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

BEHOLD YOUR GOD – Background and Survey of the Gospel of John

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FORWARD:

This study through the Gospel of John is going to keep us busy for over a year, and possibly over two years.  The apostle John says in I John 1:1, “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in – we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands.  The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! (The Message).

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to see the Lord Jesus face-to-face, to hear His voice, to hear Him call you by name, to embrace Him, to watch the expressions on His face, and to observe all the things He said and did while He was on this earth?  Does thinking about that fill your hearts with joy and excitement?  My desire is to try to imagine and simulate that first-hand experience as I study the text.  I plan to incorporate more of the Old Testament scriptures and the other three Gospels into the study, where appropriate, so that we might see Him in as much detail, and with as much clarity as possible.

I.  INTRODUCTION:

Was there ever a time in your life when you asked yourself the question:  “Which book of the Bible should I read first?”  Has anybody ever asked you that same question, seeking your advice?  A question that is often asked by Bible translation teams is “Which book of the Bible should we translate first?”  The answer to those two questions is often the same:  the Gospel of John.

William MacDonald made this observation:  “The Gospel of John is the most familiar and perhaps the best loved book in the Bible.  Charles R. Erdman says of this Gospel:  “It has induced more people to follow Christ, it has inspired more believers to loyal service, it has presented to scholars more difficult problems, than any other book that could be named.”

II.  WHY ARE THERE FOUR GOSPELS?

That’s a commonly asked question also:  “Why are there four gospels?”  Actually, there is one gospel, written from the perspective of four different men who were moved by the Holy Spirit to write what they wrote.

Matthew, formerly named Levi, was a Jewish tax collector who became a follower of Christ.  His purpose in writing was to demonstrate to his fellow-Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the “anointed One”, whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures.  He begins his gospel with a genealogy of Jesus going back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.  Matthew also quotes from the Old Testament scriptures more often than any other gospel-writer.  His intention is to show that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies that were written concerning the coming Messiah.

Mark, also called John Mark, focuses on the Lord Jesus as a servant.  A theme verse is Mark 10:45 where Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His live as a ransom for many.” (NIV)  We find no genealogy in Mark’s gospel, but we see Jesus involved in the lives of people.

Luke is writing to the Greeks, and looks at Jesus as a man.  Many of the Greek gods and goddesses had a pretty-sordid history and didn’t relate well to people.  The genealogy in Luke’s gospel goes all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus was truly a member of the human race.  Luke also gives more insights into the birth and childhood of Jesus than any other gospel writer.

John looks at Jesus as God.  He focuses on the deity of Christ.  John’s gospel contains no details about the birth or the childhood of Christ.  It also contains no parables, no temptation scene, no Gethsemane, and no mention of scribes, publicans, lepers, or demoniacs.

III.  WHO WAS THE AUTHOR?

The writer of this account of the life and teachings of Christ was John, the son of Zebedee.  He and his brother James were fishermen along with their father.  While James and John were mending their nets, Jesus came by and called out to them, asking them to come and follow Him (Mt. 4:21-22; Mk. 1:19-20; Lk. 5:9-11).  They both immediately left their nets and followed Him.  John outlived the other disciples and wrote three letters.  He also wrote “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” while living as an exile on the island of Patmos.  In this writing, John gives a message to each of the seven churches in Asia and writes down a description of the visions he received from God

IV.  WHAT WAS JOHN’S PURPOSE?

We find John’s purpose for writing his gospel near the end of his book.  John 20:30-31 says, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  (NIV)  John’s purpose was to provide the answer to these two questions:  First, “Who is Jesus Christ?”  And secondly, “What is to be our proper response to Him on the basis of who He is?”

Since John’s Gospel was the last to be written, and the others were already being copied and distributed, it makes me wonder whether Matthew, Mark, and Luke might have met with John concerning certain events which were not included in their accounts.  If so, the apostle John did a good job of “filling in the blanks” as well as focusing his attention on the deity of Christ!

There are three key words in John 20:30-31, and they need a bit of an explanation:

Signs” – John recorded six miracles that are not recorded in the other gospels:  the water changed into wine (chapter 2), the nobleman’s son healed (chapter 4), the paralyzed man healed (chapter 5), the healing of the man born blind (chapter 9), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (chapter 11), and the second great catch of fish (chapter 21).  Each one of these miracles, or signs, demonstrates Christ’s deity and authority.  These signs were performed on other people or for the benefit of other people.

Believe” – is the response that these signs were intended to produce.  The word is used 98 times in John’s gospel, and refers to a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.  We find in John’s gospel that those who believed in Jesus Christ became His followers, whereas those who refused to believe became His opponents.

Life” – refers to the result that belief brings.  In John 5:24 Jesus said, “i tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (NIV)  Eternal life begins at the moment that we invite Jesus Christ to come into our lives and be our Savior and Lord.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”  Jesus said that we can have an abundant and fulfilling life right now if we belong to Him.

V.  WHAT WERE JOHN’S METHODS?

John records the testimonies of seven eye-witnesses:

John the Baptist – “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me. . . . And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”  (John 1:30-34)

Nathanael – “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel”  (John 1:49)

The Samaritan woman – “Come, see a man who told me all the things I have done; this is not the Christ, is it”? . . . And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”  (John 4:29, 39).

Peter –  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:68-69).

Martha – Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”  (John 11:27)

Thomas – “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God’ “.  (John 20:28).

John – “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”. (John 20:31)

Each of these people had personal conversations with Jesus and proclaimed that Jesus was God.

John also records the seven “I am’s” of Jesus, (Jesus reveals Himself seven times using the words “I am”).

“I am the bread of life” (chapter 6)

“I am the light of the world” (chapters 8 and 9)

“I am the door”  (chapter 10)

“I am the good shepherd”  (chapter 10)

“I am the resurrection and the life” (chapter 11)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (chapter 14)

“I am the true vine”  (chapter 15)

In each of these descriptions of Himself, Jesus points to His deity, and thus His ability to meet their deepest needs.  Also, each time Jesus uses that format to describe Himself, He is bringing to their minds the question that Moses asked the voice that was coming from the burning bush, and the answer he received.  In Exodus 3:!3, Moses said to God, “behold I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, ‘the God of your fathers has sent me to you.’  “Now they may say to me, ”What is His name?’  What shall I say to them?”  In verse 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.  That was God’s covenant name to the Jewish people, and Jesus is using it to refer to Himself (YHWH, usually pronounced as  Yahweh or Jehovah).

Finally, John records 27 personal interviews with Jesus.  Some of them were extensive and some were very brief.  The Lord Jesus wanted people of all belief systems and all walks of life to know who He really is, and that He cares for them.

If the things that John is saying about Jesus Christ are hard for you to believe at this point in your life, you are not alone.  John will be giving more and more evidence to verify Jesus’ claims.  Please continue to study this book with me and give it some thought and reflection.  I have personally observed that many people, including myself, have had an unclear concept of Jesus Christ and His teachings.  The Gospel of John, more than any other New Testament book, cleared my mind and changed my heart.  That is one of the reasons why I want to study it again.

It’s time to move on to the next construction site:  John 1:1-3.  I hope to see you there!