A Full Christ for Empty Sinners: Part 3

John 6
How humiliating and heart-breaking for us, that, in the presence of incarnate life and love in the Person of the incarnate Son of God, no one would have come to Him, no one have been benefited by His mission, had there not been those who were given Him of the Father, and on whose coming therefore He could securely reckon. Man's will would, in each individual, have held out against Christ, had not the Father resolved that He should have some as the trophies of His victory, and the reward of His coming down from heaven. Alas, that our deadness to such love should have called forth such sighs as seem to breathe in these words of Jesus. Is it not as though He were accounting to Himself for the marvels of human unbelief?—as though saying, After all, it is but what I might have counted on? Nothing will affect man's stony heart, save where My Father's grace effectually intervenes, and on that I may securely count. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me. And, then, to see how perfectly He fills the servant-place He had taken. For any now to come to Him is the proof of their being among those given to Him of the Father; so He may well declare of such that He will cast none out. The heart to come to Jesus is the sure sign to Him, had that been needed, of His Father's gracious working; and, therefore, He is but obedient to His Father's will in receiving, without question as to the past, all who come to Him. “Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.” Precious words! Rich has been the comfort they have yielded to many an otherwise desponding one; but how greatly is their value enhanced when the coming to Christ is seen, not as an act of man's fickle will, but as the effect of the Father's drawing to Jesus of one given to Him in the counsels of that Father's love before the foundation of the world.
Then, too, as we have just seen, the reception of such a one by the Savior, irrespective of every consideration beside, is not merely the fruit of His compassion for the sinner, but of His grateful obedient acceptance, as the servant of His Father's will, of the one sent to Him, brought to Him, by the unseen drawings of that Father's love. All thus rests, not upon any fancied good in the sinner, but upon the Father's choice and the Son's obedient love. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will; but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” How He thus discloses that a far deeper and more important work had been entrusted to Him than that of satisfying Israel's poor with bread; no less a charge than that of raising up at the last day all given to Him of the Father, without losing one. Blessed Lord! to whom besides could this charge have been entrusted?
But, while disclosing, as above, that His real errand was one not depending for its issues on man's will, known already to be so perverse as in every case to reject the Savior—an errand, too, embracing the safe production by Christ in resurrection blessedness of all given to Him by the Father—It is touching to find how solicitously He leaves wide open the door to anyone anywhere who is disposed to enter. He may not, as yet, be able to account for the change in his own condition, as we have seen it accounted for by the Savior; he is not the less welcome, or his final safety the less certain and unfailing. “And this is the will of him that sent mc, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The great stumbling-block to the Jews at that time was His professing to have come down from heaven, just as afterward, in Paul's day, the doctrine of “Christ crucified” was “to the Jews a stumbling-block.” And for precisely the same reason, their pride disdained the being indebted to One so lowly; and they were so self-satisfied as to see no need for One to come from heaven, and much less for One to die upon the cross to meet their case and be their Deliverer and Redeemer. Their case, as they thought, was by no means so desperate as this. They could not have denied their national subjection to the stranger's yoke; and, a “great prophet” to have stirred up the people to crowd around the standard of some great commander who would have led them on to victory over their Roman oppressors—this would have been a Messiah to their mind.
But for a plain, homely man, reputed to be the son of a carpenter of Nazareth, to profess to have come down from heaven and to speak of Himself as the bread of life, engaging to raise up His followers at the last day; in other words, for the lowly Jesus to present Himself as the Savior of their souls and the giver of everlasting life, this was a deliverance and a Deliverer of which they felt no need, and for whom they had no relish. They did not hunger for such bread; they did not thirst for such life-giving drafts. “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?” They could understand that a heavenly existence prior to His being a man on earth was implied in this language; in other words, that it was divine glory, veiled in His lowly place and condition as Son of man, which was in these words declared by Him as His. With this implied claim they contrast what they suppose to be His origin, and inquire, “How is it then that He saith, I came down from heaven?”
