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John 6

47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the bread of life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

Jesus is getting deep here. He is having a debate with the Jewish leaders at Passover time. He uses passover themed teaching to show that he is the Messiah come from God. Jesus is using symbolism to speak of his place as God coming to earth and fulfilling God’s plan of using Israel to save the world.

“Anyone who believes has eternal life.” That is anyone who is believing what Jesus is saying about himself. He is using the phrase “I Am” to describe himself. This is the name God reveals is his own name. So, Jesus is saying, “I am God,” when he uses phrases that begin with “I am.”

48 Yes, I am the bread of life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

The bread of Passover is a theme of God’s presence with his people as they are escaping from Egypt in the Exodus. This is the pivotal event of the whole Old Testament. Then a form of bread, Manna, miraculously rains from the skies to feed the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings after they have left Egypt. But, the manna only lasts day to day and is a temporary solution to their hunger. Jesus is saying he is the real bread who comes from God and if anyone eats him they will live forever. And then he uses the word, “flesh.”

The word for “eat” here is literally our word, “Gnaw” or “Munch on.” If you gnaw on this flesh you will love forever. Better than manna.

ME

How many “I am” sayings do you remember? Which has the most meaning to you?

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As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.

There we have it. God has decided all along to make all things new. God has chosen to reveal himself. You can’t use the old human ways of thinking to come to God.

Let’s look at some human ways of understanding God.

  1. God is like a secret treasure to be discovered by only a few wise and special people.
  2. God is a mysterious vindictive force who demands our worship and waits for us to do something wrong so he can punish us.
  3. God is at our beck and call and will do whatever we want him to do for us because we deserve it.
  4. God is like an extremely doting and permissive parent who approves of everything we do no matter how it affects us or other people.
  5. God is a mystery we can’t understand at all; we just somehow know he exists.

Here are responses to these.

1. God is not some secret treasure that only a few special people will discover. It is God himself who is teaching us to follow his ways. It is Jesus whom God sends to make the new things clear. And as we have seen throughout history, people from all cultures and all walks of life know Jesus as Lord.

2. God is open to all to freely receive his love.

3. God loves us because of who he is, not because of who we are.

4. God designs life to be lived his way. When we identify as his children we obey him and ultimately we flourish. Our rebellion doesn’t bring blessing for us and for others. To go against his design and seek our identity from any other means leads us to destruction.

5. God reveals himself repeatedly through those who love Jesus and follow him.

You see when you follow the teachings of God, you end up with Jesus.

ME

When you disagree with Jesus, look for ways you are wrong.

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Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.

Here is dilemma for the Judaeans. The Messiah who is sent by God is once and for all. Not like anyone else. If Jesus is the true Messiah, there will not be another Messiah sent later. This is not like some kind of pro sports deal. You will receive one Messiah now, and one to be named later. Either believe in Jesus or don’t. But you can’t use human standards to judge God’s work.

It is like the Judaeans are saying Jesus doesn’t have the credentials to be Messiah. Either he can’t be human, or he can’t come from humble origins.

‘We know his parents Joseph and Mary.’

This sounds like they are questioning how Jesus can be from God if he is born of human parents. Or they are questioning the worthiness of having human parents like Joseph and Mary.

Yet, their own Scripture, the Old Testament, is filled with warnings that God’s people will doubt the Messiah. Like this passage from Isaiah 53.

Who has believed our message?

    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?

My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,

    like a root in dry ground.

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,

    nothing to attract us to him.There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,

    nothing to attract us to him.

So, by doubting, the Judaeans are actually themselves fulfilling prophesies from their own Scripture!

Another way of thinking about this is their own doubts should lead them to realize Jesus is the one.

ME

We don’t follow blind faith. When you don’t have faith in the God of Jesus Christ you have blind non-faith.

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For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.

Jesus will draw all people to himself. It is not what we have done or have not done that joins us to Jesus. God’s people are those who realize they are connected and don’t reject what Jesus has to offer.

This is how a God-made man or a God-made woman functions.

We don’t follow our dreams. We follow God’s dream for us. That we know and trust in his Son Jesus. We don’t live our lives with passion. Not unless what we are passionate about is to do the will of God. Jesus is our model.

Even Jesus in not a self-made man, he is man of God who comes to earth to do God’s will, not his own.

And God’s will has to do with us.

ME

How is Jesus a good model for you?

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But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.

I have always been fascinated by the stories of those who have achieved great wealth or influence coming from humble beginnings. Do you remember this picture? The son of a candle maker who goes to the big city to make something out of himself? Does this picture help? Sure enough it is Ben Franklin. One of the key architects of this great experiment we call America.

