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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 am service, 2008-06-08

Text: John 6:41-59

Food is a basic necessity of life. But having sufficient food does not necessarily mean that one's life will be sustained. In order to sustain life, the food must be eaten and digested. You may have all the food in world, but if you cannot eat any of it you will soon starve to death. There are a variety of causes for this: It may be due to nausea or to an inability to swallow food. It may also be due to a total loss of appetite. This is what happens to those who suffer from anorexia nervosa - an illness that affects people who are so afraid of growing fat that they refuse to eat. Some have lost their lives because of this. 

While it is sad to see how people can suffer and die of starvation despite having food to eat, let us be aware that the same thing happens in the spiritual realm. Many people are starving spiritually despite the availability of food for their soul. The human soul needs food in order to live and grow. But many do not have the appetite or ability to eat it. This is what we will see as we study John 6:41-59.

I. Sin Renders Your Soul Incapable to Eat and Live (vv.41-43)

The passage records an event which took place at a synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when a group of Jews who were looking for Him found Him there (v.25). Why were they looking for Him? It was because they had been so amazed at His great miracle of feeding over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fishes. Our Lord knew that all these Jews wanted was to see more miracles from Him and be fed with more supernatural food. In v.31 they even suggested that Jesus should give them manna to convince them that He is just as great as Moses. It is clear that they were not interested in knowing Him or serving Him. All that they were interested in was what He could do for them in providing for their material needs and wants. 

Many people are like that - they believe that as long as they can get all the material things they wish for, they will be fine. But they do not realize that what their souls really need is not all these things, but to have the Lord Jesus in their lives. In order to help them see their real need, Jesus made a very startling statement in v.35, 'I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.' And He went on to say to them in v.38, 'For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.'

When the people heard this, their mood suddenly changed. They began to murmur against Him. Earlier on they had respectfully called Him 'Rabbi' (v.25) and 'Lord' (v.34). Now they doubted what He was saying to them. 'How can this man make such a preposterous claim? Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? Didn't he grow up and work as an ordinary carpenter in the nearby town of Nazareth? How is it then that he now says, I came down from heaven? Isn't he the same as everyone of us?'

What Jesus claimed was too much for them. They just could not accept it. And so they murmured among themselves. Murmuring is a sign of a sinful and rebellious heart. It had happened before during the time of Moses, when the Israelites had left Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. They had witnessed miracle after miracle - the parting of the Red Sea, their victory over the Amalekites, the provision of manna for food and of water from a rock. And yet they murmured against the Lord (Number 14:27). They grumbled and complained bitterly that God had deceived them - that He had brought them out of Egypt only to be massacred by the Canaanite forces. This revealed how shallow their knowledge of God was and how bad their unbelief was. Because of this, that whole murmuring generation forfeited their opportunity to enter into the Promised Land. 

And now at Capernaum their descendants were murmuring just because Jesus said that He is the bread which came down from heaven. They could not accept this because they thought that they knew who Jesus is. To them He was only the son of Joseph and Mary who grew up in Nazareth. But they knew nothing about how Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin in Bethlehem. Had they known this they would not have referred to Him as the son of Joseph (v.42). Now, they should have accepted what Jesus said about Himself because of the obvious testimony of His miracles, but they could not do this because they were blind. And they were not the only ones who could not see the truth. On another occasion when Jesus asked His disciples what people were saying about Him, they replied that some thought He was John the Baptist, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. (Matthew 16:14)

There is a well-known story that may help us to understand the spiritual condition of these Jews - a story of 6 blind men and an elephant. Each of the 6 blind men felt the elephant and was asked to describe it. One of them felt the huge side of the elephant and said that it is like a wall. Another one felt the elephant's tusk and he claimed that the elephant was much like a spear. The 3rd man held the elephant's trunk and concluded that the elephant is really a kind of snake. The 4th man felt one of the legs and said that it is clear to him that the elephant is like the trunk of a tree. The 5th man happened to touch the elephant's ear and said, 'Even the blindest man can tell that the elephant is like a fan.' The last man felt the elephant's tail, and said that the elephant was actually a rope. These 6 men argued with one another, each claiming that he was right and the rest were wrong. The truth was that each of them was partially right, but all of them were also completely wrong!

In the same way, the Jews in our passage murmured against Jesus because they were convinced that they knew everything about Him, when in fact they knew very little about Him. They refused to believe in Him as the Bread which came down from Heaven, the One who is the Life-giver. Since they would not believe in Him, they could not receive the life He gives.

