So, did you try on your polarized Jewish glasses as I asked in the last post?
Did you read John 6 and then read the references from Moses (First Five Books of the Bible, the Torah)? If so, did you see how a culturally and theologically corrected view not only gives us insights into what Jesus said in John 6:1-14 but reinforces the connection between the Old and New Testaments? Gee, almost like they are not two separate books but one unified book… because it is!
On the surface, in John 6 we read about a really cool miracle. We even get great teaching using the miracle as an object lesson.
But when we put on the polarized Jewish context spectacles, the ones that not only correct our vision from a modern-day Gentile Christian perspective to a 1st c. Jewish perspective but also screen out the unwanted glare of our modern context, incredible things are suddenly revealed under the surface.
Like how much Jesus referred to Moses to confirm His credentials as God’s man. Again, this makes sense when we use Jesus’ claim in John 5:46 (remember to ignore the number system) to read John 6. He told them that Moses wrote about Him about 1,500 years before!
Yes, even the 1st c. spiritual leaders needed their spiritual eyes corrected. They saw Jesus doing remarkable things and yet they refused to accept Him. Why? Because they didn’t “see” Jesus as they thought Israel’s Messiah should be. In many ways, they saw Jesus through lenses that allowed the glare of their theological misunderstandings and tradition to obscure the clear light of God’s truth. So Jesus gave them a new eye prescription:
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me” (John 5:46).
Just as polarized sunglasses screen out the glare bouncing off water to reveal what’s under the surface, so they needed the polarizing lens of the Holy Spirit to see Jesus under the surface of Moses’ words.
And by doing so, Jesus revealed in the Torah!
So, let’s continue our look at John 6 and see where Moses “writes about” Jesus. Remember, we’ll be using the polarizing lens of our Jewish glasses (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to help us. May the Lord grant you exciting insights!
“Therefore, when Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:16).
Moses wrote this about Israel’s coming king, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, take possession of it, live in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations around me,’ you are to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses” (Deuteronomy 17:14-15b). This promise of a king is not surprising if you know the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy). Moses recorded God’s promise of a king for Israel in the blessings of both Israel’s Patriarch Jacob and the Gentile’s wicked prophet-for-hire, Balaam.
Here’s Jacob’s blessing: “The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him” (Genesis 49:10).
And Balaam’s blessing: “I see him, but not now; I perceive him, but not near. A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel” (Numbers 24:17a).
Yes, Israel was promised a king. Not a king of the peoples’ choice (as we see they tried to do in John 6), but a King of God’s choice (see Matthew 2:2 – note the star designating the King’s arrival as Balaam prophesied). Just as God chose Israel’s greatest king, David, so God promised to choose another King, a descendant of David, to rule His people (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matthew 1:1). To be fair, the people in John 6 did get it right and wrong. Right King, wrong timing.
But here is something else Moses wrote about Israel’s kings, something very powerful! “When he is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes” (Deuteronomy 17:18-19). Israel’s king was required to learn and know God’s word and reign according to it.
How much more perfect would it be if God’s Word in human form (John 1:1) reigned as Israel’s King?
In no less than three places Moses wrote about Jesus as Israel’s future King. To their credit, even if it was for selfish reasons, the people saw Jesus as their King or at least a candidate.
Now because they threatened to make Him king by force, Jesus decided to escape the crowds. He told His disciples to sail across the Sea of Galilee and He would catch up with them. Boy did He! “A high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. After they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea” (John 6:18-19).
No arm floaties. No air mattress.
This again refers directly to Moses’ prophecy from God, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers…” (Deuteronomy 18:18a). Okay, quiz time. What was one of Moses’ most astounding deeds? YES! The Red Sea Escape Trick! God allowed Moses to use His authority and power to control the waters of the Red Sea.
The difference in water control between the two? Moses walked through the water. Jesus walked ON the water. Yup. Jesus is Israel’s Prophet “like unto Moses,” only better!
Here’s another reference to Moses. “What sign, then, are you going to do so that we may see and believe you?” they asked. “What are you going to perform? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (John 6:30-31). Through Jewish glasses, we see the people asking for a freebie from the One they suspect is the Prophet Moses promised. “Hey, Jesus. If Moses called forth bread from heaven to feed our ancestors for FORTY YEARS (*ahem* free and with little effort), what about you?”
Not too subtle of a hint, is it?
I wonder if it sounded to Jesus like someone else’s previous prodding? The devil said to him, If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone” (Luke 4:3).
Jesus set them straight. Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:32-33) If I may paraphrase Jesus, the metaphorical Bread of Life, “It wasn’t Moses that gave you bread. That was your God, my Father. And there’s something in front of you that sustains life better than bread.” The crowd’s reply?
“What? Something better than manna? A Super Bread from God? Pasta Manna-nara? Manna-cotti? Filet of Manna? Ba-manna Bread?” (hat tip to Keith Green and his song So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt Oh, they’re all for that!
Because they were dull and missed the spiritual metaphor, Jesus put it plainly. I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again (John 6:35). What does this mean?
First, Jesus was referring to how God sustained His people for 40 years in the Wilderness. Jesus again used the rabbinic “If this, then how much more…?” comparison to make His point. If God sent something that sustained a person’s life for an entire generation, how much more can God send someone who can sustain your life forever?
Second, Jesus drew together two very important basics for life – food and water. God provided both of them through Moses to feed and water His Israelite “flock” in a food-less and water-less wilderness. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to an inhabited land. They ate manna until they reached the border of the land of Canaan (Exodus 16:35) and I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel (Exodus 17:6). See? Without those 1st c. Jewish glasses you would have missed Jesus’ reference to Moses’ as writing about Him.
Here’s another. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38).
For those who are familiar with Moses’ life as recorded in his Torah, it’s clear Moses was sent to do God’s will, which he did. God’s will was to deliver His people from Egypt (Exodus 6:6), bring them to Sinai to worship God (Exodus 3:12), and bring them to the Promised Land (Exodus 3:17). Moses obeyed God’s will. Well, except for that final Water-From-The-Rock incident in Numbers 20:11-12.
But Jesus, the Like-Unto-Moses guy, was not like Moses in the “almost all of God’s will” department. Jesus never failed to obey His Father’s will, even to His death. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” Jesus told them (John 4:34). Facing His biggest challenge, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 2:42). I rest my case.
And now for the big “Moses wrote of Me” mind-bender! I have to give credit to a friend of mine, Tov Rose, for the idea that follows. Get ready.
“…not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God. He has seen the Father.” (John 6:46). Did you catch what Jesus said? “No one has seen the Father, except Me.” When we read this through Jewish glasses, we would immediately jump to the many physical manifestations of God in the Torah. People did see God. You know, God walking with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8), God having lunch with Abraham (Genesis 18), God schmoozing with Gideon (Judges 6). Of sure, those are easy. Those are God in a physical human form.
But what about God in other physical forms. You know, God as the Fire of the Burning Bush, the Pillar of Fire and Smoke, and the shimmering, fiery physical presence over the Ark in the Tabernacle’s Holy of Holies. Were those not physical appearances by God? Yes. They were.
So follow me. If no one has seen the Father, then those physical manifestations weren’t the Father. They would have to be one of the other Two and one of them is a Spirit. That leaves…?
Isn’t looking at the Bible, specifically through Jewish glasses enlightening when it polarizes out the glare of theological and cultural assumptions?
And we’re just getting started.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts