Below are the notes from yesterday’s lesson. I’ve got a few extras in there that I didn’t have time to mention – including some notes I had found from Jonathan Edwards on the 35th verse. Enjoy!
6:22-24 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.  Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.  So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
- But the essence of what was going on here is that the next day, once everyone had been fed, and had gone home and slept (while the disciples were going through quite a trial on the Sea), they came looking to see what Jesus was up to, and what He might do and say today. Again, their motives were not entirely pure…as MacArthur says, they were “thrill seekers.”
6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
- Sproul aptly points out that when they said “when”, they really were meaning “how.” For they had seen that Jesus had not gone out in a boat with the disciples, but rather had gone along by himself to pray (Mark 6:46). However, Jesus doesn’t answer their question…
6:26 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.
- This is a stern rebuke – once again Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God sees right into their hearts. Earlier in chapter two, we read that, “…when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).
- James Montgomery Boice points out that there is application here even for Christians. He asks us to closely examine our own motives as Christians when we come to Christ in prayer. “In am convinced that in our day in American Christianity there is a lamentable tendency to focus on human need rather than on God himself.” He goes on to explain what he means by that, “What is wrong (with just coming to Christ with our needs all the time) is that it is tragically possible to so focus on our needs that we are actually focusing on ourselves rather than on Jesus, and so never get to the solutions to our problems that Jesus wants to bring.”
- Am I coming to Christ with my needs fully realizing that He has allowed them to come into my life in order to show me something? Perhaps something of my own sin? Perhaps He wants to show me my need for constant dependence on Him? Perhaps He wants to show me how finite I am, and use this to teach me something about Himself. Whatever the reason may be, we need to be remind ourselves that Jesus Christ wants us to come into His presence seeking His kingdom in prayer – not just in word and deed!
- I am not, of course, saying that we ought not to lay our burden at the cross, or that we ought not to come to our heavenly Father with our needs. But when that becomes the sole focus of our supplication, we reveal that our desires aren’t yet fully conformed to His. For we should be constantly asking God “Lord, how can I glorify you today? How can these needs of mine be used to show me more about your character? How can my situation refine me and purge me of more of my sinful nature? Lord please use me to bring yourself glory.”
- Boice concludes the thought this way, “May I say it even more strongly? I am convinced that one of the major steps to achieving good spiritual mental health is getting your mind off yourself entirely and on the Lord instead.”
6:27 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.”
- The first part of this verse is a call for us to seek the Kingdom first and let God take care of the loaves and the fishes. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
- The second part of the verse stresses where this imperishable food was going to come from: the Son of Man. By now, it would have been evident to these people that Jesus was referring to Himself when He said “Son of Man”, so there would have been no confusion (I don’t think at least) with His point here.
- The last part of the verse says something about the Son of Man, namely that God the Father has set his seal upon Him. Carson explains, “The idea is that God has certified the Son as his own agent, authorizing him as the one who alone can bestow this food.”
6:28-29 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.”
- As Carson points out, these people misunderstood the point Christ was making in verse 27. “His point was not that they should attempt some novel form of work, but that merely material notions of blessing are not worth pursuing. They respond by focusing all attention on work.”
- These men had been so set on getting their material desires fulfilled that they had “missed the greater blessing” (Boice). It shows where their minds where when they immediately thought of a blessing from God as something they could earn somehow.
- How true this is of today! So many people want to believe that they can do something to earn a merit badge toward heaven. We Americans are used to pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, and we almost innately feel like there is something we need to add to God’s work.
- Ryle remarks, “we should observe, for one thing, in these verses, the spiritual ignorance and unbelief of the natural man…doing, doing, doing, was their only idea of the way to heaven…there are no limits to man’s dullness, prejudice, and unbelief in spiritual matters.”
