Our Need for Contentment

| John 6:26-27,35-40

The Point:  Jesus is the Bread of life who gives us true satisfaction.

The Food that Endures:  John 6:26-27.

[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. [27]  Do not labor 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."  [ESV]

“John 6 began with Jesus’ miracle of feeding the five thousand. Afterwards the crowd were calling for Jesus to be made their king. Jesus, however, withdrew from them and went to be alone with God. The crowd pursued Jesus to the other side of the sea. If we think Jesus was pleased by this pursuit, we are surprised to find that He was not. The reason is that the people had failed to grasp the point of Jesus’ miracle. It is true that Jesus fed them out of compassion for their physical needs. But the miracle was not intended merely to show Jesus as a provider of consumer goods and services. The point was to reveal Him as the Son of God to whom they should look for their souls’ salvation. There was a reason why the crowd failed to see Jesus for what He was, and it is a reason that is still prevalent today. Jesus explained, Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves [26]. It is natural for people to seek to have their earthly needs met, and the Bible never condemns this in its proper place. God filled the world with good things, and the Bible teaches that God will take care of those who trust in Him. So the problem was not a simple concern for physical well-being, but rather a materialistic attitude that pushed aside spiritual priorities. All through the Bible we find examples of those who are ruined by materialism. Materialism encroaches not merely on individuals, but also on churches, especially today. One has to wonder, with all the worldly excitement drawing crowds to churches today, how many would come if Christianity were suddenly made illegal and they faced arrest. Not only does materialism turn us away from more important spiritual concerns, but it also fails to satisfy men and women who were made for fellowship with God. This is why Jesus adds: Do not labor for the food that perishes [27]. By food that perishes He was referring to all the fleeting pleasures of this life. One reason that we should not pursue food that spoils is that Jesus offers us food that lasts. This is what Jesus spoke about next: Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you [27]. He meant eternal life – the life of a renewed spirit that enjoys the blessing of God forever. Not only does Jesus give such spiritual food, but He went on to teach, the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world [33]. Jesus is Himself the Bread that frees our souls; to know and trust and walk with Him is to be satisfied with life from God. This teaches an essential spiritual principle. When Jesus said not to pursue food that perishes, but rather the food that endures to eternal life, He meant that spiritual blessing must be placed before material blessing. In the Sermon on the Mount, He made a similar point: seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you [Mt. 6:33]. This means that our first priority must be to be right with God and to pursue the things of His heavenly kingdom. Are you right with God? If you do not have God’s blessing, no earthly goods will either satisfy or endure. But if you turn to God, not only will He provide your material needs, but your greater, spiritual needs will also be met.”  [Phillips, pp. 376-381].

The Bread of Life:  John 6:35-40

[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. [36]  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. [37]  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [38]  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. [39]  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. [40]  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."  [ESV]

The True Bread [35-36].  Jesus is the true bread that the Father gives [32]. This shows the relationship between the Old Testament signs and the New Testament reality in Christ. The manna given in the Exodus was real but Jesus was the true fulfillment of what it represented. This is the case with all the Old Testament symbols, or types, of Christ. Israel had Moses as a redeemer, but Jesus is the true Redeemer. Jerusalem had a temple, but Jesus is the true temple where God meets with man. John obviously wants us to realize this relationship, because he frequently brings up Old Testament figures that are fulfilled in Christ. There is another sense in which Jesus is the true Bread. Bread speaks of fulfillment and satisfaction, and Jesus is the One who gives these truly. This is one of the greatest lessons we can ever learn in a world that fails to deliver on its promises. From this first I am statement in 6:35, we can make several important observations. First, in the same way that our bodies depend on bread, Jesus is necessary for the life of our souls. Are you trying to live without Christ? You might satisfy your ego with success. You might satisfy your material needs with money or your desires with pleasure. But you will never satisfy the inescapable needs of your soul without Jesus Christ. Second, Jesus, like bread, is suited for everyone. He is the Savior of the whole world. Third, just as bread is eaten daily, Jesus is our daily need. It is not enough to meet with Jesus one day a week. We must feed on Christ daily. Fourth, just as bread must be chewed and swallowed, Christians must feed on Jesus by faith. Jesus especially applied this principle to His Word. He said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God [Mt. 4:4]. A church is well fed and grows spiritually through the bread of God’s Word as it brings us in faith to Jesus Christ. If we find that the influence of our lives is weak, that our witness is weak, and that our collective impact on society is weak, it can only be because we are weak through neglecting the bread of God’s Word. Fifth, Jesus must have thought of the miracle He had just performed. Jesus is the Bread of Life because He was broken on the cross for our sins. He made this explicit when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “How,” you may ask, “can Jesus be the Bread of Life for the world?” The answer is that He died to pay the penalty of our sins, so that through faith in Him we might be restored to fellowship with God. He rose from the dead to usher in a new kind of life for those who believe. Then, having ascended into heaven, He lives even now to send life through the Holy Spirit to those who believe. Jesus combines two whoever statements in 6:35 that tell us what it means to come to Him. He joins whoever comes to me with whoever believes in me. We come to Jesus by believing in Him. Have you done that? Of do you persist with new demands, just as the crowd asked for yet another sign? If you do not come – if you do not believe – you will hunger until your spirit finally dies. But look at Jesus’ promise: Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. This means that in coming to Jesus, we will always be watered and fed. We will be weak, but coming to Jesus will make us strong. In turmoil, we will find peace. In grief, we will gain comfort. In confusion, we will see truth. Coming to Jesus is the answer to all our spiritual needs, and Jesus promises always to provide. Coming to Jesus starts with realizing the hunger of your soul. Do you not realize how unfulfilling life is apart from fellowship with the Son of God? Do you not realize that your need for new experiences, new thrills, and new achievements merely proves that you were made for something higher? God’s provision for our highest, eternal needs is Jesus Christ, the true Bread whom God has sent into the world.

