In John 6:29-58, Jesus gave a sermon that challenged and offended people – and the same sermon still challenges today: He claimed that He was the “bread of life”, “sent from heaven”, and that to have eternal life, the “work” required was to believe in Him, the One sent from God.
Jesus is God in human form. It was God’s plan to come people of this earth as one of us so we could know Him personally – to see for ourselves His kindness, His compassion, His understanding of us, His humble love which showed itself in sacrificial service and demanded nothing in return.
Of course, we have always known that God is all-powerful and has absolute control over all creation… But before Jesus came, perhaps it was impossible for us to understand God’s intimate knowledge of the human soul and His unconditional love for the fickle, self-centered, devious people we are. We all know what is good and honorable – and how far short we fall; but Jesus, God in human form understands our human natures and demonstrates again and again that He loves us anyway.
It is knowing and trusting this God which takes the fear and terror out of life. And when we put our confidence in Jesus, we also have the peace of believing His teaching about a future we cannot observe for ourselves: Jesus assures us that we will have eternal life, and that “in the last day”, we will be raised up.
Today, we will continue studying this sermon, noting the objections of people of Jesus’ day – and of ours – regarding these words from the very mouth of God.
(John 6:40-59 can be viewed online at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%206&version=NIV.)
1) (Vv. 40-42) Jesus had claimed that He was the bread of life – that believing that He came with God’s authority and taught God’s truth would satisfy what people really hungered for.
Creator God has all power over all reality and He alone determines the destiny of any creature — present or future.
“40 ‘For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’”
… And the Jews responded:
41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about Him because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 42 They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
– I think we must acknowledge that in v. 40, Jesus is stating that to have eternal life, people must believe what He says; they must believe He speaks with God’s authority: they must believe that His ministry has God’s approval.
– The Jews who were listening to Him had the same objections that people often have today: how could a mere person have that kind of authority? And the people of His community, even moreso than people today, had observed that there was nothing extraordinary about Jesus’ physical life…
– But perhaps a more helpful question to consider is how we state with any certainty that God would not take on a human form or come to live on earth.… And while doing this, choose to live humbly rather than in privilege.
– If we are not willing to accept that our God could indeed choose to live as Jesus, that means we are not willing to accept God for Who He is – and that we do not really know Him or love Him.
– If we do not believe that our God is Who He is, then we believe in a different sort of god than the One Jesus Christ reveals.
– But, while we are welcome to develop whatever theology appeals to us, the teachings and truths of the Bible apply to only the God of the Bible: and all other gods must be validated on their own merits.
2) (Vv. 43-45) Nothing in the human life of Jesus is incompatible with the character of Creator God, Who made and kept promises to Israel. Only those who know this true and living God would recognize the character of God in Jesus:
“43 ‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered. 44 ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me.’”
– It is the work of Creator God alone to enable people to recognize and respond to truth.
– In v. 45, Jesus says, “Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me.”
– When we read Old Testament Scripture, we recognize that God Who revealed Himself to Israel is the Great Creator and Sovereign Ruler of all reality. He is holy and perfect. He sees all and knows all…
– Yet, this holy, Almighty, omniscient God while completely aware of the failings of Israel, never condemned or abandoned the people, but graciously restored and forgave them – time and time again.
– The holy and perfect God of Israel demonstrated patience, faithfulness and love towards a people who were not holy or perfect.
– Those who knew this great God would recognize that Jesus exhibited the same omniscience, holiness, patience, humility and love – and come to Him.
3) (Vv. 46-51) Understanding how much our Creator loves us is the “bread of life” that gives us peace about the future, and certainly gives us confidence regarding our every daily need:
“46 ‘No one has seen the Father except the One Who is from God; only He has seen the Father.47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’”
–… But Jesus notes that, although everyone in Israel had heard the accounts of Scripture, they hadn’t “seen God”.
– I think we must acknowledge that, had God’s work with Israel as recounted in the Old Testament been enough to save people, it would seem to be unnecessary for Jesus to have come here, lived and died.
– But perhaps, only as a human being was it possible for God to demonstrate to us the full extent of what He was willing to suffer and sacrifice so we could understand His love!
– The manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness satisfied their physical hunger. But apparently, they appreciated the manna, but not the faithfulness, sovereignty and goodwill of the One Who created it!
– If the goodwill of God was in question, Jesus, God in human form, would put all those doubts to rest.
–The abused, rejected and crucified Jesus, Who never stopped loving or forgiving, is God in human form – and incomprehensible grace is the truth that gives us eternal life.
– In the second half of v. 51, Jesus reveals that He always realized the full extent He would suffer for the sake of the world’s people: He knows that He will sacrifice His very body, His physical life, to demonstrate His love.
4) (Vv. 52-56) The idea of eating another person’s flesh is a gruesome one – and Jesus’ listeners responded indignantly… But Jesus repeats and amplifies His statement!
“52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in them.’”
– To eat another person’s flesh would be to preserve one’s life at the expense of Someone Else…
– Of course, since Jesus is concerned about giving us spiritual life, we know this is not a matter of physically consuming anything, but of spiritual processing truth.
– But, Jesus’ gruesome description of an intellectual process foreshadows the gruesome physical death He would endure.
– And yes, the crucifixion of Jesus is shocking, hideous and disgusting, and we don’t really like to think about it…
– No one really wants to contemplate the fact that our own wrongs have caused terrible destruction to fall on Someone Else.
– Jesus came to the world to give us the Gospel of God’s love – and the world of Jesus’ day and our own, would not believe that God created us, that God loved us or that God would provide for us… And the world would not believe our Creator would come to us in the form of a humble servant.
– Because we would not believe, we crucified Jesus…
– But when He arose from the dead, revealing that He was indeed God and He did indeed love us – despite everything – finally the truth sank in!
– The crucifixion is not a pleasant thought, and the fact that our unbelief and our immoral, unjust and cowardly ways resulted in this offends our human pride.
– And, although these events occurred two thousand years ago, I think we should all be honest enough to acknowledge that the people in Jesus’ world were no different than people today…
–We all have had ample opportunity to demonstrate that we often put our own selfish interests ahead of doing what is just or right – and we live in total denial of the fact that a good and holy God rules this world.
– These are humiliating and uncomfortable truths about our human nature, truths which required God to come in human form and give His Own life to convince us of His love.
5) (Vv. 57-59) People in Jesus’ day and ours do not like to contemplate that our Creator might choose to live among us in the humblest of forms.
And we do not like to contemplate that our own prideful, selfish, stubborn human natures inflict suffering upon those around us – and inflicted death upon the One Who came to teach us truth…
We do not like to face these humiliating truths – but God, knowing it all, loves us anyway:
“57 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.’ 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.”
– God is the Creator and Giver of life. There is no life in lies about our own goodness, but there is life in acknowledging our Creator’s total and unconditional love for us!
– Accepting this bread is what gives us eternal life.
This is not an easy or popular message, but these words, from the mouth of Jesus Himself, are God’s truth. We cannot claim God’s promises unless we are willing to believe God’s words.
Until next post,
“Illum oportet crescere – He must increase”