Working Out Your Salvation: John 6


As we covered John 6:1-15, we learned four approaches to problem solving (hint: three of them sucked). We were reminded how we’ve all tried various strategies when it comes to our faith walk, and how God is faithful even when we’re not. People were in awe of the signs Jesus performed. While their bellies sought Him, their hearts didn’t—and we’ll see a falling away of many this week because they felt Jesus’ words were “too hard.” There is much for us to glean from this study, so let’s pray for an open heart and dive in.

Heavenly Father, we know You are the Bread of Life. We want to seek the Giver, and not the gifts. Please help our hearts to seek you instead of just our hands. You have shown us Who You are repeatedly. We believe, help our unbelief.  

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

-          If you recall from the last study, the people were so enamored by Jesus they wanted to make Him king by force; instead, He withdrew to a mountain by Himself (v15). Most people would’ve been thrilled at the opportunity to become famous and powerful. How different our Savior’s approach is…how contrary to this world’s approach, especially today.

-          In wisdom, Jesus withdrew from the crowd and sent His disciples away. I’m sure a few of them would’ve been delighted at the idea of Jesus becoming king and being part of His “inner circle.”

-          Of course, Jesus knew the storm was coming. So why did He send them into the storm? The greatest danger wasn’t the strong wind and the rough waters—it was being swept away into the glimmer and glam of a fanatical crowd. A crowd that wanted the provision and not the Provider. Jesus—in His infinite wisdom—orchestrated a storm of correction to shift their focus away from the hub-bub and to re-focus His disciples on their dependence upon Him.

-          Media infiltrates so much of our lives—news, social media, the internet. We are bombarded with headlines and the seduction of our “likes” and “followers” on various platforms. It’s so easy for us to be distracted and become deceived. Let’s be wise and withdraw, just like Christ.

-          When you’re amid a storm, remember that Christ is right there. Keep paddling! Keep going! He’s approaching your boat and walking on the water to help you. Don’t be afraid—He’ll guide you to the shore safely.

Lord, give us a singleness of heart as it says in Jeremiah 32:39. Help us to only fear You and not be seduced by having our name in lights. Teach us to shift our focus away from the “norm” and become fixed, fastened, and focused on our Savior who sent the storm, and who is Lord of the storm.

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

-          We’ve talked about in previous studies how Jesus’ ministry was one of “grace and truth” (John 1:17). In grace, He fed them. But, in truth, He must give them the Word. The people weren’t stalking Jesus because they wanted Him to teach them, they sought Him because they wanted their stomachs to be full.

-          Jesus’ words to them was about seeking after the “food” of this world. Instead, He wants them to focus on what’s eternal, not what will spoil and rot. This is teaching we can presently apply to our own life: What are you spending your time, money, and resources on that has no eternal value? The prophet Isaiah knew man’s heart on this manner, too. He wrote—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—in Isaiah 55:2, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

-          In verse 28, the people asked Jesus a question: “What must we do to do the works God requires us?” The Jewish people were accustomed to religion, not a relationship. They didn’t grasp grace, so they asked Jesus, “How hard must we work to please you?” Jesus’ answer was unexpected, I’m sure (as was most of what He said and did). He told them the only requirement was that they believe in Him. Again, this is a teaching that we can presently apply to our own life: We are called to believe.

-          Belief requires action. In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul encourages the people to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” It doesn’t say work for your salvation, but to work it out. Belief takes work—but it’s not a burdensome work. It’s hard, yet easy. It’s tiring, yet restful (Matthew 11:28-30). That’s the magnificence of following Christ—His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Let Him work in you, so He can do a work through you.

Gracious King, You know our hearts. You know we seek that which doesn’t truly satisfy us. Teach us to crave the eternal. Teach us to see your eternal backdrop in every situation we walk through today.

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

-          The Israelites idolized Moses. Their attention wasn’t necessarily on God and His provision, but instead on the emphasis of Moses (which is why they had difficulty seeing Jesus as the Messiah—they focused on the law of God instead of the God of the law). When our focus is misplaced, it’s difficult to see clearly. In these verses, Jesus is trying to emphasize that Moses was only the instrument and God was the true Giver.

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

-          In verse 35, the first of seven great “I Am” statements are recorded by John. These statements are found nowhere else in the Gospels. Jesus declares “I Am” as a clear claim that He was God. Don’t miss this—Christ proclaiming His deity is a key divisional topic with other religions. These “I Am” statements pressurize and eventually lead to His crucifixion.

-         Notice Jesus’ choice of words after His “I Am” statement: “Whoever comes to me…” Jesus is a true gentleman—He’s not going to force His way in. That’s why it says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” He’s right there—waiting. He’s knocking—not kicking the door down. He’s not going to bull His way into your life; He’s simply asking you to come. Come, eat what is good (Isaiah 55:2)! Let’s allow Him to satisfy us today. We weren’t made to be satisfied with this world’s moldy bread. 

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God. ’Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

-          Jesus had an indisputable origin: heaven. When we are born again (see the story of Nicodemus in John 4), we are transplanted into God’s Kingdom and receive that same indisputable origin. While Jesus knew Who He was, as humans, we can still struggle with our new origin. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we are a “new creation.” While our “transplanting” has taken place, our roots must grow into the new soil of our heavenly home. We must be trimmed and pruned and cared for in our new environment—our new Garden of Eden—and this takes time. A lifetime, actually. The Gardener is busily at work tending to you, so you have strong roots below and refreshing fruit above. He will nourish you with His heavenly bread and give you life. Be encouraged, friends!

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

-          Jesus was not speaking in literal terms—although, that’s how many people interpreted what He had to say because they were spiritually blind. Jesus was making it indisputably clear that He was speaking about His flesh (bread) would be given for the world. It was pointing toward His soon-coming work on the cross (work He was going to do so they didn’t have to). All that’s necessary is to believe!

-          The disciples that were referenced in v60 weren’t saying it was a hard teaching from an understanding perspective. It was simply hard to accept.

“Now, brothers and sisters, the food of your faith is to be found in the death of the Lord Jesus for you; and, oh, what blessed food it is!”  Charles Spurgeon

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

-          Notice that Jesus recognized their grumbling and asked them, “Does this offend you?” However, He didn’t change His teaching or soft-sell His message because people grumbled. There’s so much relevance today to this approach! How many “pastors” do we hear today soft-selling the Gospel? There’s only good news when we face the bad news of our sin. Jesus didn’t shift His message because of His audience; He had the words of life and death and He was committed to speaking life.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

-          Peter’s words are ones that we must anchor to: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” That is the only “work” God needs from us: our belief. He is the Holy One of God and His Word is inerrant (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and should have complete jurisdiction over our life. His Word is absolute, and if we don’t establish this position, we will stumble when the “uncomfortable” topics come. Once we resolve this in our heart, the “hard” teachings become much easier because we see them through His eternal eyes instead of our earthly ones.

Lord, You have the words of eternal life. Help us to cling to your God-breathed Truth each day and build our life upon the rock. I choose to believe. I choose to move off my throne and allow You to be King of my life. Amen.