As was seen in Part I, John 6 opens with Jesus addressing a congregation of about 20,000 people known as “Sheep without a shepherd.” Sadly, it ends with a pointed question directed to a congregation of only twelve, one of them being instrumental in His crucifixion.
The main point of John 6
Jesus emphatically says: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent” (John 6:29).
Since the crowds disdain Jesus’ words He uses metaphors to arrest their attention which ultimately exacerbates their will to walk away from Him. Jesus’ listeners are like a camel with too much straw on his back. Each additional word weighs them down until the last one gives sufficient reason to walk away.
As a reminder, Jesus shifts back and forth between the human responsibility side of salvation and God’s sovereign role. Some dismiss this discussion as less than a primary issue in the church, but for Jesus’ pretend followers it’s like the final straw that broke the camel’s back and they walk away from Him.
How on earth do we reconcile man’s responsibility with God’s sovereign role in salvation?
“The Jews” didn’t fixate on the apparent contradiction and neither do “The Twelve.” It’s as though “The Jews” didn’t even hear what Jesus said–they weren’t listening. The word “Therefore,” or “So” (John 6:41) reveals that they were preoccupied with Jesus’ metaphor that He’s the bread of God and that those coming to Him and believing in Him will never thirst (John 6:33, 35).
John identifies “The Jews” as “grumblers” (John 6:41). Even though Jesus knew what the Jews said (John 6:42), their voices sounded like an incoherent hodgepodge of murmuring nonsense. They’re like their forefathers in Exodus 16:2, 7–8.
“The Twelve” (John 6:67) observe Jesus, who like a cowboy herding camels corrals “The Jews,” throwing another piece of straw on their backs with these words: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:43–44).
Jesus carefully selects the word “draw,” a word used only eight times in the New Testament. A quick excursion of Scripture reveals how the Holy Spirit applies this word. “Draw” appears as “haul,” as in hauling fish (John 21:6). Peter “hauled the net to land” (John 21:11). Paul was “dragged” out of the temple (Acts 21:30). The rich “drag you into court” (James 2:6; John 18:10, Acts 16:19). “Draw” is also understood as a pulling, dragging activity where God’s grace pulls people to Himself (John 6:44).
Here are the characteristics of the people drawn by God: John 6:35, 37, 39 and 40.
Some theologians believe “prevenient grace” says that God “draws” everybody to Himself as seems apparent in John 12:32 where Jesus says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” “All men” refers to Gentiles in John 12:20. So Jesus is talking about “all men” from every nation rather than only Israel. Recall that “The Jews” wanted to kill Paul for evangelizing Gentiles (Acts 26:20–21).
The notion of prevenient grace is impossible in John 6:37, 44 because Jesus places a boundary on those who come to Him as those who have been “given” to Him as a gift from the Father, like “The Twelve” minus Judas.
Reading John 6:45–47 and Romans 10:8–10, 17 reveals who the Father is drawing to Jesus.
Unlike those arguing about Jesus’ words (John 6:52), people taught by God are drawn by the Father as is evidenced by their application of Scriptural truths. Those drawn by God are confessing Jesus is Lord, believing God raised Him from the dead resulting in salvation.
Since “The Jews” reject Jesus’ clear instructions to “believe that the Father sent the Son” (6:29) He places greater emphasis on the bread metaphor. He emphatically states, “I am the bread of life,” further driving His point that those who eat this bread will live forever (John 6:51). With this, Jesus circles back to the human side of salvation discussed in John 6:29, 35, 40.
In the clearest terms possible, here’s what Jesus wants you to know:
- Consuming food sustains life; you don’t eat, you physically die
- Application of biblical truth sustains spiritual life; you don’t apply the Bible, you spiritually die
- False disciples know the Bible but they don’t apply it resulting in judgment (Hebrews 10:29)
Jesus’ metaphorical language about cannibalism shocks the Jews (John 6:52), but Jesus doesn’t say, “Hold on, you misunderstood the metaphor, I’m not asking you to eat my flesh,” but He does add another straw to the camel’s back. He tightens the screws even more for their deliberate unbelief concerning John 6:29.
