Man’s Attitude to Christ
John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
In the section of John 6, from verses 22 to 60, there are six questions posed by the differing groups of people with whom the Lord Jesus conversed. The six questions arising from the crowd indicate different facets of the world's attitude to Christ and hence to the gospel.
A Question of Passage - 'Rabbi, when camest thou hither?', v. 25
From the comments of the Lord in verse 26 the question might well be regarded as 'why camest thou hither?'. We are told in verse 15 that they wanted to make Him a king and their reasoning is probably explained by verses 11 and 12. Here was one who had fed them and cared for them to a measure that no one else had. For once, many of them had had more food than they could eat. There was also the miracle that had undoubtedly attracted their attention. Man is by nature inquisitive.
The Lord exposes their concern for the material, or physical, rather than the spiritual. The sole pursuit of the temporal is incompatible with the eternal, Matt. 6. 24, Mark 10. 21. The Lord seeks purity of motive in the sinner's search for Him - an acknowledgement of spiritual need rather than a concern for 'what might be in it for me'.
A Question of Practice - What shall we do?', v. 28
A desire to do something is prevalent in many people within Christendom. They are prepared to expend considerable effort because this does not damage self-esteem or pride. The lesson of Isaiah 64. 6 is a hard one to learn.
People are also prepared for a change of habit or direction but not a complete change of heart and life. God does not want men to tinker with parts but to change the whole. In reality we have neither the power nor the desire to meet God's standards, cf. Rom. 3. 20. in verse 29 the Lord gives the only true way to please God, cf. 1 John 3. 23.
A Question of Proof - What sign showest thouV, v. 30
Seeing is believing, or so the world would have us believe. The truth of scripture is different, cf. Heb. 11. 1. Faith gives substance to things that are distant, future, and hence, unseen. From the experience of John 9. 7 faith brings sight rather than the converse.
However, the context would tell us that they had just witnessed a miracle when the Lord had fed 5000 people. The hardness of men's hearts meant that even then they did not believe. The sad indictment of Abraham, Luke 16. 31, seems to apply here too.
But verse 31 suggests that there was a further implication in their words. The works of Moses were being used as a yardstick for the veracity of the words of the Lord. It was almost as if they were saying, 'Can you match Moses?' How often true Christianity is judged according to religious antiquity and observance that bears no resemblance to scripture. They are prepared to be part of an historical church but not a spiritual one, cf. John 4. 20.
In comparison, the manna only sustained life for forty years. In verse 33 the Lord clearly shows that He does not merely sustain life, He gives life. The manna did not satisfy, cf. Num. 21. 5, but the true bread, the Lord Jesus, can fully satisfy, v. 35. Finally, there was no security in the manna. Fresh supplies needed to be gathered daily. In the Saviour there is lasting security, v. 37.
A Question of Person - 'Is not this Jesus ... son of Joseph?', v. 42
There is an acceptance of the historical Jesus. Of necessity people will accept His humanity but stumble at any suggestion of His deity. The Lord repeats the phrase 'came down from heaven' three times in order to emphasize His deity, cf. 1 Cor. 15. 47. He clearly teaches that heaven is His natural sphere and that He existed there prior to His incarnation, Phil. 2. 6.
A Question of Procurement - 'How ... give us his flesh?', v. 52
To suggest that any of us should need to consume human flesh is deeply perplexing and offensive. But they missed the point of the illustration.
As natural bread is essential for physical life the Saviour as spiritual bread is essential for spiritual life, cf. 1 John 5. 12. In verse 51 the Lord emphasizes the basis upon which the bread is available. It is by grace - it is given, not merited. Grace is an affront to man's pride because it disallows anything in or by the recipient, Eph. 2. 8, 9; Tit. 3. 5. Conversely, it magnifies the Giver, Eph. 2. 7; 2 Cor. 8. 9.
In this section of the chapter the Lord emphasizes what is being given. In verse 54 He tells them of His personal promise of resurrection power to those who accept Him. In verse 55 He describes the satisfaction of soul that comes from the procurement of this 'meat indeed'. He had used a similar concept in His conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. 14 but with markedly different results. In verse 56 He teaches that fellowship and communion with Him can only be experienced by faith. The seal of that promise is described in 1 John 4. 13. In verse 57 that which arises from that fellowship is a different character of life, cf. 1 John 3. 9. We can be delivered from sin's power daily. Finally, in verse 58, the Lord tells of eternal life that comes from this bread. It is difficult to appreciate how such blessings can be misunderstood.
Sadly, they did not appreciate that they were spiritually dead, nor their need arising from that condition, Eph. 2. 1. Without Christ there is no hope. The example of previous generations is ample proof. In verse 58 the Lord indicates how hardness of heart and unbelief resulted in death in the wilderness, cf. Heb. 3. 9, 10. A people who sought to live without God died without Him. For the unbeliever today the situation is little different, Eph. 2. 12.
A Question of Pique - 'An hard saying; who can hear it?', v. 60
The last question sees the departure from the presence of the Lord of those that asked it. They were offended, 1 Cor. 1. 23.
When put to the test the seed of Matthew 13. 5, 6 did not endure. On this day, as in ours, there are many who have all the characteristics of disciples until put to the test of the word of God.