Letters to the Prison - Week 61

Greetings!  If you’re thinking about joining our study, now would be a great time to catch up.  We’re taking a slow tour through John chapter 6 because there is quite the conversation going on between Jesus and the Jews of Capernaum and there’s a lot to consider.
Last week we saw Jesus make yet another profound claim about himself:  He is the giver of eternal spiritual life sent from heaven.  As such, Jesus is responsible for the eternal lives of everyone God the Father gives to him.  Further, it is God’s will that none who come to Jesus should be lost.  Last week we also saw how belief plays a major role in understanding these things.  We’re about to see that fact in action.  Look how the Jews respond to Jesus:
•41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”                                        
-John 6:41-42
Imagine a crowd of people muttering to one another under their breath.  You can tell they’re discussing something, but it would be hard to hear or understand exactly what they’re saying.  That’s what’s happening here.  But what’s interesting is that Jesus knows what they’re grumbling about and he knows what their problem is:
•43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
-John 6:43-44
Clearly, these Jews don’t believe what Jesus says about himself.  They don’t believe that God is his Father.  They think Joseph is his father, so how could he have come down from heaven?  If Jesus hasn’t come down from heaven, he can’t be the “bread” sent by God, right?  If Jesus isn’t who he says he is, then nothing else he says about himself is true.  This is what these Jews were muttering amongst themselves under their breath.  
Because Jesus is God, he knows what they’re saying, he’s aware of their unbelief, and he is repeating yet again the reason why they don’t believe:  Because God the Father (who sent Jesus) hasn’t drawn them.  And again, Jesus reiterates the promise that he will “raise up” (to eternal spiritual life) whoever God draws to him.  This is the same order of things we observed last week:  God draws people, those people believe, and Jesus raises them to eternal life.
Since the Jews clearly don’t understand this, Jesus reminds them that their own Scriptures speak to this very fact.  He says:
•45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’           -John 6:45a
It is always marvelous when Jesus quotes Scripture directly (he is referring specifically to Isaiah 54:13 here) because it shows that we today have access to the same Old Testament that Jesus read from.  It also shows that Jesus honored and recognized the authority of what is written in the Old Testament.  Therefore, so should we.  
Anyway, we could spend a long time exploring the connections between the prophecy in Isaiah 54 and what is happening here in John 6, but Jesus makes his own purpose for quoting it clear:
•Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me…  -John 6:45b
So, Jesus is using the Old Testament to reinforce what he is saying about how a person needs to be drawn by God (they “hear and learn”) before they come to Jesus.  This explains why the Jews are having such a hard time understanding and believing Jesus.  They don’t believe because God hasn’t drawn them… at least not yet.  What Jesus says next is extremely important for us to understand.  Look what he adds on:
•— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. -John 6:46
This isn’t the first time Jesus has made this claim… that no one has seen the Father except him.  And we observed many weeks ago how Jesus could claim to be God and yet stand before people and tell them that no one has seen God the Father… and yet again say that those who believe in him have seen the Father (John 14:7)…  and that he can say these things and be correctly telling the truth only because of the unique relationship he has with God the Father as part of the trinity.  These things are hugely important, and we do well to remember them, but that’s not why Jesus is bringing it up.
What’s important to understand here is this:  Yes, the Jews in Capernaum did indeed physically see Jesus… his body and many of the works he did.  But they still did not see God.  Why?  Because they didn’t believe.  Their “blindness” was a spiritual blindness.  “Seeing” God is a spiritual act.  God is spirit.  So, we don’t physically see him with our eyes.  But we do see his work in the world and in the lives of others.  And we are willing to acknowledge that we see it when we believe.  So, we don’t believe it because we see it, we see it because we believe it.
We don’t see God physically.  So, it’s not like he’s going to walk up to us, tap us on the shoulder and say, “you!  Yes, You!  I am drawing you.  Come to Jesus.”  How then does he draw us?  He does it spiritually through his word and through his people.  
Ask any true Christian about how they came to know and believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and they will likely talk about how, looking back, they saw that God had been calling them their whole lives.  He may not have tapped them on the shoulder, but his call was effective anyway.
If we can be blunt for a moment, consider this:  God may be drawing you right now, at this very moment, as you read this.  This is how he does it.  When we read or hear his word, we recognize our need for him.  We see that we are lost and sinful people, trapped and unable to get out on our own.  Our lives are out of control.  So, we ask God for help (I believe!  Help my unbelief! -Mark 9:24).  If that’s you, right now, know this:  God loves you.  You are the joy for whom Christ endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2).  God has been looking forward to this moment for all of eternity:  the moment when you (yes you!) turn to him in repentance, confess him as Lord of your life, and believe that Jesus is indeed who he says he is.  Is it your time?  It would be such a blessing for us to hear that today was your day!  We love you!  

Dean A.



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