Interpretation 6


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  Copyright © 2001 Jeanie C. Crain
Last modified: March, 2002

John 6

   The Intervarsity Press  summarizes John 5 as Jesus' keynote address, providing structurally the context for the exploration in chapter six:

   The heart of the revelation has now been given in Jesus' keynote address (chap. 5), in which he claims to have the divine prerogatives of life-giver and judge. These two rights will be depicted throughout the rest of the Gospel, beginning immediately with the description of Jesus as the Bread of Life--the one who not only gives life but sustains it. We also see judgment taking place as people are unable to receive this revelation. First the Jews and then most of Jesus' disciples are offended rather than enlightened. By the end of the chapter only the Twelve are left.

If John 5 provides the theology in Jesus' keynote address, John 6 illustrates theology in action. Jesus walks among the multitudes giving life and sustaining life. Jesus as Bread of Life fills spiritual need completely, just as the water offered to the Samaritan woman at the well satisfied thirst eternally. As Edersheim points out, the feeding of the multitude in John crowns all of Jesus' public actions in meeting human needs.

    The feeding of the multitude is recorded in all four Gospels, making it highly probable that the event is historical fact. John records this event as the last act of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. John records the event, then moves quickly to uncharacteristically to yet another event, recorded this time in the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  The second event seems an abrupt departure from John’s tendency to move from narrative into theological interpretation. As John narrates, the disciples have gathered with Jesus after the event of the day, the miraculous feeding, and travel to the other side of the lake.  From the crowds, the reader learns that Jesus was known not to have gotten into the boat with his disciples, yet only one small boat had been there at the time; that Jesus is gone points to a mysterious vanishing. When John resumes the story, Jesus discourses with his disciples about the bread of life. At this point, John’s dialectic of the physical and spiritual illustrates itself in the contrast between physical bread and spiritual bread. Unfortunately, verse 15 shows us the people misunderstanding the lesson of  the mass feeding, focusing instead upon the "sign" and interpreting it as confirmation of the expected earthly messiah, fulfilling their expectations for an earthly king:

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2. 

And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased

3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" 10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." 11      so they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!" 12      15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

The reader should not lose sight of John’s structural genius in placing this feeding of the multitude immediately after the unknown festival and the Passover. This is, according to John, Jesus’ last miracle in his Galilean mission. Edersheim sees this miracle as the crowning act of the doings of Jesus:

  Nor can its origin be accounted for by previous Jewish expectancy, or Old Testament precedent. The only rational mode of explaining it is on the supposition of its truth. This miracle, and what follows, mark the climax in our Lord's doing, as the healing of the Syro-Phoenician maiden the utmost sweep of His activity, and the Transfiguration the highest point in regard to the miraculous about His Person. The only reason which can be assigned for the miracle of His feeding the five thousand was that of all His working: Man's need, and, in view of it, the stirring of the Pity and Power that were King Herod, and the banquet that ended with the murder of the Baptist, and King Jesus, and the banquet that ended with His lonely prayer on the mountain-side, the calming of the storm on the lake, and the deliverance from death of His disciples.

Jesus is about the business of effecting the kingdom of God on earth.  His compassion for the weary multitude traveling to the Passover illustrates once again the “true rest” accomplished in the presence of the spiritual.  That human beings must look to spiritual solutions rather than physical suggests itself in Jesus’ question to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" Philip’s response is typically human in that he reports that a boy among the crowds has two hundred denarii, not enough certainly to reports that a boy among the crowds has two hundred denarii, not enough certainly to feed the crowds. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, follows Philip’s example, reporting that another boy 9 "has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" That the crowds are fed and that twelve baskets are filled with leftover fragments point to the miracle, miracle being what always happens when the spirit is present. Edersheim explains this miracle as, once again, linking the past Judaism to the new Judaism, the Pascal Lamb of the past to the present Pascal Lamb in the person of Christ; it is the very mission of Jesus to be about the work of gathering in the wandering, straying multitude:

And what a sight to meet His gaze, these thousands of strong men, besides women and children; and what thoughts of the past, the present, and the future, would be called up by the scene! 'The Passover was night,' [c St. John vi. 4.] with its remembrances of the Paschal night, the Paschal Lamb, the Paschal Supper, the Paschal deliverance, and most of them were Passover-pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. These Passover-pilgrims and God's guests, now streaming out into this desert after Him; with a murdered John just buried, and no earthly teacher, guide, or help left! Truly they were 'as sheep having no shepherd. [d St. Mark vi. 34.] The very surroundings seemed to give tot he thought the vividness of a picture: this wandering, straying multitude, the desert sweep of country, the very want of provisions. A Passover, indeed, but of which He would be the Paschal Lamb, the Bread which He gave, the Supper, and around which He would gather those scattered, shepherd less sheep into one flock of many 'companies,' to which His Apostles would bring the bread He had blessed and broken, to their sufficient and more than sufficient nourishment; from which, indeed, they would carry the remnant-baskets full, after the flock had been fed, to the poor in the outlying places of far-off heathendom. And so thoughts of the past, the present, and the future must have mingled, thoughts of the Passover in the past, of the Last, the Holy Supper in the future, and of the deeper inward meaning and bearing of both the one and the other; thoughts also of this flock, and of that other flock which was yet to gather, and of the far-off places, and of the Apostles and their service, and of the provision which they were to carry from His Hands, a provision never exhausted by present need, and which always leaves enough to carry thence and far away.

In John 6, following Jesus' withdrawal after the feeding of the multitude, two miracles are recorded: Jesus'  walking on the sea (19) and the immediacy of the boat's arrival on the shores of Capernaum.  The disciples have departed the shores of Galilee for Capernaum without Jesus; enroute, they are overtaken by a storm and are frightened to see Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to them:

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18 The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing.19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened,20 but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."

To ask the question of whether or not a miracle has occurred  misses John's theology that holding rigorously to the physical results in a blindness to spiritual matters: here, the physical reality is a storm at sea and frightened disciples; the spiritual reality is Jesus' invitation to rest: "It is I; do not be afraid."  The people who have "eaten their fill of the loaves" and seek Jesus still miss the lesson taught, not understanding how Jesus got to Capernaum; Jesus reminds them they labor for what perishes rather than eating the food that endures to eternal life:

22 On the next day the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 However, boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"

26 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

25    Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal."

    Having reminded his listeners that the physical perishes while the eternal endures, Jesus commands them to set their eyes upon spiritual truths rather than upon physical signs.

28 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" 26    Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

The work of God will always be the effecting of His kingdom, the work that changes lives and history, the miracle that accompanies belief.

30 So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

The religious have wrongly interpreted Moses as the giver of bread, but they are reminded that all life proceeds from God alone. God’s will is that people be saved, that Jesus should “lose nothing.”

33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." 34 They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; 39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."  

The Intervarsity Commentary explains that Jesus, as he had done explicitly with the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter four, identifies himself with Divinity, the source of eternal life; in fact, this connection is made clearly in verse 35: "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst":

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.

Further, the Intervarsity Commentary understands the antinomy of verses 37 and 40:

Here is the antinomy of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. If we only had verse 40, then the teaching of this Gospel regarding salvation would be based in human decision. When we put the determinism of verse 37 alongside the decisionism of verse 40 we see the two parts of the antinomy, both of which are brought together in Jesus. Our response to him reveals the truth about ourselves in relation to God and thus whether or not we share in God's eternal life.

Of course, Jesus’ words bring on again the condemnation of those failing to understand the nature of true conversion in the presence of spirit:

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, `I have come down from heaven'?" 43 Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life.

Jesus then makes the link between the past and present explicit:

49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

Failing as always to distinguish between the physical and spiritual, those who listen ask a question similar to the one Nicodemus asked about spiritual birth:

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

In reading John, one battles constantly the temptation to spiritualize the physical or to make physical that which is meant spiritually.  This frequently happens when “eats my flesh and drinks my blood” is used to point to the sacrament: (6:53) Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood. These words are at the heart of the discourse on the Bread of Life, and have created great misunderstanding among interpreters.

Anyone who is inclined toward a sacramental viewpoint will almost certainly want to take these words as a reference to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or the Eucharist, because of the reference to eating and drinking. But this does not

automatically follow: by anyone's definition there must be a symbolic element to the eating which Jesus speaks of in the discourse, and once this is admitted, it is better to understand it here, as in the previous references in the passage, to a personal receiving of (or appropriation of) Christ and his work. 77tn (6:53) That is, "no eternal life" (as opposed to physical life).

