Criticism Leads to Spiritual Blindness

The apostle John wrote his gospel much later than the other three gospels—about two to three decades later. John was concerned with the influence of Greek philosophy and legalistic Judaism confusing believers outside of Israel. His gospel emphasized the diving nature of Jesus, the Son of God.

The dual nature of Jesus—being human and divine—was hard to accept and understand in John’s time, just as it is now. Was Jesus really a physical man with a human soul? Yes! But the Jews in Galilee only knew Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary of Nazareth.

The early disciples and apostles had a limited understanding of Jesus being God’s Son. It was not fully clear to them as seen much later in the gospel (John 14:8-9). It’s the Father who reveals His Son’s divine nature. He is the One who sent the Son. This is what Jesus says to Peter after his declaration—”You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” (Matt 16:16-17).

When we only consider Jesus as the Son of Man, whose parents were Joseph and Mary, it’s hard to reason out how Jesus is also the Son of God—sent by the Father and divine in nature. This is the problem with only holding to a historical view of Jesus. This is why the Jews criticized Jesus when He said, “I am the Bread of Life that came from heaven.” They couldn’t get past their own human reasoning.

This segment of the story is better understood within the context of the previous verses, which are covered in the previous study.

Scripture

The Jews began to criticize Jesus for saying, “I am the bread that came from heaven.” They asked, “Isn’t this man Jesus, Joseph’s son? Don’t we know his father and mother? How can he say now, ‘I came from heaven’?”

Jesus responded, “Stop criticizing me! People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me brings them to me. I will bring these people back to life on the last day. [vss 41-43]

The prophets wrote, ‘God will teach everyone.’ Those who do what they have learned from the Father come to me. I’m saying that no one has seen the Father. Only the one who is from God has seen the Father. I can guarantee this truth: Every believer has eternal life. [vss 44-47]

(John 6:41-47 GW)

Key phrase—

People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me brings them to me. I will bring these people back to life on the last day.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do the Jews say about Jesus? What are they questioning?

  • How does Jesus respond to their criticism? What are the first 2 things He says to them in verse 43?

  • What does Jesus say the prophets wrote? How is this related to what Jesus says about the Father?

  • Who has seen the Father and what does Jesus guarantee?

Reflection...

This long discourse of Jesus, where He spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, followed the feeding of the 5,000 on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He uses the physical event of this miracle to illustrate His teaching on being the Bread of Life.

He uses this metaphor to describe Himself and His mission. The physical event is a reference point to explain spiritual truth. This is the value of figurative language—to use what is known to help explain what is unknown.

Jesus declares His divine nature in this third segment of His teaching. In the first segment (vss 26-34), Jesus says how eternal or spiritual food is more important than physical food. Jesus declares, in the second segment (vss 35-40), how the Father promises eternal life for those who believe in the Son.

Here, Jesus speaks of His relationship with God as His Father. Just as physical food nourishes the body, feeding on Jesus will nourish our soul. We are to have a relationship similar to the one He has with the Father. This relationship is eternal and spiritual in nature and is received by faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

In the rest of the discourse, Jesus will speak more on the importance of feeding on Him.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you have difficulty accepting or understanding how Jesus is both human and divine in nature?

  • If so, what is the most difficult for you to accept or understand—His humanness or His divine nature as the Son of God?

  • Do you understand how a personal relationship with Jesus by faith is how you have relationship with God the Father?

  • How and when have you entered into a personal relationship with the Lord?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Theologians have struggled for centuries to understand and explain the dual nature of the Lord Jesus—both human and divine. Yet, Jesus and the New Testament Scriptures declare this many times. It is only understood when the Lord reveals it to us.

Prayer Focus— When you find it hard to relate to Jesus as either human or divine as the Son of God, ask the Lord to reveal the truth of His dual nature to you in the Scriptures and by His Spirit to your mind and spirit (heart).

©2019—Word-Strong

No One Turned Away

When we are convinced of something—some point of view—we tend to be unwilling to consider any other point of view, even if what we believe might not be true. Why? Simple. We’re invested in whatever position we hold.

When it comes to spiritual things and spiritual truth, we become convinced of certain doctrinal and theological beliefs most familiar to us. What we become convinced of is what we’ve heard over and over again. When we argue or defend a certain position, it’s typically what we’ve heard within a closed circle of thought. So, we become confident in it.

The appearance of Jesus in HIs public ministry was a great disruption for the nation of Israel and its religious leaders. These rabbis and teachers were well-established and convinced in their own thinking. And the people generally followed what they thought and taught because they were the experts in religious matters.

