Monday, June 10, 2019

John 6:22-59 "This is the Bread of life!"

Following the dramatic crossing of the sea of Galilee, or lake Tiberias (6:16-21), we find Jesus on ‘the other side of the sea (6:25). It is here that the stage for the first of His weighty seven “I Am” sayings“[1]  is  set... “I am the bread of life”.  
Our passage essentially makes one BIG point: Jesus announces Himself to be the Bread of Life  (6:35,48,51). By this He declares Himself to be more than food. He declares Himself to be the sum and substance  of  our  life. 
The ‘I Am’ statements  are nothing  less than  a declaration in which Jesus identifies  with the I AM of Exodus  3:14, where Yahweh, the God of Israel reveals Himself to Moses as,  “I AM WHO  I AM”. We are once again confronted by the claims of Christ, and we must make up our mind concerning Him. Jesus cannot remain weightless among us. Either He is who he says who He is, or else He is a liar or worse still- He is a lunatic.  As a young student I was very helped by this quote from C.S. Lewis[2] :

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

So, Jesus’ disciples had just witnessed two spectacular manifestations of Jesus’ power (feeding of the 5000; walking upon the sea in a storm) which should have deepened their faith in Jesus. This  might have been necessary  for two reasons[3]: (i)  they may have sensed disappointment that Jesus would not fulfill the  popular expectations  they  may have shared  with  the crowd who wanted to make Jesus their king (6:15)  (ii)  Jesus was about to make  statements  that would cause  massive defection from the ranks of His followers (6:66).

Our text is structured around a series of  six questions by the Jews concerning the claims of Christ, and  the answers which Jesus  gives them in response.  

QUESTION 1 (6:22-27): “When did you get here? (6:25) Our passage begins with a baffled crowd. They had previously seen Him on the eastern side of Lake Tiberias where they had witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes (6:1-15), and now He was gone. After a search they found him at or near Capernaum[4]  on the western side of the lake. As they ask Him, ‘when did you come here?, instead  of answering their question,   Jesus confronts them very directly  concerning their true motives for seeking Him. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill at the loaves.” (6:26). Jesus is telling them plainly that what they were seeking from Him wasn’t eternal life but free food.  So, He tells them, “Do not work for the food that perishes (i.e. barley loaves and fish), but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”

We are reminded that interest in Jesus is not always spiritual in nature. They were fascinated by the miracles and the free food. They were taken up with the idea of having a king or another Moses- like figure leading them and providing heavenly manna for them.  Right now they could not see, nor accept or believe in Jesus, even though the evidences were overwhelming.  And you have now sat through 6 chapters of exposition of John’s gospel. You too have read and heard the extra ordinary credentials of Jesus Christ in Chapter 1. You have read   concerning the extra ordinary miracle  of the water into wine (Chapter 2) and the healings in chapters 4,5 and 6  and the  various discourses where Jesus  explains  Himself and His work to the Nicodemus  (a Jew) and to  the Samaritan Woman  (a gentile). When you look at Jesus what and who do you see?  

At this  point Jesus enters into this  discussion with them  about  the food  which they  truly need, which will culminate with  this  amazing claim  in  6:35 , “I am the bread of life.”   But right now in 6:27 Jesus introduces the food which He (the Son of Man on whom the Father has set His seal) gives.  He tells them “not to work for the food that perishes, but (to work) for the food that endures to eternal life.”

QUESTION 2 (6:28,29). Notice how they latch on to the word ‘work’:  “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  i.e. “what good works can we do to earn the blessing of which you speak?” The assumption is that we get something from God if we do something for God.  That is the default position of our hearts. What can I do?  
We find  a similar habit,  when in our society we are invited for a meal, the first question asked is,  ‘What can I bring’?  We find it very hard to receive freely, and especially this in the matter of receiving the gift of eternal life, freely!  Jesus’ answer in 6:29,  “This is the work of God i.e. this is what you can do: Believe in Him who  God has sent!  
Believe! That word is the golden thread which runs through the chapter cf. vv. 36,47,64,69.   Do you see the irony in Jesus’ words here? Believing is not really ‘a work’. But for their sake Jesus called believing ‘the work of God’. In reality it is no work at all. It is simply trusting God in Christ. Very well then… BELIEVE.

QUESTION 3 (6: 30-33) : “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat”.  We want to believe, but we want to be fed for 40 years – as in the desert, when Moses led   1 million of our people.   If you really are the prophet foretold by Moses (see 6:14), then you must do this and be this to us.  So, prove that you are like Moses. Give us another sign, one just like you did across the lake.

