A Beautiful Mystery of the Gospel
Jesus’ teaching in John chapter 6 speaks as one of the most foundational truths to the Gospel while yet being one of the most mysterious (but don’t be alarmed). The chapter opens with a familiar passage to many, the feeding of the five thousand. What’s known often as a childhood favorite also precedes two of the most profound truths of a Christian faith. Without these truths, we have no message and no call. Without these truths, we have no Gospel.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand
However, before we mention them, preceding what could be known as the climax of chapter 6 is Jesus’ feeding the five thousand. As many of you know, there was hardly enough food to feed so many (five barley loaves and two fish to be exact).
There was confusion from the disciples as to how Jesus planned to supply for the people. (John 6:5-8) Even though Jesus had performed miracles among them, the disciples still didn’t fully understand Who Jesus was at this point in His ministry. However, among the confusion, he fed the five thousand and had food to spare by the miracle of His hand. As an added point, we are probably talking about at least double this number considering the passage only mentioned the men being seated.
But let’s continue.
They Sought in Vain
“When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him King, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (John 6:14-15) What can be seen as a glimpse into the hearts of the people – who were either shouting “crucify Him” or silent during the death sentence of Jesus – are the men who seek to make Jesus an earthly King.
They didn’t understand Who Jesus truly was. They had believed that a King was to come and save the people of God (Deut. 18:15-22), but their view and belief fell short of honoring the Trinity. They wanted to be rescued. They wanted salvation but not from sin.
Shortly after Jesus and His disciples had left for Capernaum, the crowds followed. They got in their boats and sought the one they had hoped would be their King. “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Now I’m assuming that this word’s hearers were ecstatic when they heard the term “labor” because people love to attain righteousness by their hand, whether they think about it deeply or not. You saw it in those days, and you see it today. It’s hard for human nature to grasp that righteousness is not something we can achieve by doing (from what I’ve seen and experienced). Jesus, however, doesn’t leave them without explanation for His statement.
Life Through Believing
“Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (v.28-29) Jesus had just given them such a profound and countercultural truth that still escapes the minds of many. The work of God that leads to eternal life is believing!
I hope you see how powerful this is. Do you understand that you cannot make yourself believe this, this genuine belief in Jesus that leads to salvation? How do you choose this of your own will? You don’t. Even at the moment where you verbally say “I CHOOSE CHRIST,” it’s because in your heart you have already believed it… and this was a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9).
Here, in Capernaum, the men didn’t yet believe. They sought more signs from Jesus even though He just fed the multitudes. They needed to see something else so that Jesus would be “worthy” of their belief. Little did they know, they were talking to God (John 1:1-14).
The Bread of Life
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Right after this, Jesus makes the statement that so many know, “I am the bread of life” (v.35).
Jesus tells these men that yes, their fathers may have eaten, but it wasn’t from Moses’s hand, and though they ate literal bread, Jesus Himself is the bread that gives eternal life and that believing in Him is the meal of salvation (v.35 & 54-55).
He tells them, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out, for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day (v.37-39).
The Beautiful Mystery
And here lies the beautiful mystery. There is a calling to follow, but our following comes from the hand of God (though we don’t know how He does this). Yes, believers are called to and do seek Jesus for salvation, but that the Father gave them. That no one can seek the King but he whom God drew in (v.44).
A Call. A Reminder. A Prayer
So, to you, the reader. If you haven’t feasted (believed) on Jesus for eternal life, seek Him! Seek Him earnestly. Seek Him early. Seek Him now, knowing that in your coming to Jesus, it is God Himself drawing you in by His gracious hand out of love for you and His glory. I pray that all of you, followers of Christ, remain humble and thankful to God for this beautiful gift that He has bestowed upon you.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)