A Full Christ for Empty Sinners: Part 2

John 6  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In turning to chap. 6, one point it is important to consider; that is, the contrast between the way in which Christ is presented here, and in the previous chapter. Life, in its communication by Him, and its inception by us, is the theme of both chapters; but in the fifth He is seen in full Godhead—title and glory, as the Source and Dispenser of the life sovereignly imparted by Him to us. The recipient of the life is regarded as entirely passive, and called into life by the almighty, new-creating, voice of the Son of God. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” Here, there is nothing in the case of the sinner but the powerlessness of death itself, till the deep silence is broken by the voice of the Son of God, who never thus speaks in vain. His voice makes itself heard in the soul, till then dead, but no longer dead as it hears the voice of the Son of God. It lives. “They that hear shall live.” But we read here of no exercises or feelings, no desires or sense of need, of which Christ is the object. It is Christ in divine title and competency, as the Son of God, who speaks; and the soul, till then dead, hears and lives.
But in this chapter 6., our Lord is seen in the place of humiliation He had assumed as man, “come down from heaven,” and the object thus of those desires, and of that sense of need, of which the quickened soul is conscious, but conscious, mark, because of the sin and ruin which it knew not till the voice of the Son of God broke in on its deep sleep of death. It is not always, perhaps not often, that these things can be distinguished in fact. The discovery of Christ in the soul, awakens, perhaps, the first sense of desire after Him, producing thus the hunger and thirst which He only, in further discoveries of Himself and of His work, can appease. But though this may be true in principle, as it surely is, the soul, while going through this passage in its history, is too much occupied with itself to distinguish very accurately the order of its experiences. What is of infinitely greater moment is the truth by which, instrumentally, they are produced; and this, blessed be God! we have in all its fullness and variety in the scriptures under review, and in other portions of God's holy word.
In the early part of our chapter, we find our Lord fulfilling, in the midst of Israel, the predictions of Psa. 132, where, in connection with Jehovah's choice of Zion, and placing David's son upon the throne, we read, “I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread.” But though Jesus be thus manifested as the heir of all the glories prophetically unfolded in the psalm, He is not here taking that place. Israel and the earth were as yet unfit for this; and God's time for it had not arrived. Hence Jesus retires before the urgency awakened of His own act in this feeding of the multitude. When they would have taken Him by force to make Him a king “he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” Indicating thus that He would be on high during the postponement of His kingdom, His absence was continued until His disciples were in great trouble through a storm by which they were overtaken in crossing the lake. Jesus rejoins them with words of comfort, “and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” This episode does not so much refer to the church, or to the saints composing it, as to the Jewish remnant in days to come. The return to them of the now absent but exalted Messiah will both hush the storm which will be threatening their total overthrow, and conduct them at once into the haven of rest. The heavenly saints will be taken from amid the whole scene of trial and of conflict, to be with their Lord whom they meet in the air.
All this, however, is but introductory to the great subject of the chapter, which is linked with these details by the inquiry of those who next day followed our Lord to the other side of the lake. They seem to have been swayed by the most sordid motives with which they are pointedly charged by the Lord. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed.” If they would come after Him, and this was all the “labor” they had performed, He would have them come for that which would endure. Not the perishing sustenance of a life which shortens each moment of its existence, but the imperishable food of an imperishable life, which it was the great errand and business of the Son of man to give. Son of man He is, blessed he His name, and not simply Son of God; but in this place of humiliation to which He had stooped, how had the Father singled Him out from the whole race of mankind, setting upon Him alone the seal which marked Him out as the object of the Father's perfect approval and infinite delight. Believers are now, since the resurrection and ascension of the Lord, sealed; but it is in Christ that they are thus distinguished. “In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Christ was sealed because of His intrinsic perfections; we, through our identification with Him in the place He has taken as having accomplished redemption. But the verse under consideration brings us to the Son of man as giving “meat which endureth unto everlasting life.”
They who could follow Christ for loaves only, seek to excuse themselves for the neglect of this better gift. “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” is their next question. In what lovely, patient grace does the Lord reply, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Is He the One who, of all that ever trod this earth, was counted worthy to be sealed of God the Father? How evident, then, that to believe on Him is that which God must approve, and without which nothing else can be accepted in His sight.
