“we Know His Parents! He Did Not Come Down From Heaven!” (john 6.42-51)

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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 grumble among yourselves.

145844509The Hoi Ioudaioi who followed Jesus to Capernaum were from Nazareth, the village where Jesus’ family resided after returning from Egypt. The Hoi Ioudaioi asked how was it possible that Jesus came down from heaven, since they knew his parents from Nazareth’s village life. At first, this seems like an honest question with no hidden agendas. However, as we continue to read, we see Jesus (who sees the hearts of men), accuse them of grumbling among themselves. It is important that we note the literary connection with the Israelite grumbling in the desert. The Israelites complained even when God was providing them with manna from heaven! Earlier in this chapter, the Hoi Ioudaioi were proudly saying that Moses gave them manna from heaven. Jesus said that he was not manna, but bread, which was much better, and he was coming down from heaven. Yet we see them grumbling in the same way as Israel had complained in the desert. As the passage continues, in vs. 49, Jesus confirms this same point by referring to those who ate the manna in the wilderness and still died, as “your” (Hoi Iudaioi)’s fathers. By implication these were the fathers of all those who do not believe.

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Calvin Jewish Studies for Christians In the previous section I argued that that passage must be read as referring to national salvation and not simply to the individualistic salvific experience as usually affirmed. Here I want to mention an important point. Reading it in a national sense does not preclude individual application. The nation of Israel is in fact made up of tribes, families, and individuals. Although the story must be understood in the national context, it must also include the individual faith of every Israelite.

Jesus clearly says that it is not possible for anyone (particularly for those included in this context) to follow him, unless the father personally draws them to Jesus. Given the context, these words apply to the members of the hoi Ioudaioi. This is a truly humbling verse. No person in the world (even Jesus’ own world) can follow Jesus in true faith by his own volition and power. It was Israel’s God’s gracious activity that worked in the hearts of people.

45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life.

Devided KingdomAt this point, Jesus makes reference to Jer. 31.31-33: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This significant, in and of itself. When these words of Jeremiah were brought up by Jesus, everyone knew that they referred to the restoration promise of Israel’s God one day to unify the separated kingdoms of Judah and Israel. As they, both Israel and Judah, feed on the true bread of heaven – Jesus, they are being to taught to do so by Israel’s God himself.

This reference of Jesus to Jeremiah’s New Covenant text is an important witness that supports what I’m suggesting – that Jesus believed he had come to restore both houses of Israel (Judah and Israel). Israelite Samaritans, who lived in Samaria, the home of the ten Northern tribes of Israel, would certainly be part of this amazing eschatological restoration of Israel. If this is kept in mind as we read the rest of John’s Gospel, then the Samaritan themes, especially John 4 (Samaritan woman encounter), would become much clearer.

49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

Ressurection Jewish JesusAs I mentioned above (vs.42-43), Jesus makes a sharp distinction between the unbelieving hoi Ioudaioi and other Israelites. He says that the entire generation that came out of Egypt were “their” fathers, the ones who ate manna in the wilderness and did not enter the Land of the Promise. In this, he exposes the hypocrisy of his challengers who dared refer to Moses’ and God’s gracious provision of manna in the wilderness. Jesus skillfully and prophetically challenges their unbelief with their own argument. As we look at this, we need to see Jesus’ polemic against hoi Ioudaioi is an inner Israelite, inner Jewish polemic.

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4.13-14) Now he says virtually the same thing to the hoi Ioudaioi. This very theme was present in the earlier chapters of John in which the Israelite Samaritans believed by only hearing Jesus words and the hoi Iudaioi did not believe in spite of seeing the Jesus’ miracles. They were just like the generation of Israelites in the wilderness. The Gospel, therefore, invites both Samaritans and Jerusalem-centered Israelites, and whoever else might be listening in, not to repeat the spiritual mistakes of their fathers in the wilderness, choosing the new and living way instead.

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© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

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  1. Marie Devine

    In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1;1,14
    It was the Word of God that came down from heaven. The Father that draws people is when we want the Will of God then we come to Yehushau-Jesus, the Word of God.

