Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

John 6:22-35

22 The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw there had been only one boat. They also saw that Jesus had not boarded the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone off alone. 23 Some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal of approval on him.”

28 “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked.

29 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the one he has sent.”

30 “What sign, then, are you going to do so that we may see and believe you?” they asked. “What are you going to perform? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

32 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.

The Original Intent

1) What would the disciples have meant by the phrase “works of God”? (verse 28)

Although we don’t know exactly how long the disciples had been following Jesus at the time of this recorded discussion, we do know a few things to help us earmark our understanding. It’s important to bring our understanding from other passages when we peer into a particular passage, allowing our previous understanding to act as “guardrails” to a new passage, keeping us safe within the context and intended meaning of Scripture as a whole.

We know Jesus called each of His disciples to follow Him and so they had been doing by giving up home, career, and family. (Matthew 4:19-20) We know Jesus had already performed many miracles (Matthew 4:23-25) and masses were now quickly gathering and following Him in hopes of a new miracle. (John 6:1) Many scholars believe this scene in John 6 to be nearing the end of Jesus’ three-year ministry. (Got Questions)

All of this helps us understand that the disciples had witnessed many miracles, many “works of God”, so named because only God could accomplish such feats. The wind and waves obey Him, He feeds the thousands, mute speak, and the lame walk.

In Jesus’ day, a “disciple” was meant to learn from the Rabbi (teacher) in order to become like them in every way, having learned to possess all the abilities and qualities of their Rabbi. Given the many miracles Jesus had performed up to this point over at least two years, it makes sense for the disciple to begin asking Jesus, in essence, “When will we get to do these “works of God”, Jesus? We’ve been following your every move for years, and we still can’t calm the seas or feed the masses. What must we do in order to be qualified to do these works?”. (my interpretive paraphrase of verse 28)

The Everyday Application

1) What would the disciples have meant by the phrase “works of God”? (verse 28)

Jesus’ signs were intended to point to an authority only God possessed, making the bold claim that only Jesus could be the promised Messiah, God in the Flesh.

While the disciples were busy looking for ways they could do what Jesus did with His miracles, they skipped over the part where Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” (verse 26)

The Greek word translated “saw” in this verse is more than an observation by the eye; it’s a seeing and heeding. It’s a discerning observation and followed by choosing a wise action as a result.

Jesus knew His disciples were desiring the physical powers and abilities of the “works of God” rather than truly “seeing” and knowing Jesus as the sustenance, and sole provider of, Eternal Life. (John 17:3) They missed the real work along with the fact that Jesus told them its Source right before they even asked how they could do the works, Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you […]”. (verse 27, emphasis mine)

As followers of Jesus today, we can fall into the same way of thinking as the original disciples. We can become more enamored with the “works of God”, like what we can do for Him or what He can do for us, and miss out on a relationship with God Himself altogether. We can begin to know more about Jesus than we really know Jesus.

What does following Jesus mean for you? If the weightiest aspect of your answer focuses on a “work” like going to church, participating in Bible Studies, serving in the nursery, or any other outward action, no matter how good, chances are you’re missing out on being with Jesus first.

The Original Intent

2) What did Jesus want His disciples to understand by including Moses in His response? (verses 29-33)

As we read the gospels, it is essential to remember the disciples and Jesus were actively living IN Old Testament times. Temple sacrifices were made, Old Testament law was kept, the scrolls were read aloud in the Temple complex, and priests studied the Old Testament. Every. Day.

When Jesus bridged to the Old Testament, He spanned the gap between the familiar “what was” and the fulfilled “what is to come” reality. (Matthew 5:17)

In this scene, however, the disciples are coming at Jesus with a pressing agenda. They are set on determining what they need to do in order to have the power to do the works Jesus had been doing, ““What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked.”” (verse 28)

Intent on catching whatever had been missing so they could possess Jesus’ power to perform miracles, the disciples persisted, ““What sign, then, are You going to do so that we may see and believe you?” they asked.” (verse 30, emphasis mine)

Perhaps with a bit of exasperation, the disciples press Jesus. “Okay; Jesus. You say this is on You, so what will You do so we can learn what we apparently missed and transition to saving belief?”

Their defensive mindset is revealed when they follow with an example from familiar territory, ““What are You going to perform? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”” (verses 30-31)

They felt confident they had pinned Jesus into telling them the secret to success they sought. They had Moses and the miracle of manna on their side; what could Jesus do like this?

With baited breath, they awaited Jesus’ reply. Would He finally tell them how to perform these works? Could He prove He was greater than Moses?