The only answer of the people is an inquiry after signs, with a reference to the manna in their fathers' days, which seems intended to depreciate, by comparison, the miracle of the day before. It is as though they would say, “If you would have us believe in you as the sent One of God, you must show us greater works than these. You have fed five thousand once; our fathers, in Moses' day, ate manna for forty years": as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Then did our Lord begin to unfold the great subject of the chapter. The reasonings of Jewish pride and unbelief gave Him the occasion; but, dealing with these in the most unsparing way, how does He, at the same time, present Himself as the Object on which any hungry, thirsty, fainting, perishing one might feed and live forever. “A full Christ for empty sinners” indeed. These Jews were not such, and so went away. But how many fainting ones, perishing with hunger, have here been regaled, and found in Jesus the bread of life!
The remainder of our chapter affords us a threefold view of this blessed One. Christ incarnate—Christ slain—Christ ascended. May we have grace to listen, to receive, and to worship.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” How simple, and yet how weighty and conclusive His answer to their unexpressed thoughts about Moses, as though Moses were shown, by the miracle of the manna, to be greater than our Lord. “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven.” He was but a receiver of it, like the people themselves, who subsisted on it for forty years. It was God's gift, and despised, alas! by those who lived on it, just as “the true bread” was now being despised by their descendants. Our Lord does not pursue the subject of the manna. He does not say, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but my Father did. No; He would not speak of the manna in connection with the Father's name, as though the import of that name were disclosed by the gift from heaven of bread for six hundred thousand men and their families for forty years. Was this more, in reality, than His feeding all His creatures every day and every hour? “Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” So vast are the Creator's stores, and so easy their application in Providence to the creature's need!
But the Father's name is linked with deeper wonders far. All the riches of grace are told out in the revelation of that name. “My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.” What was that? The answer is at hand. “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” The Father's provision for a dying world was to send from heaven His only begotten Son. His appearing here was as the lowly Son of man. The fact was of worldwide interest. All alike needed this bread from heaven, and all alike were welcome. Not to Jew or Gentile, as distinct and privileged, but to the whole race as perishing, was this bounty sent. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:99In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)); “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:1919To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)). But the world would not be reconciled. It had no taste, no appetite for this “bread from heaven.” There might be the momentary movement of the affections by His gracious words, leading some present to cry, “Lord, evermore give us this bread"; but it was only to make their rejection of Him more manifest and decisive when they came to understand His meaning. But let us listen to His words.
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” Dear reader, do you understand these words? Has your soul-hunger been appeased by this “bread from heaven,” this “bread of life”? Has your soul-thirst been quenched by receiving in Him and of Him the water of life? Or is it possible that one who reads these lines should fall under the condemnation of the words next uttered by Christ? “But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me, and believed not.” No language so cutting as that of rejected mercy, repulsed and slighted love! Here was this blessed One; His errand to this world nothing less than to be the expression of His Father's love, and the Savior of lost men! He bore His credentials in every gracious word that fell from His lips, and every action of His perfect spotless life. One of these, the miracle of the loaves, had attracted after Him the multitude, who from selfish motives had followed Him across the lake. They confessed thus that they had “seen” Him; but, alas! they “believed not.” When they understood that He was the bread of life, they show plainly it was not for such food that they had come. They would have had another meal such as on the day before; but for the One who gave it they had no heart. He had come to save them, if they would, from a worse death than that by hunger, but they had no sense of their danger and need in this respect, and therefore had no heart for Jesus as their Savior; and they would not receive Him. Nor would any, with Christ shown to them thus and nothing more.
These men were not worse than others. Their unbelief was manifest and declared; and He treats them, therefore, as unbelievers, as rejecters; but this is what would be the result in every case, were we left to our own thoughts of Christ, when thus seen as “come down from heaven.” Thank God, there is something more. Christ had not only come, as bringing life and love so near to the world, to men as such, that only by refusing the life and repelling the love could they hold on in their sins; He had come to fulfill the counsels of His Father's love in the sovereign gift of life, as shown in chap. 5; and of this He now proceeds to speak, though still as “come down” and here in humiliation, the Object for faith to receive and appropriate. Such faith, it was evident, had no place in man's heart; but God could give it, and would sovereignly in His grace. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” [W. T.]
(Continued from page 329)
(To be continued)