We ended yesterday’s section of John’s Gospel with the people Jesus had just fed going to Capernaum to search for him. And today we are going to see the first part of what happens when they find Jesus. (Just a brief note on time: all this takes place over the course of two days.) And as you will notice the theme of Passover and exodus imagery (mana and grumbling) continue as we move into this third scene in John chapter 6.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”—6:25-29
The theme of Passover and exodus imagery (mana and grumbling) continue. Jesus’ comments in the following discussion with the crowd draw out the spiritual implications of the feeding miracle. The discussion moves forward by questions and statements from the crowd. Jesus knew they sought him because of the feeding miracle. He wanted them not to be so concerned about working for physical food that they failed to receive eternal life. The crowd picked up on the word “work.” And the one work God requires is to believe in the One whom he has sent.
So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”—6:30-33
The crowd responded to Jesus’ invitation to believe by requesting that he proof himself. Some in the crowd must not have been present at the feeding, because they pointed to the manna their ancestors are in the wilderness. What this group of people were saying was that Moses proved himself by providing manna. Jesus corrected their misunderstanding as to the source of the manna: it did not come from Moses; it came from God. The bread from heaven, which is Jesus, is superior to the wilderness manna because it is life-giving. Jesus made numerous references to coming down from heaven throughout this discussion.
The crowd’s request that Jesus give them this bread from heaven is reminiscent of the woman’s request for living water. Jesus responded by declaring himself to be the bread of life. This is the first of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements. Jesus’ use of “I am” would have caused his audience to think of God’s name in Exodus 3:14. Jesus promised to satisfy their deepest hunger and thirst if they would come to him, in other words put their faith and trust in him. Even though the crowd saw his miracles, they refused to believe in him. Everyone the Father gives to the Son will believe in Jesus, and he will never drive them away. Jesus made repeated references to the last day throughout this discourse/discussion.
Now let’s look at these last three verses in depth a little bit more. Verses 37-40 say this:
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
No matter who you are, where you have been or what you have experienced in life or have done in life, Christ will accept you if you come to him in humility. Jesus promises to welcome all who come to him in true repentance and faith (i.e., those who trust him enough to admit and turn from their sinful way and then entrust the leadership of their lives to him). Those who come to Jesus do not come in their own power; rather, they come in response to the grace God has given to them.
God’s will is his desires and plans based on his character and purposes. Therefore, it is important to understand the relationship of God’s will to human responsibility and to understand this relationship we need to understand three very important things.
- It is not God’s will that any believer should turn from a commitment to him and fall “away from grace,” separating himself or herself from God. For that matter, it is not God’s will that any individual should perish or fail to accept the truth that can save them from spiritual death.
- There is a great difference between God’s perfect will and his permissive will—what he desires and what he allows because of our choices. He does not take away or deny the human responsibility to repent and trust Christ, even if it means that so many people will reject him and miss his perfect will for their lives.
- God’s plan and desire to raise his people up at the last day (i.e., to bring their bodies to life in way that they will live forever with Christ) does not release us from the responsibility of obeying his Word and following him now. For those who continue to obey and follow him, death cannot destroy the life that Christ gives.
And we will pick up from here tomorrow, when we finish up this third scene in John chapter 6.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Samuel 17:1-18:4, John 8:21-30, Psalm 111:1-10 and Proverbs 15:11
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