35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:35-40 ESV
When Jesus told the crowd gathered around Him that His Father could give them the true bread from heaven, their response was enthusiastic and somewhat expected:
“Sir,…give us that bread every day.” – John 6:34 NLT
When the people had asked Jesus to show them a sign so that they might believe in Him, they had something very specific in mind. They wanted to be fed. They were looking for another supernatural meal just like the one they had enjoyed the day before. The thought of Jesus providing them with bread from heaven was exactly what they had in mind, and it conjured up images of their ancestors waking up each morning to a seemingly endless supply of manna.
But Jesus was revealing a source of nourishment that was far far more significant and would feed their souls and not their stomachs. He told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NLT).
Jesus was echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, who had declared God’s gracious invitation to His rebellious children, the nation of Israel.
“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.” – Isaiah 55:1-12 NLT
Jesus had offered the woman at the well living water, a never-ending source of sustenance and refreshment.
“…those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” – John 4:14 NLT
For this woman, who had to draw water from the well each and every day, His offer sounded too good to be true. Eager to have what He had to offer, she pleaded, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:15 ESV). She greatly desired this miracle water that could slake her thirst, and the crowd couldn’t wait to taste the supernatural bread from heaven. But Jesus was offering them something far more valuable and life-transforming.
Yet, the people remained oblivious to what Jesus was saying. They were seeking a sign, a supernatural display of power from the hands of Jesus that would benefit them personally. But Jesus accused these people of unbelief. They had been in the crowd when He had multiplied the loaves and fishes. They had eaten their fill. But they remained unconvinced because they desired something more. That’s why Jesus flatly told them, “you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me” (John 6:36 NLT).
It seems quite obvious that the people believed Jesus could perform miracles, or they would not have made the trip from Bethsaida to Capernaum looking for Him. They would not have asked for a sign and given the not-so-subtle hint about manna if they did not believe Jesus could pull it off. Their problem was not a lack of belief, it that they failed to believe in Him. They had no problem believing in miracles because they had seen them with their own eyes. It was believing that Jesus was the Son of God sent from heaven that proved difficult for them. This was the very same problem the religious leaders had, and it why Jesus had condemned them for their unbelief.
“…the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.” – John 5:37-38 NLT
Over and over again in his gospel, John has declared that Jesus was sent to earth by His Father in heaven. He was the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
…the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. – John 1:14 NLT
“No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.” – John 3:13 NLT
“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:17 NLT
“God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” – John 3:19 NLT
“He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else.” – John 3:31 NLT
“For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit.” – John 3:34 NLT
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” – John 4:34 NLT
“The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself.” – John 5:36-37 NLT
“For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet…you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.” – John 5:43, 44 NLT
“…you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.” – John 5:38 NLT
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” – John 6:29 NLT
“The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” – John 6:33 NLT
But this message had been missed by the people. They were enamored with His miracles but failed to fully accept His claim to be the Son of God. It was the idea of Jesus’ deity that escaped them. They could almost imagine Him to be the Messiah, an ordinary man sent by God, but they were having a difficult time accepting that Jesus was God in human flesh. Yet, Jesus had declared that belief in Him was the key to having their hunger and thirst satisfied.
But the satisfaction Jesus offered was not temporal and physical. It was eternal. That’s why He had told Nicodemus, “…everyone who believes in him [God’s one and only Son] will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NLT), and “anyone who does not believe in him [God’s one and only Son] has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18 NLT).
But Jesus revealed that there would be some who believed in Him. And their belief would be the result of the sovereign will of God.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” – John 6:37 ESV
Jesus is clearly stating that salvation is the work of God, not men. Yes, men must play their part and willingly express their faith in Jesus, but even the capacity to do so comes from the Father. Jesus states that His Father’s will is that there will be those who look on “the Son” and believe. They will have their spiritually blind eyes opened so that they can see Jesus for who He really is, the Son of God, and believe in Him.
“…this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40 ESV
It is belief in the Son that brings eternal life. Yet, many of the people in the crowd that day suffered from hardened hearts and spiritual blindness. They couldn’t see Jesus for who He truly was. Even the disciples of Jesus were having difficulty seeing Him as the Son of God. Even after having watched Him feed the 5,000, they remained unconvinced as to His identity. Mark records, “they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in” (Mark 6:52 NLT). They had no trouble believing in the miracle because they had watched it happen. But they were not yet able to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.
Man, due to the presence of indwelling sin, is spiritually dead and incapable of doing anything that God would consider righteous. Even belief in the Son of God is impossible apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit of God. Dead men cannot revive themselves. It is only by the grace of God that the spiritually dead can have their eyes opened and their hardened hearts restored so that they can see the Son of God and believe. And Jesus will make this point even more clear a few verses later.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:44 ESV
God draws. Man believes. Jesus raises up. It is the miracle of salvation. And it is the work of God from beginning to end. Lest any man should boast.
“John 6:37-40 contains Jesus’ explanation of the process of personal salvation. These are among the most profound words He ever spoke, and we cannot hope to plumb their depths completely. He explained that salvation involves both divine sovereignty and human responsibility.” – Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.