Everyone who loves wrestling with the deep theological truths found in God’s Word, raise your hand! I would raise my hand to that question, but I have to admit…there are many times when I just can’t quite wrap my head around some of the things God tells us. My questions lead to more questions. I’ve learned that’s normal if we want to be mature believers, growing in the knowledge of God. Struggling to grasp spiritual truths is good for our mind and heart, but like anything worthwhile, we must be willing to do the hard work. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, if our only spiritual nourishment is the “milk” of the word (the elementary principles), we become dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:11-14). We need to wrestle with the solid food, the “meat” of the word.
Reading John 6 always makes me stop and ponder and meditate. Even the Pharisees, who were learned teachers in the scriptures, walked away shaking their heads and offended because they were not willing to struggle with the truth until God gave them understanding.
This chapter opens with a miracle. Jesus takes five loaves of barley and two small fish and turns them into a feast for five thousand men (plus women and children)! The next day, the crowds seek Him out, not to hear His teaching but because their physical bellies were filled, and they wanted another free meal. Jesus sees their shallow motivation, and challenges them:
John 6:27 – Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father God, has set His seal.”
In other words, stop looking at the world through physical eyes and ask God for spiritual insight to see the eternal things that Jesus offers.
This conversation leads to Jesus making some difficult statements that aren’t for the faint of heart spiritually.
- This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent (6:29).
- I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (6:35).
- All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out (6:37).
- This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (6:40).
- No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day (6:44).
- I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh (6:51).
- Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (6:53-54).
- It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe (6:63-64).
- No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father (6:65).
Books have been written on the theological implications of this one chapter. False religious beliefs have spun off of it (our enemy loves to twist God’s words to deceive). For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes Jesus is talking about the sacrament of communion, that when they partake of it, the bread and wine are actually transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ. This is clearly not the case, as Jesus says His words are spirit, not flesh. The tenets of election and predestination, and the free will of man have their roots in these words (concepts which in human logic seem opposed, but in God’s wisdom are complementary sides of the same coin).
There are countless directions we could take in studying this passage, but perhaps the simplest one is to look at it in the context of the miracle that launched the teaching. By faith in Jesus alone, the needs of the people had been satisfied. Jesus was enough. They needed nothing else, but to look to Him, believe in the miracle He had accomplished, and receive from Him the nourishment their bodies craved.
In the same way, Jesus is the spiritual bread of life that satisfies our soul. We receive Him, taking all of Him into our minds, hearts, and lives, and depending solely on Him for eternal life (three times He reminds us I will raise him up on the last day.) To do God’s work is not to earn salvation by good deeds, but to believe in Him whom He has sent – Jesus.
How did the people eat? They were called to sit down and receive. The Father graciously calls us to look at His Son to meet our spiritual needs. Unless the Father calls us – unless He opens our eyes, draws us, convicts us, speaks to us about the spiritual hunger that is found in all men – we will not look at Jesus. We will never desire Him without Him first speaking to us. And if we turn our eyes to behold Him, and believe, we will have eternal life.
What was the result? Abundance…they had twelve baskets of leftovers! When we partake of Jesus, we are given abundant life.
Abundant eternal life.
What’s our response? When those with hard hearts unwilling to believe walked away, Jesus asked His disciples if they, too, wanted to go away. Peter declares what ought to be the cry of every follower of Jesus:
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that You are the Holy One of God. (6:68-69)
Who else can satisfy us like Jesus? He is the Bread of Life, sent from the Father, bringing all that we need for this life and eternity. Don’t turn away from Jesus because you don’t understand everything. Just be patient. Heed the call of the Father and behold the Son. Believe in Him and receive Him into your life. You will never hunger or thirst again.