If you do not come to Jesus and believe in Him, you too will not receive the life that your soul needs. And if you deprive your soul of the life that is in Jesus Christ, then you will starve and die spiritually. Therefore come to Him. Please don't delay any more, but come. Come to Jesus now! But who will come to Christ on his own? Romans 3:11 answers so plainly: 'There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.' This shows the extent of damage that sin has done to our lives. Sin has not only affected our attitudes and actions. It has also affected our will and our understanding. How can we come to the Lord Jesus for life and salvation, when we don't even have the most basic ability of all abilities - the ability to come to Him? 

II. God Enables Your Soul to Eat and Live (vv.44-46)

This is where we see how marvelous the grace of God really is. It goes right down to the root of the problem and deals with it most effectively. Listen to what Jesus says in John 6:44-45 'No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.' Here we find two things that God does to enable you to come to Jesus for life and salvation. 

Firstly, He draws you to Christ (v.44), and this effectively overcomes your lack of willingness to come to Him. Now, God does not force you to come to Him against your will. But He remoulds your will until it has the ability to respond to the call of Christ, so that you will come to Him freely and voluntarily. This does not mean that a person will respond immediately to the Gospel when he hears it. Many people do resist and struggle against the call for a time just like a wild, untamed horse trying to throw the rider off its back. But eventually it learns how blessed it is to yield and to be led willingly by its rider. 

Secondly, He teaches you who Jesus Christ is (vv.45) and this effectively overcomes your lack of understanding of spiritual things. You may have heard the same truths about Christ over and over again but they make no sense to you. You can't understand why your Christian friends are so excited over Him. Then one day you see the truth for yourself and it becomes as clear to you as day. It is as if someone turned on the lights after you had spent years in darkness. It would be like the story of the 6 blind men and the elephant ending with all the men having their eyes opened miraculously, and now they can see how deficient their knowledge of the elephant had been. 

Have you been taught of God? Have your eyes been opened? This makes all the difference in your life. According to 1 Corinthians 2:14 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' And 1 Corinthians 2:10 tells us that 'God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.' 

When you are taught of God, you will find that things in the Bible that make no sense to the world make real good sense to you. E.g. Creation of the whole universe out of nothing, The Trinity - how there can be one God in 3 persons, Salvation by faith without works, Christ's substitionary atonement - Only those who are taught of God are able to accept all these things wholeheartedly. 

III. You Need to Have Christ in order to Eat and Live (vv.47-59)

And if you are taught of God you will also be able to understand and accept what Jesus says in vv.53-54 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life' Without spiritual understanding you would be absolutely put off by these statements, thinking that Jesus is advocating cannibalism and the drinking of blood. Perhaps you would even say, 'What an utterly gross and bloodthirsty cult this is!'

The Roman Catholic Church has distorted this passage to support their unsound doctrine of transubstantiation. They teach that the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper (or the Eucharist, as they call it) change into the actual flesh and blood of Christ when the priest performs the mass and that eating them is absolutely necessary for salvation. This distortion began when Pope Innocent I issued an epistle in AD 417. Since then the Roman church has re-interpreted what Christ said in v.53 to teach that, 'Except you receive the Eucharist you have no life in you.'

With spiritual understanding we would realize that the eating that Jesus talked about here is spiritual, not physical. Just as your body needs to feed on food in order to have physical life, your soul needs to feed on Christ in order to have spiritual life. And though it is unusual and even unthinkable to ask people to eat one's flesh, our Lord was using this as a metaphor to teach deep and wonderful spiritual truths. 

Firstly, the act of eating in order to live stands in direct contrast to the original sin of our first parents. When God made Adam and Eve they were sinless, and they enjoyed the most perfect relationship with God in the Garden of Eden. But all that was spoilt when they wilfully disobeyed God. It brought spiritual death to themselves and to all mankind. It also brought physical death into all creation and all the corruption and decay that we see in the world today. Now, what was the commandment that Adam and Eve disobeyed? 

They were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. According to Genesis 2:17 God said, 'thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' Hence at the beginning, the Word that God gave to man was, 'Do not eat, if you want to live.' But now that man has sinned, the Word that God gives to save him from sin is 'Eat and live!'

Can you see now that the metaphor Jesus used in our text is really quite appropriate? Since man found death by eating, it follows that he should now find life by eating. However, the act of eating in order to live is done spiritually not literally. God has not planted another tree to give life to those who will eat its fruit. But God has sent His only begotten Son to give life to those who will trust in Him! In v.51 Jesus says, 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.'

Secondly, the act of eating in order to live has some elements that help us to grasp what it really means to believe in Jesus. The way in which food gives us physical life bears interesting similarities to the way in which Christ gives us spiritual life. There are at least 4 steps involved in the process of eating. These 4 steps are Eyeing, Engaging, Enjoying and Exhibiting. 

