By Edward O. Bragwell, Jr.
The sixth chapter of John has always been an interesting text to me. It reveals so much to us about Jesus. I want to examine this chapter with you and look at some facts that are brought out here about him.
1. We see the reason that Jesus performed the signs that he did – to prove who he was (vv. 1-14). Many by this time had become fascinated by the signs that Jesus was performing among them and followed along to see more (v. 2). Jesus did not disappoint them. He performed another sign upon this occasion. He fed the great multitude with just a handful of food. This sign had its desired effect. We are told that those who witnessed this sign proclaimed, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (v. 14). We need to realize that the signs and miracles of Jesus were not meant primarily to accomplish anything except to prove his claims and confirm his words. Christ did not primarily want to feed the hungry, but to show forth his power. He did not primarily want to heal the diseased, but to show forth his power. Many of the hungry in Christ day were not fed and many of the diseased were not healed. If Christ’s primary purpose was to feed the hungry and heal the sick, hunger and disease would have been completely eradicated in his day. He certainly had the power to do so. I hear so many talk as if feeding the hungry, ministering to the sick, and other such duties are to be the primary concern of the church today. They claim that this is what Jesus came to do, so we ought to focus our primary energies on these things also. But think. Was that the primary mission of Jesus on this earth? I think not. We will see later what that primary purpose was.
I have also heard brethren use this passage trying to justify the use of carnal inducements to bring people to hear the gospel. They hold out a meal or recreational activity to draw people in and then preach the gospel to them. Then they claim that they are just following Christ’s example. After all, they say, “Jesus fed the five thousand.” What we need to realize, however, is that Jesus did not offer them food to cause them to come and hear him. ‘the multitude was already there. He did not draw them there with the food. The feeding of the multitude was not to cause people to listen to his message, but to confirm the message to those who were willing to hear and had already heard. There is a big difference.
John later made clear the purpose of these signs. He said, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
2. We see that Jesus would not allow himself to be made an earthly king (vv. 15-21). The people wanted to make him a king by force. They had the idea that Jesus would be their king and decided to make him one whether he wanted to be or not. He had to run away from them to prevent this. What they needed to realize and what many have failed to realize even today is that Jesus never intended to be an earthly king and has never promised to be one at anytime. If it was his intention to be an earthly king, he had the perfect opportunity at this time. With the people rallying around him and with the power that he possessed as the Son of God, no earthly army or power could have prevented him from becoming king of the earth. But that simply was not his intention nor is it his intention in the future. Yet so many point toward the time when he is to come and rule on the literal earthly throne of David. This just cannot be. It would be inconsistent with Old Testament prophecy. Jesus was a descendent of Jeconiah (Matt. 1:11,12) and Jeremiah said that none of the descendants of Jeconiah would “prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah” (Jer. 22:28-30).
3. We seethe true purpose for the coming of Jesus revealed (vv. 22-59). Jesus revealed to his disciples the primary reasons that he came to the earth. It was not to care for the physical needs of people but to bring life and salvation and draw people to God. Jesus was not interested in providing physical food, but spiritual food to those who listened to him (vv. 26-33). Those who followed Jesus for physical reward were useless to him then and are useless to him now. Jesus came to do his Father’s will and the Father’s will is that we be saved and have everlasting life (vv. 34-40). Christ indeed brought life and salvation to this world. He came to draw people to God by teaching them concerning him (vv. 43-58) and he continues to draw people to God by the word which he left (Rom. 1:16,17).
4. We see that Jesus was rejected by many in his day (vv. 60-66). We have recorded here some of the saddest words in the Bible: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” Why did so many reject Jesus at this time. I think that we can see at least two reasons in this chapter. He was not what they expected. Some expected him to be a physical king to lead them out of physical oppression (v. 15). He would not be. Others expected him to take care of all their physical needs (v. 26). He did not. He simply did not measure up to all their misguided expectations. The same is true today. Many today reject Jesus because he does not meet their expectations. To some his message is too simple (1 Cor. 1:18-29). To others his plan of salvation is considered too much (Mk. 16:16). And to still others his call for commitment is considered too much (Lk. 9:57-62). For what ever reason, many today expect the wrong things out of Jesus and when they find out that he has never promised to be what they expect, they reject him.
5. We see, however, that while many rejected him, Jesus did find some followers (vv. 67-69). We often become discouraged when we see people turn their backs upon God and his word. But we must realize that not everyone is going to reject Christ. How encouraging and uplifting it is to note that the rejection of Christ by many of his disciples was not the end of the story. This chapter then proceeds to a happier note. There were some who would stick by him. Some could not but follow Jesus. They realized that there was no place else to go and that there salvation nowhere else (v. 68; cf. Acts 4:12). While most will reject Christ, there will always be some who will follow. We need to determine that we will be one of the few (Matt. 7:13,14). And we need to seek out the few others who will accept him (Mk. 16:16).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 11, pp. 330-331
June 2, 1988