FLESH AND BLOOD – John 6:51-59

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INTRODUCTION:

“THIS IS A TEST.  THIS IS ONLY A TEST.”  Have you heard those words before? Those words are a warning to all who are listening and watching, telling them that this is only a practice session, and informing them that, if this was an actual alert, instructions would be given to prepare each person for what was about to happen.  As you listened to those words, were you trusting that the one who was speaking them was telling you the truth, and was speaking with authority?

Author C.S. Lewis made the following statement concerning belief and authority.  He said, “Believing things ‘on authority’ only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy.  Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority.  I believe there is such a place as New York.  I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there is such a place.  I believe it because reliable people have told me so..  The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation of the blood on authority – because the scientists say so.  Every historical statement is believed on authority.  None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them; in fact, on authority.  A person who balked at authority in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing all his life.”

Since the very beginning of His ministry, the Lord Jesus has been speaking with authority, and this authority has been attested to by John the Baptist, by the voice of the Father from heaven at His baptism, and by the miracles He has performed.  Let’s see how the Jewish leaders and the crowd respond when Jesus’ words seem offensive, and they don’t understand what He means by what He is saying.

TRANSITION:

Jesus is in the synagogue in Capernaum, and He’s been telling the people in the synagogue that He is “the bread of life”, and that whoever eats of this bread will not die but will live forever.  The crowd is taking His words literally, thinking that He is talking about physical bread.  They are bewildered by His words because they don’t understand how this can be physically possible.

I.  REPETITION AND ADDITION (verse 51)

In chapter 6, verse 51 of John’s gospel, Jesus repeats this statement about Himself, but this time He adds a trailer at the end of it.  He says, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  Notice that Jesus did not say “my body”, but “my flesh”.  The Greek word is “sarx”, and Jesus is going to use that word six more times before this conversation is over.  As the saying goes, the Lord Jesus has “opened a can of worms” and there is going to be a repulsive reaction from the crowd.  Get ready for some negative repercussions!

II.  THE RESPONSE (verse 52)

How did the people react to those words?  Verse 52 says, “The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”   They must have thought that Jesus was talking about some form of cannibalism.  The Greek word translated “argue” literally means to “fight” or “quarrel”.  They are “fighting mad” and are taking out their anger on each other in the presence of Jesus.  Notice the words they use to refer to Jesus, calling Him “this man”.  After all the things that Jesus has said and done so far in His public ministry, they refuse to consider Him to be anymore than just a man.  They’ve shut their eyes and closed their ears and their minds to everything they have seen and heard.  Ironically, many of those present didn’t close their mouths to the free food that was miraculous provided for them on the previous day!

I used to wonder, “Why didn’t Jesus tell them He wasn’t speaking literally but figuratively, and then explain to them what He meant by those words?  I now think that a more appropriate question is, “Why didn’t they ask Jesus to explain to them what He meant?”  The answer to both of those questions is the same:  the crowd didn’t want an explanation.  What they were looking for was an excuse and an opportunity to kill Him.  As John 5:18 says, “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill Him . . .”.  Maybe that’s why they were arguing so vehemently with each other – they may have been fighting about how they were going to kill Him and who was going to do it. We don’t know for sure, but we do know that those thoughts were in their minds.

The crowd may have missed the words “for the life of the world” because of the shocking words that preceded them.  Jesus was saying that what He was offering them wasn’t for the Jews only, but for everyone.  As the apostle John says of Jesus in I John 2:2, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

III,  EATING AND DRINKING – FLESH AND BLOOD (verses 53-58)

Rather than calming the angry crowd, Jesus makes a series of statements that are even more repulsive to His audience.  He begins by saying, in verse 53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”   In John’s gospel, we find that Jesus often uses the phrase “Truly, truly, I say to you”.  He does so, not because He is telling the truth in this case, but because He is letting His listeners know that He has firsthand knowledge of what He is about to say, and therefore is speaking with authority.  He is also implying that they should, therefore, pay close attention to what He is saying.because it is very important information that applies to them. 

When Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood”, what did He mean by those words?  Why did He say them?  There is a tendency to look for similarities between Jesus’ words to this crowd and the words He said to His disciples at the Last Supper.  But Jesus was not referring to the Lord’s Supper (or Communion) in this conversation here in John 6.  He did not intend His statement to be taken literally.  He is using an analogy to communicate spiritual truths in the context of what they have already been talking about.  This is one of the many times in John’s gospel where Jesus uses symbolism to communicate spiritual lessons.  We have already studied Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, where Jesus compared the wind that was blowing that evening to the Holy Spirit, and told Nicodemus that he must be born again of water and the spirit in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.   In His conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus compared the water in the well to the living water He would give her, and if she drank from it, she would never thirst again but would have everlasting life.  So what does Jesus have in mind on this particular occasion?

Here in verses 53-58, as the Lord Jesus uses those words several times with some alterations, get ready for a history lesson, a principle of philosophy, and another short course in Greek grammar in order to understand what He really means by those statements.  Firstly, the differences between His words spoken here and those spoken much later at the last supper are much greater and more numerous than any possible similarities. 

   A.  A HISTORY LESSON

When the Lord Jesus celebrated the Last Supper (the Passover feast) with His disciples, He did not say “This is my flesh”,  He said, “This is my body.  He also did not say, “This is my blood”.  Rather, He said “This is the new covenant in my blood”Luke 22:20 says, “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’.”  The focus of His attention is on the cup and the new covenant.  The Lord’s Supper (Communion) is not a sacrifice but a remembrance.  The apostle Paul addresses this issue to the Corinthian church in I Corinthians 11 because of misunderstandings concerning the Lord’s Supper.  Some members of the church at Corinth, along with many in churches today, mistakenly thought (or think) that eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord’s Table is essential for salvation, and that all who do so are guaranteed salvation.  The apostle Paul quotes those words said by Jesus, and then, in verse 26, he summarizes by saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”  Rather than being a source of salvation, the Lord’s Supper is not only a remembrance, but also a proclamation. 

Looking again at the context of Jesus’ words on the way to the synagogue and in the synagogue, Jesus uses this analogy of flesh and blood because that was the initial subject of the conversation.  He was comparing Himself to the manna which their forefathers ate after fleeing from Egypt.  The Jews listening to Jesus took pride in the manna, considering it to be heavenly food which extended one’s lifespan, and asked Jesus to give them a sign like the manna.  Jesus addressed this belief of theirs by saying that He is the living bread.  He is greater than the manna because the life He offers lasts forever.

Rather than look ahead to the Last Supper to find a reason for Jesus’ words, it would be better to look back in history to the night when the first Passover was celebrated.  Before the manna, there was the Passover meal.  Before God sustained His people with the manna, He saved them from their bondage in Egypt.  In order for this salvation to occur, a price had to be paid:  death for life.  In Exodus 12, each household of the sons of Israel was told to slaughter a lamb, roast its flesh and eat it along with unleavened bread and put the lamb’s blood on the two doorposts and the lintel of their home.  When the death angel passed through Egypt that night, wherever he saw that blood he would “pass over” that house and the firstborn would be spared from death.  The people of Israel would also be delivered that night from the bondage of Egypt, and God would lead them to the land He had promised them and give them a new life there.  So the flesh and blood of the lambs were the instruments used by God to bring salvation, deliverance, and a new life for His people as they believed and obeyed the word of the Lord given to them through Moses.  I believe that the original Passover was the Old Testament event that Jesus may have had in mind as a basis for comparison when He spoke of eternal life and deliverance through His flesh and blood.

B.  A PRINCIPLE OF PHILOSOPHY

A second evidence that Jesus was referring to salvation comes from one of the branches of philosophy called logic.  It is the science of evaluating arguments and determining sound reasoning.  A fundamental law of reasoning is the following:  “Two concepts which are equal to a third concept are also equal to each other.”  That sounds logical, doesn’t it?  Let’s see what Jesus is saying in verses 53-58 and then add up the results that come from the “eating” and “drinking”:  1)  If you don’t do so, “you have no life in yourselves” (verse 53).  So Jesus’ command is absolutely essential for eternal life.  2)  He “has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (verse 54).  It’s a guarantee of eternal life and physical resurrection.  3)  He abides in Me and I in him” (verse 56).  Jesus speaks of an eternal relationship with Himself.  4)  “he shall live because of Me” (verse 57).  Jesus is saying that He is the source of that life.  5)  “he . . shall live forever” (verse 58).  Once again, the result of doing so is eternal life.

