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19 November 2018

The living bread wants to save us.

Come to Jesus and never go “hungry” again.

John 6.30-42.

To recap: Jesus is the living bread, and wants people to pursue him instead of ordinary bread—or any other ordinary material possession which gets used up, goes moldy or stale, or otherwise perishes. He wants an eternal relationship with us. Whereas sometimes all we seem to want of him too often are the fringe benefits of heaven.

So went the discussion Jesus had with the Galileans who sought him after he and his students fed 5,000. (John refers to them as Yudaíoi/“Judeans,” people from Judea who settled the Galilee centuries after the Assyrians drove the northern Israeli tribes out. I stuck with “Galileans” because obviously they’re Galilean Jews—same as Jesus.) The Galileans figured he was the Prophet from the End Times because he fed ’em bread like Moses fed their ancestors manna. Like they say here.

John 6.30-31 KWL
30 So they told Jesus, “So what miracle are you doing so we can see it and trust you?
What’d you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert.
Like it’s written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Ps 78.24

As I said previously, it wasn’t because they wanted a handout of free manna. It’s because being able to do such a miracle proved to them the End Times had come, and they oughta follow Jesus ’cause he was about to overthrow the Romans. Of course their timeline—and motives!—looked nothing like Jesus’s.

So he threw ’em for a loop by stating something which they’d immediately think was incorrect.

John 6.32-34 KWL
32 Jesus told them, “Amen amen! I promise you Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven.
Instead my Father gives you actual bread from heaven.”
33 For God’s bread is the one coming from heaven, giving life to the world.”
34 So they told Jesus, “Master, give us this bread, always.”

Whenever Jesus says “Amen amen” (KJV “verily, verily,” NIV “Very truly,” NJB “In all truth”) he’s not kidding. Not lying, not exaggerating; you can take this statement to the bank. It might be a metaphor though. But it’s still entirely truthful, which is why I interpret légo ymín/“I tell you” as “I promise you.” And what he promised ’em was manna isn’t bread from heaven. He is.

Thing is, biblical literalists are gonna insist manna totally is bread from heaven. ’Cause the LORD Ex 16.4 and Nehemiah Ne 9.15 said so! Asaph wrote this in Psalms!

Psalm 78.23-25 KWL
23 God commanded the clouds from above. He opened the heavens’ doors.
24 God made manna to rain down upon them, to eat. He gave them the heavens’ grain.
25 People ate potent bread. God sent them abundant food.

(The word “potent” in verse 25 translates abirím, which means “stallions” or “bulls”—basically any uncastrated animal, who’s mighty strong, but sometimes hard to control. You know, like Hebrews. Pharisees were a little weirded out by that idea, so in the Septuagint they changed it to árton angélon/“angels’ bread” in the Septuagint, even though abirím isn’t translated “angels” anywhere else in the bible. But that’s why we find “bread of angels” in most English translations. Turns out our translators are just as squeamish about testicles. But I digress.)

Obviously Asaph wrote poetry, and was being hyperbolic, as poets will. But literalists don’t know and don’t care what hyperbole is, and only wanna fixate on their favorite literal interpretation: God gave the Hebrews angel food! As if spirits eat. Wasn’t the whole point of Jesus eating after his resurrection to prove he’s not just a spirit, ’cause spirits don’t eat? Lk 24.38-43 Why would any angel need to eat manna?

Manna comes from heaven in that God, who’s in heaven, provides it. But it doesn’t literally come from heaven, as Jesus correctly points out. Get off the manna. ’Cause he’s offering us actual heavenly bread—and again, that’s a metaphor, but one we shouldn’t struggle to understand like the Galileans did.

He wants to save you. Now do you wanna be saved?

I should point out in the next couple verses, Jesus uses a lot of conditional verbs. Those who come to him might not go hungry nor thirsty. He ought not waste what he’s given. Those who trust Jesus can have eternal life.

A lot of translations turn these verbs into future tense: They will never go hungry, he will never waste ’em, believers will have eternal life. Wrong verb tense: These are aorist verbs, which means they are neither past, present, nor future, but timeless. (We don‘t have this tense in English, so they tend to get translated past tense.) Thing is, future-tense verbs are definite. Jesus wasn’t using definite verbs. These things might happen, if all the conditions are right.

What condition? Well, you. You gotta trust Jesus to save you.