The Will of the Father [37-40]. Verse 37 teaches that despite universal human failure, God’s sovereign grace provides for His Son a people, who come to Him in saving faith. It is noteworthy that this great promise of the gospel’s success occurs right after Jesus has reproved a large crowd for their failure to believe. Jesus had miraculously fed the five thousand, and when they followed Him, seeking more food, He challenged them to realize that He is Himself the true Bread of God. But then He commented, But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe [36]. This is a great example of the reality that men and women are so powerfully under sin’s influence that on their own they neither will nor can accept the things of God. This paints a very depressing situation for the hopes of individuals and the world. We might think it would be depressing for Jesus as well. But Jesus did not despair in the face of human sin because the Father had given Him a people for salvation. He speaks of all that the Father gives me [37]. This can be understood only in light of the Bible’s teaching of election which teaches that apart from anything commendable in themselves, a people has been chosen by God to come to Christ and be saved. What was promised in eternity past comes to fulfillment in time. Jesus said that those given to Him by the Father, will come to me. We should therefore have confidence even in the face of determined unbelief. Every one of the vast multitude given by the Father will come to the Son. And then Jesus says: whoever comes to me I will never cast out. Jesus will never cast out one who has truly come to Him in faith. When we come to Jesus in faith, we can know that He is certain to receive us. He will not refuse us because of our sins; He came to save us from them. He will not cast us away because of our weaknesses and failures. He will receive us from the Father and keep us through this life, acknowledging us as His own redeemed people in the final judgment and taking us with Him into eternal glory. All who come to Jesus are as safe as Jesus is faithful; our defense against sin, the world, and Satan is as sure as He is strong; and our acceptance into heaven is as certain as Jesus’ dying work on the cross is finished. John 6:38-40 presents two sides to Jesus’ teaching about salvation – but instead of competing, they complement each other perfectly. On the one side, we are told about the sovereign will of God in salvation. Jesus informs us: This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me [39], God has given a people to Christ, and Christ will keep them. From this, we rightly conclude that salvation is all of God. But another side is presented here: the human side of salvation. Jesus says that the Father wills that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life [40]. We find that this divine salvation requires human involvement, so that one must believe to gain eternal life. Salvation is “by grace” – that is, because of God’s merciful favor – but also “through faith” – that is, through man’s believing. The question might be asked, “How can we both hold to full divine sovereignty in salvation, so that God has predestined certain people to eternal life, and also teach full human responsibility, so that people must believe in order to be saved?” The answer is that we believe both of these propositions because the Bible teaches both. So is this a contradiction in Scripture? Is it possible for God to be totally sovereign and man yet to remain totally responsible? While admitting that this is a difficult subject to grasp, the answer is that it is possible. The Bible teaches that salvation relies on both the divine will and human faith and, moreover, states that our faith is the result of God’s will. God establishes a condition that we must meet, but by His grace He fulfills this condition in us by means of the gift of saving faith [Eph. 2:8]. In John 6:37, Jesus stated that those whom the Father gives me will come to Him. The coming to Christ is the result of God’s election. God is at work by His grace in His word, and those who come to Christ come as a result of that grace. And when they come, they find that Christ undertakes the entire responsibility for their full and final salvation. It is God’s will, Jesus tells us in John 6:40, that Jesus will have believers and that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life. John 6:38-40 contains a wealth of theology, beginning with a brief explanation of Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus states, For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. This reminds us of Jesus’ heavenly origin. He did not come into existence in the manger of Bethlehem, nor even in the miraculous conception that preceded His virgin birth. Jesus is the eternal, divine Son, and He came to earth from His heavenly glory. Jesus came with work to be done. The second person of the Godhead did not take up flesh merely to enjoy our company. He was incarnated with a mission given by God the Father. This mission involved laying aside His heavenly glory and humbling Himself to be the Servant of the Father’s will. The One who had dwelt in timeless glory took up our mortal condition; He who was appointed Judge over the world took His own place under the law; He who knew no sin bore the penalty of our guilt and shame; and He who is the Author of life suffered death so that we might live. Jesus is confident of success because He knows the will of the Father. God wills for Christ’s people to come to Him, be kept by Him, and receive eternal life with Him. What wonderful good news this is! God has willed a people for His Son and salvation for all who believe! God’s saving will concerns a class of people who are described in two complementary ways: from the divine and human perspectives. God has decreed salvation for certain people. Looking from eternity, they are all those given by the Father to His Son, that is, the elect. But looking within time, they are everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him [40]. These are the same people. This makes it all the more urgent that we believe on Jesus Christ. The will of the Father is an eternal will, but it is confirmed and fulfilled in time. This is why Christ came into the world: to do … the will of him who sent me [38]. In John 6:39-40, Jesus specifies two ways in which He confirms and fulfills the Father’s saving will: that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, and I will raise him up on the last day. The first of these speaks of Jesus’ keeping all those given to Him by the Father. This does not remove our obligation to persevere in faith, but rather secures it. But what is Jesus keeping us for? This brings up the second way in which He confirms and fulfills the will of the Father: I will raise him up on the last day [40]. The most important event in any of our lives takes place not before but after we die. Jesus came down from heaven in humility, but a day is soon coming when He will return in glory. A day of judgment is appointed by God, and every soul who has ever lived will be summoned. The Bible describes this event in a fearsome way, given that all have sinned against God’s law [see Rev. 20:12-15]. If you hope to survive that judgment apart from Christ, you are tragically deceived. When the book of your deeds is opened before God, the sins that you have forgotten will be recalled, and the good works on which you depend will crumble, being corrupt and imperfect. But one who looks on the Son and believes in him need never fear death or judgment. He will have eternal life, and Jesus promises, I will raise him up on the last day [40].”  [Phillips, pp. 388-411].

