Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #836 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Work of God

John 6:22-34

Delivered 12/04/16

We are continuing our verse-by-verse study of the Fourth Gospel, and we are working our way through chapter 6 which starts with the words "After these things," meaning this is a break from chapter 5. But chapter 5 started that way, "After these things," which means that chapter 5 necessitates a break from chapter 4. So chapter 5 is a unit, chapter 6 is a unit, and we're going to see in chapter 7 verse 1, "After these things," again. These are indicators that we have passed out of one unit of instruction into another.

So chapter 5 was a unit where Yeshua healed a man on the Sabbath and then goes into a discourse to prove His deity. They accused Him of making Himself equal with God and Yeshua says, "I am equal in every way to Yahweh." In chapter 6 we have a similar situation, Yeshua feeds 20,000 people and then launches into a discourse on the Bread of Life. So Yeshua is using the miracles to teach the people who He is.

Some commentators have divided up the three years of Christ's public ministry calling the first year, the year of inauguration, the second year, the year of popularity, and the third year, the year of opposition. In chapter 6 we see the peak of His popularity; "Yeshua, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king." But as we go on in this chapter the tide begins to turn as Yeshua teaches the people in the synagogue:

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. John 6:66 NASB

So chapter six is a major turning point in Yeshua's ministry. From the end of this chapter on, His popularity begins to wane, and He enters into the opposition phase.

So far in this chapter we have seen Yeshua feed most likely over 20,000 people with five barley loaves and two fish. This caused the people to say, "This is that great prophet that should come into the world," the view of the crowd here was that a miracle so great had been performed that they were convinced that this must be the prophet that Moses had prophesied would come. Messianic expectations are running high, and this miracle of our Lord only serves to fan the flames of enthusiasm. Moses had provided military leadership for the Israelites, and had liberated them from the oppression of the Egyptians. These Jews concluded that Yeshua could do the same for them, and so they now sought to secure His political leadership by force.

So Yeshua immediately sends the disciples away and He goes up into the mountain to pray. Later that night, He sees the disciples in the midst of a great storm and He sets out meet them, walking on the sea. What is the purpose of the walking on the water and teleporting miracle? The rest of the chapter is a discourse on the Bread of Life that results from the feeding miracle. So why the water miracle? This is a private miracle for His disciples because after all that has happened they still don't get it:

for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. Mark 6:52 NASB

In spite of all that Yeshua had done earlier that day, heal the sick and feed 20,000 people, literally creating food, it didn't do it for the disciples, they still didn't get it. So Yeshua gives them a private miracle to demonstrate to them who He was. He was the great "I am"-Yahweh.

So the disciples are out in the middle of the sea of Galilee in the midst of a big storm fighting for their lives and along comes Yeshua walking on the water, He gets in the boat and suddenly the storm stops, and they are no longer in the middle of the lake, but are at their destination of Capernau:

So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:21 NASB

This is a teleporting miracle, a miracle that defied the observable laws of space and time! What effect did this have on the disciples? Matthew says they, "worshiped Him"! If the disciples, who are monotheistic Jews, are worshiping Yeshua, I think they finally get it, they must understand that He is Yahweh in the flesh.

That brings us to verses 22-25, which form a transition from the account of the walking on the water to the discourse on Yeshua as the Bread of Life. The purpose of these verses is to get everyone back together at Capernaum and to make it clear that Yeshua had arrived on the other side by miraculous means.

The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Yeshua had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. John 6:22 NASB

"The next day"—that's the day after the feeding of the twenty thousand, "the crowd stood on the other side of the sea"—that's the other side from where Yeshua and the disciples are now. The crowd is still on the eastern side of the lake where the miraculous feeding took place. There is only one boat there, and they know that Yeshua had not gone with His disciples. So they think He must still be there somewhere.

There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. John 6:23 NASB

The city of Tiberias is located on the western shore of the Sea. Caperanum is on the northwestern side of the Sea. So here come some boats from Tiberias to the location of Christ's miracle feeding because the word has gone around the lake overnight. Most likely some of the people who were fed left after the Yeshua did and headed home, and along the way they were telling others what happened.

