What we eat matters. God made us to eat. All sorts of bodily systems, some obvious and some more obvious when things aren’t working properly, are given by God for us to bite, taste, swallow, digest, use, and compost food.
Eating is routine and what we eat identifies us. We know it ad nauseum wholus foodus in our current context. Organic used to mean that you ate something derived from living matter, not that that’s what made your life matter. Local meant the pizza place that could deliver the fastest. Gluten-free meant it was meat. Now we’ve got corporations intent on selling an identity, and I don’t mean Monsanto.
The principle of you are who you eat from goes back to the first garden. When Adam and Eve ate from the hand of the dragon, they identified themselves as discontents. Later, the Serpent-killer said, “Take and eat,” but His promise was honest.
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. (John 6:51)
It’s as if Jesus said, “In the day that you eat of it, you will have eternal life.” Unlike the devil, Christ wasn’t playing word games. When we eat from Him we identify ourselves with Him as Giver as well as with our family. And families who eat together stick together.
John chapter seven is history and I will hit sermon #50 this coming Sunday on my way through the Fourth Gospel. I’ve studied enough by now to make some informed recommendations on resources. I haven’t preached too much to make the recommendations accessory. You could actually get some of these now for the remaining two-thirds of the trip.
I’m listing these for a couple reasons. First, if you’re in the market for more on John’s gospel, these are the ones I pull off the shelf first (though not literally as you’ll see in the next paragraph). Second, if you ever wonder, “Where did he get that?” feel free to check my sources. There is an accountability knowing that anyone could read what I’m reading. That’s good. It’s not a secret. It’s part of the reason why I post my sermon notes online. Besides, a compare/contrast once-over will also help you to know when I’ve got no one else to blame for being wrong except for myself.
All the John commentaries I use are digital. I have a small study at home without much room for a big shelf. Plus, with my iPad, I read and highlight on the go, wherever I may have space (read: Starbucks) to read. A gracious, to-be-named-later-in heaven friend from church also made it possible for me to buy a Logos Bible Software package. The whole process would make Luther jealous enough to cuss. So I’m providing links to Logos (rather than Amazon) because they’re my digital dance partner.
In the order I read them:
D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991). Logos. I’ve appreciated every commentary in the Pillar series so far, and Carson is always good for pointing out the problems that need solving.
Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004). Logos. My experience with the BECNT series has been great attention to context and focus on paragraphs. This one is worth the price if only to see the division and flow of sections.
Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11 and John 12-21, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996). Logos and Logos. Borchert provides basic Bible stuff.
R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961). Logos. Lenski offers the most observations on Greek vocabulary and syntax. Many of his comments are good and some are too good (to be true). He also provides a great example of how to read John 6 like an Arminian.
John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on the Gospel According to John (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010). Logos. It’s good to read something really old. It’s also good to read someone who meant what he said even if it meant losing his head. Also, he does not read John 6 as an Arminian.
Barclay Moon Newman and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Gospel of John, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993). Logos. This series suggests alternative ways to translate words and phrases, or, help on how to say the same thing a different way.
In addition to these commentaries, I usually listen to one of John Piper’s sermons on John’s Gospel. You’d be surprised how well Piper and my treadmill know each other.
Last, I also regularly read the ESV Study Bible notes (online, though I do have a hard copy) and the MacArthur Study Bible notes (again, usually online though I have a hard copy of this one, too). The ESVSB even has pictures.
Even Calvinists need to be humble. I preached all the way through John chapter 6 without using the word Calvinism once, though I most assuredly taught the truths from John 6 that Calvinism seeks to summarize. The Father chose a group of people to give to His Son. The Son gave His life, His flesh, for that group. The Spirit brings that group to life, giving them the desire to come to the Son. Each person in the group is guaranteed to be raised on the last day.
Not a one of them deserved it. They were hungry and Christ fed them. They could only behold Christ through unbelief until the Spirit opened their eyes. They were prone to walk away, and all of them would have except that Christ keeps them.
Peter’s affirmation of truth (in verses 68 and 69) was met by Jesus with another affirmation: Peter (and the staying disciples) believed because they were chosen (verse 70). There was no place for presumption, no place for uppityness, no reason to pat themselves on the back for theology well spoken. But for the grace of God they would have walked away with “many of His disciples” (verse 66).
Our time at the Lord’s table is similarly humbling. We affirm our belief that His sacrifice for sins is our only hope. We confess our personal trust in Christ when we eat and drink. We share a meal of peace with God and with God’s people. And the fact that we can do so says more about God than about us. But for the grace of God, we would walk away from the Table, not towards it.
We have every reason to be humbly thankful. We have every reason to boast in Christ. We have every reason to come to Him. He chose us for Himself.