John 6.28-30

“This food the son of Adam will give you, for he it is upon whom the Father has set the seal of his authority.”

“Then what must we do,” they asked him, “if we are to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus replied, “This is the work that God requires: believe in the one whom He has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?”

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4 responses

  1. "Believe in" is a very tricky expression here. It doesn't mean "believe some doctrine about". I'm told that even the English word "believe" was not originally used in the context: 'to believe a statement;' it was more like 'to believe a person', coming from the same root as 'belove.'But what was it Jesus wanted people to believe about him, in his actual historical human life?

  2. I can't read koine, so I have to depend on other scholars' interpretations. Marcus Borg suggests that the Greek term translated as "believe" means something more akin to "to place one's trust in." In Matt 7:29, we read that Jesus "taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." The religious authorities apparently did not teach on their own authority, but instead argued over interpretations of Scripture, as if God had spoken only in the past. So there's always a lot of verbal jousting going on in the gospels, with the "experts" brandishing Scripture to challenge what Jesus says and –more importantly– does. Putting that together with the deeper meaning of "believe," I think that Jesus wanted people to realize that he would not lead them astray, that he was not some sort of false prophet, and that they could trust him to be telling them the truth, especially when he talked about how much the Father loved them and how they should love others in turn. Jesus wanted the people to realize that because of his special relationship with the Father, his words were alive; his was the "living" word, the word of God spoken in their own time and place, and just as trustworthy as the Scriptures they venerated.

  3. Okay, this is definitely a matter of 'trust'. But 'John' keeps basing everything on his belief in Jesus as an object of worship in his own right. Jesus in the synoptics was a human being, not just 'sent' but sent with a message and an assignment. His audience were to 'believe in' Jesus by being open to his message and giving due weight to that.In the synoptics Jesus refuses emphatically to give any 'sign' of his status as a prophet; here he talks about 'signs' he's shown people as being good reasons for them to believe and follow him–better than the food he's provided. And then they forget the signs they've allegedly seen (previous passage) and demand to see some.Instead of being God's designated king of Israel, the defender of the literally starving poor, here Jesus has become purveyor of something called 'the food of eternal life,' which his hearers are told is something they should be working for. Jesus as a person must certainly have been a strongly-connected mystic, and must necessarily have worked to rouse that form of consciousness in those around him. Indeed, it's hard to see how he (or anyone) could have effectively improved the condition of 1st Century Israel (or that of any nation, in any time) without bringing people to a better connection with God. But 'John' makes that, and Jesus' uniquely privileged status, the primary focus of his message. I often feel that 'John' is turning Jesus into something like the pharisees as depicted in the synoptics: a figure who stands around blocking the doorway.Oh well, I should go on trying to find what I can of value in all this… not so much picking at it.

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