So when the crowd saw that Yeshua was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Yeshua. John 6:24 NASB

Eventually "the crowd" realized "that Yeshua was not there" in that region, so they boarded the small boats that had come from Tiberias, and set out for "Capernaum." They probably thought they could find Yeshua there because Capernaum was His headquarters. Notice that this crowd is, "seeking Yeshua."

When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?" John 6:25 NASB

"When they found Him on the other side of the sea"—why did Lazarus bother to relate this seemingly unimportant information? There may be several reasons. He may have given us this information to document the fact that Yeshua really had crossed the lake by walking on the water. And in view of what these people proceeded to demand of Yeshua (vv. 30-31), it was important that Lazarus show that they were the very people who had witnessed the sign of the miraculous feeding.

According to verse. 59, this discussion, some of it anyway, takes place in the synagogue at Capernaum:

These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. John 6:59 NASB

So all of this discourse could have taken place in the synagogue or maybe just the latter half, we don't really know.

When they find Yeshua, they ask him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?"—in Greek this implies the double question of when and how. So Yeshua says to them, "I was on the mountain praying and saw that the disciples were in the middle of the lake in a bad storm so I walked out to them on the water. When I got to them I stilled the storm and teleported the boat here to Capernaum." No, He didn't say that. Those miracles were specifically for His disciples.

"When did you come here?" can be taken in two ways as is often the case in this Gospel. The surface meaning simply is an inquiry arising from the crowd's awareness that Yeshua had not left the other side of the Sea of Galilee in a boat. The question is both when and how Yeshua had gotten back to the Capernaum side. The question also may raise the issue of Yeshua's origin.

Yeshua answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. John 6:26 NASB

"Yeshua answered them"—this is more of a response to their question because He really doesn't answer it. "Truly, truly, I say to you"—this is the eighth use of the double "amen." Lazarus uses this formula to emphasize really critical statements that our Lord makes. It points us to the fact that His response is not casual conversation, but revelation from God.

Yeshua says, "You seek Me, not because you saw signs"—it is clear from this text that they were seeking Yeshua. But it wasn't because they saw the signs. The purpose of the signs was to demonstrate that Yeshua was from God. Notice what Peter said on Pentecost:

"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Yeshua the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— Acts 2:22 NASB

The primary purpose of Yeshua's miracles was not to alleviate distress and suffering, but to prove that He was from God. These miracles were signs of the presence of the promised Messiah, for, they fulfilled all that the prophets had promised (Isaiah 32.1-4; 35.5-6; 61.1-2). The life of Yeshua was a proof, and it was a proclamation by God the Father that this was, in fact, the Messiah. The evidence was in, it was too clear to miss.

These miracles are crucial to Lazarus' purpose because he writes these things, "That you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the son of God." So, the miracles clearly demonstrate that Yeshua is the Son of God; there's no other explanation for His power than that He is who He claimed to be.

But this crowd wasn't seeking Christ because they saw the miraculous signs and realized that He must be Yahweh in the flesh, the God of all creation. Yeshua says, "You seek Me…because you ate of the loaves and were filled"—once again this knowledge implies a supernatural knowledge on Yeshua's part, He knows their true motivation for seeking Him. Yeshua tells them you're not here because you realized that the signs pointed to Me as Savior and Messiah and Lord. You're here for another free meal. You're here because you ate and were full. These people are the initial members of the health/wealth Gospel. Their belief was Yeshua wants you full. Life was hard in this day and time, and to think that Yeshua could feed them was a big draw. They sought Yeshua only for what He could do for them physically, materially. This is the same teaching of the health/wealth Gospel today. They teach the heresy that it is God's will for every Christian to be perfectly healthy and financially prosperous. It's a system built on preying on people's greed.

