Eating Is Believing
Growing up I never really liked asparagus
We didn’t have it very often, that I can remember
I just remember not liking it the times that we did
After moving to Birmingham, AL my parents became friends with a family whose father was a trained chef
He was opening a restaurant and our family got invited to opening night
Can you guess what the vegetable was that evening – asparagus!
That was the first time I actually liked asparagus
I’m not saying my Mom didn’t cook asparagus well – I was older by the time we had it prepared by a chef, so I guess my palate had become more refined
I love eating asparagus now
Perhaps every one of us can remember turning our nose up at a particular kind of food as a child
It was something we did not like and would refuse to eat
Take a moment to think back to your childhood, what was the food?
Do you like that food item today?
One item that was prohibited for the Israelites to eat was meat that still had blood in it. They were also prohibited from drinking blood. So, the Jews in this passage today were definitely struggling with Jesus’ statement, that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood that they have no life in them. Jesus obviously was not talking about literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood. As we will see today, what is required to have eternal life and to live forever is believing in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – If you believe, you have eaten.
Augustine of Hippo actually said, “Believe, and you have eaten [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 297].
GOD (John 6:41-59)
Grumbling (vv. 41-46)
The Jews are not happy with Jesus’ teaching
They understood that Jesus was saying He was from heaven, but that didn’t go together with what they thought they knew about Him (vv. 41-42)
They knew that Jesus was the son of Joseph and that His mother was Mary
Jesus had grown up in Nazareth of Galilee and that was the only thing they knew about Him
All they knew was Jesus of Nazareth and not Jesus of Bethlehem in Judea
Luke 2:16-19, So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
My guess is that Mary and Joseph kept Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth pretty quiet, especially after they moved to Nazareth in Galilee
Those in Galilee were not familiar with Jesus of Bethlehem
The Jews premise would be correct if Jesus was just the human son of Mary and Joseph
“How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
Jesus wasn’t deity, He was just the son of a carpenter
We know His family
So the Jews were grumbling among themselves
This was not the first time the Jews had grumbled
There are references throughout this discourse to the manna from heaven and the Jews forefathers
The Israelites had grumbled before and after they had received the manna from heaven
Exodus 16:2, 8, In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron . . . Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
Numbers 11:4, The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!”
“Grumblers seldom take their issue directly to those who can resolve it.” [John White, Leadership, Vol 14, no. 2]
This is true of us today
It’s much easier to talk to other people about the issue we are having than to go directly to the person we have an issue with
Many times our assumptions about the situation or the person are not correct
If we would go directly to the individual, we can avoid misconceptions and gossip
Once something false is said, it’s very difficult to retrace the path it has taken, with the truth
This is not easy, but it’s necessary – we need to go directly to the person we have an issue with and not to anyone else
My Next Step Today Is To: With the Lord’s help, go directly to the individual I have an issue with instead of talking to others about it.
The Jews thought they knew who Jesus was, but their assumption was false
Jesus proves that He is more than merely human when He calls them on the carpet
Stop grumbling! (v. 43)
PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus is all-knowing (omniscient).
He knew what they were doing and saying and He put a stop to it, immediately
We need to follow Jesus’ example here
When we hear gossip or grumbling we need to step in and confront the individual(s) immediately
If someone approaches us and tries to get us to engage in gossip or grumbling, we need to ask them if they have talked with the individual they are sharing with us about
If they haven’t then we need to encourage them to do that
If they’re afraid, then tell them that you will go with them
Accountability is the key, and it will bring unity
Once Jesus stopped the grumbling, He was able to teach them more about who He was
Doctrine of election (vv. 44-45)
Jesus began to teach this doctrine as we saw in verses 37 and 40 last week, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away . . . 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.”