78tn (6:54) Or "who chews"; Grk oJ trwvgwn (Jo trwgwn). The alternation between ejsqivw (esqiw, "eat," v. 53) and trwvgw (trwgw,"eats," vv. 54, 56, 58; "consumes," v. 57) may simply reflect a preference for one form over the other on the author's part, rather than an attempt to express a slightly more graphic meaning. If there is a difference, however, the word used here (trwvgw) is the more graphic and vivid of the two ("gnaw" or "chew").

79sn (6:54) Notice that here the result (has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day) is produced by eating (Jesus') flesh and drinking his blood. Compare John 6:40 where the same result is produced by "looking on the Son and believing in him." This suggests that the phrase here (eats my flesh and drinks my blood) is to be understood by the phrase in 6:40 (looks on the Son and believes in him). Net Bible  

The preexistence of the Word at creation and the identification of the Word with Jesus necessitate metaphor and understanding enlightened beyond the merely physical: 

In fact, none of Jesus' teaching makes sense unless we realize who he really is. He says as much in the verses that follow about the Son of Man (v. 62), yet he is speaking very cryptically when he refers to the ascension of the Son of Man to where he was before. A reference to preexistence, mingled with associations from Daniel 7, would be very hard to grasp. The one standing before them was claiming to be a person beyond their imagination. The strangeness of his reference to eating his flesh and drinking his blood is matched by the claims he is making about himself. In a sense he is saying, "You haven't seen anything yet. There will be plenty more to come that will be offensive to fallen human reason." For the ascent of the Son of Man to where he was before begins with the cross (cf. 3:14), the ultimate source of offense. If they are offended by this talk about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, how will they be able to tolerate the cross, which lies behind Jesus' talk of giving his flesh and blood?

More than metaphor, Jesus speaks archetypally:

There are several hints in the text that Jesus is referring to the sacrament here. First, the image of drinking Christ's blood (6:53) does not correspond to the starting point, namely, to the feeding of the five thousand and the manna in the wilderness. Jesus started with the simple image of bread, and now he brings in the idea of blood and drink. Drinking blood is not a natural image for receiving his revelation, though it might be suggestive of receiving his life, since "the life of every creature is its blood" (Lev 17:14; Deut 12:23). But it is a very scandalous image for a Jew since drinking any blood, let alone human blood, was forbidden by the law (Lev 3:17; 17:14; Deut 12:23). Second, although the reference to "real" food and drink (6:55) means this eating and drinking "fulfill the ideal, archetypal function of food and drink" (Barrett 1978:299), it does not mean that this eating and drinking are something other than actual eating and drinking. This is archetypal, "real" (alethes) food and drink, just as Nathaniel was "really" (alethos), archetypically, an Israelite (1:47). Being archetypal did not mean Nathaniel was not also an actual Israelite, nor would the flesh and blood's being archetypal food and drink necessarily mean they are not also actual food and drink. If there is a reference here to actual food and drink, then it must refer somehow to the Eucharist since there is nothing else to which it would correspond. We know from the Synoptics and Paul that Jesus commanded us to observe this rite and that Christians did indeed do so. Christians then, as now, naturally find reference here to the Eucharist unless controversies lead them to find some other explanation.

John connects bread, the Father, Jesus and life: “it is the spirit that gives life.” Jesus is the bread eternal come down from heaven, not the bread temporal eaten by the children of Israel in the wilderness:

58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." 59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?  

One must note here that if the Bread come down from heaven is not recognized, the Son of man ascending would also be misunderstood by a people looking for a physical sign. The theologian explains:

63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.64 But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. 65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." 66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. 67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" 68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." 70 Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"

71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.

Peter, who later tragically denies Christ, confesses "You are the Holy One of Israel," a statement pointing to the poignancy of belief, identified by Jesus as the mystery of grace in that "no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." The Oxford Bible annotation explains the great division between faith and unbelief:

.   62–63:  The ascension, by which Jesus will be taken away as regards the flesh, will indicate that he has been speaking of spiritual realities and not the actual eating of his flesh.   64–65:  These truths can be discerned only by faith, which is God’s gift, not a human achievement (Ephesians 2.8).    6.66–71:  To receive God’s gift of faith is to know God in Christ; to refuse it is to become an ally of the devil. Faith and unbelief mark the great divisions among even the disciples.

