinctly defined as resulting in eternal life for those who believe.  A belief that Jesus earlier states that the crowd did not possess.  He goes onto to elaborate that the crowd did not possess this belief, because they had not been given by the Father.  Interestingly, in verse 36 Jesus states the crowd had “seen” Him, yet they did not believe in Him or the message.  However, here in verse 40 this is now contrasted with “everyone who looks” to Him and “believes” will have eternal life.  Thus, we see an explicit differentiation of those worthy to inherit the promises of eternal life being set forth by Jesus that is not favorable to the crowd. 

 

The distinctions between these two groups of people, according to Jesus, do not revolve around anything in the persons themselves.  Basically, the only differences between the two groups of people are whether they are given by the Father to the Son or not.  Although, this is evidently the plain meaning of the text we have endeavored to explain, the accuracy of this explanation is further fortified by the reaction of the crowd in the subsequent verses.  Thus, it is important to emphasize that the crowds reaction is indicative of their understanding Jesus accurately and concluding that they are not worthy of eternal life.  They are not worthy of eternal life, because they have not been given by the Father.  Hence, when they look to the Son they do not believe and will not be raised by Him on the last day.  Obviously, this revelation would not be a pleasant one and the crowd reacts in a manner to discredit the words of Jesus by casting dispersion on the authority He possesses to pronounce such things.

 

The crowd’s reaction to the words of Jesus begins in verse 41 and the apostle characterizes their disposition as grumbling.  This description of grumbling is curious and seems to be alluding to Israel’s past episodes of grumbling, illustrative of the wilderness wanderings (Ex 17:3; Num 14:27; Ps 78).  This is likely, since the word for grumbling Εγόγγυζον used here by the apostle is the same Greek word the Septuagint translators used for the term in the Old Testament (used in the verses just cited)5. Analogous to the numerous occurrences when the Israelites expressed disapprobation with the Lord and Moses, here Israel again is reacting negatively to the word of the Lord being proclaimed by the Prophet greater than Moses (Heb 3:1-6).

 

The extent of the disapproval is summarized in a series of rhetorical questions in verse 42, whose answers were designed to discredit Jesus’ claims.  The argument, which is also used on another occasion (John 7:27), is to refute Jesus claim of divine condescension manifested in His statement “I have come down from heaven”.  This is also metaphorically illustrative of Jesus equating Himself with “the bread of life”, which was the response to their request for the heavenly manna.  As noted above, both of these contentions would have been familiar to the crowd through the Torah.  There reasoning is to deny any possibility of Jesus’ descent from heaven, since they presumed He was conceived according to the natural order.  Thus, being brought to the world through ordinary parents it would have been “impossible” to also claim to have been from heaven.  From their perspective, without possessing the New Testament Scriptures; they seem to have an excellent point.  Nonetheless, we must be reminded of the origin of the discussion, which resulted from the extraordinary miracle performed by Jesus.  This demonstration of divine power provided the credentials necessary for the crowd to believe the words of Jesus as authentic.  This supernatural act provided them with no excuse to disbelieve the message of Jesus even without the resource of the New Testament to clarify that the conception was not according to the natural order.  Moreover, it is arguable that they did have Scriptural witness (Is 7:14) nullifying any appeal to the ignorance that “Emmanuel” or “God with us” (divine condescension) would be conceived in an extraordinary manner.     

 

Jesus responds in verse 43 and proceeds to explain why their grumbling was unmerited in verse 44.  The response is almost identical in meaning to the previous statements in verses 37 and 39, however is stated in a different way.  The crowd understood the meaning when their exclusion was conveyed implicitly responding with a negative reaction.  This results in Jesus stating the same thing, however explaining their exclusion in a more explicit manner.  In the response Jesus identifies another pre-requisite necessary for those who inherit eternal life.  Not only does one have to be given by the Father to the Son, but the means by which this transaction is made effective for those who “come” to Jesus is by being “drawn” by the Father.  The means by which the Father draws individuals to “come” to Jesus is through the Holy Spirit or Third Person of the Trinity we learn in a prior discourse of the fourth Gospel (John 3:3-8).  It is indicative here in this statement and from referencing the prior discussion that the work of this Trinitarian member is indispensable for the salvation of the individual.  This essential act, however, is inherently irresistible as is demanded by the word choice employed here by Jesus.  