The word that is translated "filled" here is the Greek word chortazo, which was often used of animals that were filled. It had the idea of "to gorge." So Yeshua says, "You are seeking me because you ate of the bread and of the fish and you were filled." And so instead of seeing in the bread a sign of the authority and deity of the Lord Yeshua, they see only a free lunch. They were face to face with Yahweh, and all they wanted was another fish sandwich. This is a good illustration of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB

As we saw earlier Mark says that even the Twelve didn't see it:

for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. Mark 6:52 NASB

Natural man, man without the Spirit of God, just doesn't get it, they can't get it.

Yeshua said that these people were expending significant energy tracking Him down, first on one side of the Sea of Galilee and then on the other. And why? Because they had eaten their fill. The product of His miracle had satisfied them, and they gave no thought to person who performed the miracle.

After exposing their wrong motives, Yeshua tells them:

"Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." John 6:27 NASB

"Do not work for the food which perishes"—this text can be torn from its context and used to teach that if we are spiritual enough we don't need to work to provide for ourselves. But Yeshua is not saying, "Quit your jobs, I'll take care of you." We know that because the whole New Testament assumes and commends the dignity of work. Paul says in Ephesians:

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Ephesians 4:28 NASB

The word, "labor," means: "hard work or toil, it is a word that intimates working so hard that you grow weary." Work was highly valued in the Tanakh and Judaism.

Biblically, what happens to someone who refuses to work?:

For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NASB

Hunger is the biblical cure for laziness. We are to work, and men are to provide for their families through their labor. In the context of caring for widows, Timothy writes:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8 NASB

To not provide for your family by honest labor is to be worse than an unbeliever.

When Yeshua tells the people not to work for food that perishes, He is rebuking their purely materialistic notions of the Kingdom. Like the woman at the well who was eager to be supplied with an endless supply of natural water, a supply that would eliminate the need to make frequent trips to the well (4:15).

"Do not work" is a present middle imperative with the negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in progress. Yeshua is saying something like, "Stop working for the food that perishes, and seek instead the food which remains to eternal life, the food which I give."

"But for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you""endures" is one of Lazarus' favorite words, and here it describes the food which the Son of Man will give.

What does Yeshua mean to work "for the food which endures to eternal life"? Listen to and think about what J. C. Ryle has to say:

"How are we to labor? There is but one answer. We must labor in the use of all appointed means. We must read our Bibles, like men digging for hidden treasure. We must wrestle earnestly in prayer, like men contending with a deadly enemy for life. We must take our whole heart to the house of God, and worship and hear like those who listen to the reading of a benefactor's will. We must fight daily against sin, the world, and the devil, like those who fight for liberty, and must conquer, or be slaves. These are the ways we must walk in if we would find Christ, and be found of Him. This is 'laboring.' This is the secret of getting on about our souls." [ J. C. Ryle Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. Baker, 3:347]

He says, "These are the ways we must walk in if we would find Christ." So if people labor hard enough, they will find Christ? Notice carefully what Christ says, they are to seek, "the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you"they are to seek what Christ will give! This is not about labor, it's about a gift. Yeshua is saying that the "food" which He offers is "food" which He gives. It is not food for which men work. Only Christ can give the food that satisfies eternally, sustains our spiritual hunger, and gives eternal life. He offers what Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 55:2-3:

"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Isaiah 55:1-2 NASB

Buying something without money and without price is to come and to receive. Buying without money is a picture of grace. We don't need to labor because Christ gives everything that we need.

Seeking to be right with God by works rather than by faith alone is probably the most common spiritual error in the world. All false religions, including some that call themselves "Christian," teach a works-approach to salvation. They may teach that we are saved by faith, but not by faith alone, but by faith plus works. But if that is true, then we have grounds for boasting in ourselves. And, the question is, how many works do you have to add to your faith to be saved?

What is the food that endures to eternal life? It's Christ! "I am the bread of life," He says in verse 35.

The term, "Son of Man" was Yeshua's favorite self-designation. Yeshua uses this title for Himself 10 times in this Gospel. John 1:51 associates the Son of Man with messengers going up to and coming down from heaven. Yeshua uses the title "Son of man" to remind His listeners of the passage in Daniel 7:13 that speaks of the glorious figure who was to receive from God the eschatological Kingdom and eternal rule.

