The Twenty-Second in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
It must have been an amazing scene that day in the synagogue in Capernaum. The people want to make Jesus king because he gave them bread to eat in the wilderness–just like Moses gave the Israelites manna in the desert. But Jesus is now speaking of a living bread which endures to eternal life. The crowds who have been following him relentlessly want that bread that does not spoil. Jesus speaks of himself as though he were YHWH, declaring “I am the bread of life.” Yet, when Jesus speaks of striving for this bread, the people want to know what work it is that God requires of them so that Jesus will give them more of this bread. When Jesus tells the people this bread is received by faith alone, they demand more of this bread to eat. When Jesus corrects them, and tells them again that he is the living bread who has come down from heaven, those who wanted to make him king, now begin to grumble and complain about his words. What is Jesus’ response to their lack of faith? He begins teach about total inability, irresistible grace, and predestination.
We are continuing our series on the Gospel of John, and we are currently going through Jesus’ “bread of life” discourse in John 6. As I mentioned several weeks ago, ideally, we should go through this entire chapter in one sermon because there is a logical progression of events, and the theological points Jesus makes build one upon the other. Unfortunately, this would take us a couple of hours to do so, especially if we wish to do the passage justice, so, I’ve broken up the chapter into six sermons. Again I ask that you read through the entire chapter several times during this series so as not to miss the forest for the trees.
To summarize the ground we have covered so far, recall that the chapter opens (vv. 1-15) with Jesus miraculously feeding over five thousand people in the wilderness east of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ actions clearly demonstrate that he is a New Moses who can feed the people of God in the wilderness. After withdrawing because the crowds wanted to make Jesus king (vv. 16-25), he then walked across the Sea in the midst of a storm, and then calmed the Sea, before proceeding with his disciples by boat to Capernaum. The next morning, the crowds (who had been searching for Jesus all night), were quite surprised to find Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum, where he gives the “bread of life” discourse in response to the questions put to him about how it was that he made his way to Capernaum so quickly, and without anyone seeing him. Jesus knows the people’s hearts, and he knows they are seeking him from self-centered and short-sighted motives, far more indicative of unbelief and superstition than of true faith.
The so-called “bread of life” discourse which is found in verses 26-58, is one of the most significant teaching discourses in all of the New Testament. Jesus tells those gathered in the synagogue who want to make him king that they are only following him because their bellies are full. Lacking faith, the large number of people present (which includes his own disciples) do not look beyond the signs (the loaves and the fish) to see the reality–Jesus is a New Moses who is leading the people in a New Exodus from the wilderness of this present evil age, to an age of eternal life and deliverance from the guilt and power of sin. The people are awed by the fact that Jesus is a miracle worker who can cast out demons and heal the sick, and whom, they have just learned, can feed them in the wilderness just as God did the Israelites. Many of them believe that Jesus might be the prophet foretold by Moses.
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