Studies in the Gospel of John
Never Hungry or Thirsty
It is interesting to notice the ways in which the Lord Jesus Christ described Himself while here on earth – and John records more of those than anyone else. For example, in chapter 4, as He was discussing spiritual things with the woman whom He met at the well in Samaria, when she turned the conversation to the coming Messiah, He said in verse 26, “I who speak to you am He.” And in chapter 8 verse 12, He said, “I am the light of the world.” In 10:7 He said, “I am the door to salvation. And in 10:11 He said “I am the good shepherd” In 11:25 He said, I am the resurrection and the life. “And in 14:6 He said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. And in 15:5 He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” But the description of Himself that brings all this to our attention is the one which he used in chapter 6, verse 35: I am the bread of life. Now the question on our minds as we come to that statement is “why did Jesus say that?” – and what did He mean by it, anyway?”
By way of background, remember that in verses 1 and 2 He had given a demonstration of His power when He fed more than 5,000 people from just five loaves and two fish. And because of that the people tracked Him down everywhere He went for the next couple of days, in search of the food that He could give them. And so in verses 22 through 58 He gives them a discourse about provision in which His main point is that real provision comes only from God, and it is much more than physical provision. And in verse 34, where we stopped in our last study, they said to Him, “Lord give us this bread always.”
So that brings us to verse 35, where Jesus actually begins giving the specifics of the discourse. And the concept is in verses 35 through 40. First there is Jesus’ Jesus’ identification in verse 35a.
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life – He who comes to me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
In our last study, in verse 27 He had talked to them about investing their lives in food that “endures to everlasting life” rather than “food that perishes.” And when they asked in verse 28 “what shall we do that we may work the works of God?” He told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.” But they still hadn’t gotten the point, so finally He gets specific with them and gives them this identification: “I am the bread of life!” And here is a very important point which is still true today: they were asking for something from Hi, but instead He offered Himself. In other words, the gift they were asking for was already theirs – they just needed to receive it; to receive Him. Then in the second part of the verse He gets very specific and gives them his invitation:
He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
The word “come” is used interchangeably with “believe” throughout this passage. This applies first to salvation, of course. But it applies to living the Christian life also – we have to keep feeding on Him for spiritual nourishment after salvation.
But in verse 36, Jesus brings out a real problem that also still goes on today:
But I said to you that you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
It is not enough to just “see” Jesus – to “understand the concept” – there has to be a belief in what we see. Now why is it that some people fall into that category? Seeing but not believing? Well, in verses 37 through 40 we find Jesus’ explanation of that. First there is a summary statement in verse 37:
All that the Father gives me shall come unto me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.
The bottom line is this: whether or not a person follows up on the gospel message is in God’s hands. No matter how eloquent you may be of how much convincing proof you may give, it is a matter of God the Father giving that individual to God the Son. We must be faithful to witness, but we can’t “save” anybody. All we can do is let them “see” Christ (as these people were doing physically). This is another statement of the doctrine of election, which really bothers a lot of people, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind about it. First, we are talking about God here. Who are we to question what He gives to whom? And second, the last half of verse 37 reassures us that no one who wants to be saved will ever be turned away (“and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out”)
Now having given that summary, in verses 38 through 40 we see the support for it:
For I have come down from heaven not to my own will, but the will of him who sent me, that of all He has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day (40) “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
In the face of this heavy doctrine of election, these verses are very reassuring – basically what they are saying is that no one who wants to be saved will fail to be saved. From the human standpoint we focus on the “whosoever will” of salvation – and that is completely correct. But from the divine viewpoint the focus is “chosen in Him from the foundation of the world.” But again, notice that it is a matter of not only “seeing” Jesus, but believing in Him.
Well, having explained the very heavy “concept” of the bread of life, in verses 41 and 42 the Jews have a complaint
The Jews then complained about Him, because said “I am the bread which came down from heaven. (42) And they said, is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven?”
Now notice carefully what their complaint was about: It was not about the heavy matter of God the Father giving certain ones to the Son, but about something He said before He even got into that: the fact that He came down from heaven! (a combination of His statements in verse 32 and 35) Their attitude is very much like the facetious story of the man who said, “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” How could they have so completely missed the point? Actually, of course, it was more than that – they realized that He was claiming to be God! And yet they knew His earthly father and mother, so how could he dare claim that He had any origin than an earthly one? And that brings the discussion right into our present day. There are many people who profess to be Christians, but who deny the unique deity of the Lord Jesus, His equality with God and His virgin birth. And yet to deny the record of scripture about those things is as bad as those people who saw the record of His life on earth and yet did not believe.
And so in answering their objection Jesus launches into the continuation of the discourse in verses 43 through 52 First, in verses 43 through 46 He deals with the negative aspect of their unbelief.
Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. (44) “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (45) “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall be taught by God.’ Therefore, everyone who ahs heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (46) “Not that anyone has seen the Father except He who comes to Me; He has seen the Father.”
If those who “murmured” against Jesus had been in right relationship with the God whom they professed to worship, they would have yielded to the drawing power of God which was at work among them. God Himself draws responsive hearts to come to His Son, according to verse 44. This is what Nathaniel had experienced back in chapter one when Jesus saw him at a distance and called him to be His disciple. He, too, had had doubts about Jesus before he met Him. But as soon as he came into contact with God’s unique Son, he felt and responded to the drawing of God’s Spirit and recognized Jesus for who He was. And the last line of chapter 6, verse 44 indicates the stability of that belief – it will carry through until the resurrection. In verse 45 Jesus is probably quoting from Isaiah 54:13:
All your children will be taught by the Lord and great will be the peace of your children.
The complete fulfillment of this prophecy is still future as far as we are concerned. But the emphasis of Jesus at this point is not so much on the “all” as on the fact that God directly and personally teaches those who respond to His drawing of faith in His Son. And as much of the prophecy is fulfilled in the church today, with the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit to all believers.