In each of His statements, Jesus is equating “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” to having eternal life as a result, correct?  If we look ahead to verse 63, we find that Jesus says, ” . . . the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”  Jesus is telling His disciples afterward that he was speaking to the crowd in the synagogue about spiritual things and was not to be taken literally.

Now let’s compare Jesus’ words in verses 53-58 with other statements He made recently on the topic of eternal life.  Several times the Lord Jesus has spoken clearly about eternal life and what was necessary on man’s part in order to receive it.  In His discussion with Nicodemus, He began to speak clearly and literally in John 3:14-16, where He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.”  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  The only other recourse given is that of perishing.

Later, in John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”  The only other option given is “judgment”.

Now, in the middle of this present conversation with the Jews, Jesus says, in verse 47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

As you can see from these three statements made by Jesus, eternal life results only from believing,  The logical conclusion, then, is that “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” is the same as believing in Him, with an emphasis on His atoning work, since both concepts have the same result.

C.  A LESSON IN GREEK GRAMMAR  (verse 53)

As you probably know, the Gospel of John, together with all the other books of the New Testament, was written in Greek.  The English language, in this particular passage of Scripture, does not communicate the tense of certain verbs as clearly as the original Greek text because there are more tenses to Greek verbs than there are in English.    In verse 53, Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  Those two verbs (“eat” and “drink”) are in the aorist tense, denoting a one-time action.  It is not continued or repeated, but is a once-and-for-all event.  In passages of Scripture such as John 6;29, where Jesus asks people to believe in Him for eternal life, or tells them that they do not believe, the aorist tense is used also.  This is another proof that the words, “eat my flesh and drink my blood” are equivalent to saving faith because they are both once-for-all events, using the same tense of the verbs.

D.  A SECOND LESSON IN GREEK GRAMMAR (verses 54-58)

This second lesson is a new insight for me.  Below is the New International Version translation of verses 54-58:

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will
raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father,
so the one who feeds on me will live because of me,  This is the bread that
came down from heaven.  Our forefathers ate manna and died,
but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

The words “eats”, “drinks”, and “feeds” are verbs in this English translation, but in the original Greek text they are not verbs, but participles.  You may be thinking, “Would you refresh my memory?  Just what is a participle and what does it do?”  I will be glad to do so, having just refreshed my own memory!  Participles are verb-forms ending in “ing” which have the characteristics of both a verb and an adjective.  To demonstrate that definition, let me write out for you verses 54-58 again, only this time you will see those verbs changed to participles.  The words that I’ve enclosed in parentheses are implied in the Greek text.

The (one) eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life and I will
raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
The (one) eating my flesh and drinking my blood remains in me, and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father,
so the (one) feeding on me will live because of me.  This is the bread that
came down from heaven.  Our forefathers ate the manna and died,
but the (one) eating this bread will live forever.

Does reading that literal translation give you a change of perspective?  It did for me. The present participles put the emphasis on the believer rather than on believing.  Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is a one-for-all event, demonstrated by the use of the Greek aorist tense.  Once a person takes that step of repentance, faith, and commitment to Jesus Christ, thereby becoming a Christian, a life-long process begins (as demonstrated by the use of the present-participles).  It’s called the “doctrine of sanctification”.  This process includes growing in our relationship to the Lord through spending time with Him in His Word and in prayer, as well as through the fellowship with other believers.  As verse 56 says, “(The believer) remains in me, and I in him.”).  There is a closeness to God that becomes closer, and a fellowship with God that becomes deeper as the believer spends time with Him.  It’s the abiding relationship that Jesus will later describe in John 15.  There is also a deepening dependence upon God as the believer seeks to obey God, serve Him, and be a witness for Him.  It’s the Father’s desire, and it should be our goal, to become more and more like His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  So verses 51-53 focus on the beginning of spiritual life – how a person becomes a believer, and verses 54-58 describe the believer’s spiritual growth until the day when God calls him home to be in His presence and enjoy Him for eternity.  The once-for-all event of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, evidenced by genuine repentance for our sins and the surrender of our lives to His Lordship, then becomes a moment-to-moment fellowship with God, and obedience to our heavenly Father as His adopted children.  When this life is over we will see God face-to-face and enjoy His presence and His love for eternity in heaven.  Those are the three aspects of the doctrine of salvation:  justification (the one-time event),  followed by sanctification (the process of spiritual growth as His children), followed by glorification (with God for eternity in heaven).

IV.  POINT OF REFERENCE (verse 59)

The apostle John ends this conversation of Jesus by letting us know where it occurred.  We can’t say that this conversation didn’t happen because John documented it.  John writes, “He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.”  Our responsibility. as readers and students of God’s Word, is not to discount this conversation or overlook it, but to understand its spiritual meaning and apply it’s principles to our lives.

CONCLUSION:

Where are you today in relation to this conversation between Jesus and the Jews in the synagogue in Capernaum?  Do you understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ?  Do you realize the price that Jesus, the Son of God and the Lamb of God, is going to pay to make that relationship with God possible?  Are you ready to commit yourself to follow the One who wants to give you a new, and an abundant life now, and eternal life with Him in heaven?  Whether you are ready or not, please read my “About Page” to understand what that decision involves and the Scriptures that declare it.

If you have placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and your life bears evidence to that decision, are you growing daily as a result of your fellowship with Him?  Are you enjoying His presence with you throughout your day, and learning to depend more and more on His strength and His faithfulness to supply your needs?  Is it becoming more and more obvious to those around you that your faith is real and your joy is infectious?  I hope so.  That’s just part of God’s desire for His children, as revealed in His Word.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Welcome to this completed construction site.  John 6:51-59 is a controversial passage of scripture with a number of viewpoints or interpretations.  There can only be one correct interpretation,  The Lord Jesus had a reason and motive for saying the things He said, and the apostle John was an eye-witness and wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 

 

 

 

THE BREAD OF LIFE – John 6:48-50

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INTRODUCTION:

There are many foods in this world of ours that are available only to a few people because of their cost or because of their scarcity or seasonal nature.  But bread is the universal food of mankind.  It is found on every table – rich or poor, king or peasant.  Whether it is made of wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice, or some other grain, it is bread, the cheapest and most nourishing food.  Bread represents all the elements needed to sustain life.  Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, gives the following description.  “Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking.  Throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture.”

Here in John’s gospel, Jesus has been described in terms of the basics of physical life.  He is called “light” in chapter 1, and describes Himself to Nicodemus, in chapter 3, as the “light that has come into the world.”  Jesus also describes the work of the Spirit of God by using the wind, the movement of air, as an illustration of spiritual birth.  When speaking to the woman at the well, in chapter 4, Jesus identifies Himself to her as the Source of “living water”, and now He is referring to Himself as the “bread of life”.   Putting those descriptions together, we have the basics for sustaining physical life in human beings:  light, air, water, and bread.  His purpose for all these illustrations is to transition from “physical basics” to “spiritual basics”, and so far He has been very successful in doing so.  There is more to be said about bread.  In this passage of Scripture we’re going to see how this information about Himself is received by this small crowd of people who crossed the Sea of Galilee in boats that morning, and found Jesus and His disciples in Capernaum.

I.  JESUS RESTATES HIS CLAIM (verse 48)

Verse 48 contains these words of Jesus:  “I am the bread of life”.  He just said those very same words to them several minutes earlier in verse 35.  I think there is more to His words than just repetition for the sake of remembrance.  In Matthew’s gospel we find that Jesus spent quite a bit of time in the synagogues of the Jews.  It was His practice to visit the synagogues in Galilee when He was in that region.  Matthew 4:23 says, “And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues . . . “.  Since a small portion of the 5000 crossed the Sea of Galilee in the early morning and found Jesus and His disciples, I personally think that Jesus was on His way to the synagogue in Capernaum when they joined Him, and Jesus spoke to them about the bread of life while they were walking into town.  As they approached the synagogue, bystanders along the way may have joined the crowd, and they followed Jesus into the synagogue.  Inside there were more people, gathered for the time of instruction.  I think Jesus may be repeating His earlier statements for the sake of the people in the synagogue, who were watching them enter the building and were, no doubt, curious about what they were discussing.  This may not be the first time that Jesus taught in their synagogue.  John 6:59 confirms this.  It reads, “These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum.”

