We are in the midst of a study of the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum to the people that he is the bread of life. Jesus has come to give life but the people have come to Jesus for the wrong reasons. They have come to Jesus to have their bellies filled. They have come to Jesus for what he will do for them not because of who Jesus is as the all-satisfying God. They are so consumed in their physical desires that they cannot see their spiritual needs. They do not recognize their spiritual hunger and are blind to the offer Jesus is making. In verse 40 Jesus has made a tremendous statement and an amazing offer. “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and will raise him up on the last day.” Whoever will come to Jesus will never be cast out, will not be lost, and will be raised up on the last day. Let’s notice the people’s response to this amazing offer.
The People Complain (6:41-42)
The Jews have a problem with what Jesus is telling them. Jesus called himself the bread that comes down from heaven. How can Jesus say that he has come down from heaven? They are starting to understand the implications of what Jesus is saying. This is Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know. How can he say that he has come from heaven? One can readily see that no one bought the miraculous birth story concerning Jesus. They call Jesus the son of Joseph and they know Jesus’ parents. So how can he say that he came down from heaven? The people are continuing in their unbelief. Jesus has proven that he has come from heaven by the miracles he has performed before their very eyes. But that is not their concern. They want their flesh satisfied.
Drawn By The Father (6:43-44)
Listen to Jesus’ answer to their grumbling in verses 43-44. Jesus tells them not to grumble. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him on the last day.” This declaration is fairly similar to the statement we studied earlier in verse 37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” Jesus turns on this point again to them. No one come to the Father unless the Father draws that person. This is an important doctrine statement. Denominations are built and split over the meaning of this declaration. We must not pass off these words out of hand. Too many times we come across teachings that are difficult or fly in the face of our doctrines and we simply dismiss the words. I was at a place recently that simply skipped the verse in the Bible study because it did not accord with the way we want the verse to read. We must not do such to this verse either. One of the reasons I believe that topical preaching is so popular is then the preacher does not have to deal with tough, difficult, or confusing texts. Jesus is making an important point that we must recognize. No one comes to Christ on their own. The Father must call you. The Father must draw you. No one woke up one day and said that they were going to come to Jesus on their own power or desire. Listen carefully to Jesus’ words in verse 44. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. The scriptures teach this truth in many other places, though we may have missed in our sometimes hasty reading.
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38–39 ESV)
Notice what Peter said. Who comes and finds the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit? Verse 39 tells us that it is everyone whom the Lord our God calls.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— (Galatians 1:6 ESV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)
But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (1 Peter 1:15 ESV)
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: (Jude 1:1 ESV)
We could look at many other texts that all make the same point. You have been called. Jesus said that you cannot come to him unless the Father draws you. I understand this drawing to be the same as what the scriptures speak of as calling you. So the question is not whether or not we are called by God. The question is how does the Father draw people? This is the critical question we must be asking.
How Are We Drawn? (6:44-47)
Verse 45 is the explanation. We cannot stop in verse 44 and build our theology. This whole chapter must be considered because it is one conversation with the Jews who saw the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. Jesus quotes the prophets, particularly Isaiah 54:13 and Jeremiah 31:33-34, as proof concerning what he just said about no one coming to Jesus unless the Father draws him. The prophets declared, “And they will all be taught by God.” Being taught by the Father is how we are called or how we are drawn. Jesus explains even further in verse 45. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” We can put these two sentences side by side and see clearly what Jesus is saying.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (6:44).
“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (6:45).
No one comes unless the Father draws him. Those who have heard and learned from the Father come to him. Therefore being taught by God is how the Father draws us to Christ. Hearing and learning from the Father is how the Father draws us to Christ. This is also what the rest of the scriptures teach.
13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13–14 ESV)
You do not just come to Jesus. The Father must draw you to him and he draws you to him through his word. Listen again to the apostle Paul.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV)
How did you get your faith? Did you come to your own faith? No! You came to faith by hearing the word of Christ. This is what Jesus is telling these people. The reason you do not come to me is because the Father has not drawn you. Jesus is not declaring some sort of arbitrary predestination here. He cannot condemn them for their unbelief and then tell them that it is not their fault because God did not personally draw them. Jesus is telling them that the reason they do not come to him as the bread of life is because they have not been taught by God the Father. To say this another way, they do not know the scriptures for the scriptures testify about him. If they knew the scriptures then they would come to Jesus as their bread. Jesus made this point earlier to the Jews in John 5:46-47. “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” Faith does not come any other way. You do not come to eternal life by looking at nature. You do not come to eternal life by meditating in silence. You do not come to eternal life by coming up with your own plans from your own heart. No one comes to Christ unless the Father draws him. If you never hear the scriptures, you will never come to Jesus because that is the only way to know Jesus. There is no other way. God decided that he would do his drawing through the scriptures. This is exactly what Jeremiah prophesied concerning the new covenant when Christ came.
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34 ESV)
What does it mean that God himself would put his law within them and write his law on their hearts? You will be taught by God. You will hear and learn from the Father. What else does the writer of Hebrews means when he says that the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12)? Listen to what the apostle Paul says.
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:9 ESV)
How had the Thessalonians been taught by God? Did God directly speak to each one of them and tell them to love one another? No, of course not. Paul had preached to them the word of God. But let me ask this and this is important to what we are looking at in this lesson — would the Thessalonians have been doing this if they had not been taught by God? Would they have been loving each other as God wanted if they had not been taught? No, and no one would.
Do we see what Jesus is trying to teach his audience? You are not near God. Every person has walked away from God. God has to draw us back to him because left to our own devices we will continue to walk away from God. Of my own nature I do not do what is right. Where did we get the idea that we are good and righteous? Jesus said that no one is good except God alone (cf. Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). We are lost, blind sheep that need to be drawn back to the Shepherd. God is calling people and drawing people to Christ through the living word. Without God’s revelation, no one would be saved. With God’s revelation, no one could come to Christ for eternal life.
23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23–25 ESV)
How were you born again? How did you experience this new life and new birth? Peter says that it is through the living and abiding word of God. Further, in verse 25, this word which is the gospel is what was preached to them so they would be born again.
To bring this lesson back around, what Jesus is saying to the Jews is to not grumble because the problem is that you do not know the scriptures. You haven’t been taught by God. Therefore you are not near God and are not in a relationship with God. We have a lot of people who think they have access to God that do not. We are nowhere near God if his laws are not written on our hearts. Jesus says in verse 47 that whoever believes has eternal life. Saving faith can only be generated in our hearts when we have been taught by God and his law is written on our hearts.
Go back to verse 44. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws that person. We are drawn by being taught by God. Consider: were the Jews ignorant of the scriptures? Of course not. They could quote the Torah. They knew the law of God. So while they were worshiping God, offering their sacrifices, and reciting the law in the synagogue, they were not taught of God. God is drawing you through the scriptures to his Son. Why should you read the Bible? Why must you? The listening to and reading of the scriptures is how God’s law is written on to our hearts. If the Father is not drawing you to Christ, then you are wandering away. Will you listen to God’s drawing you to him and receive Jesus as the bread of your life, becoming your only pursuit? Or will we resist and remain in unbelief? Can I plead with you today to open the word of God and let God draw you to Jesus so that he can be the bread of life and give you eternal life today?