The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
Truths of the weightiest importance follow each other in rapid succession in the chapter we are now reading. There are probably very few parts of the Bible which contain so many “deep things” as the Sixth Chapter of John. Of this the passage before as is a signal example.
We learn, for one thing, from this passage, that Christ’s lowly condition, when He was upon earth, is a stumbling-block to the natural man. We read that “the Jews murmured, because Jesus said, I am the bread that came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he says, I came down from heaven?” Had our Lord come as a conquering king, with wealth and honors to bestow on His followers, and mighty armies in His train, they would have been willing enough to receive Him. But a poor, and lowly, and suffering Messiah was an offence to them. Their pride refused to believe that such an one was sent from God.
There is nothing that need surprise us in this. It is human nature showing itself in its true colors. We see the same thing in the days of the Apostles. Christ crucified was “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.” (1 Cor. 1:23.) The cross was an offence to many wherever the Gospel was preached. We may see the same thing in our own times. There are thousands around us who loathe the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel on account of their humbling character. They cannot tolerate the atonement, and the sacrifice, and the substitution of Christ. His moral teaching they approve. His example and self-denial they admire. But speak to them of Christ’s blood–of Christ being made sin for us–of Christ’s death being the corner-stone of our hope–of Christ’s poverty being our riches–and you will find they hate these things with a deadly hatred. Truly the offence of the cross is not yet ceased!
Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 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.
We learn, for another thing, from this passage, man’s natural helplessness and inability to repent or believe. We find our Lord saying–“No man can come unto me, except the Father who has sent me draws him.” Until the Father draws the heart of man by His grace, man will not believe.
The solemn truth contained in these words is one that needs careful weighing. It is vain to deny that without the grace of God no one ever can become a true Christian. We are spiritually dead, and have no power to give ourselves life. We need a new principle put in us from above. Facts prove it. Preachers see it. This witness is true.
But after all, of what does this inability of man consist? In what part of our inward nature does this impotence reside? Here is a point on which many mistakes arise. Forever let us remember that the will of man is the part of him which is in fault. His inability is not physical, but moral. It would not be true to say that a man has a real wish and desire to come to Christ, but no power to come. It would be far more true to say that a man has no power to come because he has no desire or wish.. The corrupt will–the secret disinclination–the lack of heart, are the real causes of unbelief. It is here the mischief lies. The power that we lack is a new will. It is precisely at this point that we need the “drawing” of the Father.
These things, no doubt, are deep and mysterious. by truths like these God proves the faith and patience of His people. Can they believe Him? Can they wait for a fuller explanation at the last day? What they see not now they shall see hereafter. One thing at any rate is abundantly clear, and that is–man’s responsibility for his own soul. His inability to come to Christ does not make an end of his accountableness. Both things are equally true. If lost at last, it will prove to have been his own fault. His blood will be on his own head. Christ would have saved him, but he would not be saved. He would not come to Christ, that he might have life.
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. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
We learn, lastly, in this passage, that the salvation of a believer is a present thing. Our Lord Jesus Christ says–“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believes on me HAS everlasting life.” Life, we should observe, is a present possession. It is not said that he shall have it at last, in the judgment day. It is now, even now, in this world, his property.
The subject is one which it much concerns our peace to understand, and one about which errors abound. How many seem to think that forgiveness and acceptance with God are things which we cannot attain in this life–that they are things which are to be earned by a long course of repentance and faith and holiness– It is a complete mistake to think so. The very moment a sinner believes on Christ (editor’s note: by God’s grace) he is justified and accepted. There is no condemnation for him. He has peace with God, … however little he may be aware of it. He has a title to heaven, which death and hell and Satan cannot overthrow. Happy are those who know this truth! It is an essential part of the good news of the Gospel.