The latest and greatest have always been prized in cultures around the world, but perhaps never more than in our day. Take, for instance, the new Apple products revealed this week. Faster processors, more pixels, less space, better camera, a more efficient interface, all available soon. In the face of that Apple reveal we come here to take another look into the gospel of John, in a sermon series that will likely extend through two or three more Apple reveals. Our fast paced world leaves many of us confused and frustrated by the staggering slow nature of growth in Christ. Yet we gladly press on, refusing to bow the knee to the pace of our culture, giving ourselves to slow and steady growth under the Spirit’s lead, knowing God’s Word never returns void, but always accomplishes the purposes for which He sent.
The Anatomy of Grumbling (v41-42)
Up to this point in chapter 6 the crowd Jesus is speaking to is the multitude who ate the miraculous meal on the slopes of Galilee. Recall that crowd witnessed that wonder, missed the greater meaning, searched for Jesus to make Him king, found Him back across the sea in Capernaum, and engaged Him again still trying to make Him king. In v41 we see a shift take place within this chapter. For the first time in John 6 we are told ‘the Jews’ are present. This label ‘the Jews’ is usually reserved for the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who are hostile to Jesus and His message. That ‘the Jews’ are included here in v41 likely means the multitude fed by the miracle and still speaking with Jesus here in Capernaum is a mixed multitude. Many within this group are likely hearing and accepting Jesus’ words as life giving and true, but many others are not. It’s these others who resemble the Jews of Jerusalem, it’s these others who begin grumbling, and it’s these others who begin stirring up the crowd.
Listen to all of v41-42, “So the Jews grumbled about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” The shift of v41 is a shift into conflict. Sure, a tension was already present in the crowd because they wanted to make Him king. They loved Him, or more truthful – they loved what He could be for them and what He could do for them – this is why they wanted to make Him king. But when they saw He would not be the king they wanted Him to be they mocked Him, despised Him, and tension turned into open hostility. And as we see John’s gospel progress, this hostility only grows all the way up to the point where the crowds of people execute Him. So, by coming to v41 we’ve now shifted into conflict. But backing up and looking at our passage specifically, we should ask ‘what is the nature of this conflict?’ It’s simple really. It’s something the Jews have done before. In fact, they spent 40 years doing it in the wilderness after the Exodus. They’re grumbling about bread from heaven.
The word translated as ‘grumbled’ in v41 is used 8 times in the New Testament, 6 of those uses are in direct reference to these Jews. It refers to a kind of angry discontent expressed by muttering or murmuring. Why are they grumbling? They’re grumbling about Jesus claiming to be the bread come down from heaven. Why is this claim so ominous to them? v42 shows us. These Jews thought they knew Jesus’ father and mother and because believe they know His parents they wonder how in the world Jesus can say He is from heaven. This is understandable for sure. Mary was really Jesus’ mother and Joseph looked like Jesus’ father to most. If Jesus only had Joseph and Mary for His parents the words He’s saying about being the Bread of heaven would be utter foolishness. So we can understand the grumbling going on here. But though we can understand this grumbling, we also see this grumbling as ridiculous. Ridiculous not in regards to Mary, but in regards to Joseph. They believed Joseph was his father and on that account they grumbled at and refused to believe in Jesus’ teaching about being the bread from heaven. But who was truly Jesus’ Father? It was not Joseph, it was Jehovah, God Almighty. This carries a smidge of irony because this crowd claims to know, love, and serve God. It’s ironic because if they truly did know, love, and serve God they wouldn’t be grumbling at Jesus’ teaching. They’d believe it and embrace it. Yet they grumble.
The fickle nature of the human heart is on display here. We learn much about this crowd and we learn much about ourselves here in v41-42. Our nature is prone to only follow Jesus and believe in His gospel as long as it is favorable to us. Take away personal gain, what happens? We despise the Christ we once embraced. Take away personal comfort, what happens? We mock the Christ we once held dear. Take away full bellies, what happens? We disown the Christ we once followed. Perhaps more appropriate to our situation…take away the normal security of physical safety and shelter when it looks like a category 4 or 5 hurricane is coming your way, what happens? Beforehand we grumble that we have to fear for our lives, we grumble about the traffic headed north, we grumble about not finding gas, and afterwards we grumble that power is still out, we grumble that we still can’t find much bread or milk, and we grumble about the whole inconvenience of Irma.