When Jesus declares, I am the bread of life, it’s disruptive for everyone including His followers. It challenges what people think they know but pushes them to consider a truth never before considered. This is what Jesus does in our lives when we really hear Him. He disrupts what we think we believe and calls us to a radically different way of life.

Scripture

Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty.

I’ve told you that you have seen me. However, you don’t believe in me. Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.

I haven’t come from heaven to do what I want to do. I’ve come to do what the one who sent me wants me to do. The one who sent me doesn’t want me to lose any of those he gave me. He wants me to bring them back to life on the last day.

My Father wants all those who see the Son and believe in him to have eternal life. He wants me to bring them back to life on the last day.”

(John 6:35-40 GW)

Key phrase—

I will never turn away anyone who comes to me

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • How does Jesus describe Himself here? What does He say about Himself?

  • What does Jesus say is the benefit of a person who comes to Him and believes in Him?

  • Do you think what He says is intended to be figurative and spiritual in nature, or not?

  • What great promise does Jesus make about those who come to Him?

Reflection...

In this short group of verses, Jesus declares several powerful truths. Let’s consider each of them in a brief way. First, He says of Himself, “I am the bread of life.” This is the first of several metaphoric statements Jesus makes using the phrase—I am.

We’ll look at that phrase more closely in John 8. Here, is statement is related to what He said earlier about the manna sent from heaven.

Jesus goes on to declare we will never be hungry or thirsty when we come to Him personally and believe in Him. Jesus speaks of the hunger of our soul and spirit not our belly. We tend to be fixated on what is immediate and temporal but Jesus wants to refocus our attention on our eternal needs and the essence of our being.

Jesus says He will never turn away those who come to Him. God is the great Includer. The Father wants all people to see His Son for who He is and to believe—trust—in Him to receive eternal life.

Jesus speaks of resurrection twice in these few verses. His resurrection from the dead is the guarantee of the promise of eternal life for those who trust in Him. The Lord’s resurrection is the gateway for our resurrection.

Many people have the point of view God restricts who receives eternal life based on HIs arbitrary choice. Later, we’ll see many who begin to follow Jesus not continue because they don’t understand what He says or it’s too difficult to accept. They choose this of their own free will and so it is with all of us.

The Father draws us to Himself and Jesus says He won’t turn anyone away. The choice is ours—to believe or not—to follow or not.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand what Jesus means by coming to Him as the bread of life?

  • What do you find yourself focused on most—things to do with your body or things related to your soul?

  • Do you see how the resurrection is directly connected to the promise of eternal life?

  • How has Jesus disrupted your life for the good?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Jesus says He will never turn away those who come to Him. The Father—the great Includer—wants all people to see His Son for who He is and to trust in Him for eternal life.

Prayer Focus— When you find yourself more concerned about your physical needs than the state of your soul, ask the Lord to help you understand how He can be your Bread of Life.

©2019—Word-Strong

What Does God Want Us to Do?

A question about God asked over and over in one form or another boils down to—What does God want us to do? It may get asked in different ways and with other words but it’s the same question.

This is reflected in the way many people describe what they think God expects of us what asked about their religious beliefs, God, or Christianity in general—be good and do good to others.

When I was a young believer in an introductory theology class, we looked into the meaning of the word religion. It’s generally used to describe the nature of engagement or relationship between people and God.

Different meanings can be found but the origin of the word religion is based on two words—relegere and relegare. The first means—go through again, as in reading or in thought. Relegare means, to bind fast, with the idea of an obligation on or a bond between humans and gods.

I came to realize religion could mean many things to different people but it spoke of humanity’s efforts to engage with God in some way. The emphasis being on humanity’s view of how to relate to God. And this is reflected by how many different religions exist in the world.

Scripture

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into these boats and went to the city of Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus replied to them, “I can guarantee this truth: You’re not looking for me because you saw miracles. You are looking for me because you ate as much of those loaves as you wanted. Don’t work for food that spoils. Instead, work for the food that lasts into eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you. After all, the Father has placed his seal of approval on him.”

The people asked Jesus, “What does God want us to do?” Jesus replied to them, “God wants to do something for you so that you believe in the one whom he has sent.” [vss 24-29]

The people asked him, “What miracle are you going to perform so that we can see it and believe in you? What are you going to do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the desert. Scripture says, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. God’s bread is the man who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.”

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time.”

Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty. [vss 30-35]

(John 6:24-35 GW)

Key phrase—

God wants…you (to) believe in the one whom he has sent

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who goes to find Jesus and His disciples? Where do they go and how do they get there?

  • What do these people ask Jesus and what is His response to them?

  • What does Jesus say they should and should not work for? What do you think He means by this?

  • What kind of bread are the people asking for and how does Jesus answer them?

Reflection...