- I also think the lesson here of a works-based gospel can give us Christians pause to check our viewpoints on the work of God. Why? Because we naturally want to add our own name to God’s work. We want to find someway in which we can be involved. We are indeed responsible for responding in faith, however, it is God who gives us the faith! It is God who is working in your heart to allow you to respond to that offer of the gospel. But somehow we want to claim our finite free will above the will of the most holy Sovereign! As Christians we need to learn to give this up.
- But let us not miss the divine point as we simply analyze the mistakes of men. This sentence (Boice calls the “golden sentence”) is, in essence, the gospel. Jesus Christ here tells us how a man can be saved. How? To “believe in him whom he (the Father) has sent.”
- These people of Galilee, like many today, want to know how to be “doing the works of God” – they want to do good things and live a good life. Christ gives them the answer this time, and in so doing, He says that the work of God is that they believe on the Son of God – the one whom He has sent. The mission of the Son is intricately caught up in the divine essence of what it means to “do the works of God.” In other words, there is but one thing that God wants us to focus our attention on firstly, and that is to believe in His Son.
As Ryle sums it up:
If any two things are put in strong contrast, in the New Testament, they are faith and words. Not working, but believing, – not of works, but through faith, – are the words familiar to all careful Bible-readers. Yet here the great Head of the Church declares that believing on Him is the highest and greatest of all “works!” It is “the work of God.”
Doubtless our Lord did not mean that there is anything meritorious in believing. Man’s faith, at the very best, is feeble and defective. Regarded as a “work”, it cannot stand the severity of God’s judgment, deserve pardon, or purchase heaven. But our Lord did mean that faith in Himself, as the only Savior, is the first act of the soul which God requires at a sinner’s hands. Till a man believes on Jesus, and rests on Jesus as a lost sinner, he is nothing. Our Lord did mean that faith in Himself is that act of the soul which specially pleases God. When the Father sees a sinner casting aside his own righteousness, and simply trusting in His dear Son, He is well pleased. Without such faith it is impossible to please God. Our Lord did mean that faith in Himself is the root of all saving religion.
6:30-31 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
- These people might have been looking for manna from the Messiah who would “duplicate” the miracle that Moses had wrought in their midst – for such was the teachings of the Jews (see Boice). But we’ve already explored the motives of these people, and it was obviously outside of the mere religious desire to see a second Messiah come from heaven. Their desires were for their bellies!
6:32 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.
- First, He seems to correct them on their understanding of the Old Testament account of the story, for even though they said that “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”, it seems that they thought of “He” as Moses! Jesus was eager to correct them in this misunderstanding.
- Boice talks about the necessity of bread for life – especially in the days of Jesus. “Without bread, men died. If you see that, then you also see that Jesus was claiming to be the One whom men and women could not do without.”
- Boice also points out that “everything before this (in the passage) has had to do with trusting Christ initially. But when a person trusts Christ as Savior this is hardly the end.” What he meant by this is that “bread should be eaten daily” as Christ should be “eaten” daily. This isn’t a call for a daily Eucharist, but rather a call to satisfy our spiritual desires every day, just as we would our physical desires everyday.
6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
- Jesus quickly makes the transition from the physical to the metaphysical, from the temporal to the eternal. This is something He does ALL the time, it is one of the hallmarks of His teaching, and we see it throughout the gospels. First He will correct misunderstanding of the meaning of an Old Testament passage, then He will elevate their minds to the eternal from the shadow of the OT, then He will conclude by leading them to Himself – as we conclude by leading people to the cross when we are sharing about Christ.
- Look carefully at the word “world” here and realize that – as Steve Lawson points out – there are at least 10 different uses for that word in the Gospel of John alone. That means that we need to make sure the one that we have in mind actually fits the context of the text. In this instance, I think it’s talking about every tribe, tongue, and nation. Jew and Gentile, man and woman, servant and free man are all alike going to benefit from the Bread of God.
- Lastly, when we look carefully at the Word of God, and see proclamations about the “world”, we need to more fully understand the significance of the work of Christ, and also the fact that Christianity is not secluded to one tribe or nation. Christ came to save sinners from all over the globe. An amazing thought.