Alfred Edersheim in book three on the "Great Confession" points to the great demand on and training in faith required of the disciples:

In that distant and obscure corner, on the boundary-line between Jew and Gentile, had that greatest crisis in the history of the world occurred, which sealed the doom of Israel, and in their place substituted the Gentiles as citizens of the Kingdom. And, in this respect also, it is most significant, that the confession of the Church likewise took place in territory chiefly inhabited by Gentiles, and the Transfiguration on Mount Hermon. That crisis had been the public challenge of the Pharisees and Sadducees, that Jesus should legitimate His claims to the Messiahship by a sign from heaven. It is not too much to assert, that neither His questioners, nor even His disciples, understood the answer of Jesus, nor yet perceived the meaning of His 'sign.' To the Pharisees Jesus would seem to have been defeated, and to stand self-convicted of having made Divine claims which, when challenged, He could not substantiate. He had hitherto elected(as they, who understood not His teaching,would judge) to prove Himself the Messiah by the miracles which He had wrought, and now, when met on His own ground, He had publicly declined, or at least evaded, the challenge. He had conspicuously, almost self-confessedly, failed! At least, so it would appear to those who could not understand His reply and 'sign.' We note that a similar final challenge was addressed to Jesus by the High-Priest, when he adjured Him to say, whether He was what He claimed. His answer then was an assertion, not a proof; and, unsupported as it seemed, His questioners would only regard it as blasphemy.

But what of the disciples, who (as we have seen) would probably understand 'the sign' of Christ little better than the Pharisees? That what might seem Christ's failure, in not daring to meet the challenge of His questioners, must have left some impression on them, is not only natural, but appears even from Christ's warning of the leaven, that is, of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Indeed, that this unmet challenge and virtual defeat of Jesus did make lasting and deepest impression in His disfavour, is evident from the later challenge of His own relatives to go and meet the Pharisees at headquarters in Judaea, and to show openly, if He could, by His works, that He was the Messiah. [a St. John vii. 1-5.] All the more remarkable appears Christ's dealing with His disciples, His demand on, and training of their faith. It must be remembered, that His last 'hard' sayings at Capernaum had led to the defection of many, who till then had been His disciples. [b St. John vi. 60-66; comp. St. Matt. xv. 12.] Undoubtedly this had already tried their faith, as appears from the question of Christ: 'Will ye also go away? [c St. John vi. 67.] It was this wise and gracious dealing with them, this putting the one disappointment of doubt, engendered by what they could not understand, against their whole past experience in following Him, which enabled them to overcome. And it is this which also enables us to answer the doubt, perhaps engendered by inability to understand seemingly unintelligible, hard sayings of Christ, such as that to the disciples about giving them His Flesh to eat, or about His being the Living Bread from heaven. And, this alternative being put to them: would they, could they, after their experience of Him, go away from Him, they overcame, as we overcome, through what almost sounds like a cry of despair, yet is a shout of victory: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.'

Edersheim has drawn heavily here upon the account given by Matthew, and Matthew links the request for a sign to the Pharisees and Sadducees; when the disciples need to understand the metaphorical, then Jesus tells them to "beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees," an illusion they understand immediately. Only after this does Peter make his confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.2 He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.'3 And in the morning, `It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah." So he left them and departed.5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread.6 Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."7 And they discussed it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread."8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, "O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?11 How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?"14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew, like John, attributes to grace the revelation itself: "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Holy One of God, the Son of the living God, or Luke's "the Christ of God," (9.20) the unity with God and God-ship itself is established. 

Simon Peter responds on behalf of the Twelve: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (v. 68). The others had been offended by Jesus' words, but the Twelve accept Jesus' claim that his words are spirit and life (v. 63). They do not claim to have understood what Jesus' has been saying. They will not be able to understand until after the crucifixion has taken place and the Spirit has guided them into all truth regarding Jesus and all that he has done and taught (14:26; 15:26; 16:13). But they do recognize that Jesus is speaking from God: We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God (v. 68). The verbs translated believe and know are in the perfect tense, which often suggests a state that began in the past and continues to the present. This nuance fits this context, since Peter stands in contrast to those who, although attracted to Jesus by the feeding miracle, were immediately scandalized. The Twelve came to faith in Jesus some time ago and have hung in with him since then, including through this most recent challenge to their faith by his strange teaching.

No wonder Jesus was misunderstood and resisted: he is both traditionalist and new age, and he is misunderstood: paradoxically, old and new have become the one evolving, unfolding will of God for the salvation of humankind.