Letters to the Prison - Week 65

Greetings!  We’re so excited to see things opening back up.  We’re excited because it means we might get to see you and worship God together with you soon.  We all need that fellowship.  We’re built to be in relationship with God and with one another.  Keep praying for us and know that we’re praying for you, also.  We love you!
We’ve been long in John 6 because some profound things are being said between Jesus and the Jews at Capernaum.  Last week, we saw a stunning thing Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews:
•As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. -John 6:57

Here Jesus is taking an oath on the eternal life of God… on his very own life… that those who believe in him –those who “feed on” him—will live eternally.  His message here is clear.  Look how he sums up the whole thing:  
•This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” -John 6:58

This is the sum of the comparison Jesus has been making between what the ancient Jews in the wilderness had (see the book of Numbers) and what Jesus is offering.  Jesus, the True Bread from heaven, will sustain eternally those who feed on (believe in and follow) him.  It is an eternal spiritual nourishment for our souls.  But the Jews in Capernaum still weren’t getting it.  Sadly, neither were many of Jesus’ own disciples:  
•60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”-John 6:60

To be clear, Jesus had many more disciples than the twelve we’re used to reading about.  But, as we are about to see, not all of them were true disciples.  This is not unlike church today.  The pews are filled with people who claim to follow Jesus, but it’s probably safe to say that not all of them truly believe.  We may not know who’s who, but Jesus does:
• 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?-John 6:61-62

What Jesus is saying about himself here is not new to us:  He knows everything about all people at all times, so he knows what his disciples are thinking and saying amongst themselves.  He refers to himself as the Son of Man yet again, and the place he will ascend to is heaven –the place he claims to be from.  Two more interesting things to observe:
1.Jesus will indeed back up this claim.  See Acts 1:1-11 for further reading.
2.Note the use of the word “grumble.”  This is the same sort of grumbling that went on in the days of Moses and the ancient Jews in the wilderness –the very event Jesus is comparing himself to when he speaks of being the “true bread from heaven.”  See Numbers chapters 11-14 (14:1 specifically mentions the people grumbling).
A question we should ask ourselves at this point is:  What are we grumbling about?  Are we doing the same things with the same attitudes?  Are we more concerned about what Jesus is (or “should be”) doing in our earthly temporal lives right now than about our eternal spiritual lives –for which Jesus has so amply and perfectly provided through his sacrifice on the cross?  We do well to examine our own attitudes and our own motives about Jesus.
Anyway, just in case anyone missed it, Jesus makes his meaning in this entire discussion clear:
• 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.-John 6:63-65

This is a profound moment in the history of Jesus’ ministry on earth.  We’re not seeing anything new… we’ve been observing the things Jesus says here for many weeks.  This is as clear a summary as one could hope for.  But what is about to happen next is shocking.  
To begin, look what John observes about Jesus in verse 64:
•(For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) -John 6:64b
That Jesus knows the hearts of all men… whether they believe or not…  whether they would betray him or not…  is not new to us.  But it is still startling to consider that Jesus knows everything about us… our most hidden thoughts and motives.  Jesus knows more about us than we know about ourselves!  Yet he still loves us --enough to sacrifice his life for us.  That is startling and profound and, if we’re being honest, a little scary.  But that’s not where the true terror of this moment can be found.  Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray him, John reports.  And then look what happens:  
•After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.  -John 6:66

Many of those who claimed to follow Jesus left him.  So, it wasn’t just the unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus.  Even his own followers were leaving him.  They wanted what Jesus wasn’t providing:  Free food and riches and victory over their earthly enemies.  So, they abandoned him.  But none of this surprised Jesus.  He knows the hearts of all people.  Fake believers come and go.  They come to Jesus looking for what he can do for them in this life… solve their problems… provide wealth and prosperity…  if he doesn’t give them what they want, they abandon him.  We need to be very careful about why we’re looking to Jesus lest we make the same mistake.
As true as all these things are, and as worthy as they are of much consideration, what we’re about to see is even more shocking.  Next week, we’ll consider Peter’s great confession and Judas’ great conspiracy…. moments that are at once beautiful and terrible.  
Until next week, keep reading John!  We love you!

Dean A.

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