Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.
“Jesus’ Self-Disclosure in Word and Deed (1:19-10:42) C. Rising Opposition: More Signs, Works and Words (5:1-7:52)” pp. 240-332.
Carson classifies John 5-7 as one unit. These chapters “record the shift from mere reservation and hesitation about Jesus to outright and sometimes official opposition” (Carson 1991, 240). The challenges go from the Sabbath to Christology to charges of Jesus being possessed by demons. Jesus continues to advance his claims to be the true Son of God.
In the beginning of chapter five, Carson notes a variety of excavations and historic accounts which suggest the five colonnades are quite literal, as opposed to a symbolic suggestion of the Pentateuch (Carson 1991, 242). The disputed text of 3b-4 may well have been an explanatory gloss (Carson 1991, 242). It is unclear why Jesus picks the one man to heal. John makes no explanation (Carson 1991, 243). Carson notes that the man healed does not seem proactive or very thoughtful. He may view himself asa victim of circumstances (Carson 1991, 243). The fact that the healing was on the Sabbath serves to move the narrative along with a dispute over working on the Sabbath (Carson 1991, 244). Carson sees verse 14 as a statement of Jesus that whether the illness was related to sin, and it may have been, he needs to expect that future sin could have serious consequences (Carson 1991, 246).
Jesus responds to the situation in 5:16-47. The affirmation of God working on the Sabbath is not taken to imply that God is responsible to keep the Sabbath. Carson sees it as a statement that God is always caring for creation (Carson 1991, 247). Carson suggests the use of the Sabbath discussion may be John’s way of tying the Sabbath to all Jesus’ redemptive work (Carson 1991, 248). The opponents recognize verse 18 as a statement that Jesus is equal with God (Carson 1991, 249). Carson notes that the Jews assumed Jesus was calling himself an alternate God, while John has Jesus claiming unity (Carson 1991, 250). Especially Jesus’ statements of unity of will and the ability to raise the dead in v. 21 make a claim to being one with the Father (Carson 1991, 252). Though the Father and Son have different roles in judgment (v. 22), they act with one will (Carson 1991, 254). Carson sees Jesus’ claims here as a bold statement of mature Christology. There is no reasoned choice other than Jesus as God or an insane person (Carson 1991, 255). Jesus insists that the one who believes has life (Carson 1991, 256). Yet, in v. 31 and following, Jesus points out that his work is attested elsewhere. Carson observes that Jesus does not deny the truth of his testimony but that he affirms that it is documented elsewhere (Carson 1991, 259). Jesus goes on to mention a number of sources of testimony. Carson sees the testimony of the Bible, especially that of Moses, as the source Jesus’ hearers would accept as reliable. they viewed these as God’s endorsement (v. 44) (Carson 1991, 265).
In the start of chapter six, John records the feeding of the five thousand. Carson points out that this is the only chapter of John which works with the Galillean ministry. The Synoptics spend a good deal of time on Galilee (Carson 1991, 267). Jesus’ moves from place to place suggest either a purposeful editorial arrangement or simply that Jesus was moving a good deal, though it was difficult (Carson 1991, 268). Carson thinks there is a strong theological reason for John to mention the Passover here. Jesus goes on to speak of the eating and of bread. The connection of ideas is hard to escape (Carson 1991, 268). The situation in 6:1-5 was such that Jesus’ hearers would not have food because they were learning from Jesus. The needed food would cost a great deal (Carson 1991, 269). The five thousand men plus others were all fed. They wished to make Jesus a king. Carson concludes they thought they had adequate force for revolution (Carson 1991, 270). Carson notes that Jesus did not use this as an occasion for revolution. He also notes that John omitted numerous actions which could make this passage seem more like the Eucharist (Carson 1991, 270). The emphasis is on the people having all they need. Jesus avoided the kingship issue. Carson observes it was not Jesus’ time (Carson 1991, 272).
Verses 16-20 show Jesus walking across the water to his disciples. Carson discusses various theories of the structure of the Gospel and the coordination of the sign accounts (Carson 1991, 274). When Jesus arrives, walking on the lake, the disciples are frightened. Carson is unsure that Jesus’ self-identification in verse 20 bears any theological weight. It is both a typical identifier and the way God introduced himself to Moses (Carson 1991, 275).
