preaching study: john 6:35-51

In “preaching study” posts, I share study & reflection as I prepare the Sunday message . I welcome interaction in this process, so feel free to share your thoughts. All Scripture quotes are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
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The NRSV text for this coming Sunday evening is here.

So what I love about John, and why I find him so compelling to read, is that he is straight-forward in one breath and comes off rather circumspect in the next. He invites the reader to stop and read again, more slowly this time. He invites the reader to ask questions to try and tease out the jewels lurking just beneath the opaque surface of the water, hinted at in the simple (though not simplistic) beauty of “I am the bread of life.”

So here in the text for this week, I’ll start by sharing a few questions that John seems to invite someone attempting to read his gospel closely to ask.

1. Broadly, how does John want us to read the OT in light of Jesus? The whole NT invites us to ask that question, but here in John, specifically, the question of this text, I think is: How is John inviting us to read the story of God’s provision of manna in the desert to the Israelites and Moses? (Jn 6:47-51)

2. What themes does John assume we’re picking up along our reading through his gospel? This text has more instances of John’s themes of belief (and sight’s role in that), the “I am” sayings, eternal life, and discussion of how the Father’s will is revealed in the life and work of Jesus. This text (6:35-51) has an immediate context of this speech by Jesus (6:22-59), but also builds on the feeding of the 5000 (6:1-21) and leads directly into the peoples’ and disciples’ response to Jesus’ “bread of life” teaching (6:60-71), which happens to be one of my favorite passages b/c of the whiny tone of 6:60 (“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?'” Could be said of the whole bible!).

3. One scene that comes to mind is the Nicodemus encounter in John 3. Jesus answers him with a reference to a passage in Numbers when he refers to Moses lifting up a snake in the wilderness. Here, Jesus again makes reference to Moses with the comments about manna. But he’s already building on his initial response to the people’s question/comment in 6:30-31. How would John like us readers to pay attention to Jesus’ references to OT happenings? What significance do they have when taken together, as opposed to simply being read in isolation? Is John using these Moses/OT references as isolated illustrations, or is it a larger narrative tapestry that helps us read the whole story of John’s gospel more faithfully?

Any other questions? thoughts?

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