Thinking about Ben Franklin a phrase comes to mind. The self-made man. Someone who follows his dreams and lives life with passion and hard work. I think of Sam Walton, who would be the richest man in the world by far today if he were still alive. Walton returned from serving in the army in WWII and took money he had saved to buy a Ben Franklin 5 and Dime store. Interesting. Well, he built a few other stores, as well, didn’t he?

Or take Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, the sixth richest man in the world, who was born of an unwed mother and shipped off to his aunt and uncle to be raised in a tiny apartment in Chicago. When his adoptive mother died he dropped out of college and started an database company, Oracle, with $2000. Now if you go to Maui and look out over to the island of Lanai, realize Larry Ellison owns that whole island!

So what exactly is a self-made man? I don’t know because I have never met one. Actually it’s all a myth. It doesn’t make any difference what your background or upbringing is, how hard you work, how persistent you are, the fortune you make, you are not self-made.

You are God-made.

You have never met anyone who made themselves. We are God-made men and women.  God-made. You and the person sitting next to you. We are all special in this way. The only way that really counts. God-made. We are sons and daughters of God, and we are special like any other person who realizes they are not special in the traditional way of looking at it. We are not self-made. We didn’t do anything to deserve our existence except we do exist. We thank God for our existence and we thank him for deciding we are his children.

If only it was this easy.

Since wandering in the wilderness, God’s people, and I include us here, have acted like we are special and God owes us something. We act as if we instinctively know God should do what we want him to do. Now, add to this another layer, God comes to earth specifically in Jesus.

ME

Name five people who have had a strong influence in your life.

IMG_7356 (1)“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.”

Wait a minute, there is my loophole! ”Those who listen to my message…”

What if I have never heard the message of Jesus? What if I come from a country that forbids the Bible and outlaws the teaching of Christianity, officially, if not in practice? What if my parents are atheists and teach me from a very early age that God and Jesus are fairy tales?

What if…

OK, so let’s say you are an adult and you have never heard of Jesus and have no way of finding out about him in any way. This is extremely unlikely in this age of information, but let’s say you don’t know anything about him. Then the Bible does address this.

If a person cannot reasonably trust in Jesus because there is no way to know about him, then according to the Bible, there is a way. 

Romans 2

When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman.

But, instead of considering those who don’t know Jesus let’s consider those of us who do know him. Jesus is amazing! His special love for us changes everything!

If we trust in Jesus as our Lord and respond to him as our Savior, then we will live forever from that point on with him! We have been born into the new creation when we Jesus takes us into God’s family. Through Jesus we are dead to the old creation and the old ways, and now we are living in the new creation. Already. Our physical bodies don’t last forever but we do. We will never die out. And when Jesus raises us from the dead, when he comes again at the end of time, on that day we will continue to live out our lives, only at that time we will be given a new body that lasts forever. 

ME

What was your view of heaven when you were a child? How has this changed?

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In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.

When we see the word “judges” or “judgment,” the root of these words has to do with decisions. When you are judged or judging, it is about deciding what will be your outcome. “Consequences” would be an equivalent word today. To receive judgment is to receive consequences for your action. and out of this same root word, krisis,  comes the English word, “crisis.”

The crisis everyone faces is that Jesus and our relationship with him become the measure of our honoring or dishonoring God.  We honor God’s ways by honoring the ways of Jesus. The consequences of not following Jesus and his way leads to spiritual death. Separation from God.

We also dishonor Jesus by denying what he has done for us. It looks like this. If it is true that he died for my sins and made it possible for me to live eternally with God, but I don’t acknowledge this, I don’t thank him, I ignore him, it would be like not acknowledging someone who risked his own life to enter a burning building to get me out. I purposefully ignore the hero who saved me.

There are consequences for not honoring Jesus. If you don’t want Jesus in your life, you don’t want God, and he will honor that request. Separation from God forever is the end result. This is hell, and hell is the best God can do with someone who doesn’t want him.

But, aren’t there exceptions?

It is not my place to do God’s thinking for him and come up with exceptions of my own that are going to deny there is a hell. Some theory that attempts to show how non-Christians are saved.

Here are two common examples of Christians trying to find a loophole for non-Christians:

“Jesus works for me, but I’m sure there are other ways.”

“In the end, a God of love will save everyone.”

To the first example, you may be sure there are other ways, but I don’t trust you. Jesus said, “I am the way.” I trust Jesus more than I trust you. 

