By the way, that would parallel Exodus chapters 13 through 15, the Red Sea crossing and his power over water. Let me return you to Psalm 77 for just a moment. There is also a parallel image here. You have to understand that Jesus is steeped in the Scriptures and a lot of these images would have been on His mind. Look at verse 16, “The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were in anguish; the deeps also trembled.” And in verse 19, “Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
So, it is an image of His authority over water that we see here. Going back to our text, the disciples, who are terrified, then, have to assured when He says to them, in verse 20, “It is I,” and the phrase He uses is ‘ego ami’, which translates as ‘I am’. This is one of those statements that be can be drawn as a parallel with the ‘I am, that I am’ imagery that we see not only in Exodus but in other texts which point to Jesus saying, “If you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins. Before Abraham was born, ‘ego ami’, I am.” That is a powerful image because it refers back to the idea of God as the ‘I am’.
So, He says, “I am, do not be afraid’. They were willing to receive Him into the boat.” They overcame their terror. They were probably more afraid of Him than they were of the storm. “Immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” Was that another miracle? I don’t know, but all of sudden there they were, right where they wanted to go. Suddenly they were at the land. That reminds me, by the way, of another Psalm, Psalm 107. This is one of my favorite Psalms.
It is one of tremendous deliverance and it uses the imagery of deliverance in four ways. In verses 25 to 30, it says, “He spoke and He raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and they were at their wit’s end. Then they cried to their Lord in their trouble and He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.” So, we see here a picture that goes on to say, “They were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven.” So, here we also see that all of a sudden, they were where they wanted to be.
Now, here I see Jesus fulfilling the role of God. What has He already been doing? He has been feeding His people. He has been protecting them. He has been rescuing them and He has been guiding His followers despite the natural calamities that surrounded them. In an obviously similar way, I believe God will feed us and He will protect us and He will rescue us and guide us in our own lives.
Our lives, too, are going to be surrounded from time to time by storms and calamities. So, our calm sea, really, is in Christ even though the storms of life may become enraged, we still have One who can guide us to our desired haven. Only in His hands do we have the security to miss the shoals and storms of life. There we have that imagery and as I see it, then, this is a powerful way of seeing just exactly how Jesus really fulfills and satisfies and protects His own people.
Let us continue on, then, and by the way, when I see these stories about the boat it is like a floating seminary, there are four major events and each time you see them they learned something new about Jesus that they did not know before. And so, I see that as being a way of learning. Jesus used anything at His disposal to teach us.
May I say as well that He will use everything at our disposal to teach us. Some times we may not want that lesson, because it normally involves things you didn’t have in mind. That is how He broke through to them. usually, God gets our attention best when we are at the limit of our own resources. Then he can break through and teach us and test us and He can encourage us and draw us closer to Himself as we gain new insights about Him. Now, it goes on to say, “The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. There came other small boats from Tiberias, near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.”
So, some of the crowd came over when they heard about the miracles and they up from the Northwest from Tiberias and then seeing that Jesus and His disciples were not there, they headed over toward Capernaum. In the account that we have, we will see Jesus having discourse in the Synagogue of Capernaum. Look at verse 59 of chapter six, where it mentions this. “These he said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.” We could call this discourse, verses 25 through 58, the ‘bread of life’ discourse, just like you have the ‘upper room’ discourse and the discourse of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the ‘bread of life’ discourse.
It is a very important one because we gain insight as to what He is about. “When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here’?” Now, Jesus immediately responds. They are hoping to pursue Jesus and they want to see what He is going to do next. In verse 26, Jesus answers, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me not because you saw signs because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” So, immediately He rebukes them because He is essentially telling them they are seeking Him for all the wrong reasons. They are looking for the gift and failing to grasp the nature of the giver.
It is very similar to the way He dealt with Nicodemus as well. He struck at the root of the materialistic assumptions of these Galileans. Their belief in Him, really, was unbelief because it was based upon a complete misunderstanding of the miracle that He had wrought. He is trying to use that miracle to reveal the truth about Himself, but they just want another handout. So, they failed to see the meaning that lies beneath it all.
They have no sense of the problem of sin and no have no longing for a higher form of life. He tells them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to the eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” He is telling them not to work for things that perish, but to work for the things that won’t perish. Remember, Jesus said to the woman, “You want to have a drink, but I am going to offer a drink, that if you ask for it, you will never thirst again.” It is similar here; living bread and living water. It is the fulfillment of both.
Now, this is a very important section, these next two verses, and I want you to consider them carefully. “Therefore, they said to Him, ‘What shall we do so that we may work the works of God’?” If you didn’t read the next verse, what do you suppose that He might have said? This is a very critical question; “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
In other words, what work should we accomplish? This is where religions come into play because religious systems are essentially work systems. ‘Tell us what we need to do in order to get where we need to go’. It is usually a ‘works’ idea; if you pray this way, or you say this and do that, and they are sets of ‘do’s and don’ts’. Surprisingly, Jesus answers and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.” The one work you can do is the work of belief. It is a work of faith and not a work you accomplish. It is something that is given to you and this is where the idea of grace come in. So, like most people steeped in religious tradition, they thought they had better do something to merit eternal life and Jesus is telling them that the only work necessary is believing in Him.
This reminds me of Ephesians 2:8-10. Turn there because I would really like you to keep this passage in mind. These are some of His best-known verses, really, when He says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” So, it is this grace of God that makes it possible and it is our faith that lays hold of grace.