God’s sovereignty (v. 44)
We see God’s sovereign act of drawing people to the Jesus
The Greek words means, “to draw by inward power, lead, impel”
It’s God’s drawing power
His holiness and righteousness draw people to Him
The Holy Spirit does the work within human beings to soften their hearts to the things of God – to bring them to a place of repentance
Those whom God draws to Jesus will be raised up on the last day
Jesus then uses Isaiah 54:13 to help the Jews understand human responsibility in salvation
Isaiah 54:13, All your sons will be taught by the Lord and great will be your children’s peace.
Isaiah is foreseeing a day when the Israelites will return from exile, rebuild Jerusalem, and worship the Lord – their spiritual fervor, for the Lord, will be restored and renewed
Jesus is basically telling the Jews that the reason they don’t believe in Him is because they are unwilling to be taught by God
Imagine how those words fell on the ears of pious Jews who prided themselves in studying the Torah
Is Jesus saying we don’t know our own Scriptures?
Jesus makes it clear that everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Him [Jesus] – that’s our human responsibility
“To ‘hear from the Father’ is to hear Jesus, for the One who spoke long ago at Sinai now speaks through the Son, and only through the Son. If they do not hear the Son, they will not hear the Father, and if they do not hear and learn from the Father, they will not come to the Son.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 387]
This is the responsibility of every Christian
Matthew 28:18-20, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Romans 10:14-15, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
God’s sovereignty and human responsibility cannot be separated
It is both elements together and not one or the other that brings about salvation
“Salvation is never achieved apart from the drawing power of God, and it is never consummated apart from the willingness of humans to hear and learn from God. To choose one or the other will ultimately end in unbalanced, unbiblical theology.” [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 268]
The concept of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility can be difficult for us to understand or comprehend
“During his days as guest lecturer at Calvin Seminary, R. B. Kuiper once used the following illustration of God's sovereignty and human responsibility:
‘I liken them to two ropes going through two holes in the ceiling and over a pulley above. If I wish to support myself by them, I must cling to them both. If I cling only to one and not the other, I go down. I read the many teachings of the Bible regarding God's election, predestination, his chosen, and so on. I read also the many teachings regarding 'whosoever will may come' and urging people to exercise their responsibility as human beings. These seeming contradictions cannot be reconciled by the puny human mind. With childlike faith, I cling to both ropes, fully confident that in eternity I will see that both strands of truth are, after all, of one piece.’”
John Morren, Lake City, Michigan. Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.
So, God draws us to Jesus, but we are drawn because we have heard the Father and have learned from Him
Jesus is the key
Jesus expresses His deity to the Jews
Jesus is speaking in the third person
He is from God and, therefore, has seen the Father
PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is deity.
Making this statement was going to be difficult for the Jews to accept
Remember, they have already questioned His statement about coming down from heaven
They thought they knew His genealogy (Joseph and Mary)
Throughout Jesus’ passion we know that the religious leaders were upset that He claimed to be from God – they said He blasphemed
Jesus is the key!
“Two months before [Orthodox priest] Aleksandr Menn was felled by an ax, he was asked in a radio interview broadcast across Russia, ‘Does one need to be a Christian, and if one does, then why?’
‘I think there is only one answer, and it as follows,’ he said:
‘Man always seeks God. The normal state of man is, to some extent, to be connected with a higher power, even when the higher power in the human mind is distorted, and turned into something secular. Eras of Stalinism ... and all other isms seek some false god even if God is taken away. This turns to idol worship, but still the inner instinct of seeking God is there. ...
‘The question is totally different when it is put this way: Why Christianity? Is it because of the sacred scriptures? No, every religion has sacred scriptures, and sometimes with a very high quality of spiritual content. ...
‘Then why Christianity? Morality? Certainly. I am happy that in our society the high moral values of Christianity are accepted, but it would be totally erroneous to maintain that there are no moral values outside Christianity. ...
‘Then why Christianity? Should we embrace ... a position that God is revealed and therefore can be found in any religion? No, because then the uniqueness and absolute character of Christianity will disappear. I think that nothing will prove the uniqueness of Christianity except one thing – Jesus Christ Himself.’”