I’m sure they all wondered what Jesus meant when he walked into the synagogue, waited for everyone to sit down and listen to Him speak, and then said those words, “I am the bread of life.”  Jesus was saying that in Him are all the elements for a healthy, growing spiritual life.  The famous missionary, Jonathan Goforth, had preached a series of messages in a chapel in southern China in the early 1900’s.  Afterward, a man asked to talk to him.  The man said, “I have heard you speak three times, and you always have the same theme.  You always speak of Jesus Christ.  Why?”  The missionary replied, “Sir, before answering your question, let me ask, ‘What did you have for dinner today?’ ”  “Rice”, replied the man.  “What did you have yesterday?”
“The same thing.”  “And what do you expect to eat tomorrow?”  “Rice, of course.  It gives me strength.  I could not do without it.  Sir, it is . . .”  (the man hesitated, as if looking for a strong word).  Then he added, “Sir, it is my life!”  The missionary responded quickly, “What you have said of rice, Jesus is to your soul.  He is the “rice” or “bread of life”.

There may yet be another reason why Jesus keeps repeating that He is the bread of life.  The Jews in Judea had grumbled saying that Jesus and His family were from Nazareth, and no prophet was supposed to come from Nazareth.  They didn’t ask Jesus where He was born and they didn’t do any research for themselves, or they would have learned that He was born in Bethlehem.  Did you know that the name “Bethlehem”  literally means “House of Bread”.  Jesus was speaking to them in Hebrew, and the word He was saying was “lehem”, the second half of the word “Bethlehem”.  He’s saying, “I am lehem” over and over again.  Wouldn’t you think that the town of Bethlehem might come to the minds of some of His listeners?  “I am ‘lehem’ from ‘Bethlehem’.”  “I am bread” from the “house of bread”.  I certainly wouldn’t rule out that possibility, and that’s a new insight for me.

II.  COMPARISON TO THE MANNA RESTATED (verses 49-50)

Once again, Jesus also compares Himself to the manna for the sake of all the people who are present, many of whom did not hear the first statement in verses 28-32.  But this time Jesus changes the wording slightly to emphasize a different perspective.  Earlier, in verses 28-31 the crowd asked Jesus to show them a sign as proof that He came from God.  Then they describe the kind of a sign they want Him to perform.  To paraphrase, they said,  “Give us a sign like the one Moses gave the people of Israel.  Send us manna from heaven to eat.”  The crowd wanted another free meal; only this time they wanted it catered from heaven!

The Lord Jesus responds to them by telling them about the long-lasting effects of the bread He has to offer them.  In verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  Jesus is speaking spiritually, but they are taking it literally.  They want this bread, just as the woman at the well, in John 4:15, wanted that “living water”!  He also states, in verse 33, that the bread He offers is not exclusive to the Jews, but inclusive of the whole world.  He “gives life to the world”.  So the bread Jesus offers in Himself is long-lasting and inclusive of all peoples without distinction.

A.  THE MANNA WAS PHYSICAL FOOD  (verse 49)

In verse 49, Jesus once again begins to compare Himself to the manna, but this time He emphasizes that He is the bread which will prevent death.  He says, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.”  The manna sustained physical life but it didn’t prevent death.  All who ate the manna eventually died.  There would be no argument among the people listening to Him concerning that statement.  They were probably nodding their heads silently in agreement.  The Scriptures were clear that the manna was given to sustain the lives of their ancestors until they died, or until the next generation entered the promised land and could eat the fruit of that land.  However, the next sentence from the mouth of Jesus is going to raise some eyebrows and start the grumbling again!  This is especially so because He is now inside the synagogue where there are probably priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees among those who are listening to Him speak.  The crowd isn’t friendly anymore!

This is not the Sabbath day.  They apostle John is very diligent about letting his readers know when it is a Sabbath or a feast day of the Jews.  The previous Sabbath was just a couple of days earlier, when Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (John 5:1-17).  If it’s not the Sabbath, why would Jesus be going to the synagogue on a weekday?  This synagogue was a busy place during the week also.  It served as a community center, school, court, and place of study.  There was never a dull moment in the synagogues of that day.

B.  THE BREAD OF PERPETUAL LIFE (verse 50)

In verse 50, the Lord Jesus once again makes a comparison between the manna and the bread He has to offer them.  He says, “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.”  So far, the crowd has been thinking that Jesus is talking about physical bread, so they are naturally going to deduce that He is talking about physical death.  Two people from the Scriptures must have immediately come to their minds.  Their names were Enoch and Elijah, and they are the only two people in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings who did not die.  (Genesis 5:22-24; II Kings 2:1-15).  It’s also obvious from the Scriptures that it wasn’t bread that kept these two men from dying.  What is Jesus talking about?  Why is He making such a claim?

To begin with, I think the Lord Jesus wants to bring the subject of death to their minds.  The children of Israel were given the manna in answer to their fear of starving.  Jesus is going to give them an answer to their fear of death.  It’s a subject about which there was a considerable difference of opinion among first-century Jews.  Each of those present in that synagogue had ideas they were taught as children, along with their own personal ideas about death and the after-life, referred to in Hebrew as the Olam Ha-Ba (the World To Come).

A cemetery in Indiana has a tombstone that is over a hundred years old, and it bears this epitaph:

Pause, Stranger, when you pass me by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be,
So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passerby had read those words and scratched this reply below them:

To follow you I’m not content,
Until I know which way you went.

The passerby was right.  The important thing about death is what follows.  Where are you going?

One sizable group of Hebrew people during the first century were the Sadducees.  They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  One of my professors in Bible college said something that I’ve never forgotten.  We were studying the Gospels and he said, “The Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead;  that’s why they’re ‘sad,you see’.”  If I didn’t believe in a resurrection from the dead, I’d be sad too; wouldn’t you?

From what I’ve read about first-century Judaism, the greater focus of attention appears to be on the here and now, rather than on the there and then.  If you have a computer, you probably get notifications of updates that need to be installed.  Some of those updates take quite a bit of time to install.  Usually you are given the option of three buttons to choose from.  You can click “install now”, “set a time”, or “remind me later”.  If you’re like me, you don’t want to be bothered by the interruption and so you click the “remind me later” button.  I’ve been clicking that button several times over the past weeks, putting it off again and again.  I need to stop and let the developers of my operating system get the job done!  First-century Judaism probably wasn’t much different from our society today when it comes to the issue of death.  It wasn’t a subject that they liked to discuss, so they often ignored it or kept putting it off until later.  Evangelist Billy Graham made the following comment:  Much of the world pretends that death does not exist.  We like to speak of the dead as “departed”, or persons who have died as having “passed on” or “expired”.  We do not like the word “death”.  It seems so final, so irreversible, so hopeless.

Do the Old Testament scriptures talk about the death and the afterlife?  Yes, in many places.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and others are spoken of as being “gathered to their people” after they died.  By contrast, the wicked were described as being “cut off from their people.”  Daniel 12:2 speaks of a conscious life after death in one of two places, and both are everlasting.  It never ends.  Many passages of Scripture use the word Sheol to refer to the place of the dead (in the Psalms, Job, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Jonah, Isaiah, I Samuel, and others).  Add to that the teachings of the Rabbis that were collected as part of the Mishnah and Talmud.  In these writings it seems that each of the rabbis had a different teaching about the afterlife.  This added confusion to the minds of the people, and increased their fear of what’s in store for them beyond the grave.

With that background in mind concerning death and the afterlife, the people’s ears must have been tingling and their attention focused on the Lord Jesus after He said those words in verse 50:  “This is the bread which comes out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”  Everyone there was wondering, “What is He going to say next?”  “How can this be possible.”  I think Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us as well, a principle for sharing the Gospel message:  Sometimes, in order to awaken in people a desire for eternal life, you’ve got to put the fear of death into them!  By putting the fear of death into people, we may also be putting the fear of God into them:  “If there is a God, what’s He going to do to me when this life is over?”  “I’ve tried to be good, but so far I haven’t been very successful!”

