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“Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #8 “Bread Delivered From Heaven” John 6:22-71

08 Mar

It is told that Napoleon and a friend were talking of life as they walked along. It was dark; they walked to a window after they’d entered a room and looked out. There in the sky were distant stars, little more than pin-points of light.

Napoleon, who had sharp eyes while his friend was dim-sighted, pointed to the sky: “Do you see these stars?” he asked. “No,” his friend answered. “I can’t see them.” “That,” said Napoleon, “is the difference between you and me.

The man who is earthbound is living half a life. It is the man with vision, who looks at the horizon and sees the stars, who is truly alive.

As we continue our study of this marvelous sixth chapter of John, we see a group of people earthbound…with no vision of what lay before them.

The purpose of the sign was that Jesus might preach the sermon.  In grace, our Lord fed the hungry people; but in truth, He gave them the Word of God.

This is truly a unique sermon. The crowd asked several questions, some of which Jesus never answers directly. They moved from pseudo-sincerity to open hostility.

By the end of this sermon, Jesus accomplished a couple of things that most preachers try desperately to avoid. He confused his unbelieving audience and alienated all but his closest comrades. On a more positive note, he (a) moved from earth to heaven, (b) made a clarion call for commitment, and (c) came closer to a clear declaration of his identity than he did in his previous two years of ministry.

This section is a powerful teaching of Jesus. The first section deals with the multitudes (vs. 22-40) while the second deals with the Jews (vs. 41-59). The third section (vs. 60-71) contains an interview with the disciples and shows the effect of Jesus’ swords on the inner circle of His own followers.

Jesus tells us to work not “for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…”(6:27a).

WE SEE FOUR RESPONSES BY THE PEOPLE

  1. SEEKING (vs. 22-40).

“The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. {23} Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. {24} Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. {25} When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

This multitude was determined to find Him and carry out their original plan to make Him king. Further, they did not wish to lose a “meal ticket.” The Jews, except for the rich, spent every waking moment toiling for the barest necessities–many were starving.

   “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. {27} Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

  Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of food: food for the body, which is necessary but not the most important; and food for the inner man, the spirit, which is essential! Food only gives sustains life, but Jesus gives eternal life.

  “Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” {29} Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

When Jesus spoke about the works of God, the Jews immediately thought in terms of “good” works.  It was their conviction that a man by living a good life could earn the favour of God.  They held that men could be divided into three classes-those who were good, those who were bad and those who were in between, who, by doing one more good work, could be transferred to the category of the good.  So when the Jews asked Jesus about the work of God they expected him to lay down lists of things to do.  But that is not what Jesus says at all.

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? {31} Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” {32} Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. {33} For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” {35} Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. {36} But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. {37} All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. {38} For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. {39} And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. {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 him up at the last day.”

  1. MURMURING (vs. 41-51).

At this the Jews 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’?” {43} “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. {44} “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. {45} It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. {46} No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. {47} I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. {48} I am the bread of life. {49} Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. {50} But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. {51} I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

This passage shows the reasons why the Jews rejected Jesus, and in rejecting him, rejected eternal life.

(i)  They judged things by human values and by external standards.  Their reaction in face of the claim of Jesus was to produce the fact that he was a carpenter’s son and that they had seen him grow up in Nazareth.  They were unable to understand how one who was a tradesman and who came from a poor home could possibly be a special messenger from God.

We must have a care that we never neglect a message from God because we despise or do not care for the messenger. 

(ii)  The Jews argued with each other.  They were so taken up with their private arguments that it never struck them to refer the decision to God.  They were exceedingly eager to let everyone know what they thought about the matter; but not in the least anxious to know what God thought. 

(iii)  The Jews listened, but they did not learn.  There are different kinds of listening.  There is the listening of criticism; there is the listening of resentment; there is the listening of superiority; there is the listening of indifference; there is the listening of the man who listens only because for the moment he cannot get the chance to speak.  The only listening that is worth while is that which hears and learns; and that is the only way to listen to God.

(iv)  The Jews resisted the drawing of God.  Only those accept Jesus whom God draws to him.  The word which John uses for to draw is helkuein.  The word used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew when Jeremiah hears God say as the Authorized Version has it:  “With loving-kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).  The interesting thing about the word is that it almost always implies some kind of resistance.  It is the word for drawing a heavily laden net to the shore (John 21:6, 11).  It is used of Paul and Silas being dragged before the magistrates in Philippi (Acts 16:19).  It is the word for drawing a sword from the belt or from its scabbard (John 18:10).  Always there is this idea of resistance.  God can draw men, but man’s resistance can defeat God’s pull.