Larry Woiwode, Books & Culture, Vol. 2, no. 2.
All of this leads up to a teaching that will separate true disciples from all the rest
Believe (vv. 47-58)
In verses 47 to 58 we see a lot of repeated ideas in a chiastic structure that points to the central idea that Jesus wants the crowd to understand
A chiastic structure has matching parts that eventually narrow down to a main idea
It is like a “greater than” symbol pointing to the center
The chiastic structure for these verses is as follows:
A – vv. 47-48
B – v. 49
C – vv. 50-51a
D – v. 51b
E – vv. 52-53 (central idea/main point)
D’ – vv. 54-56
C’ – vv. 57-58a
B’ – v. 58b
A’ – v. 58c
The whole theme is about living forever and having eternal life
Eternal life/live forever (vv. 47-48, 58c)
These first two sections help us to understand what Jesus is really trying to communicate
In verse 47 Jesus says, the one who believes has eternal life
What exactly does someone need to believe?
We see that in verse 48, I am the bread of life
This takes us back to verse 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.”
Then in verse 58c we read these words, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever
Notice how Jesus uses both believe and feeds to mean the same thing
If you believe, you have eaten.
Jesus uses eternal life and lives forever to mean the same thing
If the Jews or anyone else believes in Jesus and what He came to earth to do, then they will have eternal life and live forever
Jesus tries to help the Jews understand the significance of His claim that He is the bread of life
Ancestors died (vv. 49, 58b)
Back in verse 31 the Jews used Scripture (Exodus 14:4) as a proof text for what happened to their forefathers
The Israelites were sustained by God, for 40 years, through the miraculous bread from heaven – manna
The Jews in Jesus’ day wanted a miraculous sign from Jesus on the same level as manna from heaven
Jesus explains that manna did not provide eternal life and the Israelites did not live forever
We know from Old Testament scripture (Numbers 14:29-30) that not every Israelite made it to the Promised Land
Those who were 21 years old or older, who rebelled against the Lord when He brought them to the Promised Land the first time, would die in the wilderness
In fact, everyone who ate manna in the wilderness eventually died
Manna from heaven did not provide eternal life
Jesus explains that there is a bread from heaven that provides eternal life
Bread from heaven (vv. 50-51a, 57-58a)
In verses 50 and 58a Jesus speaks about Himself in the third person, But here is the bread that comes down from heaven . . . This is the bread that came down from heaven
Then in verses 51a and 57 He speaks of Himself in the first person, I am the living bread that came down from heaven . . . 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
Jesus uses the metaphor of eating and feeding in these verses to refer to believing in Him
He uses the negative in verse 50, not die
Then He uses the positive in verse 57, will live
Jesus then moves to the hard teaching that will separate the genuine disciples from the fake ones
Eating flesh and drinking blood (vv. 51b, 54-56)
Jesus is moving the Jews away from the idea of physical bread to the idea of spiritual bread
Here is the key to these verses
John 1:14, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus is not talking about cannibalism or vampires
The reference to eating His flesh and drinking His blood is referring to His sacrifice for humanity (for the life of the world) on the cross
Later on during the Last Supper He will explain the bread as His body which was broken for us and the wine as His blood that was poured out for us
However, in this passage it is not referring to the Eucharist/Communion
That would require us reading back into this passage something that happened after the events of this passage
The Lord’s Supper wasn’t instituted yet
Jesus is foretelling His death
Live forever/eternal life
Once again we see Jesus using these two terms interchangeably
That is the result of recognizing and believing in Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross and then coming to Him
Raised up at the last day
Verse 54 and verse 40 are almost parallel and help us to understand that Jesus is using the metaphor of eating to describe believing in Him
John 6:54, Whoever eats my flesh and drinks by blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day
John 6:40, 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.
If you believe, you have eaten.