We live in a flood zone, zone A to be exact, so we we’re evacuated last week. When the reports said Irma was going to hit Tampa as a category 4 for the first time in my life I had to think through what it would be like to lose a home, and after thinking through the possibility of losing our house, and sort of coming to terms with is, you know what I thought? Man dealing with the insurance company is going to be a hassle! I grumbled…Irma exposed my idols in ways I wasn’t prepared to see and I was brought to repentance…
Church, you must see yourself in this crowd. You must see the anatomy of grumbling present in the fickle nature of your own heart. Have we forgotten? When Christ called us He called us to come and die. He didn’t call us to come and then promise a life of comfort. He didn’t call us to come with all of our preconceived ideas and agendas of how we could wield His Kingdom for our purposes and benefit in this world. No, when Christ calls us He calls us to the end of ourselves, and, wonder of wonders, we when we come to Him we find the end of ourselves is where true life in Christ begins.
The Necessity of Rebuke (v43-46)
In v43-46 Jesus sees it as a necessity to rebuke this crowd saying, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me—not that anyone has seen the Father except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.”
See here the unflinching boldness of Christ in the face of an angry crowd. He didn’t say to these grumblers, ‘Well I can understand why you’re upset and grumbling, let Me perhaps try to explain it again.’ No, He said no such thing. Rather, what He implicitly said back in v37 He now makes explicit in v44 telling them of God’s sovereign grace. That He didn’t expect them to understand His teaching and that they would never understand His teaching unless the Father who sent Him drew them in. The language used here in v44 is the language of ability, not permission. We know the difference between these two. Each of us in 3rd grade asked our teachers, ‘Can I go to the bathroom?’ And our teachers (if they were good ones) responded with ‘Of course you can, but may you?’ They did this to us to show us the difference between these words and to slowly encourage us toward a proper politeness.
Jesus employs a similar vocabulary here saying “No man can come” or “No man is able to come unless the Father draws them.” This speaks of man’s inability to come to God apart from the sovereign grace of God. This drawing in view that the Father does in v44 isn’t a kind of wooing or persuading man to do what man can already do in his own strength. No, it’s a move of God upon the soul of man that compels that man to come, giving them the ability to go where they could not go before. Picture it like this, how do you get water out of a well? Do you lean over the edge of the well calling out, ‘Here, water. Here, water, water, water.’ Of course not. Water doesn’t move on it’s own. You have to go get it. So you lower a bucket into the darkness of the well and draw it up. In v44 Jesus is saying this is how God works in the heart of man to save man. Of this verse John Calvin remarked, “It is a false and profane assertion therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from God, who has formed their hearts to obey Him.”
But remember, this is not a verse alone without a context. Too often this is used as a proof text and it’s surrounding content is ignored. Recall, Jesus is rebuking the crowd here, specifically saying that if God were really drawing them in they would understand and embrace His teaching. But what are they doing? They’re grumbling, and that is evidence that God is not drawing them in.
To add another rebuke onto all of this Jesus’ boldly continues in v45 quoting Isaiah (54:13) and Jeremiah (31:34) saying, “‘And they all will be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” Notice what is happening here. In the passages Jesus quotes from Isaiah and Jeremiah these prophets are speaking of the time when God would one day come to His people and teach them Himself. No more prophets, no more messengers, no, in this day God Himself will come and teach His people. Of course this is a promise that finds fulfillment in the Messiah. But…that Jesus quotes this prophetic promise of old in reference to His own ministry means Jesus believes Himself to be the fulfillment of this promise. Jesus believes God has come and is now teaching about Himself through Himself.
Now, I know many people do it, but no one can in good conscience believe that Jesus only went around teaching moral niceties never claiming to be God. Clearly here in our passage, in these very verses, Jesus believes Himself to be God come in the flesh. Someone who claims to be such a God would either be mad or a fool……unless it’s true! And you know what? I believe it is, that Jesus is truly God become truly man to teach us about God and man. Do you believe it?