"For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal"—the Greek word used for "seal," here is sphraagizo, which means: "to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively); to attest." It was used of a "baker's mark", which was the assurance that the bread was "sealed" by the baker who made the bread just as Christ, the true bread has been "sealed" or marked by the Father. The Father had authorized the Son to act for Him (cf. 5:32-47). This was one of the functions of a seal in Yeshua's culture, and God, setting His seal on something or someone, was a common expression for it being true.

This verb, "seal," was used very early in the history of the church to describe both baptism and the work of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22). Many see this clause referring to the commissioning of Yeshua at His baptism when the Spirit was poured out upon Him. So this leads the crowd to ask another question:

Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" John 6:28 NASB

The Greek word for "do" or "doing" is used three times. The literal translation is "What must we be doing to be doing the doings of God?" [Interlineal Bible: Greek-English volume IV, New Testament; page 267].

"What shall we do"—this was the central religious question of first century Judaism. The religious Jew was assumed to be right with God based on his lineage and his performance of the Mosaic Law as it was interpreted by the Oral Tradition (Talmud). They thought Yeshua was talking about some physical work. Not only that, they assumed that they could do it, and that by doing it, they could earn eternal life.

They want to do something. We see this question asked all through the New Testament. Do you remember what the rich young ruler said when he came to the Lord Yeshua? He said, "What good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Do you remember what the Jews said when Peter had preached his sermon on Pentecost to them? They said, "Men, brethren, what shall we do?" The Phillipian jailer asked Paul, "What shall I do to be saved?" And today this question is answered by various works from baptism to repentance to holy living. But the only correct answer is what Yeshua tells them:

Yeshua answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." John 6:29 NASB

The work of God is either that which God desires from mankind or that which God accomplishes in a person or, in this Gospel, it is most likely both. Lange offer two interpretations: 1. The works which God requires, has commanded (De Wette, Tholuck). 2. The works which God produces (Herder, Schleiermacher).

He uses the singular, "This is the work of God." The singular "work" here is trusting in Christ. The significance of the modifying phrase "of God" indicates that the "work" of faith is not our effort, but the gracious gift of God enabling us to trust in Christ. That faith is to be "in" the one whom God sent.

To show you that faith itself is not a work in the normal since, look at what Paul said in Romans chapter 4:

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, Romans 4:5 NASB

Salvation is all about faith, works play no part.

"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him"—as I just said, this can mean, "the works which God produces." The work which God produces is faith in His Son. Faith is not a work we do, it is something that God produces in us. We believe, but only because God has given us eternal life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; Ephesians 2:8 NASB

So we are saved by grace "…Through faith…"—when he says "though faith," he's talking about the instrumentality of our salvation. The biblical ordo salutis is that Yahwe, in His grace, gives us life, then we hear and respond to the Gospel by faith and are then saved.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 1 John 5:1 ESV

The ESV is much closer to the Greek text, "Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been [perfect tense] born of God." If you believe that Yeshua is the Christ, you do so because you have already been born of God. You have been given life so you can now believe. Faith is the evidence of the new birth.

Luther said:

"It is not in your power to turn to God. If you think that it is in your power to turn to God, you have missed the whole point of The Reformation and don't understand total depravity. It is not in your power to turn to God. You are a sinner, you're dead, you're eaten up with corruption. Every choice of yours is evil and not good. So how can we turn to Him who is light, righteousness, holy, and good?"

We believe, that is our response, God doesn't believe. We believe. But that response is something created in us by God. By grace are ye saved through the instrumentality of faith.

