Today we’ll learn about Passovers and how they fit in John’s Gospel. This will make connections between Christ’s words and Jewish history. We miss these connections because we never celebrated Passovers as ancient Jews did. So those “light bulb moments” didn’t happen for us by connecting new revelations with old, familiar material. Let’s step back into those ancient Jewish sandals.
CONNECTIONS WITH NEW BIRTH AND NICODEMUS
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus…in John 3…was a Passover visit during Jesus’ early ministry. We are always told about a feast in John because it helps you to understand the conversation…. You must be born anew. What is the feast? The birth of the ancient Hebrew nation during Passover.From The Gospels and the Feast of the Land
Christ compares the wind blowing with the new birth (John 3:8). You can’t see the wind but you see what it does. They saw themselves as a nation being born.
WHY THEY CAME TO JESUS
In John 6, at the feeding of the 5,000, we have another Passover season…. Jesus and the disciples are…coming back to Capernaum…. Everyone is given the word, “John is dead.” Jesus says to his exhausted disciples… “Let us come apart to the other side…and rest for a while.” They go to the deserted places of Bethsaida…. But the crowds see them in the boat and run along the shore, crossing the Jordan…. The…largest gathering Jesus speaks to is when…they hear that John the Baptist has been killed…. Why are they all gathered? What is John’s relative [Jesus] going to say now that John is dead? …Luke says “and Jesus was moved with compassion.” Why? Because they were like sheep without a shepherd…. These were followers of John…his disciples are telling them now to…turn to Jesus.From The Gospels and the Feast of the Land
CONNECTING THE FEEDING OF THE 5,000
There was no place to buy or obtain food for some distance.
Then Andrew, who is also from Bethsaida…says, “well…a kid here…with 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish.” The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the beginning of the barley harvest…. We tend to use wheat flour for our [communion] elements, but it would have been barley [a poor man’s or animal’s food]…. Two Synoptics also say “2 small fish” …not fresh fish…dried, salted fish…. The reason John’s Gospel told us it was Passover, and a deserted place, is… [as a 1st-century, Jewish reader] you would be reminded of another deserted place—the Sinai Desert. And another crowd complaining, “How are we going to feed everybody?”From The Gospels and the Feast of the Land
In this way Jesus is implied to be like a second Moses.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WALKING ON WATER
As the afternoon gets late, Jesus’ disciples get in a boat and head back to Capernaum…. Jesus wanted his retreat, so he stays there…. As the disciples go back, there is a sudden storm. There are high cliffs on the east side. At…sunrise and sunset, when there is a great temperature change, warm air rising from the sea can cause a cool draft to come down from the heights. The wind always comes from the east…if there is a sudden storm. In addition, it was night, which makes it scarier. Why are you told that? A strong east wind blew all night [when the Red Sea blew back for the Jews to cross]. The god of the sea is called yom. It is also the Hebrew name for the sea. This god is scary, the god of chaos…. As it is Passover you are reminded the Lord sent a strong east wind in…Exodus…. That strong east wind which had been blowing all night stopped. With that…the waters receded…drowning the Egyptian army…the symbol of oppression and chaos. And God’s wind, “Rua,” is also the word for spirit. A strong east wind blew back the sea, as God’s spirit blew back the chaos…. The disciples are in chaos and despair. And…picture Jesus walking. He is in the calm, they are in the chaos.From The Gospels and the Feast of the Land
AT THEIR PASSOVER MEALS AND IN THEIR SYNAGOGUES
What are the readings this week? …You will read the manna story. What is Jesus’ sermon? The day after the multiplication? Just as God gave you manna in the wilderness with Moses, “I am the Bread of Life.” So…the reason for telling you it was the Passover/Unleavened Bread season…. That is your feelings…remembering God’s provision in a deserted place.From The Gospels and the Feast of the Land
So John’s Gospel presents Jesus as the Second Moses, just as God gave you manna through Moses. And remember, that is manna from Heaven brought to the Israelite camp by the wind by God’s Spirit. A non-human distribution.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NEW BIRTH
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You are a great teacher in Israel, and you don’t know this?” How often have you sat in a pew and listened to a preacher guilt-trip and preach hellfire? Jesus showed the contrast between human effort and God’s work in those who are truly saved. When God creates life like the nation of Israel, new birth is undeniable.