CONCLUSION:

Is death a subject that you don’t like to think about or talk about?  Do you sometimes worry about your own death and what might await you on the other side?  Would you like to put an end to those worries and have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of life?  If so, please go to my sermon on John 1:12, entitled “What Does It Mean To Receive Christ”, and consider what God wants you to do, and what He gives you in exchange for your act of obedience and faith.  May you allow the Bread of Life to be the One who satisfies the deepest hunger of your soul, both now and for eternity.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Let’s feast on the Word of God, which describes for us the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of life.

 

 

 

RESPONDING TO CRITICISM – John 6:41-47

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INTRODUCTION:

The first American steamboat took 32 hours to go from New York to Albany.  People laughed!  The horse and buggy passed an early motor car as if it were standing still.  People laughed!  The first electric light bulb was so dim that people had to use a lamp in order to see it.  People laughed!  The first airplane came down fifty-nine seconds after it left the ground.  People laughed!  But those inventors were committed to their work.  Rather than wasting a lot of time responding to the jokes and criticisms aimed at them, they devoted their time to perfecting their ideas, and we all know the results.  They are written in the history books.  Those inventors have been honored, their work has been carried on, and we are reaping the benefits of their labors.

The cause of Christ is also not without its critics.  When baseball player-turned- evangelist, Billy Sunday, first started holding crusades, he was criticized for many things, including his “coarse” language,  his use of slang terms, his “acrobatic preaching”, and his inclusive attitude toward Negroes.  Cartoons were drawn of him and put in the newspapers.  In spite of all this criticism, Billy Sunday continued to do what God called him to do.  He won the hearts of the working-class population and God changed the hearts of many of his accusers.  By 1920 he was considered to be the greatest evangelist in America at that time.

In the 1940’s another evangelist began to become visible to the American nation, and he started drawing criticism from fundamentalists because of his cooperation with the National Counsel of Churches, and from others because of his identification with the civil rights movement.  Rather than become discouraged, he announced, “I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the gospel of Christ, if there are no strings attached to my message.”  That evangelist is Billy Graham, and look how God has blessed his commitment to the Person and work of Jesus Christ!

In the passage of Scripture we are studying, John 6:41-47, we will find that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not excluded from criticism.  In fact, He was, and still is, one of the most criticized people of all time.  Let’s take a look at the criticisms that were leveled at Him in these verses of Scripture, and observe how He responded to them, and to the critics who expressed them.

I.  MUMBLING AND GRUMBLING (verse 41)

Verse 11 says, “The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven’.”  The Greek word (“ouranos”) is often used to describe the place where God dwells, so the crowd knows He is claiming to be God.  This is the third time Jesus has used the phrase, “came down from heaven”, in HIs conversation with this crowd, and He is going to say that phrase three more times before the conversation is over.  Jesus keeps saying it again and again!

When a person keeps saying something to you that you don’t believe and don’t want to hear, do you become angry inside?  Do you feel your body tensing up?  Are you thinking to yourself, “If he (or she) says it one more time, I’m going to explode”?  Have you ever had one of those moments?  Sure you have!

Try to visualize the thoughts in the minds of this crowd as the water in a large kettle  that’s hanging over a fire.  In verse 41 you can begin to see the steam rising from that kettle, and you can hear the water churning and the sound of bubbles coming to the surface and popping.  That’s a picture that comes to my mind when I think of the words “murmuring” and “grumbling”.  The words indicate discontent and anger.  These Jews are acting just like their ancestors who “murmured” against Moses (Exodus 15:24; 17:3; Numbers 14:2).

II.  THE REASON FOR THEIR GRUMBLING (verse 42)

The apostle John gives us the reason for their grumbling when he tells us the words they were mumbling to themselves and to one another.  “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  John must have been next to Jesus, and both of them could overhear their words and the scoffing and sarcastic manner in which they were said.  I’m sure they said worse things than that as they responded to each others’ words. The Greek word which is translated “grumbling” (or “murmuring“, or “muttering“, depending on your translation) is found eight times in the New Testament, and in every case it’s used in a negative sense.  The Greek word is pronounced “gong-good’-zo”).  Their grumbling sounded like a “a noisy gong“, but it was not “good“, but “bad” in each of those cases!  I like the following definition:  “smoldering discontent”.  The embers keep burning and the smoke keeps rising, waiting for more wood to set it aflame!

Many psychological studies have been done on crowd behavior.  This particular situation sounds a lot like the “emergent norm theory” of crowd behavior.  I imagine that there were some of Jesus’ enemies in this crowd, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes.  Because these groups were esteemed by the people, negative comments made by them would influence the others in the crowd to follow their example over the period of time they were around each other.  Thus the behavior of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes became the new normative behavior of the rest of the crowd, which initially was just curious and desirous of this “bread of life”.  We will see a similar effect occur in the crowd that is present at Jesus’ trial after His arrest.

Have you ever heard someone make fun of, or bad-mouth your parents?  Did you get mad and say or do something about it?  For many of us, negative remarks made about our parents can be more offensive and disturbing than similar statements made about ourselves.  It’s as if God has given us a “protective instinct” when it comes to our families.  As an old expression puts it:  “Them’s fightin’ words!”

These Jews had come to the conclusion that Jesus was born in Nazareth and that Joseph was his real father.  They were jumping to false conclusions without any evidence to prove them.  Obviously, they had not done their homework!  If they had done some investigation they would have, at least, found that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, where the Messiah was prophesied to be born, as recorded in Micah 5:2.  “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.”

III.  JESUS’ RESPONSE (verse 43)

We see, in verse 43, Jesus’ initial response to their grumbling.  “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves’.”  That sounds like a very short and incomplete response to me.  Does it seem that way to you also?  Those few words certainly demonstrate Jesus’ patience and wisdom in this particular situation.  Defending his parents and trying to explain HIs virgin-birth would only add fuel to their smoldering fire.  And those few words, “Do not grumble among yourselves”, silenced the crowd so that He could continue His conversation where He left off.  How can that be?  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish leaders had a deep respect for Moses the Law-giver, almost a sense of worship of him.  Many of the Jewish leaders were familiar with every word that Moses spoke.  When Jesus said, “Do not grumble among yourselves”, those who knew the words of Moses were reminded of what Moses said to their ancestors when they grumbled against him.  In Exodus 16, when the people grumbled against Moses because of the lack of food, Moses said, ” . . . in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord, and what are we that you grumble against us? . . . Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.” (Exodus 16:7-8).   Jesus is calling upon this crowd to reconsider their grumbling against Him because of who He claims to be.  In Numbers 14, after hearing the report of the spies concerning the land of Canaan, the people grumbled against Moses again and threatened to kill him.  As a consequence of those actions, God told the people of Israel that, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, everyone twenty years and over would not enter the promised land but would die in wilderness over a period of 40 years of wanderings.  That’s a big price to pay for their grumblings.  Jesus may be calling upon this crowd to also consider the possible consequences of their grumbling.  The crowd quieted down and Jesus was able to continue His conversation.  It’s as if Jesus had set out two warning flags before this crowd, and they heeded the warnings.  They went from mumbling aloud, to mulling it over in their minds:  “Hmmm . . . maybe we should think this over for a while!”

IV.  THE PROCESS OF COMING TO GOD (verses 44-47)

A.  BEING DRAWN, AND COMING (verse 44)

Jesus resumes His conversation with the crowd in verse 44, saying, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”  The Jews believed that they were chosen by God when they were born.  They concluded that, since each of them was of Jewish parents, they were automatically God’s people, with all the eternal benefits included.  Jesus is now going to correct their misconceptions.  He tells them that, without the help of God, no one is able to respond to His invitation and come to Him.  God the Father “draws” a person to His Son, and that person comes to believe in the Lord Jesus as a result.  Without the drawing power of God the Father, no one can come to Christ.  The Greek word that John uses is “helkuo”.  It is found eight times in the New Testament.  The majority of those instances speak of drawing in, or dragging a net full of fish (Jn. 21:6), dragging a person (Acts 16:19), or drawing a sword from its sheath (Jn. 18:10).  It is also used of being drawn by an inward power (Jn. 12:32).  We find this same concept in the Old Testament scriptures.  God says, in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”  

In my own conversation experience, God dragged me away from my former beliefs before He drew me to Himself, revealing the truth about Himself to me so that I believed.  He changed the circumstances of my life to the point where I felt hopeless and helpless to save myself, and was gripped with a fear of death and the eternal suffering that would follow because of my sins.  There was a “drawing away” and a “drawing to” in my case.  That may be true in your case as well.  The word “draw” indicates that there is some resistance, but the power and calling of God overcomes that resistance.

