Summary: Do you believe in Jesus or not? Will you come to him or will you reject him? If you’re one who’s still deciding, then ask God to open your eyes so you can see the truth about Jesus and come to believe in him
You may have noticed that there’s been a significant revival of Atheism over the past few years. More and more people have begun to question the validity of the claims of religions, particularly Christianity, of a supernatural power being at work in the world. It’s like carbon in the atmosphere. If you can’t see it, it can’t be there. Or so they say. Certainly the claims of Christianity that Jesus was God’s own son, born in human flesh; that Jesus died then came back to life; that he could walk through locked doors; they must surely be the inventions of his followers after the fact.
Yet we Christians firmly believe that what we read in God’s word is true. We have a deep inner conviction that the Christian message is the truth. So why is that? Are we so simple that we’ll believe anything? Well no, most Christians are reasonably intelligent, rational, thinking people.
So why is it that some people believe and some don’?
I think that’s a question that Jesus addresses here in John chapter 6.
A Why do unbelievers not believe?
1. It’s a Spiritual Message.
"Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."" (John 6:26-27 NRSV)
Last week we read about the feeding of the 5000 and we saw the significance of that sign in terms of Jesus role as the new Moses, that is, the new saviour of the people. Some of the people recognised what Jesus did for what it was, but their conclusion wasn’t quite right.
They saw the miracle of bread appearing from nowhere and thought they were on to a good thing. If he could do that then he could feed an army that could drive out the Romans. But Jesus says, you’ve got it all wrong. There are two sorts of food. There’s the bread that nourishes our physical existence, but that’s doomed to perish in the end, but there’s also bread that nourishes our spiritual existence which will last forever. He says: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
These people were materialists. They’d eaten the loaves and had their fill, but they’d completely missed the spiritual significance of what had happened. They’d seen the miracle but they hadn’t seen the sign. Jesus had looked at the crowd and seen not just hungry people, but also people searching in vain for something to fill a spiritual vacuum within them. These people weren’t much different from people today – like sheep without a shepherd is how Mark describes them in his account. Jesus feeds them as a sign, or a pointer to the deeper spiritual truth that he has food for us that will satisfy our spiritual hunger, a food, he says, that will endure for eternal life. The difficulty so many people have today is that they’re materialists just like these Galileans and all they can see is their material needs. They’re working so hard that they don’t have time to sit down and think about their spiritual needs; about the fact that they need food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man can give them.
So that’s the first obstacle; and the second is:
2. Jesus Claims are Essentially Supernatural
"Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"" (John 6:41-42 NRSV)
This is the sort of thing you expect to hear in a mental hospital: from people who have lost touch with reality. In the previous chapter we find a long argument between Jesus and the Pharisees in which Jesus claims over and over to have come from God, indeed to be the Son of God. In the space of a mere 10 verses, from 31 to 40, Jesus uses the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘my’ 17 times. And here it’s the same. He’s come down from heaven. Yet his claims aren’t those of a megalomaniac. There’s an inherent modesty in what he claims. “38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”
Yet he claims a divine origin: ‘I have come down from heaven’; a divine mission: ‘I have come to do the will of him who sent me’; and, a few verses earlier, a divine ministry: ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’