Summary: Jesus is the bread of life who sustains us.
Will You Have Jesus for Thanksgiving?
First preached Nov, 2003
Last week we looked into the first half of this dialog between Jesus and the Jews. They had come in boats back to Capernaum and were astonished to find Jesus already there. Their question “How did you get here?” as someone has noted could be translated “Why did you leave us over there?” They were going to arrest Him and make Him king.
Jesus instead of answering the question, tells them of their wrong motive. They came only because of the earthly needs that were met. He told them to labor for the food which does not perish. He also told Him the only acceptable work was to believe on the One Whom the Father had sent. Jesus finally tells them that He is the Bread of Life. Those who wish to have eternal life need to come to Him for it. But He also told them that He knew that they did not believe in Him.
Exposition of the Text
This week’s passage begins with the reaction of the Jews to Jesus’ claim to be the bread of life. It says they murmured. This reminds us of the wanderings of the Jews in the wilderness in the time of Moses. They murmured bitterly about the manna and demanded meat. From what is described in Scripture, manna was pretty tasty, kind of a honey wafer. It wasn’t just bread, it was very good bread. Yet the Israelites under Moses had the choice of eating it or dying of hunger in the wilderness. It was the bread of life to them, take it or leave it, although it must be understood in the light of this passage that it only sustained their earthly existence. It did not give them eternal life. Those who ate of this bread all died, eventually. Now the Jews were murmuring against the true Bread of Heaven, Jesus, Who came down not just to sustain earthly existence but to offer eternal life.
The Jews thought they knew where He came from. They reminded Jesus of His genealogy. The gist of what they said is this: “You’re just the Son of Joseph and Mary. We know/knew them both. They were nothing special. How is it that you then claim to come from God?” Not everyone knew the secret of the first Christmas. It was only revealed to a select few. This is another use of irony by John. The Jews think they know about Jesus and where they came from. This shows how little use that worldly wisdom has in understanding the things of God. No one can understand God unless God reveals it to them.
In verse 43, Jesus responds to the criticism by telling them to stop murmuring. This should have reminded them of the cost their fathers had paid in the wilderness when the murmured against the manna, Moses, and God. The New Testament Book of Hebrews reminds us that they failed to enter the promised land because of their unbelief and their carcasses rotted in the wilderness with a warning to Christians against falling into the same unbelief.
Jesus goes on to make a profound statement that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draw Him. The Greek word for “draw” implies the use of force or compulsion. This clearly shows how much the will of the earthly man opposes the will of God. The unregenerate person is totally incapable of coming to Christ. Were it not for the compelling grace of God, no one would come at all. This should serve as a check against those who think they are in control of when they are going to make things right with God. If God allowed this, then it would allow a sense of boasting on the part of the believer. The believer must be reminded that “we are saved by grace through faith, and this not of ourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
So when in last week’s passage in verse 29 that the work of God is to believe one the One Whom God has sent, it must be even understood that this work isn’t so much a work we do as is done in us. So when Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the Word tugs at one’ heart, that person is well advised not to wait but to come right away. To not come would be to reject Him. And to reject Him has eternal consequences. This does not mean that God will not try again, but be warned. God is in control, not us.
There is a word of assurance given here by Jesus. The one who believes can be confident of eternal life. Jesus, Himself, will raise the believer on the last day. This strongly implies that the believer has real security. The only way it would be possible to miss eternal life would be to lose one’s faith in Jesus. If this faith were to be seen as God’s gift and not the works of men, then it could even be seen that to lose faith is not possible.