John 6.64-71

 

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But if Satan only recently hit upon the idea of organizing Judas to implement his final testing of Jesus, Jesus himself knew about it early on.  John tells us, “Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him” (John 6.64).  This is just after Jesus spoke of the need of eating his flesh, and many of those who had hitherto been his Disciples gave up on him, because of this “hard saying.”  He asks the Twelve if they too would go away, and Peter answers for all.  Jesus responds, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve?  Yet one of you is a diabolos.”   John explains:  “He was speaking of Judas of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the Twelve, was going to betray him” (John 6.70-71).

This is the first and last time that anyone is called a diabolos in the Gospels.  We must ask whether it is simply the common noun for “adversary,” like the envious diabolos of the Book of Wisdom, or whether Jesus is connecting Judas with Devil, “the” Diabolos.  The latter is a distinct possibility, obviously, because of the clear association of Satan and Judas at the Last Supper.

But it may also be a reference to the “testing” attitude of the audience in Chapters 6 and 7 of John’s Gospel.  These chapters can be seen as constituting an eerie parallel to the three wilderness tests of Matthew and Luke.

1)  After Jesus miraculously multiplies the loaves of bread to feed the people, the people want to force kingship upon him (John 6.1-15).  This corresponds to Satan’s invitation to Jesus to take over from him the rule of the kingdoms of the world.

 

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2)  When the people come to Jesus the next day, wanting him to make more bread for them, he tells them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the good that endures for eternal life” (John 6.26-27).  This, of course, parallels Satan’s suggestion that Jesus turn a stone into bread, and Jesus’s response, that man does not live by bread alone.

3)  The brothers of Jesus, who do not really believe in him, urge him to publicize his miracles in Jerusalem.  Jesus has no wish to go there yet, because he knows that the Judeans are plotting to kill him (John 7.1-9).  This, of course, corresponds to Satan’s third temptation, of endangering his life by leaping off the Temple in Jerusalem.

John may have deliberately created these parallels to illustrate the sort of tests that Jesus actually experienced in his life, in contrast to the figurative and “literary” tableau presented by Matthew and Luke.  Or it may be that these Johannine episodes antedated Matthew and Luke and contributed to the ideas for the debate-tableau in the wilderness, like the triple Agony in the Garden, Peter’s triple denial, and the multiple trials in Jerusalem.