    They didn’t know his parents; they thought they knew his parents; it would be too much for them to declare God was Jesus’ Father.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I think they did (well at least they knew those who knew them) knew Mary and Joseph.

  2. gustavo vargas angel

    Dr.Eli: Thank you, by your light about my question; Layla tov.

  3. gustavo vargas angel

    Dr.: You are right, and I made a mistake, however, I want to know how the hoi ioudaioi knew about the birth of Jesus,because when this happened the only ones there, Joseph, Mary and the animals, apparently did not told to else people the circumstances and his origin,(with no man will)and he only resided in Nazareth,and as you know, he was born in Bethlehem.Please, give me some light.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Once Jesus started accumulating a following no doubt his origins began being investigate. It is similar to running for an office in politics. Until you go for it, noone cares about your personal life and when you do, everyone does :-). Bethlehem was a town connected with Hoi Ioudaioi just as Nazareth incidentally.

  4. Kat Hobaugh

    Eli, Let me try to explain better. I now believe this reference “And they will all be taught by God.” and this reference “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.” are saying the same thing. God’s “work” brought me to faith in Christ. I can hold on to it as truth. What I believe has happened to many people is that “and they will be taught by God” is taken beyond coming to faith in Christ. We get a tainted understanding of scripture and believe we are being “taught by God” (revealed truth). Now let’s say I read my Bible and understand the earth is flat (revealed truth). You prove to me the earth is round. It shakes my world. How can I trust God? Somehow God leading us to faith in Christ and interpreting all scripture is different. This study has shaken up what I believed (a good thing), but I still trust God.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      wonderful! It was meant just to that end.

  5. gustavo vargas angel

    He came unto His own and His own did not receive him, so that the Gentiles received the power to become the sons of God.

    A los suyos vino, y los suyos no lo recibieron, por lo que los gentiles recibieron la potestad de ser hechos hijos de Dios.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Gustavo, I think you are mistaken. Please, read this http://iibsblogs.wpengine.com/2012/08/john-1-10-12/

  6. Janet Henriksen

    Thanks Dr. Eli. Indeed we should always be grateful and trust. Complaining is a lack of trust.

    Of all only 8 were saved from the flood, so the mercy of Yahweh Elohim is seen in how many enter the land: 2 men only who did not complain and all the children.
    Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he has trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD. Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither. But Joshua the son of Nun, which standes before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. (Deut. 1:36-39)

  7. Drs. Charles van den Berg

    Eli, to get you to keep the thinking. What is the implication in your statement Hoi Iudaioi on the interpretation of many related passages in the other gospels? What are the conclusions that you reasonably have to make if your statement is true? Have you already did? What are your conclusions in the basis?
    With regard to this post: what are the consequents for the interpretation for Matt. 13, 54-56 , an episode in a gospel that is concentrated on the dialog with the scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, also handling with Jesus from Nazareth , a Nazarene (Matt. 2, 23 ).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Charles, what do you think is the implication? Suggestion something, I can then respond :-).

  8. Kat Hobaugh

    Eli, I think I see why I thought you were “messing” with my revealed truth in previous blog. I WAS WRONG (I think). The phrase “taught by God” is (from my understanding) often used to insinuate that we don’t need “any” outside education (smile because God Himself teaches us. Looking at this more closely, the work of God; the writing of God (God’s activity in our hearts) leads us to believe in Jesus, it was not meant to be the only means by which we interpret the scripture.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I don’t know why would any one thing that I am “messing” with the revealed truth 🙂 🙂 :-). Kat, so glad you part of our study group. Keep up the good work!

  9. Deborah G.


  10. Kristine Holland

    Can you imagine living a life knowing the hearts of man and woman and child? If as a child of five knew the person giving you change was cheating you, what would you do? If you knew that your father wished to destroy your family, what would you do, could you love him still? If you knew that ten people hated you deeply, could you still be polite and treat them with respect? This knowledge hurts one’s soul and maims the heart, fusing the good and evil. That is how Christ lived, consecutively dying throughout his whole life, not just the last few hours. Selah.