At this point (6:32), Jesus needs to challenge their false interpretation of the OT event.  “It was not Moses that had provided bread to a million people, but God who gave you the manna – the bread from heaven[5]. They are missing the point. They read the Scriptures wrongly. Theirs is the problem that was already pointed out in 5:39-40!  And Jesus, by implication is saying, “I, who gave you full bellies on the others side of the lake am not just a prophet like Moses. I am your Creator (who came down from heaven v.33) who miraculously provided this bread, as I indeed gave your forefathers Manna in the desert for 40 years.” This was   what Jesus sought to communicate all the while, while His listeners intrigued by His miracles were more interested in the material things which He could supply. They were only interested in food that perishes, and in so doing they were missing the point! They were not hearing or seeing Jesus for who He was.  But they try anyway …

QUESTION 4 (6:34-40): “Sir may we have this bread always?”.  Here is Jesus’ most direct response to them: I AM the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (cf. Samaritan woman in  4:14). What they needed to do right there and then was to commit themselves unconditionally to Christ.  The one thing  necessary to enable  them to live forever in the presence of God is to receive  Jesus as the bread of life. “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” There is sadly, a BUT in the picture…BUT, I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe…” (6:36). These people had seen  and heard so  much of what Jesus  did and said   BUT still they did not believe  Him. 

WHY?  Here comes the ultimate answer...
Because they needed divine enablement. This is the essence of  what Jesus says  in 6:37-40: This portion of Scripture  teaches us that man’s will and inclination  to seek  God  is so bound by his sinful and rebellious nature that nothing less  than  divine enablement would help him  to see. All Jesus’ healings of the blind, deaf and the lame and the raising of the dead are ultimately illustrations of man’s spiritual state. What can a blind man, a deaf man, a lame man a dead man do to escape their condition? NOTHING!  What can a spiritually dead and unresponsive man do to inherit eternal life? NOTHING! They all need help. They need divine help. And this is precisely the thing that Jesus begins to address now. And the answer is this, “Look to me! I am the bread of life. Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him has eternal life.”(6:40)

QUESTION 5 (6:41-51): This statement in 6:40  induces grumbling among the Jews (6:41). “How can we look to HIM? He is Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (6:42). Again Jesus  gives the answer: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw Him” (6:44 repeated  in v.65). The point is this-  To raise a spiritually, dead, unresponsive human being takes nothing less than a miracle - a miracle like all the other miracles, and a miracle is by definition something that human beings in their own strength, power or authority cannot do. Jesus is speaking here to people who are religious, but they  are not  born again (John 3:1-8) . They are not going to inherit eternal life unless they look to the Son. And here is the great difficulty. They MUST look to the Son to have eternal life. But  they will not look to the Son  because they are blind, deaf, lame and dead.  So, they need the  mercy of God to draw them. They (and we) need to look to the God of Moses  to do the impossible, and   so in 6:45  Jesus says, “It is written in the prophets  (Isaiah 54:13), ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone  who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”  The hearing and learning  comes through divine ability. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who points us to Jesus, described in John 3:1-8. Again and again, Jesus affirms that He is the life giving Bread upon whom they must feed (read 6:48,51)  to have eternal life.

QUESTION 6 (6:52-58): “How can this man  give us his flesh to eat? They  think literally. Jesus, of course, means  it  in a spiritual sense. He is not thinking about  cannibalism.  He is saying that  we have to take Him into ourselves. We need to receive Him into the core of our  being. In that sense alone we need to feed on Him.  You have to take Jesus into you. You have to receive Jesus into your heart. 

Sadly there  are none as blind as those that will not see this. And so they  grumble. 

We  will consider this  question and the far reaching conclusions to  the end this chapter in greater  detail in our next sermon. Be amazed at  their unbelief  Be amazed at the turning away from Christ.
But  YOU- YOU  ask yourself. Have I  believed in Jesus? Am I into Him?  Am I participating  in Him- His Life, His death, His resurrection? 
Unless you do, you have no  assurance of  heaven and eternal life. 
Come to Jesus  NOW!

[1] The 7  ‘I Am’ sayings (ergo eimi) : John 6:35 (I  Am the Bread of Life)  ; 8:12 (I Am the Light of the World) ;10:7 (I am the Door for the Sheep); 10:11 (I Am the good Shepherd) ; 11:25 (I Am the Resurrection and the Life) ; 14:6 (I Am the Way the Truth and the Life) ; 15:5 (I Am the Vine)
[2] Lewis, C.S. : Mere Christianity p.52 ,Fount Paperbacks 1989
[3] Yarbrough, Robert: John p. 71
[4] Mark 6:53 says that  Jesus meets the crowd at Genesaret, a few kilometres from Capernaum
[5] Ex. 16:4-5; Num. 11:7-9

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