Once again Jesus says what He said to them in verse 39:  “and I will raise them up on the last day.”  I wonder whether those words brought to the minds of these Jews one of the most exciting promises in the Old Testament for the nation of Israel — the vision of the valley of the dry bones.  God tells Ezekiel. “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come out of your graves, My  people. . . I will put My Spirit within you and you will come back to life . . . place you on your own land . . . ” (Ezekiel 37)  By saying the words, “I will raise them up”, Jesus is once again claiming to be God, and the One who will raise and rule over the people of Israel.  For the true believer in Jesus Christ, verses 39 and 44 are powerful verses on assurance of salvation.

B.  TROUGH THE WORD OF GOD (verse 45)

In verse 45, Jesus tells us the means that the Father uses in the drawing process when He says, “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”  He’s quoting from Isaiah 54:13, letting the crowd know that the Father uses the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, to draw people to Himself.  Jesus is telling them that, if they refuse to believe His words and come to Him as their Messiah, it is proof that the Father is not drawing them, at least not at this time.

Those who will believe are drawn by the Father through the Word as He empowers them to listen to it and learn from it.  In this particular case, Jesus is the Teacher and His words are the Word of God to them.  The drawing of the Father consists of hearing, learning, and believing.  Those who listen and learn, come to Jesus.  They are the ones whom the Father has chosen and drawn to His Son.

I found the following illustration to be helpful to me.  You may find it helpful to you also.

The mere preaching of the gospel does not save an individual.  The gospel message must be activated by the election and calling of God for an individual to be drawn to Him.  It would be as if one had thrown a rope to a drowning man.  The throwing of the rope could not save the man unless someone was at the other end of the rope, drawing him into shore.

This is what God has done.  By His election, God draws to Himself the one who has heard the message.  The person may have the rope, but he still needs the effective force of God drawing him in.  Who, therefore, deserves the praise for salvation?  Is it the man who tossed the rope?  The man who grabbed the rope?  No – the God who draws him in!  Pastor and author, Warren Wiersbe, describes the process with these words:  “It is through the teaching of the Word that God draws people to the Savior.  The sinner hears, learns, and comes as the Father draws him.  A mystery?  Yes!  A blessed reality?  Yes!”

C.  EVIDENCED BY BELIEF IN HIM (verses 46-47)

In verse 46, the Lord Jesus qualifies His previous statement so that the crowd would not misunderstand His words and come to a false conclusion that is contrary to the Old Testament scriptures.  Therefore Jesus gives the following words of explanation:  “Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.”  In Exodus 33:18-20, God said to Moses, “No one can see my face and live.”  No man can see God in all his glory and live.  By His words in verse 46. Jesus is claiming to be more than a man because He has seen the Father and has been sent by the Father.  Once again Jesus is claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.  Only He has the full knowledge of the nature, the character, and plans of God the Father.

Now that He has made that clear to them, the Lord Jesus tells them to listen carefully as He gives them the third ingredient in the salvation process.  He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

A missionary to Africa experienced great difficulty while trying to translate the Gospel of John into a particular native dialect.  The problem he faced was to find a word for “believe”, because faith was something that wasn’t shown at all by this particular tribe.  He continued to do the best he could, but always had to leave a blank space when he came to the word “believe”.  One day, however, a runner came panting into the camp, having travelled a great distance with a very important message.  After blurting out his story, he fell completely exhausted into a nearby hammock, muttering a brief phrase as he did so.  The missionary had never heard those words before, so he asked a native what the runner had said.  “Good massa, he is only saying, ‘I’m at the end of myself.  Therefore I’m resting all my weight here’.”  Delighted, the missionary exclaimed, “Praise God, that is the very expression I need for ‘believe’!”  And so he was able to complete his translation of John’s Gospel into their native language..

The Lord Jesus is giving an invitation in verse 46 when He says, “he who believes has eternal life”.  It is similar to the invitation Jesus gives in Matthew 11:28, where He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Let’s examine this verse in the context of the preceding verse, Matthew 11:27, which says, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  A person can only come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will reveal the Father only to those who are “weary and heavy-laden”. They feel weak and helpless under the heavy burden of their sin and guilt.  Only God can bring you under that conviction of sin.  Only God can draw you to Himself.  Only God can give you rest and inner peace as you entrust your life to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and rely completely on Him to hold you up and sustain you by His grace. 

Are you feeling weak and helpless under the weight of your own sin and guilt?  Do you feel like you’re drowning spiritually?  Is there a fear of death and of reaping the consequences of your thoughts, words, and actions?  Is there an emptiness inside that nothing in this life has been able to fill; a lack of meaning and purpose to your life?  The author of Hebrews, when describing Moses, says, ” . . . choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:27).  Since there is pleasure in sin, the guilt and weight of conviction must be from God.  He is drawing you to Himself.  The choice is up to you to respond to the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit by putting your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, repenting of your sins and asking Jesus Christ to take control of your life and change your life.  He will keep His promises to you if you sincerely believe.

If Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives, one lesson we can learn from this passage is how Jesus responded to criticism, and how we can follow His example.  The Lord Jesus Christ was a man of conviction.  He didn’t follow the crowds; the crowds followed Him!  He would not compromise His Father’s will or the teachings of the Scriptures, and yet, at the same time, was compassionate toward people.  Billy Graham beautifully described Jesus’ character and convictions when he said these words:

“His own inner conviction was so strong, so firm, so unswerving
that He could afford to mingle with any group secure in the knowledge
that He would not be contaminated.  It is fear that makes us unwilling to
listen to another’s point of view, fear that our own ideas may be attacked.
Jesus had no such fear, no such pettiness of viewpoint, no need to
fence Himself off for His own protection.  He knew the difference between
graciousness and compromise and we would do well to learn from Him.
He set for us the most magnificent and glowing example of truth combined with
mercy of all time. and in departing He said:  “Go ye and do likewise.”  (Lk. 10:37)

This lesson is exemplified in a phenomenon of nature.  Sailors in the northern oceans have frequently observed icebergs travelling in one direction in spite of strong winds blowing in the opposite direction.  How can this be?  The explanation is that the icebergs, with eight-ninths of their bulk under the water’s surface, were caught in the grip of strong currents that moved them in a certain direction, no matter which way the winds blew and no matter how fiercely they raged.  In the Christian life, no matter how strongly the winds of passing opinion blow in opposition, the believer who has a close relationship to God, and a depth of living in the currents of God’s grace will be moved in the direction of following Jesus’ example.  The criticism that’s bound to come won’t blow us away.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED on 2/8/18

ALL COMERS WELCOME . . . FOREVER! – John 6:36-40

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INTRODUCTION:

As World War II in Europe was drawing to a close, the allied armies gathered up many hungry and homeless orphans, placing them in camps where they were well-fed and cared for.  Despite the excellent care, the children slept poorly at night.  They seemed nervous and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist came up with an idea.  After a large evening meal, each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed.  The children were told that this particular piece of bread was to be held and not eaten.  They were to hold it until the next morning.  The piece of bread produced wonderful results.  The children slept soundly because, after so many years of hunger, they finally had the assurance of food the next day.  It was right there in their hands!

In John 6:35, Jesus told the crowd, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  He’s telling them that He is the permanent answer to their spiritual hunger and thirst for God, just as He was the temporary source of their previous physical hunger. His purpose is to focus their attention away from their physical needs and direct that attention to their spiritual needs.  The Lord Jesus is also telling them, in that short statement, that He alone is the source of life; He alone is the source of salvation.  This is the first of seven “I AM” statements made by Jesus, and recorded only here in the Gospel of John.  In the next five verses, Jesus elaborates on the meaning of that statement and how it applies to them.