Stories are observations of a slice of time in life. Something can be learned from any and every incident but it requires good observation skills and an discerning understanding of what’s observed.

The dialog between the people who searched for Jesus and His responses to them reveal a lot about humanity in general. In general, we are more concerned with the immediate than what’s eternal. And, we’re more focused on the physical than the spiritual.

Perhaps this seems obvious in this story but I’ve found it to be true for myself as well—even though most of my life has been centered around ministry and spiritual things. It’s easier to see spiritual dullness and ignorance in others than ourselves.

I’ve met thousands of Christian believers in many places and cultures. I’ve realized the majority of them—even those with much Bible knowledge—still tend to wonder—What does God expect of or want of me?

The answer isn’t difficult nor deeply spiritual. This is what God wants—

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29 NLT)

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Does it seem like the people and Jesus are talking about two different things? If so, why do you think this is?

  • How does Jesus try to explain the difference between the bread people are seeking and what they should seek?

  • How does Jesus describe Himself? In what way does He answer the people’s questions?

  • Do you understand what Jesus means about coming to Him and never hungering again? How is this true in a spiritual sense?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— If you still wonder what God wants from you, try seeing it from His point of view. Consider what Jesus says in response to questions people ask Him. The Lord desires for us to have a personal relationship with Him not gain anything from us.

Prayer Focus— When you find yourself desiring or hungering more of what this world has to offer, ask the Lord to help you see things from His perspective. Ask Him to give you His gracious and merciful vision to see you as He sees you and to see others with His eyes.

©2019—Word-Strong

Don't Be Afraid!

We’re told there are two responses to fear—fight or flight. But Jesus tells His followers a third response—Don’t be afraid! He tells them this more than once—even the night He was betrayed and arrested (John 14:1, 27).

Jesus says this to His disciples in the midst of a storm. Many of these men were experienced fisherman who spent long hours on their boats and this sea. They knew the dangers of sudden squalls on the Sea of Galilee.

But fear came upon them for a different reason—they saw Jesus walking on the surface of the sea. In other gospel accounts we’re told they thought Jesus was a spirit—a ghost. This wasn’t the first time Jesus told them not to be afraid while out on the sea in a storm.

Previously, He was with the disciples when a strong storm sent waves breaking over and filling their boat. But Jesus slept through it all until they woke Him because they feared for their lives (Mark 4:35-41). He calmed the storm and they were amazed. But this miracle was different. It was intended to prepare them for the future.

Scripture

When evening came, his disciples went to the sea. They got into a boat and started to cross the sea to the city of Capernaum. By this time it was dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind started to blow and stir up the sea.

After they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they became terrified. Jesus told them, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid!” So they were willing to help Jesus into the boat. Immediately, the boat reached the shore where they were going. [vss 16-21]

On the next day the people were still on the other side of the sea. They noticed that only one boat was there and that Jesus had not stepped into that boat with his disciples. The disciples had gone away without him. 

Other boats from Tiberias arrived near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord gave thanks. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into these boats and went to the city of Capernaum to look for Jesus. [vss 22-24]

(John 6:16-24 GW)

Key phrase—

It’s me. Don’t be afraid!

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do Jesus’ disciples do when evening comes?

  • Where were the disciples headed in the boat and what happens while they’re on the sea?

  • Who do the disciples see walking on the water and what is their reaction to this?

  • Who else looks for Jesus and the disciples and when do they arrive where the Lord and the disciples are?

Reflection...

When Jesus calmed the storm that threatened to sink their boat, Jesus was with them and they were amazed at Him and His power over the storm. But in this situation, the disciples are on their own in the boat until they see Jesus walking on the water.

This is the fifth miraculous sign of Jesus in John’s gospel. It directly follows the fourth great miracle where 5,000 people were fed and illustrates two important assurances and truths. The power Jesus had over nature—His omnipotence—and His faithful presence in the disciples’ lives—His omnipresence.

Jesus reassures them—”It’s me. Don’t be afraid!“ He’s preparing them for the time after His resurrection from the dead when they need to walk by faith rather than sight. That is, is spiritual presence instead of His physical presence.

His power over the storm and their immediate arrival at their destination (Capernaum), reinforces the Lord’s power over the physical world—creation— because He is the Creator. These are assurances for the present and the future—while He leads them as their rabbi and after His resurrection from the dead as their Lord.

While the disciples are learning to trust Jesus in preparation for walking by faith, the crowd of seekers are focused on themselves. This becomes more clear as the story continues to unfold in Chapter 6.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What does Jesus say to the disciples in the boat and how do His words seem surprising to them in these circumstances?

  • What do the crowd of people seem to be focused on and how does it seem to be in contrast to the disciples and Jesus?