From John 6:53–58 the mere mention of eating flesh and drinking blood should’ve sent their minds reeling to Leviticus 17:11–12 which forbids cannibalism. Jesus’ metaphor points back to John 6:29, they must believe the Father sent the Son–they must believe that the life of their flesh is in His blood.
“The Twelve” take notice that a faithful shepherd leads those following Him (John 6:60–67). John identifies the false disciples as “many” of Jesus’ “disciples” which simply means “learners.” They treat Jesus like the antagonistic Jews in the previous verses; they’re grumblers and gripers finding Jesus words “very harsh” (John 6:60).
“This is a difficult statement” (John 6:60) points back to Jesus’ sermon in the previous verses (here are some highlights: John 6:29, 33, 37, 40, 44, 51 and John 6:58).
“The Twelve” observe that the false disciples were offended by Jesus’ choice of words. The word “difficult” also means “harsh,” “very unkind,” and even “cruel.” They thought His words were intolerable but they weren’t “harsh” enough to make them walk away—yet. However, His words added another piece of straw to the camel’s back which is about to snap.
Jesus uses the word “stumble” which sounds like “scandalize” in the Greek (John 6:61). Jesus says to them: “Does what I say jolt or upset you?” or “Do My words cause you to stop learning?” He piles on more words which, for them, are increasingly offensive. As such, Jesus helps them focus their offense on His coming ascension (John 6:62).
You say, “What’s scandalous about Jesus’ ascension?”
Remember, they are thinking Jesus is a prophet like Moses who’ll protect them. Jesus can’t ascend to heaven unless He first ascends an offensive cross (1 Cor 1:18). A crucified Messiah is not the kind of military hero they had in mind.
Jesus utters words of life (John 6:63; Deut 8:3). False disciples follow Him for comfort, but His words scandalize them. When liberals, false prophets and untrained Bible teachers seek to make Jesus’ words palatable, or use man-centered philosophy to explain them away they deceive people, casting a shadow of doubt upon the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.
Jesus says, “But there are some of you who do not believe… for this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:64–65). At the beginning of verse 65 John interjects, “And He was saying,” indicating something Jesus repeatedly said over and over again.
Context identifies the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
So John 6:65 is what Jesus repeatedly stated that results in many of the His disciples withdrawal such that they “were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66).
Jesus carefully selects the word “granted” (John 6:65) to indicate that only those the Father has given to Jesus can come to Him. Remember, the Father’s gifting of people to Jesus is a past action with current results. According to Jesus, the very reason unbelievers are unbelievers is because the Father has not granted or given them to Jesus at the time He utters these words (John 6:64–65).
The word “this” (John 6:66) identifies the very last straw that brought the camel to its belly. Free food, healthcare and compassion cause the multitude to track down this faithful shepherd, but every time He tells them about their responsibility to believe and of God’s sovereign call in salvation they grumble.
They can’t believe in a God like Him.
The statement, “As a result of this,” or “After this” (John 6:66) is singular; pointing to John 6:65 which encompass what Jesus repeatedly said all along, that “no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” The false disciples finally admit they understand Jesus, so they do what false disciples do, they cease walking with Him (John 6:66). Jesus didn’t try to stop them. He didn’t drag them back kicking and screaming against their will, He didn’t edit His message with kinder, gentler words—they just kept walking.
Notice that the true disciples watched and listened to Jesus all along. They saw how Jesus taught the multitude; they heard Him answer questions with hard hitting truths so that they could emulate His words in the future, this is what discipleship is all about.
Jesus says to these twelve men, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67)
The word “want” also means “will.” Jesus appeals to their freewill to reject Him. He wants them to articulate their will in the matter.
Peter summarizes John 6 in very clear non-metaphorical language. He understands what Jesus is looking for (John 6:29 and 6:63). Peter is a true disciple, he admits he has no place to go because Jesus has the words of eternal life, confessing, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69).
- They stay with Jesus
- They trust His Words
- They keep on believing
- They keep on knowing that Jesus is the Holy One of God
Herein we see twelve guys, minus Judas, as clear illustrations of John 6:37. Each one of them exercises their responsibility to come to Jesus on His terms and they don’t walk away from Him because the Father gave them to Jesus as a gift and He most certainly will not throw gifts like them away.