I. SEEING WASN’T BELIEVING (verse 36)

Jesus begins by referring back to something He showed them previously.  That’s what He’s doing in verse 36 when He says, “But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.”  It’s “show and tell” time again!  He showed them, the previous day, the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fish, and they responded by saying, in verse 14, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  However, they didn’t really believe their own words because, on the following morning they ask Jesus how He could have gone around the lake in such a short time (John 6:25).  They don’t believe that He could have done so in a miraculous way.  In verse 26, He chides them because they are following Him around, not because of the signs, but because of the food.  There has been a lack of understanding and a wrong motivation on their part.  I don’t sense anger on the part of Jesus, but rather, sadness because they are so earthly-minded and self-centered.  So He reminds them again, in verse 36, of their unbelief in Him.

Jesus is using a teaching method that has been used on all of us many times in the past, and a form of instruction that we have used many times as well.  It’s called “repetition” or “reinforcement”.  Not only in the passage of Scripture we are studying (John 6:36-40), but throughout the rest of his conversation with this crowd, Jesus is saying basically the same thing over and over again from different perspectives.  The focus of His teaching is going to be on the process of salvation. In response to their unbelief, Jesus is now going to be making some very profound statements.

II.  JESUS’ ROLE IN SALVATION (verses 37-38)

In spite of their unbelief, Jesus says to the crowd, in verse 37, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me”.  In view of the situation, I think that part of what Jesus is implying, by those words is:  “I’m not here to argue you into the kingdom of heaven, nor force you to believe Who I am and what I say.”  He tells them that the Father has given Him those who are to be saved, and all of those whom the Father has given Him will come to Him in faith.  Isaiah 53 is the prophecy of the Messiah as the suffering servant, and in verse 11 it says, “As the result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied.  By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”  Jesus will see the fulfillment of His labors and “the many” will be saved.  Jesus has stated that His Father is in control, and has chosen those who will be saved.

This concept of election was nothing new to the nation of Israel.  Of all of the nations that have ever existed, the nation of Israel would have no problem understanding that God makes His choices based on His own sovereign will.  He does what He pleases and no one can change it.  We find this truth in God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and others.  The nation of Israel was His “chosen people”.  We find that restated in the Psalms and the prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah.  We see it also throughout the history of the nation of Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures.  God performed amazing miracles to show the nations that He was the true God, and that He was with His people Israel.

Jesus’ words, in verse 37, also include man’s responsibility.  Those who are given to the Son by the Father will come to Him.  There is an act of the will on their part, just as there is an act of the will by those who refuse to come to Him.  In the remainder of verse 37, Jesus tells them what will happen to those who come to Him when He says, “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”   He is speaking of each individual believer and letting them know that each person’s salvation is secure in His arms. There is a true story that describes this sense of security.

When the evangelist, George Needham, came to preach at a town in England, he was the guest of a gentleman who had a beautiful home surrounded by towering trees.  One day, while walking in the shade, meditating on the things of God, Needham heard a fluttering sound and the startled cry of a bird.  Glancing upward he saw a lark being chased by a hawk.  The little song bird dashed wildly through the branches, screaming in fear.  Close behind were the fierce eyes and sharp talons of its enemy.  The bird continued its frantic flight until it seemed exhausted and about to give up.  Then it saw the evangelist below, and in an instant flew directly into his folded arms and nestled there.  It seemed conscious of perfect safety.  Do you think that evangelist would pick up that little bird and cast it to the hawk?  Certainly not!  He would defend it at any cost to himself.  Do you feel safe in the arms of the Lord, no matter what might come your way?

Almost two centuries ago, John 6:37 became a very significant verse of Scripture in the life of a woman in England.  When you hear the words she wrote down, I think you will recognize them immediately.  Charlotte Elliott learned an important lesson about Jesus one sleepless night in 1834.  She was an invalid, so when her family held a bazaar in Brighton, England, to raise money to build a school, she could only watch from afar.  That night she was overwhelmed by her helplessness and could not sleep.  But her sadness was turned to joy when she realized that God accepted her just as she was.

Her experience inspired her to write these well-loved words:  “Just as I am, without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come!  I come!”  When she published the completed poem in The Invalid’s Hymn Book, she included with it John 6:37.  I wonder how many times that song has been sung, at Billy Graham crusades and elsewhere?  And they haven’t finished singing it yet!  Her song is a reminder that no one who comes to Jesus will be turned away.

Jesus continues the conversation by telling the people His reason for coming to earth.  In verse 38 He says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  During His entire conversation with this crowd, Jesus uses the phrase “I’ve come down from heaven” six times.  He’s telling them that His one and only purpose for leaving His throne in heaven is to do the Father’s will, and all that it entails.  Their response to Him will not change His course of action, nor His commitment to His Father.

III.  THE FATHER’S WILL IN SALVATION (verse 39)

In verse 39, Jesus describes the Father’s will from His perspective.  He says, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”  He is stating to them that it is His responsibility to protect and provide for all that the Father has given to Him and entrusted to His care.  Jesus is part of the divine plan and is “under orders”, so to speak, from His heavenly Father.  Those orders include raising them up on the last day as the final fulfillment of that plan (I Thessalonians 4:14-17).  Verse 39 is an assurance of salvation to all whom the Father has given to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, because Jesus will fulfill all the responsibilities given to Him by the Father so that the Father’s will might be fully accomplished.

IV.  THE RESPONSE AND THE RESULTS (verse 40)

In verse 40, Jesus now describes this same process of salvation from a human perspective, applying it to every individual.  This time He says, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Do you enjoy a good mystery?  Do you read mystery novels?   Have you watched mystery programs or mystery movies.  There is a library where I live and I noted that there are almost as many mystery novels as there are romance novels. and many more mysteries than westerns.  Good mysteries tend to have high viewer-ratings on TV, and there are mystery movies galore.  Even many of the romance and westerns have mysteries within them.  People enjoy trying to solve mysteries before the solution is given.  The Bible contains many mysteries also.  There is the “mystery of the kingdom of God” (Matthew 4:11), the “mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:9), and the “mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19), among many others.  As you can see from the three I’ve mentioned, many of these mysteries in the Bible are tied to each other.

In this passage of Scripture, John 6:36-40, we are faced with a mystery:  God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation.  It’s important for each of us to know what the Scriptures say about this mystery, even though our finite minds cannot completely comprehend these truths.  Since Jesus is going to be talking about this subject again in John 10 and 17, I’m going to try to stick to the information and concepts that Jesus is addressing in this Scripture passage.

In verse 40, Jesus describes the Father’s will in terms that we can understand.  When He says the words, “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him”, Jesus may, once again, be using an illustration from the Old Testament scriptures that He communicated to Nicodemus In His conversation with him in John 3:14.  Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”  He was referring to the bronze serpent that was placed on a pole (a standard with a cross-beam for holding a banner) and lifted up by Moses.  Looking up to that serpent on the pole was an act of faith, humility, repentance, and obedience.  Only then would those Israelites be saved from physical death, after having been bitten by the fiery serpents.  Jesus is saying to the crowd in verse 40 that individuals aren’t saved because they are chosen by the Father and given to Him.  They are saved because they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and their changed lives are evidence that they are His.  This eliminates the false conclusion that “If I’ve been chosen, I will be saved, so it’s useless for me to do anything on my part.”  That’s looking at the wrong side of salvation.  Our responsibility is to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  This also rules out the theory of double-predestination – that God has chosen those who will be condemned.   The Scriptures tell us that people are responsible for their choices.  No one is going to be compelled to go to heaven against his will, and no one is compelled to go to hell against his will.   That’s what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:18 when He said, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.”  That’s the human side or perspective of salvation.

Dr. H.A. Ironside had these words to say:  “Are you willing to come to Jesus?  He will in no wise cast out.  Whoever you are today, if you will come to Him, He will take you in.  You do not have to settle any question about predestination before you come to Jesus.  And when you come, He receives you; and having come, you may know that you are one whom the Father gave to the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Let me add that before you “come”, you have to “leave”, right?  In order to come to a person, or to another place, you have to depart from where you are now.  Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth (Philippians 2:9-11).  Coming to Him in faith means leaving the things that are controlling our lives in order to give Him His rightful place as the Lord of our lives.  Let’s make no mistake that we can have genuine faith in Him without repentance.  They are the two sides of the same coin.

If you are a Christian, please be careful not to try to solve God’s side of the mystery of salvation.  Let’s leave salvation in God’s hands.  That’s where it began; that’s where it belongs; and it couldn’t be in better hands.

