If you’ve ever been on a great vacation, you probably know that touring tends to awaken the appetite. Luckily, we’re approaching the one place you’ll never go hungry: Paris. John 6 is very much like the City of Light in its abundance of food. The chapter is sandwiched (ha) with bread, beginning with the feeding of the five thousand and ending with Jesus’ discourse on being the bread of life. (An amazing, but not necessarily food-related, miracle story is tucked in the middle.)
As always, traveling is more fun together. In case you haven’t had a chance to study John’s gospel for yourself yet, no problem! You can start now and go at your own pace. Until then, let’s turn our attention to the table before us and dig in!
Scripture writing: I loved copying out verses 37-39 in The Message translation:
Every person the Father gives Me eventually comes running to Me. And once that person is with Me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow My own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent Me. This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to Me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole.
A couple of things are particularly striking here. First, the picture of being wrapped up in a big divine bear hug just melts me. He really does hold on without letting go. And second, Jesus has such a clear vision of His mission. In our turbulent world, single-minded focus is beautiful but rare.
Studying: When crowds cry out to know what work they must perform in order to please God and earn manna from heaven, Jesus flips their expectations upside down. The Gospel Transformation Study Bible notes in verse 29 that
The only ‘work’ that guarantees the possession of this redemptive manna is to believe in Jesus. The gospel sabotages any notion of legalism or performance-based acceptability with God. The only thing we bring to Jesus is our need. All we offer is the admission that we have nothing to offer.
Endless activity to make God smile at me is well-intentioned but ill-fated. He doesn’t want my ability; He wants my inability. (And He’s already smiling at me.) Busy hands are full of self; empty hands are ready to grab hold of grace.
Commentaries: I had forgotten that a riotous mob nearly took Jesus by force to set Him up as their champion against Rome. Matthew Henry explains a deep truth about the matter:
[The crowd’s desire to make Jesus king] was grounded upon a mistake concerning the nature of Christ’s kingdom, as if it were to be of this world, and He must appear with outward pomp, a crown on His head, and an army at His foot; such a king as this they would make Him, which was as great a disparagement to His glory as it would be to lacquer gold or paint a ruby.
As bizarre as it may seem, the grandest palace and the most impressive kingly robes would have been a major step down from the majesty of the cross. It’s easy to believe I know what’s best for Jesus to be, say, or do, but the greatest “king” I could make of Him would be pathetic compared to who He actually is and what He’s truly able to do. The tiny throne I have in mind needs to make way for the massive kingdom He has in mind.
The other commentator I love is D.A. Carson. His exposition of verses 38-40 has been a game changer for me. He says,
If any of [those given by the Father to the Son] failed to achieve this goal [of persevering to the last day], it would be the Son’s everlasting shame: it would mean either that He was incapable of performing what the Father willed Him to do, or that He was flagrantly disobedient to His Father.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve worried that, despite everything, once I approach judgment, something would go wrong and I’d be sent away. But Carson hinges my safety on the Son’s relationship with the Father—passionate, unchanging, and stronger than death. While there is every reason to doubt myself and my loveliness, there is absolutely no reason to doubt Him and His love.
Sermons: John MacArthur hones in on some of the main differences between true and false believers. The juxtaposition that has impacted me the most is this:
False disciples want Jesus for what He gives. True disciples want Jesus for who He is.
Talk about a heart check! How much do I gravitate toward the Person of Christ rather than the provision of Christ? The more I get to know the Lord, the less I need other things to satisfy me. He really is better.
In his sermon about Jesus walking on the water one stormy night, Mark Driscoll has this to say:
When we minimize the storm, we minimize the deliverance God gives to get us through it.
Well, that’s a blow to every moment I’ve forced a stiff upper lip. It has occurred to me that God is much more comfortable with my brokenness than I am. He doesn’t need me to downplay my troubles to help Him save face; He wants me to notice His creative pursuit of me in the middle of them.
Journaling: I’ve become more and more convinced that nothing gets as personal as the Word. As I pondered how “disciples” walked away from Christ in droves, the Holy Spirit went to work. With a gentle nudge, He pointed out that Jesus experienced the painful sting of abandonment, too. Apparently being dumped, left, unfriended, or unfollowed is not a mark against worth. Boy howdy, that will set you free!
Meditation: Finally, I spent some extra time dwelling on verse 37.
But everyone My Father has given to Me, they will come. And all who come to Me, I will embrace and will never turn them away. (TPT)
I’ve never experienced rejection, shame, or negativity in the Lord’s presence. Sure, the enemy heaps these on me as I ponder whether or not to run to Christ with my chasm of need, but once I’m there, open arms and endless grace are all that meet me. Being embarrassed about my desperate state is silly when there is such an abundant store of understanding, compassion, mercy, and resources available in Jesus. He is bread for my starving soul.
Well, friends, that’s it. We’ll be back on the road again soon, and the rich fare of Paris will fade. For now, let’s just enjoy the fact that our God invites us to feast, to taste and see that He is good.
*Following the study schedule right along, my binder is beginning to thicken up a bit with doodles, prayers, and tons of background information on the text. This summary is just the condensed version, the highlights of each approach—you can find my full binder notes for John 6 here.