What is John Chapter 7 About?
1.) The issue at stake in the “Sabbath Controversy.”
In John 5:19-47 Jesus is accused of two things:
- Breaking the Sabbath by commanding the lame man to carry his mat
- Claiming to be equal to God because only God is Lord of the Sabbath
In explaining His actions he makes what the author calls an “apprenticeship analogy.” The author also asserts that Jesus may be making this analogy because of His relationship to His earthly father in learning the trade of carpentry. The Rabbis of the period had an interesting difficulty. If a child was born on such a day that the eighth day when his circumcision was to be performed happened to be the Sabbath they had to break one of the two laws. Jesus turns their breaking of the Sabbath to perform circumcision on them and justifies His own “Sabbath breaking.” The healing of the lame man represents Jesus as the Eternal Life Giver for John and He draws the parallel between the Law as something that kills and Jesus as One Who is capable of giving life. In the Pharisee’s zeal to keep the Sabbath they completely missed the One Who came to fulfill it.
2.) The relationship between the feeding of the multitude and Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse.
The author asserts that John’s account of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and that of the other gospels is different, for John provides some details that are not present anywhere else. He orients the miracle to time and mentions Philip and Andrew’s involvement. Jesus’ intent in performing this miracle was not limited to feeding thousands of people. Much of the miracle was for the purpose of training the disciples. John also draws parallels between Jesus and other “servants of God.” Another contrast found in this miracle is that at Cana Jesus provided more wine than was needed. Here, He provides a surplus of bread. The Bread of Life Discourse relates to the miracle of the feeding of five thousand in that Jesus Christ Himself is the only true Bread that can satisfy man’s deepest need: Salvation as only those who believe on Him will be saved.
Interestingly enough another parallel can be found in John and his portrayal of Jesus as the One Who provides bread for the multitude while at the same time being the Bread of Life to the multitudes. When Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman she takes His comment about water as literal. Here, after Jesus has fed the multitudes, they come after Him for His practical value and not necessarily to meet their spiritual need. John shows that Jesus’ work is the essence of Who He is.
3.) The structural significance of the ending of chapter 6 in the context of the entire Gospel.
John portrays this pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry in that there is not simply a division between Jesus and those who are against Him, but also between Jesus’ disciples, themselves. At this defining moment, those who are truly disciples of Christ are separated from those who only appear to be. Oddly enough this even takes place only halfway through Jesus’ earthly ministry and no farther in. Only those who are truly followers can travel the rest of the road with Him and very few will make it all the way. The thing which divides the true followers from those who will not continue on is Jesus’ very words. The Word of Life, just as He said did not come to bring peace but to divide and it is His words which accomplish this. For whatever reason, John chooses to end his story of the first half of Jesus’ earthly work negatively just as he finishes the story of the second half of Jesus’ ministry in 12:37.