Grumbling is offensive to God because it demonstrates a lack of trust. We justify it by saying, “I’m not grumbling against God but against the preacher/teacher/elder.” But as these passages show, God’s people have never grumbled against God per se, but against God’s spokesman. Nevertheless, God took it personally. If we reject God’s established authority in our lives we have rejected God, himself.

  1. STRIVING (vs. 52-59).

“Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” {53} Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 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 him 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 him. {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 forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” {59} He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.”

During the early years of the Christian faith, the charge of cannibalism was often brought against Christians. Outsiders were often shocked by the language of Christians, particularly when they heard them repeating Jesus’ words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood! What had He meant by such an extreme statement?

Obviously, this is a figure of speech. He is talking about accepting him at the deepest levels. He is speaking of participation and incorporation of his character, purposes, and nature.

The Trans-substantiationists use these verses to support their doctrine of the actual presence of the flesh and the blood of Christ in the Loaf and in the cup. They contend that one must literally partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus, and they, therefore, sacrifice the body of Jesus anew each week at the Mass. 

The Sacramentalists teach that the Christian, by absenting himself from the Lord’s Supper, cuts himself off from any contact with the saving blood of Jesus Christ.

  1. DEPARTING (vs. 60-71)

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” {61} Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? {62} What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. {64} Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. {65} He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. {67} “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. {68} Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. {69} We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” {70} Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” {71} (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)”

The Greek of verse 66 is much more explicit than the English translation. First, “From this time”  suggests not merely this time but this event. As a result of this sermon many of his disciples abandon ship. They go back home, back to work, back to their old habits, old ways of thinking, etc. For many, this is an abdication of the movement. They not only give up following Jesus, they give up what he represents and teaches. They are not fit for the kingdom (Lk 9:62).

This is perhaps the most “unsuccessful” sermon ever preached. Jesus started with thousands and finishes with a handful. Yet it is a significant turning point in Jesus’ ministry. While he moves closer to a self-revelation, he also shifts from a public ministry to thousands to a more private training of the Twelve. Jesus frames his question in v. 67 so as to expect a negative answer. This is not an invitation for them to leave, but a helpful reminder of why they have chosen to stay.

Characteristically, Peter answers for the group. “The emphatic use of the first person plural pronoun implies a contrast between the Twelve and those who had deserted Jesus” (Tenney, p. 80). And what an answer! Peter probably doesn’t understand the full significance of this sermon, but he gets the main point: Life comes through incorporating Jesus’ words.

(i)  There was defection.  Some turned back and walked with him no more.  They drifted away for various reasons.

(ii)  There was deterioration.  It is in Judas above all that we see this.  Jesus must have seen in him a man whom he could use for his purposes.  But Judas, who might have become the hero, became the villain; he who might have become a saint became a name of shame.

There is a terrible story about an artist who was painting the Last Supper.  It was a great picture and it took him many years.  As model for the face of Christ he used a young man with a face of transcendent loveliness and purity.  Bit by bit the picture was filled in and one after another the disciples were painted.  The day came when he needed a model for Judas whose face he had left to the last.  He went out and searched in the lowest haunts of the city and in the dens of vice.  At last he found a man with a face so depraved and vicious as matched his requirement.  When the sittings were at an end the man said to the artist:  “You painted me before.”  “Surely not,” said the artist.  “O yes,” said the man, “I sat for your Christ.”  The years had brought terrible deterioration.

(iii)  There was determination.  This is John’s version of Peter’s great confession at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27; Matthew 16:13; Luke 9:18).  It was just such a situation as this that called out the loyalty of Peter’s heart.  To him the simple fact was that there was just no one else to go to.  Jesus alone had the words of life.

Peter’s loyalty was based on a personal relationship to Jesus Christ.  There were many things he did not understand; he was just as bewildered and puzzled as anyone else.  But there was something about Jesus for which he would willingly die.  In the last analysis Christianity is not a philosophy which we accept, nor a theory to which we give allegiance.  It is a personal response to Jesus Christ.  It is the allegiance and the love which a man gives because his heart will not allow him to do anything else.

Francis Schaeffer believed that what Peter said in this passage is the key to bringing people to faith in God. When Schaeffer would talk with nonbelievers about God, he would force them to look at the alternatives to faith. He would ask if they were ready to live in a world with no absolute right or wrong, no hope, and no basis for human dignity.

He was convinced that human beings cannot live with such meaninglessness. Schaeffer would lead people to the brink of despair in order to bring them back to Peter’s realization: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”

The preaching of the Word of God always leads to a sifting of the hearts of the listeners. God draws sinners to the Savior through the power of truth, His Word. Those who reject the Word reject the Savior and reject God.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

One response to ““Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #8 “Bread Delivered From Heaven” John 6:22-71

  1. Terry Davenport

    March 8, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    THis was good. Especially the different type of listening. TJ

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

     

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