This crowd did not and they were rebuked for it. If you find yourself disbelieving Jesus and rejecting His message today, you’re being rebuked right now just as the crowd was back then. If that’s you v44-46 ought to alarm you. Regardless what you say about your religion if God were truly drawing and teaching you…you wouldn’t be disbelieving, rejecting, or grumbling about His teaching, you’d be coming to Jesus and listening to Jesus. v46 then reminds us, the only ones who truly see God are those who look in faith to Jesus Christ. So again I say, if you look at Jesus and only see foolishness be alarmed, God is not drawing you to Himself and Christ rebukes you for your unbelief.
But see His grace. After rebuking the unbelief in the crowd before Him and any disbelief among us here today, Jesus doesn’t leave us there, He does more. He doesn’t only rebuke, He continues on to restate and repeat His message.
The Joy of Repetition (v47-51)
In v47-51 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
In this last section Jesus returns to what He was teaching before He was so rudely interrupted by the grumbling of the Jews. Beginning with a summary statement of the gospel in v47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life,” Jesus continues on by way on comparison. A comparison that this crowd originally brought up in v31 concerning the manna God gave the Israelites in the wilderness. That manna truly was bread from heaven that the people of God ate and kept eating throughout their journey. But eventually that generation would died as v49 says. Contrasting that image with Himself Jesus boldly declares in v48 “I am the bread of life.” Then again in v51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven…” His coming down from heaven is surely a reference to the manna that similarly came down from heaven, as well as His incarnation, in becoming like us that we could become like Him. But more is being said here. v50, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” And again in v51, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Yes incarnation is in view here and that is wondrous (that Christ is the true bread that came down from heaven), but do you see that crucifixion is the main point here (that Christ came down from heaven for the purpose of giving His flesh for the life of the world)? The Israelites of old ate manna in the wilderness that fell from heaven and died, but whoever eats the flesh of Christ, or back in v47 – whoever believes in Him, will not die but live forever. In this way He is the true manna from heaven. And the way we now enter into the life this manna brings is by believing in Him and believing that this bread not only came down from heaven for us, but that this bread of heaven was baked and burnt for us in the furnace of God’s wrath on the cross.
Perhaps though, you’ve grown weary of hearing Jesus say over and over again in chapter 6 that He is the bread from heaven. It is repeated numerous times all the way from the feeding of the 5,000 to our text today and even beyond until the end of chapter 6. Why so much repetition? Well, let me answer that question by saying this. The joy of gospel repetition is not wearisome to the true believer. After being interrupted by their grumbling and after rebuking the crowd for it, Jesus repeats what He has already said before, and that is no problem for the hungry soul. Why? Because the news that we are hungry and unsatisfied people isn’t new to us. We know we’re hungry and we know that this hunger is our deepest problem. We know our souls are always feeding, and looking for something to sink its teeth into, something that will finally be able to fill the gaping hole inside us. This is not new. But you know what is new for us? It is new to hear Jesus say that our hunger can be quenched when we sink the teeth of souls into Him. And that we enter into this quenched and satisfied life not only through His incarnation but through His crucifixion where He bore our sins for us and willingly took the curse upon Himself that we deserved! That is news we need to hear again and again.
It may be an old old story that looks foolish to the world when compared with latest iPhones. But through the hungry eyes of faith, we find that everything God wants for us, is found in Christ, the bread of heaven.
 Johannes Oecolampdius, Reformation Commentary on Scripture: John 1-12, page 228.
 Johannes Brenz, Ibid., page 228-229.
 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: NICNT, page 370.
 Johannes Brenz, Reformation Commentary on Scripture: John 1-12, page 229.
 Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: 1900, Vol 46, page 611.
 R.C. Sproul, St. Andrews Expositional Commentary: John, page 118-119.
 John Calvin, John Commentary, online.
 Heinrich Bullinger, Reformation Commentary on Scripture: John 1-12, page 233-234.
 Johann Wild, Reformation Commentary on Scripture: John 1-12, page 237.