Let me share with you two illustrations that each give a picture of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.  These illustrations have helped me see it from a human perspective, and yet cause me to realize that there is a divine perspective.  The first is a diagram showing two lines going up to heaven.  One of the lines is labelled “God’s sovereignty” and the other is labelled “man’s responsibility”.  the lines are not parallel but are slightly angled toward each other.  As the lines go up to heaven you can see that the lines are going to meet eventually, but they pass through a cloud and then meet on the other side out of our view.  The cloud is labelled “human understanding”, and the lines meet on the other side in God.  The illustration points to the fact that both concepts are given in Scripture, so there must be an explanation.  For the time being we need to accept that by faith and God will explain the mystery when we see Him.  The other illustration depicts a sign on the gates of heaven, and the sign reads, “BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND YOU SHALL BE SAVED”  (Acts 16:31).  After you pass through the pearly gates you notice that another message is written on the other side of that sign.  It says, CHOSEN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD (Ephesians 1:4).  Those are the human and the divine sides of salvation.  I hope those two illustrations will be helpful and useful to you.

As we reflect upon the mystery of God’s plan of salvation, may we be filled with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for His sovereignty and grace.  May we be reminded of God’s words to Isaiah in Isaiah 55:8, where God says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this recently-completed sermon on John 6:36-40.  May the year 2018 be a joy-filled and challenging year for you.  As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14, “. . . but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  The race is on for the year 2018!  I hope you are one of the contestants, not one of the bystanders.

 

 

SHOW AND TELL – John 6:22-35

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INTRODUCTION:

I can remember, when I was in kindergarten and first grade, the teacher would tell us that we would be having “Show And Tell” time on the following day.  Each of us children was asked to bring an interesting and unusual object to class, and then we would each take turns showing our object to the rest of the children and telling them something about it.  Our parents were allowed to help us with our choice of what to bring to school the next day.  Does that bring back memories?  That expression, “Show And Tell”, originated in the 1940’s and is one of the learning exercises still being used in early-childhood education.  It is often used by adults also as a means of getting to know one another and as a form of instruction and entertainment. It can also engage more than one of our senses, such as sight, sound, touch, and smell.

You may be wondering how this teaching method or game relates to the passage of Scripture we are now studying:  John 6:22-35.  If we look back at the previous day in Jesus’ life, He showed them that He was the Son of God by breaking the five barley cakes and two dried fish and feeding 5000 men, together with their wives and children.  He also showed them how much was left over by having His disciples gather up the fragments.  There were twelve baskets filled with those leftovers.  Sadly, neither the crowd nor His disciples came to the understanding that Jesus was the Son of God as the result of that miracle He just showed them.

After the meal, Jesus showed two more signs to His disciples only.  The first sign or miracle was the sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee, and the second was Jesus Himself walking on the water toward them in the midst of the storm.  The Lord Jesus showed them a life-threatening situation and they did not call upon Him to save them. He then showed them Himself walking on top of the water and they refused to believe it, thinking they were seeing a ghost.  They thought their eyes were deceiving them and they were hallucinating.  They weren’t convinced by what He showed them, but they did become convinced when He spoke to them.  Why?  Because, in John 6:20, Jesus said to them, “I AM, do not be afraid”.  He used God’s covenant name which He gave to Moses to tell to the people of Israel.  Matthew 14:33 says, “and those who were in the boat worshipped Him saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son.’ ”  They finally “put two and two together”, so to speak.  Jesus was claiming to be the God who parted the Red Sea, fed the people of Israel in the wilderness with manna for 40 years, and stopped the Jordan River from flowing.  It required both “show and tell” to convince the disciples that Jesus was the Son of God.  The story isn’t over yet.  There are many others who were “shown” but also have to be “told”.

I.  THE BACKGROUND (verses 22-25)

Verse 22 begins with a search for the missing Jesus.  The last time the crowd saw Jesus was the night before when Jesus told His disciples to get into a boat, and He sent them on their way across the Sea of Galilee.  Then He told the crowd to go home, and I’m sure many of them saw Jesus heading for the hills.  Many of those same people came back the next morning, and verse 22 describes the scene and what they were doing.  “The next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone.”

I wonder whether these people came early that morning in the hope that Jesus might treat them to a free breakfast!  There were probably still many among them who wanted to make Jesus their King.  They weren’t able to find Jesus, and when they looked across the lake they saw only one boat docked there, and that was the boat the disciples used the day before.  They already knew that Jesus didn’t go in the boat with them, and now they know that Jesus didn’t cross the lake in another boat.  Where could He be?  He wouldn’t have walked all the way around the lake in the middle of the night, would He?

Verse 23 says that “other boats came from Tiberias.”.  Those boats must have been blown across the lake by the storm the night before.  Having become convinced that Jesus was not on their side of the lake, verse 24 says that they “got into the boats and went to Capernaum.”  The city of Capernaum was the place where Jesus normally resided when He was in the district of Galilee. It’s beginning to sound like a variation of “Hide and Seek” but, instead of one person seeking all the rest of the people, all the rest of the people are seeking one person!

Verse 23 tells us that the crowd found whom they were looking for.  It reads, “And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did You get here?’ ”  They must have been very surprised, amazed and confused.  Their question seems strange to me.  I would have expected them to say “Rabbi, how did you get here”, not “when did you get here.”  It makes me wonder whether they concluded that Jesus must have walked around the Sea of Galilee, and were wondering how He could have done it so quickly during the night.   If you do the math, the circumference of the Sea of Galilee is 33 miles around the shoreline.  Let’s say that the distance from the place where Jesus fed the 5000 to Capernaum on the other side was 16-18 miles.  That’s a long way to walk along the sand of the sea shore wearing a long robe and sandals in the dark of night and heading into the wind!  Now I understand why they asked “when” instead of “how”.  Walking that far in such a short time under those conditions must have seemed like a miracle to them.  Little did they know just how amazing a miracle it actually was.  Jesus took the “short-cut” across the lake on foot!

II.  THEIR MOTIVES QUESTIONED AND CORRECTED (verses 26-27)

Rather than answering their question, the Lord Jesus responds by questioning and correcting their wrong motives.  In verse 26, He says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”  Jesus is telling them that their interest in Him is merely selfish.  They considered Him to be some kind of a magician who could meet their physical needs.  Many of them wanted to make Jesus their king so that their need for food would be taken care of and they wouldn’t have to work any longer.  Their motive was:  “What’s in it for me”.  They missed the meaning of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and now Jesus has to explain it to them.  It’s “Show and Tell” all over again!

In verse 27 Jesus says, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you.”  Those words should have brought the words of the prophet Isaiah to their minds.  Isaiah 55:2 says, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy.”  God has given mankind a hunger for things that this world cannot satisfy.  Jesus is telling them about two kinds of food:  food for the body and food for the soul or spirit.  He’s telling them that He is the only One who can satisfy their deepest needs, the hunger of their souls.  He’s also implying that we need to work to provide for our physical needs.  In the context of that particular situation, Jesus may have been using the word “work” to describe how they wearied themselves by walking around the lake to find Him in order to get more free food.  But only God can provide lasting satisfaction.    Physical food “perishes” in two senses.  If it is not eaten, it become stale, rotten, or ,moldy.  But if it is eaten, it perishes in the sense that the body uses it up and in a few hours we are hungry again.  We need more food to replenish what has been digested and its nutrients are now gone.  Have you ever considered how much of your time is spent eating?  If you are a typical person who lives an average lifetime, you will probably spend about 35,000 hours of your lifetime eating.  That’s eight years of eating non-stop for 12 hours each day.  That’s a lot of eating and that’s a lot of food!  If we have to spend that much time satisfying our physical hunger for food, how much more time should we be spending in the satisfaction of our spiritual hunger for God!

The wisest man in the Old Testament, King Solomon, who may also have been the wealthiest man in the Old Testament, wrote a book of the Bible entitled “Ecclesiastes”. In this book, Solomon describes his search for happiness and fulfillment.  He went down many dead-end streets, pursuing wisdom, pleasure, riches and work, and found that they were all vanity, “striving after wind”.  These things did not fill the emptiness in his soul.  His conclusion:  “fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  Only the worship of God, and the living of one’s life to please Him, brings lasting satisfaction.