The second example  doesn’t describe a God of love. Think about it. God allows people to reject him now, and he doesn’t force himself on anyone. People who don’t want God in their life are left alone.  But when that person dies, they are the same person. In the afterlife, if God then forces them to live with him forever, this is not love. This is kidnapping. To force your affections on someone else is assault. Abuse. 

Now, God will do whatever he will do, and he will be exactly right in what he is doing. But, I have no biblical basis to follow or teach any other way but Jesus. And, even trying to use logic, those views, “I’m sure there are other ways,” and “Everyone will be saved,” don’t make sense.

ME

We don’t worship a predator, we worship a kind and gracious protector. What does this mean to you?

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In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants.

This gives us insight into what Jesus is saying.  The essence of who God is, is seen in the behavior of Jesus. What’s God like? Look at Jesus. In fact, Jesus claims God is showing him everything. And notice this is Jesus as a human being. His followers can see what he is doing. Jesus is saying there are things he will be able to do on his father’s behalf, like raising people from the dead!   

Jesus already has given us a hint of this earlier from John 2.

All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

Jesus is connecting God giving new life, to his own work of following God and he, Jesus, giving new life.

ME

If God comes to us as Jesus, why would we not want to learn everything possible from him?  What can you do this week to learn more?

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So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing.

Up until modern times in our society, many sons would follow in the footsteps of their father’s livelihood. When a son would do this he might be called an “apprentice.”  But, mainly, in our culture, the passing down of occupation from father to son is a thing of the past. But, both sons and daughters do follow this same tradition in another way. From both fathers and mothers to a significant degree, we do what we see our fathers and mothers doing. Family traits, whatever the language, we see this in our own lives.

ME

What family traits have you carried forward? Remember these can be helpful or unhelpful!

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This was why the Judaeans began to persecute Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath. This was Jesus’ response to them. ‘My father’, he said, ‘is going on working, and so am I!’ So for this reason the Judaeans were all the more eager to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath, but spoke of God as his own father, making himself equal to God.

‘My father,’ Israel’s God, is in the process of launching the new creation. This is taking over the old creation, including healing a sin sick world. It is time for the new creation.

You can’t expect this to be a popular point of view by the law-observant Judaeans. Jesus is meeting his sharpest resistance. As these miracles build up, their opposition will become fiercer. 

People are realizing the cost of following where Jesus is pointing. These Judaean Jews become violently opposed to Jesus, especially the Jerusalem crowd, which eventually turns into plots to kill him. 

So, if Jesus is bringing in healing and new creation, why is it being held up?

Jesus is meeting great resistance by the religious leaders. They suffer from the sin of having to be right. The sin of not seeing God at work how he wants to work, not how they want him to work. The Judaeans opposing Jesus are simply not ready for the new creation. In the first chapter of John we have already heard this warning.

“He came to his own, and his own didn’t accept him.”

They were not ready for the new creation, and they were not ready for the living Word to come to them with new words to say. They are stuck on what they know. This will reach its climax on the cross.

We continue to see this today. 

With the resurrection, the new creation comes for the whole world. Jesus brings in God’s Kingdom and invites everyone to come in. People still react angrily to it. 

We saw an example of this recently. Maybe you didn’t hear about it because the main stream media didn’t  widely report on it. It is real news. Big news. Russell Vought was being vetted by the Senate to become deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sounds pretty boring, right?

Well, during the hearing, Senator Bernie Sanders expressed his opposition to this candidate, because, are you ready for it, because he is a Christian. What makes Vought unfit for office is he believes that it is only through Jesus that a person is saved. In other words, Senator Sanders is infuriated by basic Christian teaching. 

Here is what Sanders said about Jesus being the only way.

“It is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.”

In other words, is Bernie Sanders saying the vast majority of all members of Congress, the vast majority of all people in political office throughout the United States, all of whom are Christians, are hateful, Islamophobic, and an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world?

Bernie Sanders has no idea what he is talking about. 

All religions have exclusive claims. Certainly Islam does. And even if a religion or a philosophy says there are no exclusive claims, that in and of itself, is an exclusive claim. 

No, you don’t get to vote on Jesus. God is inviting all people to come to him and be part of his family. This invitation comes through Jesus. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” 

Yes, God will do whatever God wants to do. I am sure God will do exactly what’s right. But, I can’t teach any other way, but Jesus. I don’t know any other way but Jesus.  And I trust in Jesus as the way more than I trust a politician trying to get his way.

Yes, people still get angry about the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and rules now. Jesus is God. He is not just God for me. He is God of everyone. And everyone faces the question. Do you receive what Jesus did for you and do you trust in him to rule in your life? 

ME

Be a light for Jesus this week and know he is there with you.