  • Imagine yourself in the boat when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water—Do you understand their reaction?

  • When life circumstances seem threatening or challenging—Do you have the assurance of the Lord’s presence and power with you?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— It may seem trite, but in the midst of the fears and storms of life Jesus assures us of His presence and power to help us through or overcome them. We need to be confident He is all-powerful and ever-present regardless of our emotions or circumstances.

Prayer Focus— Daily prayer, praise, and worship, along with reading and meditating on God’s Word, are important for preparing us to move forward in faith when facing overwhelming and threatening situations in life. These disciplines are valuable for developing assurance of the Lord’s presence and power in our life.

©2019—Word-Strong

More Than Enough

Jesus did many miraculous signs while on earth—healing people, bringing back the dead, and a few unusual things. Only one of His miraculous signs is recorded in all four gospels—the feeding of 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

As with all the miraculous signs in John (John 20:30-31), this one has a lesson and illustrates an important aspect of the Lord’s ministry. Each sign is temporary and situational. They’re not eternal and their purposes are specific not an end in themselves.

John helps us see this miracle as a teaching opportunity with the dialog between Jesus and Philip. Jesus wanted His closest followers to learn something about Himself and the Kingdom of God. It was a lesson for His disciples not for the 5,000 people who were fed.

The miraculous sign was not about food. Everyone, including Jesus and His disciples—especially the crowd of 5,000—needed to eat again the next day. Several lessons can be gleaned from this event. One thing is certain—the crowd missed the point completely—as many people still do now.

Scripture

Jesus later crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias). A large crowd followed him because they saw the miracles that he performed for the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat with his disciples. The time for the Jewish Passover festival was near. [vss 1-4]

As Jesus saw a large crowd coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” Jesus asked this question to test him. He already knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered, “We would need about a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.” One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, who was Simon Peter’s brother, told him, “A boy who has five loaves of barley bread and two small fish is here. But they won’t go very far for so many people.” [vss 5-9]

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” The people had plenty of grass to sit on. (There were about 5,000 men in the crowd.) Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to the people who were sitting there. He did the same thing with the fish. All the people ate as much as they wanted.

When the people were full, Jesus told his disciples, “Gather the leftover pieces so that nothing will be wasted.” The disciples gathered the leftover pieces of bread and filled twelve baskets. [vss 10-13]

When the people saw the miracle Jesus performed, they said, “This man is certainly the prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus realized that the people intended to take him by force and make him king. So he returned to the mountain by himself. [vss 14-15]

(John 6:1-15 GW)

Key phrase—

Gather the leftover pieces so that nothing will be wasted

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Where does Jesus go with His disciples and what time of the year does this happen?

  • Who follows Jesus and the disciples and what is their reason for following?

  • What does Jesus ask Philip and what is Philip’s response? Who else tries to help with the situation?

  • What does Jesus do with the available food and what happens as a result?

Reflection...

The feeding of the 5,000 is an amazing miracle but what is even more amazing is what’s gathered up after all the people ate and were full—12 baskets full of leftover bread and fish!

Jesus used this situation as an opportunity to train His disciples. Here are just a few of the lessons He wanted them to learn—

  • Have compassion and care for the needs of the people

  • Utilize what you have rather than focus on what you don’t have

  • Look to God as a first option rather than a last resort

  • Practical guidance on delegation, organization, distribution, and follow-up

There’s much more to be learned from this miraculous sign but this list is a good start. Later in this chapter (Chap 6), Jesus will explain how this sign relates to Him in a metaphorical sense and His purpose for coming to earth.

So, why would Jesus have the disciples gather up what is leftover? Yes, so nothing will be wasted. But why would this be important? Two quick thoughts. First, it reinforced the miraculous nature of this feeding of 5,000 people. It also showed the Lord’s concern for what we might call follow up or follow through.

He’s always our example of faith and trust in God. Jesus saw beyond the immediate to what was next—the two events and teaching following this story.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think Jesus tested Philip when He knew what He would do?

  • What did the crowd of people say among themselves and what did they want to do after this miracle?

  • How do you think Jesus knew what the people wanted to do and what was His response?

  • What are the many specific and practical things Jesus does in feeding the people and what specific insight or lesson did you gain from this story?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Understanding why Jesus did what He did requires discernment and guidance from God’s Spirit. We also need to carefully observe what is said and done, and dig deeper by imagining ourselves in the story and asking ourselves relevant questions.

Prayer Focus— When you are faced with what seem to be impossible or overwhelming situations, look to the Lord first for wisdom and guidance. Trust Him to help you see beyond the circumstances, to see people with His eyes, and to know how to move forward by faith.

©2019—Word-Strong