Faith, really, and as we know is of trust. It is not an intellectual assent. It is trusting in a person. “That is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” even the gift of faith, “it is not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So, we have this incredibly important answer. It reminds me of a story I sometimes tell, of a woman who got a job in a textile factory. When she began to work the foreman instructed her on how to work a certain loom. She practiced and had it down well enough and he said if she had any problems with this loom to please stop. Don’t try to fix it yourself. After a couple of hours everything is going well and all of a sudden a little problem surfaces. But, it is of such a small nature that she figures she can handle it.
You can guess what happens. Her trying to fix a small problem leads to another and another and another. After about an hour of trying to fix it, she works up an emotional involvement and then the guy shows back up. He said, ‘I told you if you had a problem with the loom to call me’. She snapped back, ‘I’m doing the best I can’. He said, ‘No, your not. The best you can would have been to call me’. You see the idea? I think most people try to fix the looms of their lives themselves.
But God would answer, ‘Your best will not suffice’. Our works are as filthy rags. The best thing you can do is to call upon the name of the Lord and lay hold of grace by faith. So, this is the one work that we must do in order to do the works of God. Now, back to John verse 30, “So they said to Him, ‘What then do you do for a sign, so that we may see and believe You’?”
Now, what we have here are people who are part of a congregation and as we move into the synagogue there are going to be some people who have not seen His sign that He performed the previous day. They are raising the questions of what they can see and what work does He perform. “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread out of Heaven to eat.” They were wanting to know if He could give them that kind of sign. The interesting thing here is that the Jews expected what they called a ‘treasury of manna’ to be actually descending upon them.
In the inter-testamental writings, they discuss this and there was an oral tradition about this treasure. Actually, in an early Jewish commentary on the book of Exodus, it said, “As the first redeemer caused manna to descend,” and who is the first redeemer, here? It was Moses. Then, “So will the latter redeemer cause manna to descend.” They were expecting that the new redeemer would feed them and cause manna to descend upon them. Actually, they had the physical kind of manna in mind.
It reminds me, also, of Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” What Jesus, then, is showing them is that He is giving them bread that is more than physical bread. I am giving you bread that comes from the hand of God Himself. So, rather than have the duplication of the miracle of manna, Jesus is basically saying here that you must seek something more substantive than that.
Again, I fear that what often takes place is that people seek His benefits more than seeking Him. They see Jesus as a means or as a utility for having a more comfortable life. But, He is the one who tells them that there is more to it than this. Jesus tells them, in verse 32, “Truly, truly I say to you that it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.” It wasn’t even Moses who did that, it was the Father who did that. “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world. Then they said, ‘Lord, always give us this bread’.”
Again, I think they are thinking only of the physical. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.” This is the first of the ‘I am’ statements in the Gospel of John. They are found only in the Gospel of John. “I am the light of the world,” He will say in chapter 8 verse 12. He will say, “I am the doer of the sheep,” in chapter 10. He will say, “I am the good shepherd,” also in chapter 10. He will say, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He will also say, “I am the way, the truth and the light,” and finally He will say, “I am the true vine.” In each of these seven ‘I am’ statements He reveals a little something about His character, His mission, and His nature.
So, this is a powerful picture here for the need for us to come and to receive and to believe. It is not a personal asset, but a personal reception. “He who believes in Me will never thirst.” That is the Gospel, essentially; coming to Him and trusting in Him. You transfer your trust from your own work; ‘I’m doing the best I can’, to His grace and work. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.”
It is the Father who sends down this manna, this living bread, that causes us to live. So, in verse 36, then, He tells them, “I see that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.” He knows those that are His own. He is saying that many of them have seen Him but still refuse to believe. “All that the Father gives me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
The success of His efforts depends entirely upon the Father. This is something that the Father gives Him and what we have here is an important discourse that concerns the sovereignty of God. In the sovereignty of God, we see a mystery, a mystery of how God will accomplish His purposes and how we are still required to respond.
I find that the only solution to the mystery, as I have said several times before, is to embrace the tension and to acknowledge that whosoever will, will come to the Father, and at the same time the Father chooses those who are His. It is not determinism or fatalism, but rather it is a matter of synergy between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He honors our choices, but a choice must be made. And so, He goes on to say, “All that the Father gives me will come to Me.”
He is saying that I can hold them in my hands in such a way that they will never be cast out. That is a wonderful word of assurance. If you have been called to the Father, then He will not cast you out. You are His. Jesus goes on to say, in verse 38, “I have come down from Heaven not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the Last Day.” That is His assurance and that promise, by the way, is what gives me confidence in the world. Frankly, if I were depending on my own good works and performance I would be in serious trouble.
But instead, He is saying that once you come to Me, which is the work of God, I will hold you in My hand. This is even more clearly seen in John chapter ten. He goes on to say, “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” That particular verse, verse 40, is a powerful picture of the message of the truth. My Father’s will, that anyone who beholds the Son and trusts in Him, will have the possession of eternal life and in the future, that person will be raised up on that last day. That is the assurance; that they will have a new position, they will have a new destiny and they are given assurance, the security and assurance that they will be raised up on the last day, to enjoy resurrected life with the Father and the Son. In verse 41, “Therefore, the Jews were grumbling about Him because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven’.”