In answer to all such cavilings the Lord only again retires into His own consciousness of how the case really stood. “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.” No one hungers for the bread of life so as to come to the Savior except as drawn by a sense of urgent need which exists in none but those whom the Father draws. The prophets had declared of all who should inherit Israel's promised blessings in the latter day, “And they shall be all taught of God.” This scripture our Lord quotes, and again consoles Himself with the assurance, “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me.” All in Israel who had inwardly heard God's voice, not only came to Jesus, but were overjoyed to do so. Take Nathanael for an instance (John 1:4949Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. (John 1:49)). It was these dealings of God with the soul under the fig-tree, these humbling discoveries of self and sin leading to guileless confession of total ruin, that accounted for any coming to Christ. But, as it were, excluding the sense which might have been put on His words, the Lord adds, “Not that any man hath, seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.”
What treasures do these few words unfold. However souls may be taught of God, drawn of the Father, and consequently come to Christ, it is not that the Father is immediately revealed, so as to be seen. There was no incarnation of the Father, as of the Son. He abides in unmanifested Godhead; and, only in the Son, who stooped to “come down from heaven” and be here a Man upon earth, is the Father to be seen. “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.” Infinite distinction between this blessed Son of man and all men on the earth, whither in grace He had humbled Himself to come. He had seen the Father. In the depths of that eternity in which the Word had been “with God,” in which the “eternal life” was “with the Father,” had He, who now humbly speaks of Himself as “He which is of God,” “seen” what no creature can — “seen the Father.” What unfathomable secrets of love and blessedness and glory are wrapped up in these short simple words!
Tread softly, Ο my soul, for surely this is holy ground. And here He was, He who had seen the Father, He was here to make Him known. He had become incarnate for this very end. He had taken flesh, came down from heaven, or He would still equally with the Father have been beyond the ken of mortals, beyond the creature's sight. “No man hath seen God at any time: the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” Who else could? And how else could we ever have known Him? How else could the light of the Father's love and grace have beamed into our dark hearts, and shed its luster on our whole upward path to the abodes of which the Savior afterward said, “In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you.” When there with our adorable Jesus, and privileged to behold His glory, how will there be connected therewith the witness of what He had known and enjoyed there from all eternity! “For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
From these depths He returns, and with what perfect case and grace, to the simplest presentation of Himself as the bread of life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life.”
How simple the way in which the Savior is received! Just as a hungry man, with bread before him, asks no questions, makes no demur, but eats and lives, so the Savior, with a hungry soul before Him, needs nothing to commend Him to such a soul's grateful, adoring reception. But where are such? Alas! it was the lack of all taste for Christ, the self-complacency which felt no need of Him, that prevented these blinded Jews from receiving Him. And where is there an appetite for Him now? Precious bread of life He doubtless is — perfectly adapted to nourish and sustain divine life in man, even if that life be in its most infantile stage, the very earliest moments of its communication by grace to the soul.
But without this what is there? Death! A corpse has no appetite — it neither hungers nor thirsts. No more does the soul that is still dead in sins, dead to God. It is of the woman who seeks her happiness on earth that the word is spoken, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:66But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. (1 Timothy 5:6)), but it would surely be as true to say that he who thus lives is also dead.
Dear reader, if fashion, wealth, or pleasure —the world in any of its forms—be all we wish, all we seek, what can the bread of life be to us in that state? Insipid and distasteful indeed in our esteem! Christ will not help us to win the prize in any race of ambition or pursuit of pleasure. He who passed by the nature of angels, and all the gradations of human rank, to be known on earth, as these Jews tauntingly designated Him, “the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know"; or as some in Mark vi. 3, “Is not this the carpenter?” — He is not one in whom pride can find its food. And as to pleasure, what can they who seek it find in the One “who pleased not Himself” — who tells us in this very chapter, “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me"?
And yet, solemnly as the fact begins to declare itself, that between this incarnate One and those who surrounded Him there was not one thought, feeling, or motive in common, how graciously He continues to urge every consideration which might be adapted to produce in them an appetite to awaken desires after Himself, the Living Bread! They had referred to the manna, and covertly to Moses as the giver of it, in order to depreciate Christ. He returns to that subject now, to press on their attention the contrast for themselves. “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 forever.” Wondrous words!
The manna, testimony as it was of God's power and grace, and type indeed of Christ Himself, in its actual use did but nourish for a few years that poor, fleeting, feverish, forfeited life, which begins at our birth and ends at our death. A taper wasting from the moment it begins to shine; “a vapor that appearth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” —is it for this, or the support of it, or for the brief pleasure that it affords, that men toil, fret, weary themselves, despise heaven with all its glories, refuse or neglect Christ and His great salvation?
