But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name.John 20:31
This passage is full of familiar stories: the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus walking on the water, and Jesus’ discourse in which He introduces Himself as the Bread of life. Jesus is God, and He made it quite clear in every event and conversation that took place in this passage. Why then did so many turn away from Him in unbelief?
Feeding the Multitude (vv. 1-13).
You may remember that in the previous chapter, Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. John only mentions this one miracle, but in verse 2 of our current chapter, he states that a great multitude of people followed Jesus “because they saw the miracles which He did on those who were diseased.” It’s likely He healed a good many people at that time. Yet the point is that the people followed Jesus out of mere curiosity, to see what He would do next, and not because they believed on Him as the Messiah. Did He chase them away? Did He hold them at a distance? No. He looked at them and had compassion on them. And desiring to meet their spiritual need, He first took care of their physical need for food.
The practice of asking leading questions is quite effective at getting students to think for themselves and engaging them in finding the answer. Jesus is the Master Teacher, so it’s not surprising that He asked Philip what they should do. He could have just told them the plan, but instead He asked Philip for a suggestion. He wanted the disciples to think about it, and not just follow blindly along.
And what of the little boy whose lunch was used? Did he give it up willingly? I believe so. I also believe he gave it up with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Oh, the joy that must have filled his heart when he tasted of the bread and fish after Jesus had blessed and broken it! I’ll bet that was the best tasting meal he ever ate. And can you imagine the joy that filled his heart, knowing that Jesus used him to be a blessing to so many! My friend, God doesn’t ask us to perform the miracle, He only wants us to give back to Him the little bits that we think are ours so that He can multiply it and satisfy both us and the multitudes.
Hail, King of the Jews (vv. 14-15).
Seeing what Jesus did with loaves and fish, how He multiplied one boy’s lunch and made from it enough to feed thousands, they understood that He must be the long-awaited Messiah, King of the Jews. For many years they had lived under the oppression Rome. Sure, they enjoyed freedom of religion, ownership of land, capitalism, and many other benefits. The greatest complaint was the heavy taxation that they endured, but otherwise they had it good. However, as Jews, they chafed under the leadership of a Gentile king and longed once again for David’s house to rule over them, as it should be. The ancient writings had promised a Messiah, a Deliverer, who would assume the throne of his ancestor David. Jesus was the Messiah, but they didn’t understand that He would come twice. In this His first appearance on the earth, His purpose was to deliver His people from their sin. When He comes again, He will come as King of kings; but this time He came as the Savior of the world. The crowd couldn’t see the great need of their hearts for forgiveness from sin. Their only concern was with day-to-day affairs. And they would have taken Jesus and made Him king before the proper time, so He hid Himself from them.
Safe Passage in a Storm (vv. 16-21).
Meanwhile, the disciples boarded a ship bound for Capernaum. The Sea of Galilee was prone to unexpected storms, and such a storm struck during the night and threatened to sink the ship. Then Jesus came walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him, they were more afraid of Him than they had been of the storm. Was this a ghost? Jesus calmed their fear with the words, “It is I; be not afraid.” As soon as He entered the ship, the boat was instantly transported to land.
Still Seeking Jesus (vv. 22-26).
Jesus had hid Himself from the crowd, but they were not finished for Him. If only they had sought Him for the right reason! At first, they had followed Jesus because they saw the miracles of healing that He performed on those who were sick. Now their purpose was changed, yet still off the mark. They still did not want forgiveness of sins, now they wanted free food. Jesus called them out on it, and another teaching time ensued.
The Work of God (vv. 27-29).
Jesus instructed the people to focus not on the physical, but on the spiritual. A spokesman in the crowd called out, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus answered him, “This is the work of God: that you believe on Him whom He has sent.” Did you get that? Have you been trying to find grace in God’s sight by doing good works? Do you live with the hope that when you stand before Him, your good will outweigh your bad? What does God call us to do? Believe. Period. Consider these other verses:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified the faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.Galatians 2:16
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.Titus 3:5
The Bread of Life, Part 1 (vv. 30-36).
The people did not understand. Their religion was one of works. The Pharisees, in order to make sure that they kept the Law, created their own set of rules that went far beyond the scope of the Law. Yet God had not given them the Law as a to-do list, but as a way to show them that they could never keep it on their own. They needed a Savior.
Jesus continued with the analogy of the bread, since the memory of that delicious meal was fresh on their minds. Perhaps they still carried the taste of the bread He had given them on their tongues. He had given them food for their bellies; now it was time to give them food for their souls. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on me shall never thirst.”
Chosen of God (vv. 37-47)
This next part is taught all throughout Scripture, and yet many people have a hard time grasping the truths of election and free will. “All whom the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and he who comes to Me I will not cast out.” God chooses who will be saved; but to be saved, you must willingly come to Jesus. These are not contrary to one another—they are parallel truths, working in perfect harmony with one another.
Think of it this way. God’s part (election) is to create a guest list for the wedding. Our part (free will) is to accept the invitation and come. Jesus invites all to come to Him (Lk 9:23); even so we as believers are called to give the Good News to everyone, knowing that only a few will respond. I can’t explain it. I believe it to be true by faith because God said it. If I could fully comprehend the doctrine of election, I’d be God. His ways are higher than ours, His thoughts far greater than our thoughts. Don’t try to wrap your head around it, only believe. That’s all He asks of us.
The Bread of Life, Part 2 (vv. 48-71).
Again, Jesus reiterated that He is the Bread of life. But He knew the hearts of the people, that they were not interested in what He had to say, so He changed His tone and spoke in what seemed to them to be riddles until they grew weary of it and left. The seed had been sown in their hearts, and perhaps at another time some would believe. But for now Christ had sifted the people and shaken out those whose heart was hardened to the truth so that the ones who gladly followed Him and received His words could be grounded in the truth.
To Sum It Up
Have you responded to God’s great invitation? Are you worried that perhaps He didn’t choose you to be on the guest list? My friend, if you are at all interested in knowing God, it’s because He chose you. All that remains is for you to accept the invitation and receive Christ as your Messiah, your Savior.
And do you follow Christ? If so, why? Are you enamored with what He does? or with who He is?
This week’s reading
NOTE: I use the term “week” rather loosely here. Due to my schedule, I’ve come to find out that I cannot write every week. But I’ll write as often as I can, for this message is important. Please comment below with your own thoughts on this subject. I would love to know where you stand in your relationship with Christ, and if what I have written has helped you in any way. Until next time, may God richly bless you!
This week’s memory verse
If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.John 7:17
Photo taken at Princess Beach in Destin, Florida, 2019