Day #231: Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 16th
Scripture Reading: John 5 - 6 …
The hunger of the human soul for meaning and purpose cannot be satisfied in any other way than by Jesus Christ. As Jesus performed miracles, it was His teaching that the miracles pointed to. Jesus said, "Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me HAS eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (5:24). Have you heard His voice? Have you come to the Father through faith in Him? What does it mean to "eat His flesh and drink His blood?" This is SO much more than mere religion!
Jesus continued to perform miracles and to astound those who looked on, but as John records these things Jesus is already entering into a new phase of His ministry. Opposition from the Pharisees and others in the Jewish community was increasing. They saw His miracles, yet criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath. Theirs was an outward devotion to the Law that came from a desire to condemn "sinners," while Jesus came to transform sinners so that the Law would be written on their hearts and obedience would come from inside. That contrast is evident yet today where some seek God and worship and offer an outward obedience to try to earn God's favor, while those who know God, who have been born again by His Spirit, love God, worship Him with joy and pursue righteousness not in order to be saved, but with thanksgiving because we have been saved by the blood of Christ!
Because their eyes were blind and their hearts were spiritually dead, the Pharisees could not understand what Jesus was saying and they refused to believe that He was who He said He was. As Jesus spoke about His relationship with the Father, the Pharisees must have cringed. "Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it" (5:21). And then, "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him" (5:23). Jesus claimed to be sent from the Father and to have come down from heaven. You can understand why the Pharisees would have trouble accepting this!
How could they miss the truth that Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the prophets had written? Spiritual blindness is real and it afflicts all of mankind. When Jesus healed physically, it always pointed to the deeper need of spiritual healing. It was not as though Jesus didn't tell the Pharisees the truth, even as He did the crowds that followed Him wherever He went. Jewish law did not receive the testimony of a person concerning themselves, so Jesus points to other testimony about Him, beginning with John the Baptist. John had testified that Jesus was "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). But Jesus said He had even greater testimony than John.
All that Jesus was doing testified that He WAS the Messiah, that He was sent from God, that the very power and authority of God was His. "The very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. AND the Father who sent me has HIMSELF testified concerning me" (5:36-37). At His baptism the Father had declared, "This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The Pharisees and others had sufficient testimony to know who Jesus was and to believe in Him, but their hearts were hard and their eyes were blind. So it is with countless millions today. Jesus said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about ME, yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (5:39-40).
How many people today consider the Bible to be just another religious book, good perhaps for some moral teaching, but nothing more? Millions of people, maybe more, in churches all over the world go through their religious rituals, believing that by doing so they are pleasing God. But how many works do you need to do? I ask that question often to remind people that God requires perfection and none of us can give it. If you or I or any other person relies in religion to save us, we will be condemned. Jesus says it plainly enough: "The work of God is to believe in the One He has sent!" (6:29). Only faith in Jesus Christ leads to eternal life. If you rest in anything else ... anything, you will never possess the life of Christ within you. The testimony of those who are in Christ is that HE is life and that He has accomplished all that I could not. As the words of the old hymn ask and answer: "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!!"
So we come to John 6, the turning point in Jesus' ministry. It had to happen ... sooner or later. None of this was a surprise to Jesus, or to His Father who watched His plan unfold from heaven. Jesus fed the 5,000 and then walked on the water to the disciples as they crossed the lake. Simple things for the Son of God to do. Yet as the crowds asked for more miracles and more food for their bodies, Jesus confronted them with their true need: bread from heaven. The Jews were proud of their heritage and pointed to God's provision of manna during the wandering of their ancestors in the wilderness after God had delivered them from their slavery in Egypt (apparently they had forgotten WHY they were wandering in the wilderness and why they had to eat manna for forty years!!). Jesus wanted them to understand that all of that pointed to this moment, to this time in history ...
How much people in the church today who claim to be Christians are like the Jews in Jesus' day. They rest in their heritage from the past and go through the motions of religious exercise. I grow weary of saying it, but it is increasingly true. People say they are Catholic or Lutheran or Reformed or Baptist or some other "brand" of Christian, thus displaying that they still don't get it ... you are either in Christ or you aren't. Sadly, we have not yet come to agreement on certain things that the Bible teaches (due to our ignorance and at times, stubbornness), but there is only ONE church and you are either a true believer or you aren't. Jesus says, "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose NONE of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in HIM shall have eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day" (6:39-40).
This continues to be the dividing line that separates all of humanity between the "haves" and the "have nots" ... between those who have life in Jesus and those who do not. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (6:44). "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him" (6:65). Many declare that those who are spiritually dead can, of their own free will, decide to believe in Jesus, to confess Him as Savior and acknowledge Him as Lord. But Jesus says that is impossible. He told the crowd that they must "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood ... Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (6:53-54).
What?! Yes! "This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on THIS bread will live forever!" (6:58). They actually thought Jesus was talking about His physical body and blood, but Jesus explained to the disciples: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life!" (6:63). We need to think about more than this physical world! We were created in the image of God, as spiritual beings IN physical bodies. We live in this physical world, but though our bodies die because of the consequences of sin, our spirits will live forever - either in the presence of God or in the fires of hell. ONLY through faith in Jesus Christ, "eating His body and blood," finding satisfaction for our spiritual hunger and thirst in Him, will we enter eternal life. There is no other way!
John records that "from this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him" (6:66 ... an interesting number ...). Jesus asked the disciples if they wanted to leave Him, too, but Peter answered as you and I must: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you ARE the Holy One of God" (6:69). Jesus IS the bread that came down from heaven. He, and He alone, gives life to those who believe in Him. Have you received that life? Are you trusting in Jesus today? Eat well today of His Word, and as you hear His voice your soul will be satisfied!
"My Father in heaven, in Your Son I have found life! I thank You for the testimony You have given and I rest in Jesus' blood as my righteousness in Your sight. Forgive me for my sin and continue Your work in me, that I may follow Jesus all my days and live to praise and honor You, my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"