 

The translation of the word ελκύση as “draw” in English, as some have pointed out6, does not convey the forceful connotation of the word.  We find support for this in the New Testament where it is always rendered in English as drag or hauled (John 18:10; 21:6, 11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; Jam 2:6), except for one passage (John 12:32)7.  In examining the semantic domains of this word we find it is categorized with other verbs like pull or lead by force8.  It shares this domain with another word σύρὼ, which is synonymous in meaning being rendered as drag or pull by physical force implying the need to overcome resistance (Rev 12:4)9.  This word is used in the same passage with ελκω in John 21:8, thus used by the Evangelist as a synonym.  Moreover, this characterization is further reinforced when the abundance of other more common words with a less forceful connotation could have easily been used in this statement.  The words αγὼ (to lead or bring) found in Matt 21:7 and Luke 4:1 or όδηγέὼ (to guide or direct) found in Matt 15:14 and Rev 7:17 could have been used to convey the sense of drawing in a softer way10.  However, these less forceful meanings evidently were not what Jesus had in mind during this discourse.  Although, the forcefulness of this language is not usually incorporated into the translation of this verse, the characterization of an overwhelming compulsion applied to an individual to “come” to Jesus receives strong support.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon the exegete of this text to emphasize the irresistible nature that the connotation of this word has.  A connotation that is essential in defining the role of the Holy Spirit in the redemption of individuals.

 

In proceeding to verse 45 this identification of the Holy Spirit as the One whom the Father uses to irresistibly draw individuals to Jesus finds further support.  As Jesus continues His response to the crowd, He is quoting the prophet Isaiah (Is 54:13) in this specific instance.  In reviewing the original context of this citation this benefit of being “taught by God” was a result of the Lord’s unconditional promise of an eternal covenant of peace for Israel (Is 54:9-10).  In subsequent revelations by the prophets this “covenant of peace” is further defined as the New Covenant (Jer 31:34).  It is manifested that in the New Covenant, the heirs of this promise would be “taught by God” through the Holy Spirit.  Moreover, the Holy Spirit would perform the task of changing the heart of the individual from stone to flesh to facilitate a positive response to God’s call of redemption (Ezk 36:25-27).  Jesus’ understanding of the prophetic promises of a New Covenant, thus converge and find their fulfillment in His divine condescension to redeem those given to Him by the Father who will also be irresistibly drawn to “come” to Him in faith.  The effective execution of this redemption, promised in this unconditional covenant, includes the collaboration of all three members of Trinity.  

 

Again in verse 46 Jesus refers to His divine condescension, which intrinsically infers to His exclusive ability to claim to have been within the presence of the Father.  There are two significant conclusions that are inherent within this unique claim of possessing access to the presence of the Lord.  First, Jesus is declaring that He is more than just a man for no man can survive this encounter and live (Ex 33:20).  Thus, this further reinforces His previous statements (i.e. verse 35) that are being repeated here.  Moreover, it also builds upon previous declarations made by the author as well (John 1:18).  Second, Jesus being the Word incarnate is bringing a full disclosure of the Father’s will.  Rather than having the Word mediated through the mouths of a prophet or the reading of the Scriptures, Jesus who is the Word, manifests it completely (Deut 30:12).  This privilege of access into the heavenly Holy of Holies is possible for Jesus being without sin and entitled based upon His own righteousness to be within the presence of the Lord.  It is this righteousness that will provide the basis for all those who believe to inherit eternal life, which is Jesus’ next statement in verse 47.  Jesus’ accomplishment of the will of Him who sent Him is so thorough and comprehensive that He can confidently guarantee that those who “come” (or believe in) to Him will never be cast out.

 

 

 

5 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) 204

6 RC Sproul, Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books 1997) 94-95

7 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) 318

8 Louw & Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York, NY; UBS) 82

9 Louw & Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York, NY; UBS) 205

10 Louw & Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York, NY; UBS) 208

 

 

 

 

 

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