Yes. It was so in our Lord's day on earth. It is so still. Oh that His words (thank God, “they are spirit and they are life") may reach the heart of some one who cons these pages—the words in which He contrasts with everything in this poor, perishable life, that interminable existence in unutterable peace and joy, that “everlasting life” which all receive who receive Him! Hungry soul, can you not feed on Jesus? As you would appease your natural hunger on the suited food, can you not find in Jesus what meets your entire case, what satisfies your every wish? Here is an undying life—an unwasting one; to “live forever” is the effect of feeding on this bread from heaven. “That a man may eat thereof and not die: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” Has the worldling anything to compare with this? Do his most feverish dreams of happiness on earth embrace the element of unending continuance? It is just for him the one element wanting, the lack of which spoils all the rest.
How passing wonderful, that the One who stood before these Jews as the lowliest and poorest of men had the full consciousness then of having a life to bestow, to communicate, which death cannot touch, and which is, in its own proper nature, everlasting life! He is no longer here in humiliation, speaking such words of grace and truth as these; but He has not ceased to be the giver of this life, Himself the fullness of the life He gives. “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
To gather up a little what has been under review, we have here “the Son of man,” One who is really partaker of flesh and blood, a Man conversing with the men who had followed Him across the lake—we have this Son of man, the Sealed One of God the Father. He is the Sent One too, and the first thing for any one who would please God is to believe on Him whom He hath sent. He has, moreover, meat or food to give, which endures to everlasting life. In the conversation with the parties just adverted to, the mystery of His presence here is declared, and many of the moral traits of that life of which He is the full expression, and which He was here to communicate, are either stated in words, or come out in practical display. He was from heaven, the incarnate One. He was the Father's gift, a character in which He delights in this Gospel to speak of Himself. He was the true bread—the real and only nourishment for divine life in man, had it only been there.
What perfect adaptation to man's need is this bread from heaven. He who is that bread gives life, moreover, as well as sustains it where it is. But where is it, alas! save as sovereignly bestowed, when all would equally have treated it with disdain. They had seen Him and had not believed. There is the heartiest welcome, an open door, none refused; he who comes is no more to hunger, he who believes is no more to thirst; but the Savior has to take refuge from universal rejection by mankind in the certainty that all would come to Him who were given to Him of the Father. The outflow of His own love in receiving all such, and casting none out who come, is thus seen as the perfection of obedience to His Father, whose will, not His own, He had come from heaven to do. How the heart bows in contemplation of such obedience! He who could speak of raising up His people at the last day as though it were as easy and simple an act of obedience as any that He performed while here, speaks of Himself as having it in charge not to stop short of this. “This is the Father's will... that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
Blessed Jesus, how safe, to be confided thus to Thee! But more than this, this safety appertains to all who see Him and believe on Him, “the last Adam, a quickening Spirit.” Though it may be of His resurrection-place that this is spoken, such is the fullness of life in His person that the eye that rests on Him receives, with the beams of His countenance, that life which these beams impart. To believe on Him is to have everlasting life. The drawings of the Father, His secret teachings, secure that they shall come to Him who are the gift to Him of the Father's love. The Father Himself, undisclosed save to the Son ("He who is of God"), draws to the Son by that sense of need which is met by Him alone. He is the bread of life—not a perishable life like that of which even the manna in the desert was the food—but everlasting life.
What unfathomable wonders these few verses disclose! The infinite grace displayed in the fact of the incarnation—how little is it pondered by our careless, frivolous hearts! And then the perfectness of this blessed One in the place of humiliation to which He had stooped—the absoluteness of His obedience, and the delicacy of His self-hiding, self-consuming service! To these Jews He had to speak of Himself, for they challenged His claims, and invidiously compared Him with Moses, and His miracle with that of the manna. He answers as feeling the reflection on His Father, not on Himself. “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.” Blessed Savior! grant us daily and hourly to feed by faith on Thyself in all the perfectness in which Thou wast displayed to the eye of God while sojourning in this vale of tears.
[W. T.]
(To be continued)