A. Eyeing Him

Whenever you have a meal, your eyes must first recognize that the object which is on the plate before you is food - you must visually assess that it is edible and fit for human consumption. In the same way, the first step to believe in Jesus is to recognize Him as food for our soul. You must recognize that He is the bread of life (v.48) and He is therefore what you need for your spiritual hunger and thirst. This first step is absolutely needful for salvation. In fact, the Lord beckons you to do it in Isaiah 45:22 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.'

And please ensure that you look only unto the real Saviour - the One who is revealed in the Bible, and not to some idol or picture or any man-made representation of Him. Many restaurants showcase their food not just in pictures but in the form of wax models which look exactly like the food they represent. I often gaze at them and wonder how they are made to look so much like the real thing. But if I am hungry, I'd rather look at the real thing. Only that can satisfy my hunger. Your soul can only be satisfied with the real Saviour. You must look only unto Him.

B. Engaging Him

Looking at food is only the first step. It does not satisfy your hunger. It only increases it. You gain no real benefit from the food on your plate unless you take it and put it in your mouth. Once the food is taken into your mouth it becomes yours in a very personal sense. Others may not mind eating food that is still on your plate, but no one in his right mind would want to eat food that has been in your mouth!

In the same way, you must receive Jesus into your heart. You must personally engage Him to be your Saviour and Lord. That condition must be met for your soul to live forever. Look at V.51 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever' I would like you to note the change of terms from v.48 to v.51. The term 'Bread of Life' in v.48 focuses on the life-giving property of the bread. But the term 'Living Bread' in v.51 highlights the nature of the bread itself - it is no ordinary bread, but one that lives - one that is a person. To eat this bread is to engage the Lord Jesus permanently to be your own Saviour and Lord. 

You may know everything that Jesus can do for you, through what you have heard about Him and read about Him. But all that is of no use to you until He truly becomes yours. You must be able to say, 'Jesus is truly mine!' Unless you personally engage Him to be your Lord and Saviour, you will die in your sins. And you are doomed to spend eternity in a place of endless torment called Hell, bearing the eternal punishment that you deserve for all your sins. But when Jesus is yours, you will be spared from suffering such a horrible end. Why? Because being yours means that He has paid the price for your sins. It means that He has given His own body to be broken on the cross for you. This is what Jesus said in the latter part of v.51, 'and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.' Now that we have seen that eating Him requires eyeing Him and then engaging Him let us go on to the 3rd step:

C. Enjoying Him

When you eat food in sufficient amounts, you will have the pleasant feeling of satisfaction. This is the reason why eating is a favorite pastime for some people. Singaporeans are well-known for this: Many of us enjoy eating and we will not mind going to great lengths to find our favourite rojak, sushi or tiramisu. The taste, texture and aroma of the food satisfy our senses as we eat it. In the same way, the soul that feeds on Jesus will be fully satisfied. Look at what Jesus said in v.55 'For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.' When you feed on Christ, you will not be disappointed. He will prove to be everything that the soul needs. Let us also look at 2 other verses: Psalm 34:8 'O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed in the man that trusteth in Him.' Psalm 63:5 'My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.' And when you have experienced the goodness of God, you should then go on to the next step which is:

D. Exhibiting Him

This is similar to the next step in eating food. When it is digested and assimilated into our body, food produces certain effects. E.g. physical growth or energy to do some work. There is a saying that goes, 'You are what you eat.' Generally speaking if you eat lots of healthy food, you will be healthy and strong. But if you eat lots of junk food, then you will be quite weak and sickly. 

In the same way, the soul that feeds on Jesus will soon experience the effects of such feeding. Let us look at verses 56-57 'He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.' There are two effects of eating mentioned here by our Lord: Firstly - Dwelling in Him and He in us. This speaks of His abiding presence. What a joy it is to know that Jesus is always with us, just as He promised in Hebrews 13:5 'I will never leave Thee nor forsake Thee.' What great comfort and peace this gives us! 

The other thing that exhibits Christ in us is Life. Verse 57 says, 'He shall live by me.' This is not merely physical existence, but a new abundant life. It is a meaningful life that is lived with Christ and for Christ, as Paul testified in Galatians 2:20 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'

Seeing how wonderful it is to have Christ living His life in you, will you now resolve to eat and live? Or will you let your soul become spiritually anorexic? What a pitiful soul this is, that is emaciated and dead even though there is food to eat. Please don't let this happen to you. There is enough of the Lord Jesus for everyone who will come to Him. Will you come to Him now to be satisfied and nourished?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25