Jesus is teaching the crowd a similar lesson here in verse 27.   He’s telling them that there is something more to life than working for physical food.  He encourages them to work “for the food that endures to eternal life.”  Then Jesus tells them the source of that eternal life, and by Whose authority He can make such a statement.  He says, “which the Son of Man will give you”. Notice that Jesus is talking about the future in this case.  The eternal life can’t be given to them until Jesus pays the price for their sins by dying on the cross and then rising victorious from the grave.  It is also conditioned upon their willingness to believe in Him and entrust their lives to Him as their Lord.  “For on Him the Father, even God, has set his seal.”  Jesus is stating His credentials.   The Father set His seal of approval on His Son at Jesus’ baptism and His seal of authority through the miracles that Jesus performed.  A seal was used in those days for many different reasons.  It witnessed the truth of a document or person. It could also be used, among other things,  to show ownership, authority, approval, or as a guarantee of quality,  Since Jesus’ discussion with the crowd is about food, I read that some bakers during that period of time would put a seal or impression on their bread as they baked it in order to let people know where the bread came from, and also as a guarantee of its quality.

So Jesus has told them that both their intentions and their motives are wrong as they follow Him around seeking free food to fill their stomachs.  They should be seeking the spiritual food which lasts for eternity, and which He alone can provide.  What follows is a time of questions on their part and answers on His part.

III.  QUESTION AND ANSWER TIME (verses 28-33)

In verse 28 the crowd asks their first question: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”  What did they mean when they said those words?  I think they were saying, “Give us a list of the things God wants us to do so that we can perform them.”  In their minds, “works” meant obeying the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.   So they were asking, “Which particular ones did He have in mind; which ones merit eternal life after they are accomplished?”  They didn’t understand what Jesus just said to them.  Their minds focused on the word “work” and their attention became glued to that word.  Bible expositor Alfred Barnes makes this comment:  “The idea of doing something to merit salvation is one of the last that the sinner ever surrenders.”  Here’s an illustration that exemplifies that comment made by Barnes.

A young man in the military, who was concerned about his eternal destiny, had been encouraged to receive Christ and stop trying to save himself.  He felt, however, that he must show his “good intentions and sincerity” by first cleaning up his life.  His superior officer had often tried to make it clear to him that salvation comes to him who “does not work but believes”, but the young man couldn’t seem to grasp this truth.  One day, when he had been busy doing some work which left him covered with dirt and grease, he received a call to see his commanding officer.  He didn’t like to go in his grimy condition, but having been told to leave immediately, he went without delay.  When he arrived, the one who had sent for him said, “Sewell, I am very glad to see that you know how to obey orders.  Now that’s the way I’ve been telling you that you must respond to the Gospel call.  Come to the Lord Jesus Christ just as you are.”  Those words went right to his heart, and then and there he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

In verse 29, Jesus responds to their question by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  Notice that Jesus uses the word “work”, not “works” (plural).  He’s the one who is going to do the work to provide eternal life, not them.  It’s going to be His gift to them through His atoning “work” on the cross, not as a result of their “works” to please God.

Obviously, the crowd was not satisfied with Jesus’ answer to their question, so they ask Him two more questions in verse 30.  They ask, “What then do you do for a sign, that we may see and believe you?  What work do you perform?  The miracle of the loaves and fish should have been proof enough that He was the Messiah.  But they wanted more proof; they’re always wanting more proof, more miracles.  The next verse reveals the real reason for those questions.  They continue by saying,  “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ “   They are referring to a comparable miracle in the life of Moses.  I think they are saying, “Moses feed the Hebrew people in the wilderness with manna for 40 years.  If you are greater than Moses, why don’t you prove it by feeding all of us for 40 years?  Then we’ll believe you.”

In verses 32 and 33, Jesus corrects their beliefs.  When they say “HE”, they mean Moses, but that’s not who that Scripture passage is referring to.  They are correctly quoting the words written in Psalm 78, verse 24, but they are incorrectly applying that statement to Moses.  The psalmist is referring to the works of God in that psalm.  Moses’ name isn’t even mentioned, nor is he referred to indirectly, in the seventy-two verses of Psalm 78.  It’s not obvious from their question that they are referring to Moses.  So how do I know they are?  I know so because Jesus knows it, and He communicates that fact to them in verse 32 when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”

The Jews of that day highly esteemed Moses, sometimes even more highly than God!  They attributed all the plagues on the Egyptians, as well as the parting of the Red Sea, the water from the rock, the manna, the quail, and every other supernatural event to Moses instead of God.  They also believed that the manna ceased when Moses died.  But Joshua 5:12 states that the manna continued after they entered the land of Canaan and didn’t cease until the day after they celebrated the feast of the Passover, when they ate some of the produce of the land.  That was over two months after Moses’ death!  Their beliefs point to a tendency throughout history for people to glorify the person God uses rather than God, who empowers and uses that person.  Moses would have been enraged at their exaltation of him rather than God.

Jesus goes on to make a distinction between the manna (the bread which fell from the sky), and the “true” bread from heaven.  He says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”  The Greek word used here is katabainon”, which means “to descend” rather than “to fall”.   He’s implying that the true bread from heaven descended to become a part of humanity.  He’s also saying that this bread is not only for the Jews, as was the manna, but this bread is for the whole world as well.

What’s the reaction of His audience?  They still have their minds on physical food, and “forever food” sounds even better than forty years of manna.  Their response? “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” (verse 33)  Does that response sound familiar?  When Jesus told the woman at the well about “living water” that would quench her thirst forever, she said, “Sir, give me this water”.

IV.  THE REVELATION (verse 35)

Jesus reveals Himself to them in verse 35 when He says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  Jesus is telling them that only He can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.  Without Him we are spiritually starving. As you well know, you can make bread, smell it and touch it, but unless you eat it, the bread isn’t going to do your physical body any good.  This fact is also true spiritually.  Unless Jesus Christ is in your life, and has become a vital part of your life, you are dying of starvation spiritually and eternally.  It’s time to repent of your sins and invite Him to be your personal Lord and Savior.  He is the One who will satisfy your spiritual hunger and thirst now and forever.

If you have already made that commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and are feasting on His Word, be sure to share the wealth with others.  We can’t make people eat, but by allowing Christ to rule in our lives, we can provide an environment where others around us become hungry for the spiritual satisfaction we have in Christ.  For several years I worked across the street from a large bakery.  When they were baking bread, the smell of it would fill the air.  At break time, many of us would go outside to enjoy the smell of it.  In our minds we were imagining eating it because the smell made us hungry for it.  If the employees at the bakery would have invited us to come and have some to eat, we would have eaten as much as they would give us.

Can we honestly say what the psalmist said in Psalm 73:25-26?  These are his words:  “There is none upon earth that I desire but Thee.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

It is told of Sadhu Sundar Singh that many years ago he was distributing Gospels in the central province of India and he came to some non-Christians on a railway train and offered a man a copy of John’s Gospel.  The man took it, tore it in pieces in anger, and threw the pieces out the window.  That seemed the end, but it so happened, in the Providence of God. there was a man anxiously seeking for truth walking along the line that very day, and he picked up, as he walked along, a little bit of paper and looked at it, and the words on it in his own language were “the Bread of Life.”  He did not know what it meant; but he inquired among his friends and one of them said, “I can tell you; it is out of the Christian book.  You must not read it or you will be defiled.”  The man thought for a moment and then said, “I want to read the book that contains that beautiful phrase; and he bought a copy of the New Testament.  He was shown where the sentence occurred – our Lord’s words, “I am the Bread of Life”; and as he studied the gospel, the light flooded into his heart.  He came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he became a preacher of the gospel in the central province of India.  That little bit of paper, through God’s Spirit, was indeed the Bread of Life to him, satisfying his deepest need. (shared by John A. Patten)

The Bread of Life satisfies and nourishes those who are hungry for it.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Welcome to this completed sermon on John 6:22-35.  If you would like to study along with me but don’t feel like you have the “tools for the trade”, check online.  Type “Gospel of John”, or “Bible study resources” and you will find hundreds of sites.  I probably use preceptaustin the most because of the number of Greek helps  and because I like the way it is organized, but I also use many other sites, too many to list here.  You’ve got all the tools you need online!  Hope to see you at he next construction site  There is much work to be done and you will find it to be an enjoyable experience.  It’s like digging for gold and precious stones!