This discourse causes the crowd to ask another question:

So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? John 6:30 NASB

Now they asked Him "for a sign" to prove that He was God's authorized representative as He claimed to be. Their unwillingness to believe the "sign" that Yeshua had given them the previous day shows the hardness of their hearts. I think this may be seen as more of a dare or challenge than a request as the next verse makes clear:

"Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'" John 6:31 NASB

Referring to the manna in the wilderness and citing Scripture, the crowd dares Yeshua to top that miracle. The challenge was to top Moses, the man Judaism saw as the founder of their faith. If Yeshua would call them to trust in Him, he would have to win that right by out-performing Moses. So this challenge is clearly laid out in terms of Judaism versus Christianity. But it was also a challenge to bring in the Messianic Age, to prove Himself as Messiah. The Jewish expectation of that time believed the Messiah would renew the gift of manna. The pseudepigraphal work, 2 Baruch, states, "The treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years." The Midrash Rabbah on Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, "As the first redeemer caused manna to descend…so will the latter redeemer cause manna to descend."

They knew that in the wilderness Moses gave God's manna every day. They didn't just have the miracle of bread one day. But every day, for forty years. "So Yeshua, if you want us to see and believe, keep on working. Keep on doing your signs. Let's see you top Moses."

"Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'" John 6:31 NASB

"As it is written"—is a periphrastic perfect passive participle. It was the standard grammatical form to introduce Scripture quotes from the Tanakh. It was an idiom affirming the inspiration and authority of the Tanakh.

The people were viewing "Moses" as the source of their blessing in the past. They believed that the manna was given through his merits. They are basically saying, "You gave us one meal. Moses fed millions for forty years in the wilderness. You have got to top Moses."

The exact source of the quotation is disputed. The most likely passage is Psalm 78:24 (lxx 77:24), but the Greek has echoes also of Nehemiah 9:15 and perhaps Exodus 16:4, 15; Psalm 105:40. Perhaps Lazarus is quoting the Tanakh loosely and alluding to all three passages.

Yeshua then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. John 6:32 NASB

The crowd had said, "He gave them bread out of heaven to eat." Yeshua responded, "Do not interpret the 'he' as Moses, but as the Father. Do not read 'gave' but 'gives.'" Suddenly the Scripture citation by the crowd has been turned to a witness to Yeshua. This radically revised interpretation of Scripture is characteristic of the conflict between Judaism and Christianity in the first century. Both appealed to the same Scriptures (what Christians now call the Old Testament), but radically different interpretations arose from the same passages.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. Exodus 16:4 NASB

The manna was Yahweh's provision, not Moses'.

"For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." John 6:33 NASB

He was giving a new type of bread now. Yeshua described it as coming "down from (out of) heaven" and providing "life" for the entire "world," not just Israel. With this response, Yeshua effectively took Moses and his sign, which the people had put in a superior place over hHimself, and placed them in an inferior position under Himself.

In this context Yeshua's descent is stated seven times (cf. John 6:33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58). It shows Yeshua's pre-existent, divine origin (cf. John 6:33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58, and 62). It is also a play on "manna" which came from heaven as did Yeshua the true Bread, the Bread of life.

"Gives life to the world"—this has to be understood in the light of the context. He's been talking about Moses and the children of Israel. He is telling them that the life that He has is not simply for Jews. It is for Gentiles as well. So when He says, "Gives life to the world" it's obvious He's not thinking of universal atonement. If it were true that He gives life to the world, everybody would be saved, but everybody is not saved. He doesn't mean everybody without exception when He uses the term world, but He means everybody without distinction; Jew or Gentile may receive the gift of God through the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." John 6:34 NASB

They still didn't get it, they were still thinking of physical bread. They wanted some new type of physical bread from then on that would never spoil. "Always give us this bread"—their misunderstanding of the true bread is a retreat to Judaism and a withdrawal from the trusting faith in Christ that was described as the work of God. It is also very similar to the remark of the Samaritan woman in 4:15, "Sir, give me this water in order that I might not thirst nor come here to draw." By this request the crowd confirms Yeshua's accusation of verse 27 that they are only interested in physical bread that will satisfy their immediate hunger.

Yeshua responds to them with an unexpected, startling declaration: "I am the bread of life." We'll pick up here next week.

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