The Everyday Application

2) What did Jesus want His disciples to understand by including Moses in His response? (verses 29-33)

Jesus cuts straight to the heart, calling out where their thinking had gone awry. It wasn’t Moses who provided the manna, it was God. The same God, in fact, who was now providing Jesus as the Bread of Life, ready to eat and sustain all who believe in Him.

Manna was merely a foreshadowing of Christ. It wasn’t about the signs, it was about the One who held all power to sustain and supply every need, including the need to believe in Jesus for rescue from sin. “The one who believes in Me will never be thirsty”, Jesus repeated the necessary foundation for access to God and His power. (verse 35)

The disciples’ desire has been made plain by this point, but what was God’s willful, heart desire? Jesus shares it in verse 40, “For this is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

See with action. Believe in truth paired with surrender. So that, Jesus could bring that person resurrection and eternal life forever. The work of salvation and power is God’s from beginning to end, our work is to believe.

Jesus wanted the disciples to understand the distinction between a belief that “acknowledges” God and a belief that “entirely trusts” God for rescue from sin.

There is a belief in God that doesn’t save us for eternity. We must be certain this kind of belief is not what we possess! (James 2:19)

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that only a belief that trusts God to be exactly who He says He is, and actively feasts on Christ as the Bread of Life and His Word. See the God who wove the Old Testament with cords that would tie to the New Testament, proving Jesus is exactly who He claims to be as God. This Jesus is worthy of our believing trust resulting in surrender, which brings about God’s works.

The Original Intent

3) This exchange started with “work” and ended with Jesus declaration as “Bread”. What is the connection point Jesus wanted His disciples to understand? (verses 22-27 and 34-35)

The disciples didn’t need to do something in order to master the “works of God”, but they did need to adjust their framework. The miraculous works were never the destination; they merely acted as signposts pointing to the legitimacy of Christ’s claim to be God.

Later, at the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus would circle back to this scene and provide an answer the disciples’ hearts were ready to embrace. In John 6:29, Jesus told them that the “work of God” was to believe in Him. In John 14:12 Jesus reveals the guaranteed result of this life-changing active belief in God demonstrated through a vibrant relationship with Him, “Truly I tell you, the one who believes in Me will also do the works I do. And he will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.” (emphasis mine)

If we focus on the “works”, we have bypassed the necessary nourishment of regular feasting on Jesus, the Bread of Life. Just as Jesus said He could do “nothing apart from the Father” (John 5:19), neither can we do anything of kingdom value or worth on our own strength. (John 15:5)

We cannot accomplish His mission for us, we cannot build His kingdom on earth, we cannot share the gospel, and we will not cultivate relationships, careers, or manage our finances His way if we insist on focusing on these “works” while divorced from the absolute necessity of relying on the Spirit of God within us, which is a gift to us when we, you guessed it, believe.

The Everyday Application

3) This exchange started with “work” and ended with Jesus declaration as “Bread”. What is the connection point Jesus wanted His disciples to understand? (verses 22-27 and 34-35)

This section in John is rich indeed as Jesus lays the systematic groundwork on which He would build for the remainder of His time with the disciples. He would teach them the essentials again and again. Believe in the One who sent Him. (John 14:1) Remain in relationship with Him (the Bread of Life). (John 15:4) And, as we do, He will be faithful to build His kingdom both in us and through us. (Philippians 2:13)

After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the Father would send the Holy Spirit just as Jesus promised. (Acts 1:4-5) He would fill every believer and the Church would ignite and spread across the known world, marked by miraculous signs and wonders to unequivocally prove that these believers were God’s ambassadors equipped with His power to do His work as they live on His mission. (Acts 1:8)

Today, the work continues by His Spirit indwelling everyone who has done the first, essential work of God, believing on the Name of Jesus Christ, repenting of their sin, and surrendering themselves to Christ. (Acts 2:38, Romans 8:4-5)

We live missionally when we allow our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ to overtake every aspect of our lives because we are consumed with taking in Christ as the Bread of Life which feeds a vibrant, growing relationship with the Almighty God made possible because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the Spirit’s filling.

Feeling ineffective in your everyday walk with Jesus? Return to the foundations Jesus laid with His disciples in John 6. Believe in Him and Feast on Him.

Who is this God you say you believe in? What is He like? Rediscover Him again and again every day, for as we know Him, we believe Him. As we believe in Him, we gladly surrender ourselves to Him and He fuels us to accomplish His mission in real, everyday life!

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