Jesus is basically saying that if we continue to believe in His sacrifice on the cross that He will continue to be with us
“That the believer remains in Jesus means he or she continues to be identified with Jesus, continues as a Christian (to use a later term), continues in saving faith and consequent transformation of life. That Jesus remains in the believer means that Jesus identifies himself with the believer, but not in reciprocal trust and transformation (that would be absurd) but in help, blessing, life, and personal presence by the Spirit (cf. 14:23-27).” [Carson, 298]
John 15:5-8, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jesus has been speaking positively up to this point, but that changes here at the center
Center – No life (vv. 52-53)
The Jews are trying to understand
Their question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” is similar to Nicodemus’s questions
John 3:4, “How can a man be born when he is old?”
John 3:9, “How can this be?” (Jesus talking about being born again)
The Jews are wrestling with the truth that Jesus is God and has been sent from God to redeem the world and provide eternal life for everyone who believes in Him and comes to Him
The Jews were arguing between themselves and again Jesus answers their question even though it wasn’t directed to Him
Jesus is saying to them, “You have to believe in Me as the One sent down from heaven from the Father to provide eternal life.”
If they refuse to do that, they do not have life in them
They will not have eternal life
They will not live forever
They are not guaranteed entrance into the Kingdom of God
PRINCIPLE #3 – God’s desire is that every person believe in Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.
We are no different than the Jews in Jesus’ day
We are not guaranteed heaven apart from believing in Jesus and remaining in Him
What we all deserve is eternal separation from God, because of our sin
Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Notice that the prophet Isaiah said that we all have turned to our own way – meaning we have turned away from God and His way
Repentance is turning back to God’s way
Acts 3:19, Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.
Repentance is more than just saying a prayer with the preacher or evangelist
True repentance is evidenced by a transformed life – desiring the things that God desires
It is being completely committed to Jesus and faith in Him
“Do you understand the illustration? That is what faith is. That is what it means to eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood. It is to commit yourself to him. It is to accept his promise and pledge on your behalf and to repeat his promise, vowing to be his for eternity. If you have done that, you have done the most important thing there is to be done in this life, regardless of what you may already have accomplished or may yet accomplish. If you have not, you should know that today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of your union with Christ, if you will have it so. (Boice, II, p. 220).” [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 130]
My Next Step Today Is To: Repent and turn to God so my sins can be wiped out and I can experience eternal life.
Location (v. 59)
John helps us to know where Jesus was when He gave His “Bread of Life” discourse
We already knew that He was in Capernaum
Now we know He was in the synagogue in Capernaum
If you have truly repented of your sins and turned to God, then going directly to the person you have an issue with will be your first reaction instead of talking to others about it
Please make today the day of salvation, the day of repenting and turning back to God
We have a responsibility as fellow believers to follow Jesus’ example of stopping those who are grumbling, complaining or gossiping – accountability is the key
We also have a responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those around us
“Most kingdoms do anything they can to protect their king. This is the unspoken premise of the game of chess, for example. When the king falls, the kingdom is lost. Therefore, the king must be protected at all costs. Another notable example comes from the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill desperately wanted to join the expeditionary forces and watch the invasion from the bridge of a battleship in the English Channel. U.S. General Dwight David Eisenhower was desperate to stop him, for fear that the Prime Minister might be killed in battle. When it became apparent that Churchill would not be dissuaded, Eisenhower appealed to a higher authority: King George VI. The king went and told Churchill that if it was the Prime Minister's duty to witness the invasion, he could only conclude that it was also his own duty as king to join him on the battleship. At this point Churchill reluctantly agreed to back down, for he knew that he could never expose the King of England to such danger.
King Jesus did exactly the opposite. With royal courage he surrendered his body to be crucified. On the cross he offered a king's ransom: his life for the life of his people. He would die for all the wrong things that we had ever done and would do, completely atoning for all our sins. The crown of thorns that was meant to make a mockery of his royal claims actually proclaimed his kingly dignity, even in death.”
From Philip Ryken's sermon "Long Live the King!" PreachingToday.com