6:34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
- Not unlike the woman at the well, they want the bread (as she wanted the water) so that they would never have to worry about providing for themselves again! Ryle even notes that, “there is a striking resemblance between the thought expressed in this verse, and the thought of the Samaritan woman, when she heard of the living water that Christ could give.”
- The Galileans saw an eternal welfare state, as it were, and wanted Jesus to provide for them in this way “always.” Of course they did. Ryle confirms my own feelings on the matter when he notes, “On the case of the Jews before us, the wish seems to have been nothing more than the ‘desire of the slothful,’ and to have gone no further. Wishing and admiring are not conversion.”
6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
- This is the first of the seven “I AM” sayings of Christ (if we don’t include 6:20). And as I mentioned earlier, the underlying meaning or feeling conveyed by the language here is that Jesus Christ is God, Jehovah, the great I AM of the Old Testament wrapped in human flesh.
- Of the several significant points that we need to look at, the first is that Jesus is connecting the “food that endures to eternal life” from verse 27 and that He is the manna that has come down from heaven from verse 33. They are all one in the same “bread of life”, and they are all meant to point to Christ.
- What is the result of eating this bread? It is that one will never thirst or hunger again. Is it not significant that the two miracles related to food in the New Testament Gospels are bread and wine? Certainly there is a sort of shadow of the coming Eucharist. Though I won’t assign too much importance or connection between the two by laying on Scripture something more than might be there. But Jonathan Edwards also says there’s a connection here between the Showbread of the Old Testament and the privilege we have of eating at “the King’s Table” today.
- What is clear is that Jesus is claiming to be that which satisfies the souls of man. He is at the heart of what our hearts long for. John Piper says this about verse 35, “what it means to believe in Jesus is to experience Him as the satisfaction of my soul’s thirst and my heart’s hunger. Faith is the experience of contentment in Jesus” (Battling Unbelief, Chp. 5).
- I think the practicality of this passage lies in the fact that Jesus is the ultimate satisfaction for our lives. When Augustine came onto the scene, one of the things he wanted to illuminate was the way to be truly happy. As Sproul says, this wasn’t the happiness of the Epicureans or the Stoics. This was something more substantial – it was finding true happiness in the knowledge of God. This is what Jesus was saying to these men, I am the key to true satisfaction and happiness in this life and the next. Don’t seek after what the Epicureans give you (happiness for your belly), but that which satisfies the soul.
- In the margins of his notes on this chapter, Jonathan Edwards scribbled something that I thought was really good. He said that bread of heaven was “enough for all God’s people” – and he noted that there was a parallel with the feeding of the 5000 and the manna from Exodus that was more than enough for the people each day. In fact Edwards said that one of the main applications for sinners was that “this bread will save you from eternal famine” and that, unlike the manna, “it doesn’t perish.”
- The last thought that Edwards pointed out, also find a connection with the feeding of the 5000, and Ryle’s description of us as God’s ministers feeding His people with the Word of God. Edwards says that we are “priests of Christ” doling out the holy Showbread of Christ (there is underlying sacrificial language/parallels there). Edwards calls on sinners to not “loathe the heavenly manna and tread it under food.”
- Yet so many do loathe Christ and scoff at the satisfaction He offers. And as Christians, it is our unbelief that stops us from laying hold of the satisfaction Christ offers. When we sin, we are basically saying that we find more satisfaction in our idolatry than in Christ. We prefer our materialism (insert idol here) over Christ because we don’t believe the basic fact that Christ can be more satisfying than our sin. This is the sin of unbelief. We need to take Christ at His word and lay hold of that which is most satisfying – the Bread of Heaven.
- If we truly believe Christ is what He said He is – the most satisfying thing we can lay hold of – how ought this to change our lives and spur us on? What actions would you find yourself doing if you truly set your seal to what God the Father set His seal to?