John 6:22-58 is the passage in which Jesus calls himself the bread of life (Carson 1991, 276). Carson discusses some issues of the passages’ unity, meaning, and the argument’s source. He concludes that the passage is cohesive and original. It has a strong sacramentarian feeling to it, which was recognized by early Christians (Carson 1991, 277). This is, however, not entirely decisive (Carson 1991, 278). Carson goes on to discuss the words “sacrament,” “mystery,” and “ordinances” as used for the Eucharist. He concludes that the terms “sacrament” and “ordinance” are both appropriate (Carson 1991, 281). A crowd has sought Jesus after his healing miracle across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus turns their attention in verse 26 to true bread from God (Carson 1991, 282). The speech itself seems to take place in a synagogue (v. 59) but there is no indication of a move indoors (Carson 1991, 283). Jesus identifies himself as the true giver of the true food which nourishes to eternal life (Carson 1991, 284). He is also the food, though Carson considers it uncertain whether that statement is meant to refer to Jesus at that time or some later manifestation (Carson 1991, 284). What God requires of His people is faith, not some sort of additional works (Carson 1991, 285). Jesus boldly says in verse 35 that he himself is the bread of life (Carson 1991, 288). Carson notes that the language is “essentially symbolic” (Carson 1991, 288) in that there is metaphor, that eating is referred to as coming to Jesus and that it is not drinking but believing which prevents thirst. Carson sees a strong predestinarian view in verse 37. Jesus calls people to him and will keep them (Carson 1991, 290). Carson affirmst that God’s sovereignty “is a major theme in the Fourth Gospel” (Carson 1991, 291). He sees the idea of irresistible grace as central here and in chapter 17. At the same time, though, John is clear that humans are responsible to have faith. The concept of God drawing people to himself is very clear, especially in verse 44 (Carson 1991, 293). Jesus makes a bold invitation to people. They must believe on him to have eternal life (vv. 47-4) (Carson 1991, 294). Jesus then speaks even more boldly in terms of eating his flesh. This i the way his people receive life (vv. 49ff). Though Jesus uses the term σάρξ rather than σώμα, which is regularly used in passages about the Eucharist, Carson does see strong references to communion (Carson 1991, 295). Jesus’ words are so offensive Carson does not think anyone could take them literally. However, he is not ready to say definitively how they were intended (pp. 295-296). He remains insistent that it cannot be a reference to truly eating and drinking the Lord’s body and blood in communion (Carson 1991, 297).
John chapter six concludes with many of Jesus’ disciples leaving him (Carson 1991, 300). Carson, commenting on verse 63, points out a rejection of a sacramental interpretation of the passage. If the “flesh counts for nothing” the entire passage is symbolic (Carson 1991, 301). Therefore, Carson reads the text as a call to believe, for which eating is a metaphor. Verses 66 and following show that in our responsibility to come to God in faith, the Lord is always active to draw us (Carson 1991, 303).
Chapter seven verses 1-13 bring out the uncertainty among some as regards Jesus’ identity (Carson 1991, 305). Jesus’ brothers seem to want him to prove himself by performing public miracles. Verse six specifies Jesus’ unwillingness to act publicly for this reason (Carson 1991, 307). Jesus has a right time, appointed by God. Carson contrasts this with earthly people, for whom one time is as good as another (Carson 1991, 08). When Jesus does arrive in Jerusalem the common people and the leaders are divided in their opinion of him.
John 7:14-44 deal with the events once Jesus did go to the Feast of Tabernacles (Carson 1991, 311). The authorities were amazed at the content of Jesus’ teaching. Literacy was common but his knowledge of doctrine was not (Carson 1991, 311). Jesus’ explanation in verse 16 is that he is saying what the Father says. This, Carson says, as well as the commitment of the Christian, is not a matter for debate or for a proof of a ceratin level of ethical behavior. The essence is a commitment to being pleasing to God. It will then be “self-authenticating” (Carson 1991, 312). As we choose to believe we find the proofs convincing. Here Carson moves in what seems a very circular and subjective direction. Yet in John 7:18 Carson returns to the solidity of Jesus’ statements. Jesus is committed to speaking as God the Father has spoken (Carson 1991, 313). The conflict spreads as Jesus states that those who would kill him are lawbreakers. This provokes a counter-argument that Jesus has a demon because nobody is trying to kill him (Carson 1991, 314). Jesus continues by pointing out that the good work of circumcision on the eighth day often violates the Sabbath. Jesus’ good work of healing is also acceptable for theSabbath (Carson 1991, 315). Jesus calls his critics to stop their self-righteous judgment (v. 24). Rather, they should judge appropriately (Carson 1991, 317). In response, in verses 25 and following, the people discuss what they think of Jesus and the Christ (Carson 1991, 317). Jesus points out that the people do not know what they think they do (Carson 1991, 318). They also do not know the Father. In verse 32, the guards sent by the Sanhedrin seek to apprehend Jesus. Carson notes the political structure which would require some cooperation among the functions on the council (Carson 1991, 319). Jesus expects to be arrested and die, another idea the crowds do not understand (Carson 1991, 320). In verses 37-44 Jesus speaks of pouring out the Spirit on people. Carson describes a ceremony involving pouring water which had become common at the Feast of Tabernacles (Carson 1991, 321-322). Jesus announces himself as the one who gives living water. Carson discusses at length the interpretation of the source of the water. Does it flow from Christ or the believer? Both are grammatically defensible. After analyzing a number of passages and the idea of the Spirit and water flowing, Carson concludes that Jesus is the giver of the Spirit who wells up out of the believer to bless his neighbor (Carson 1991, 328). The crowd remained divided in their understanding of Jesus’ identity (Carson 1991, 329).
Verses 45-62 conclude the chapter. The temple guards did not arrest Jesus. The leaders were upset with them. They should have known to stop Jesus (Carson 1991, 331). Nicodemus suggests a fair trial and is mocked by the other leaders. Carson notes that there seems to be a sharp disregard for the understanding of the crowds (Carson 1991, 331). The people are assumed to be ignorant and evil. This is the Sanhedrin’s opinion. It will not shift.