“So the Jews grumbled about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me— not that anyone has seen the Father except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:41–47, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to God the Father and Son)
It’s all in the claim. If Jesus had just been a teacher of the law they might of differed with Him and sought to correct or ostracize Him, but He claimed to be more than just a rabbi. He claimed that He was sent from heaven by the Father. Not recognizing His virgin birth (being conceived by the Holy Spirit), the Jews knew Him as the son of Joseph and Mary. They were two humans who they knew, and neither of them had anything of special note about them. As the son of this couple, Jesus could be nothing more than a mere man, and for Him to claim that He came from the Father stood in opposition to what they saw of Him. For these Jews they could not make any sense of Him saying that He now had come down from heaven.
Knowing what they were saying, Jesus told them not to grumble amongst themselves. Having done this He did not address His parentage concerning Mary and Joseph, but rather He reaffirmed God as His Father and the One who sent Him. Joseph raised Jesus as his son, but even Joseph knew from God that his son really did have a heavenly origin.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”” (Matthew 1:18–21, ESV)
And as we know from these verses in John, Joseph was still known to them having raised Jesus as his son. This was a huge stumbling block to them which they refused to get around. Rather than arguing this point, Jesus brought it back to His true origin—God become man. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus he told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30–33, ESV)
His parents knew who He was, but these Jews to whom Jesus was speaking would not accept it for themselves. Not accepting Him as being sent by God they were in no position to believe His words, and not believing His words they could not possibly be saved. But more than that, Jesus told them that unless the Father drew them, they could not come to Him.
There is a lot of theology wrapped up in these words. The whole issue of being selected, called, or elected by God has proven to be a challenge for many. This is especially true when it is considered in relation to man’s responsibility to respond through belief (or to individually choose Christ for himself). I’ll come back to this over the next several posts, but for now we know that Jesus Himself said that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him (or her). From this we know that it is God who initiates the action. In fact, the Bible tells us that God initiated this action long before we were ever born, saying, “even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will,” (Ephesians 1:4–5, ESV)
After saying that no one comes to Him unless the Father first draws that individual, Jesus then stated that everyone who comes to Him will be raised up on the last day. This is not the first time He has said this. He has said it and will repeat it numerous times. Beyond that He has stated it in various ways so that there can be no ambiguity. Everyone who the Father calls to the Son will be accepted by the Son and raised on the last day, which is saying that those individuals are guaranteed eternal life. This is the plan of God, and Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s plan perfectly.
Affirming this point, Jesus paraphrased Isaiah (see Isaiah 54:13), saying that they will be taught by God. God will give them what they need in order to make the decision to come to Him. As I thought of this, and even as I thought about His earthly father Joseph, I was struck by how Joseph had decided to quietly put Mary aside after hearing that she had become pregnant. He had assumed what the Jews did that Mary must have had relations with a man in order to become pregnant. The difference is that Joseph knew that he was not that man. It was then that the angel came to Joseph and taught him, or gave him understanding, and he then decided to keep Mary and go with God’s plan. Joseph’s mind was changed because he received instruction from God. Similarly, as we come to understand that God really did send His Son to be our Savior, then we are moved to respond in belief. And Jesus tells us that everyone who sees the Son and believes that the Father sent Him will be saved. Those who reject Jesus reject God’s plan and remain in judgment.
Jesus used the words, “Truly, truly” in John’s gospel ten times up to this point. The word translated “truly” is the word “amen,” which has become an almost universal word (being the same in Hebrew and Greek and many other languages) with the added meaning of “so be it” or giving full agreement. This word is used to close our prayers, and Jesus used it in a repeated form to emphasize a special truth that He was speaking. Here He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
I am so thankful that God revealed Himself to me and introduced me to His Son. He showed Himself to me through a pastor speaking of His incredible nature and His personal care for me spoken of in Psalm 139, and He introduced His Son to me through a midweek club program sending a bus into my neighborhood to pick me up and take me to a church where people told me about Jesus. When both of these came together in my mind I could do nothing else other than to believe in His Son and ask for the salvation which He was sent to give.
How about you? Do you have a story of God drawing you and you responding in belief? Maybe it is dramatic and memorable, or maybe it is one that happened so long ago that your memory isn’t clear. God cannot lie. If we received His Son and believed we are saved, and Jesus has guaranteed us eternal life. It’s a done deal. And, if you haven’t trusted Christ yet for your salvation please consider the claims that He has made.
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