John 6.35-40 KWL
35 Jesus told them, I’m the living bread. Those who come to me might not be hungry!
Those who trust in me might not thirst ever again!
36 But I tell you this, and you’ve seen me, and you don’t trust me.
37 All the Father gives me will come to me—and I’d never throw out who comes to me.
38 Because I had come from heaven. Not so I could do my will, but the will of my Sender.
39 This is my Sender’s will: I ought never waste anything of his which he gave me.
Instead I’ll raise it up on the Last Day.
40 For this is my Father’s will: Anyone who sees the Son and trusts in him
can have life in the age to come, and I’ll raise them up on the Last Day.”

The reason translators use the wrong tense, is because they don’t want us to get the wrong idea: It’s never that Jesus is unable or unwilling to save. He’s totally able, totally willing. Just like the Father. He’s not the variable. We are. Humans can reject God’s salvation. He 2.3 He’s granted us the free will to do so. And no small number of humans will, for bitter or wrongheaded reasons, do so.

Now the way Pelagians interpret this is to claim we have a role in our own salvation: We save ourselves by choosing Jesus. Which is as silly as claiming I saved myself from a heart attack by calling an ambulance. The paramedics saved me; all I did was grant consent. My involvement is entirely passive. It gets active only when I stop my salvation: “No! Leave me be! Get those paddles away! I wanna die!” Same thing with Jesus. I can’t save myself; nobody can. I can only doom myself. And if I choose to doom myself, Jesus will go along with it—even though God totally wants me, and every other human in our solar system, saved. 1Ti 2.4

Determinists like to claim “anything of his which he gave me” Jn 6.39 refers to the elect, a small segment of humanity whom God chose to save… and everybody else goes to hell, ’cause God didn’t choose them, and didn’t give them to Jesus. This is rubbish. What the Father gave the Son is the world. For God so loved the world. Jn 3.16 The Son was sent to save the world. Jn 3.17 The living bread gives life to the world. Jn 6.33 Calvinists may insist “world” really means “the Christian world”—because if they don’t redefine “world,” the scriptures’ll undo everything they teach about limited atonement. But Jesus was sent to take away the world’s sin, Jn 1.29 and conquer the world, Jn 16.33 and now the world just has to accept him. It doesn’t; Jn 1.10 not all of it. Some do. He’s still king of the world though. At the End, everything bows to him and calls him Lord, Pp 2.10-11 not just the willing followers. But why be unwilling? He’s here to give us life!

So this is why Jesus uses conditional verbs. He can save us—if we let him. He absolutely wants to. It’s the Father’s will! But he’s not gonna force this act of grace upon us—because then it stops being grace. Ball’s in our court.

If you ever get the idea God doesn’t want you, or might cut you off ’cause you’re not good enough: Totally false. A lie from the devil. To say God’s given up on us, really means we gave up on him. Despair has no basis in God’s plan. God wants us saved. No exceptions.

But like he said, people don’t trust him.

Jesus’s metaphors aren’t impossible to understand. And because his people grew up in a culture, with a bible, that’s steeped in metaphor, it wasn’t like they heard this teaching and couldn’t figure out what he meant. Of course they could. By “bread” Jesus meant himself. Duh.

It’s just some of the things he was claiming for himself were not things they expected of the Prophet. Nor the Messiah. Nor anyone. You do realize Jesus is talking about how he’s gonna resurrect people from the dead on the Last Day. You also realize this is not an ability any human can do. (Unless he’s also God, and they weren’t ready for that revelation just yet.)

Nope. To the Galileans, Jesus might’ve been a prophet, and maybe even the Prophet, but coming down from heaven was a bit much for them. In part because… well, they knew Jesus. He grew up in the Galilee. They knew his family. Some of ’em were his family. Just like when he visited his homeland, they balked at the idea this guy, whom they remembered as a little kid, was as cosmic as he was making himself sound.

John 6.41-42 KWL
41 So the Galileans grumbled at Jesus because he said “I’m the bread who comes from heaven,”
42 and said, “Isn’t this Jesus bar Joseph? Don’t we know his father and mother?
So how does he say he’s come from heaven?”

Thankfully this is a hurdle our culture doesn’t still need to leap. We can’t dismiss Jesus on the grounds we remember when he used to soil his diapers. We might dismiss our own family members on those grounds, when they try to share Jesus with us and we trot out their past failings. It’s an ad hominem attack, and one people love to use in order to dodge uncomfortable truths. Like the fact Jesus might actually be who he claims.

But if you think this is hard to swallow: Jesus is just getting started.