Today’s Passage: John 6:16-59
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed three or three and a half miles,[b] they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
30 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[c]”
32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”[[[/woj]]]
43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[d] Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Guess what guys? Today we’re gonna dip a little into doctrine! Ooo! Heh, I know not all of us come from a “Reformed” background (Reformed being a category of Christian denominations, of which Presbyterian is one), and also that in general in our generation there has been an observable movement towards “desegregation of denominations” (which I think is awesome!), but having grown up going to catechism class and having Bible classes in school, I feel that I have a deep appreciation for the doctrine and theology which was developed by our Christian fathers whom we respect as hearers and speakers of God’s word. There is a certain added depth which comes from not just depending on our own individual interpretations from our Bible reading, but also working with the body of Christ (past and present) to hear God’s word together. That being said, Scripture interpretation is just that: interpretation…So my disclaimer/warning is that though these interpretations are held by the Presbyterian Church, I’m sharing/discussing them not to tell you what must be, but hopefully as a learning experience and also point of discussion.
The two topics I will simply touch on (there are entire books and centuries of discussions on the topics) are predestination and perseverance of the saints. There is actually a spectrum of belief regarding the former; one end being the belief that God intentionally chooses who will be saved and who will be damned, and there is nothing that can be done about it–in fact, even as one growing up in the church, one cannot know if one is saved until the final Judgment Day. The other end is that God simply knows in advance who will choose to believe in Christ and who will turn away. It’s an age old argument of election vs. free will…So as with most things, I tend to believe in some “moderate” in between the extremes. While I could spend pages and pages throwing Scripture references at you, I’ll keep this to a “brief” reflection and let you do the research if you want more info. For me, I actually receive much comfort from this concept and the verses which support it from today’s reading.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” Isn’t that comforting? Let’s not forget: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” This is one passage supporting the idea that God must do the calling and the drawing of our hearts in order for us to come to Jesus. I’d like to disagree with those who believe this negates free will–for who is to say that God doesn’t call everyone in his or her own time? “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) The reason this is actually so comforting is that as humans born with a sin nature, we cannot expect ourselves to be “good enough” to achieve existence in the light on our own accord. We fail so easily even at small things–if my salvation was up to me and my effort to believe in Christ, surely I could never attain it! Thankfully, it’s not up to me…Instead, I have a God who draws me by His power to the Son…It’s not by my power, but by His! It is not because I love God that He decided to save me. No! It is because He loved me FIRST, before I cared a hoot about Him…before I knew Him…when I was living my own life…Before any of us had an inkling of love for Him in our hearts (we may even have shunned and despised the idea of there being a God), He LOVED US! And since He loved us FIRST, we noticed that love and were wooed to Him. Maybe some of you who are in love found that your beloved’s love made you love your beloved even more. This is how I view predestination/election…That God loved me so much that even though it wouldn’t be natural to believe in Him, my heart was drawn to Jesus by the love that turned my eyes to him…And when we are drawn to Jesus, he says he will never drive us away…We are free to come to him as children with the most simple of requests, we are free to come to him with our dirty pasts, with our heavy burdens, with our tarnished souls…But even in our defiled state, he will not turn us away!
And once we have that true relationship with Christ, he will never let us go…
This is the doctrine of “Perseverance of the Saints”, colloquially called, “once saved always saved”. This is also a true comfort to me, because I know that I am a sinner and that I fail. If my salvation was determined by my “relational level” with Christ, it would always be in question. As humans it is impossible to go throughout life without doubts, and it is my belief that if a Christian going through a doubting period would unfortunately pass away, that just because the time of passing was in this period of doubt it would not mean imminent damnation. I know I fail, but I also know that my God and Savior never fails me…And so I can rest in the blessed assurance that regardless of my own shortcomings, my salvation is secure for eternity. How thankful I am for a God who could love me so much that He would draw me to Himself and hold me close throughout all time.