Questions for Discussion:

1.         How do we seek God? Do we do it in a way that will inevitably result in our finding Him? Or do we seek selfishly and therefore wrongly? What was wrong with the crowd’s motives in seeking Jesus? Do you come with your mind filled, not so much with Jesus and His all-surpassing worth, but with your needs or with what you imagine your needs to be? Do you control your material possessions or do they control you? It is not our possessions that are wrong but our single-minded possession of our possessions. Do you seek for things? Or do you seek for God? Where is the focus in your life: on food that perishes or on food that endures to eternal life?

2.         What important observations does Phillips make from Jesus’ statement, I am the bread of life [35]?

3.         Based upon what Jesus says in John 6:38-40, Phillips asks the following question: “How can we both hold to full divine sovereignty in salvation, so that God has predestined certain people to eternal life, and also teach full human responsibility, so that people must believe in order to be saved?” How does Phillips answer that question? Do you see how the Bible teaches both of these truths? Augustine said: “Do not allow the limits of your understanding to become the limits of your faith.” Even though we cannot fully understand how divine sovereignty and human responsibility concerning our salvation fit perfectly together, we need to accept these two truths in faith because it is what the Bible teaches us.

References:

John, vol. 2, James Boice, Baker.

John, Andreas Kostenberger, BENT, Baker.

The Gospel according to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

John, vol. 1, Richard Phillips, REC, P & R Publishing.