A 2014 survey of American churchgoers threw up some disturbing statistics among twenties (I’m sure churchgoers in the UK are similar):
- 65% believe you will go to heaven if you are a good person;
- Only 58% believe premarital sex is wrong;
- Only 49% believe abortion should be illegal in most instances.
The people in the passage today weren’t much different either. They hadn’t yet grasped the message of the gospel Jesus was bringing.
Thinking of their stomachs
They were following Jesus because they had their stomachs filled with good fish and bread. So Jesus starts to talk about spiritual bread, not physical bread. He tells them, don’t just be thinking of earning enough money to eat well or to get other things that perish. Work for what is eternal. Hold on! Salvation by works? No, not at all; the work that Jesus wants us to do is believing. We are not trying to earn God’s favour by working for Him, but by believing in His favour.
The people understood that Jesus was claiming to be the Son of Man – another term for the Messiah, who would sort everything out. So they asked for a sign. They had seen Him multiply earthly bread, but they think that if He really is the Messiah, He can cause bread to come down from heaven like Moses did. Jesus explains that Moses didn’t give the bread, he gave instructions on how to collect it. God gave the manna. That was just a type, a pointer to what Jesus is now bringing – not physical bread that provides temporary nourishment, but spiritual bread that satisfies spiritual hunger and thirst.
In v.34 you can see they still haven’t grasped it, asking “Give us this bread always”. They are still thinking it is physical bread that will enable them to live forever. Jesus clarifies the spiritual nature of the bread further in v.35 – “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”. It is Jesus Himself who is the true bread from heaven. He is the food from heaven that gives eternal life. In v.36 we see that although they have seen Jesus and his miracles, they are still not believing.
Jesus continues, in the next few verses, to explain the promise to those who do come to Jesus, as well as His own submission to the Father and the Father’s will for them. Firstly, the promise is of eternal security to those who come to Him. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out”, John 6:37. Jesus will not reject such a believer in the present or in the future, but notice how a person comes to Jesus. The Father has given them to Jesus. So on the one hand we have the doctrine of election – God chooses those who will believe and on the other we have our free choice in coming to Jesus. We also see here God’s preserving of those who come to Him, because He will never cast them out – “whoever comes to me I will never cast out”. There’s such eternal security here. God chose us and will preserve us. That’s truth for those who have believed so that we might know we have eternal life. Some in the crowd were believing and needed to hear that, but most hadn’t yet believed and thus needed to hear the urgency of coming to Jesus v.37,40.
Some of the Jews grumbled (they did in Moses’ day about manna too!) They are showing that they haven’t been drawn by the Father – v.44.
It’s a perplexing paragraph, because in almost every sentence Jesus says we can only come to God if the Father has chosen us AND also that it us who choose to believe. The way I explain it is that we come to a door marked “Choose” and we choose to respond to the gospel. After going through we see the other side of the door is marked “Chosen”, which shows that we chose because He chose us first. Salvation is all the work of God. His desire is that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and yet God allows people to reject Him. Complicated stuff! But simple at the same time – Choose Christ and find you have been chosen.
Jesus will never lose a believer. He won’t slip and fumble, like when I used to play cricket at school! He won’t let you go! He who began a good work in you will complete it (Phil 1:6).