Letters to the Prison - Week 57

Hello, everyone!  We’re grateful for this opportunity to think about God’s word together.  If you need a Bible, ask for one!  We’re looking at John 6 and an amazing conversation that’s going on between Jesus and the Jews at Capernaum.  We’ve only just begun, and Jesus is already saying profound things about himself:
•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.”
A couple weeks back, we saw that Jesus spoke here about two types of food:  The kind that “endures to eternal life” and the kind that… perishes.  That is a key distinction that we need to keep in mind as we look at this conversation.  But there are other parts of this statement that demand our attention.
First, we see again that Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man.  This is nothing new.  It seems to be Jesus’ favorite way of referring to himself.  Also not very new is Jesus’ claim to be the source of the “food that endures to eternal life.”  He has repeatedly (in different ways) claimed that he is the very source of life –and not just earthly physical life, but eternal life.
Another amazing thing Jesus says here is that “God the Father has set his seal” on him.  Back several weeks ago, when we were in Chapter 3, we saw John the Baptist say:
•Whoever receives [Jesus’] testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.  -John 3:33
We noticed back then that a “seal” was like a personal endorsement.  In that culture, important documents were fixed with a seal (often created by a signet ring impressed in hot wax).  Sometimes, extremely important documents were sealed multiple times (by multiple witnesses).  For further reading, and an interesting view of God setting his seal to something, read Revelation chapters 5 through 8.  Jesus is the “Lamb” mentioned there, by the way…  
Anyway, a “seal” like the one we’re seeing in John 3:33 was a 1st-century way of saying something like “I’d bet my life on it.”  So, those who believe what Jesus says about himself are willing to bet their lives that God is true.
Now, here in John 6:27, Jesus claims to have God’s “seal of approval” in the same way.  Jesus is essentially saying that God the Father is willing to “bet his life” on Jesus.  What a bold claim to make!  How could Jesus say that about God?  Only because of his unique relationship to God the Father as part of the trinity.  Because they are one, Jesus would never do anything contrary to the will of the Father.  So, the Father can “set his seal” on the Son of Man fully expecting that Jesus will do precisely what the Father wills.  So, here we have a view of the amazing relationship between the Father and the Son in the trinity.
We’ll consider one last thing about John 6:27 before we move on.  It’s a simple phrase: “Do not work…”  Jesus is saying that we aren’t supposed to work for the food that perishes, but for the “food that endures to eternal life.”  But how does that square with the idea that salvation is not by works?  We can never earn eternal life.  Jesus says in the very same sentence that he “gives” the food that endures to eternal life to us.  So, is it a gift or do we work for it?  The people Jesus was speaking to apparently had a similar confusion.  Look how they respond:
•28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
-John 6:28
Jesus clears it up right away:
•29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”-John 6:29
Our “work” is to believe in Jesus who was sent by God.  And even that “work” requires help from God (“I believe!  Help my unbelief! -Mark 9:24).  This is like what we noticed in John 4:14 where Jesus gives the living water, but then we must drink it.  Jesus gives the food that endures to eternal life.  Our job is to eat it (as we will see in a few verses).  In other words, we need to believe Jesus.  We “set our seal” (bet our life!) to this, that God is true.  So, what we see here is yet another view of the amazing relationship between Christians and Jesus.
Paul speaks to this concept very well in his letter to the Ephesians.  Look what he says:
•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 2:8-10
Friends, let us be clear:  Christians don’t do good works in order to be saved.  They do good works because they are saved.  When we, as believers in Jesus Christ, submit ourselves to his will for our lives, we begin to do the “works” that “God prepared” for us “beforehand.”  We begin to walk in the way he set for us before the beginning of the world.  What an amazing idea!
We encourage you today, believers:  Look for how God wants you to walk in His ways.  Ask him to help you on your way to his perfect plan for your life.  Even if it’s hard, it’ll be worth it!
If you don’t believe, we encourage you today:  Answer the central question:  Is Jesus Christ who He says He is?  It’s a “yes” or “no” question.  Because believe it or not, God has the perfect plan for your life, too.  Even if it’s hard, it’ll be worth it!  How do we know?  Because it’s God’s plan  
One that he lovingly thought of for you before the world even began.  
Because He loves you.  
And so do we!  Until next week, keep reading John 6!

Dean A.

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