The Gospel of John, Jesus' fourth sign, part 4
Nov 20, 2019
The people had just seen (or heard from others) about Jesus’ miracle where He fed 5,000 men, plus women and children. Seeing this miracle did not beget faith in their hearts, however. No miracle has the power to impart faith, although miracles are often the vehicle by which the word of God inspires faith.
“Jews ask for signs,” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:22. Jews wanted hard evidence as the foundation of their faith. There is certainly a place for that. But Jesus had already given them hard evidence by multiplying the bread. In fact, they had just witnessed the fourth and fifth signs in John’s gospel, and more were soon to come. Yet without the ability to hear and believe, two hundred signs would have been as insufficient as two hundred denarii was to feed them all.
John 6:30, 31 says,
30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, that we may see and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.”
There is another irony here. The Israelites were fed with manna daily through the ministry of Moses, and yet they often wanted to stone him. They saw the ten plagues on Egypt, they saw the parting of the Red Sea, they saw the fire on the Mount and even heard the sound of His voice as He gave them the law—and yet they still lacked the faith to enter the Promised Land.
Nonetheless, the Jews in Jesus’ day thought that they were somehow different from their ancestors. If Jesus would just feed them with manna from heaven, then they would certainly believe in Him! Really? They did not know the darkness in their own hearts.
Did they expect Jesus to feed them daily for 40 years before they would believe? It appears that they forgot Deuteronomy 8:3, which says,
3 He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Man’s physical life is sustained by physical bread, but immortal life comes by believing the words of God. We need to adjust our priorities in life. Jesus Himself faced hunger when He fasted in the wilderness at the word of God, but He refused to turn stones into bread because He valued the word of God more highly than His belly.
What is Manna?
Deuteronomy 8:3 above speaks of “manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know.” The word manna literally means “What is it?” The root word is man, which means “what, how, or why.”
As a question, it indicates their lack of faith. As a statement of fact, manna answers the question and gives them knowledge through the word of God. So when the people insisted upon another manna sign before they would believe, Jesus actually answered the manna question, “What is it?” The answer is seen shortly in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.”
The true bread is the living word, the word made flesh (John 1:14). The true bread is the Son of Man—a who, not a what.
Bread and True Bread
First Jesus corrected their question, for it was not Moses who gave their forefathers the manna in the wilderness. Moses was only the intermediary. John 6:32, 33,
32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”
Anyone can give bread to someone, but only God can give “true bread” that “gives life to the world.” The people understood Jesus’ distinction and responded accordingly in John 6:34,
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
They were asking to receive this “true bread” that would give them immortal life. The problem was that they seemed to think that Jesus should feed them some magic bread, perhaps the type of food that the angel gave to Elijah when he was fleeing from Jezebel. That bread sustained him for “forty days and forty nights” (1 Kings 19:5, 6, 7, 8), which seemed to be greater than the manna in the wilderness, which had lasted only for a day.
Who Eats the Bread of Life?
John 6:35, 36 begins Jesus’ response,
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.”
This is a revelation similar to what He gave the Samaritan woman in John 4:14, except that there at the well He spoke of living water, rather than the bread of life. The real contrast, however is that the Samaritan woman believed, while the Jews (as a whole) did not. The sign of prophecy caused her to hear the word, while the sign of multiplied bread, seen by the Jews, was not a revelation to them.
Hence, the Samaritan woman and the whole town was able to eat the living word, which was His “flesh,” but the Jews were unable to do the same. In John’s day, this would have been seen as ironic, for the Jews prided themselves on their knowledge of the word and despised the Samaritans for their lack of understanding.
John 6:37, 38 continues,
37 All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
Jesus came down from heaven, even as the manna in the wilderness. This appears to be a direct statement confirming His pre-existence and incarnation. John 1:2 says that “He was (i.e., existed) in the beginning with God” and subsequently “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In other words, He existed in spirit form with God and later, at His incarnation, became flesh as “the only begotten from the Father.”
Furthermore, He did not come to do His own will but to do the will of the One that He was “with” in the beginning. Jesus thus claimed to be distinct from His Father, having a will that was distinct and yet one in agreement.
Jesus also understood that not everyone at that time would be able to hear His words (i.e., “eat” His flesh). Though He spoke to all men within hearing range, only those whom the Father had chosen, those whose ears had been opened by the will of God alone, would be able to hear and come to Him in agreement and unity. This will be explained later in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
The Greek word translated “draws” is helko, “to draw or drag off.”
It is a fishing metaphor, where fishermen use a dragnet to overrule the will of the fish.
Some are Drawn Now, Most Later
Jesus expected the majority of the people to be unable to hear His words and believe, at least for the moment. We understand that God saves all, but not all at once. There is a time appointed by the Father for everyone, “each in his own order” (1 Corinthians 15:23). Most of humanity will have their eyes and ears opened at the Great White Throne, where every knee will bow and every tongue will profess Christ as their Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11).
Most translators, not wanting to admit that all men will actually profess Christ, are content to render the word “confess,” as this word seems to allow them room to claim that their confession is to no avail. However, the word is exomologeo, which means “confess, profess, to acknowledge openly and joyfully.”
In other words, it will not be a forced confession, where men grudgingly admit that they were wrong and that God is right after all. Neither will they be cast into a burning pit after they have made such a joyful profession of faith in His Lordship. Instead, when they are drawn or dragged (summoned) to the Great White Throne, it will be their appointed time. When the Father finally draws them, Christ says, “I will certainly not cast out.”
At that point, they will be able to eat the bread of life and benefit from it. They will still be judged according to the “fiery law” of God (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV), but that judgment is not torture but slavery to overcomers who are charged with teaching them the ways of God. In other words, the overcomers will feed them a daily ration of the bread from heaven, so that “the inhabitants of the world (will) learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).
John 6:39, 40 says,
39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
This is the meaning of gathering up “the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost” (John 6:12). The time of this gathering is “the last day,” which is a way of saying, “at the great judgment of the world.” These leftovers are not part of the original food that fed the multitude. That is to say, there are some who are drawn to Christ in their lifetime, but there are also others who will be drawn to Christ at the Great White Throne.
The point is that nothing will be lost in the end, for He is “the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Timothy 4:10). “Especially” does not exclude “all men,” but shows us a special salvation and reward for those who believe now. See also how Paul uses “especially” in Galatians 6:10, where we are admonished to do good to all men but especially those of the household of faith. Again, no one is excluded, but some are “special,” and the remainder are "leftovers."