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John 6:64-66, NIV
64 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 him."
May 11, 2011I skipped over these two verses because they seemed like a possible distraction from John's main message. Today I'm trying to think about them within the context and time they were spoken, and understand why John included them.
John was in the inner circle of disciples who knew Jesus best. If we want to know who Jesus was, how he felt about things, what he said and taught, then there is probably no better primary source than the gospel writer, John.
Immediately following Jesus' discourse on his being the Bread of Life, there seemed to be a mass exodus through the back door. People were disgruntled and leaving Jesus. They had seen and heard enough. Jesus was not the Messiah they had at first hoped he would be.
Two things are happening in these verses. First, John explained that Jesus was not surprised by the defections. Jesus knew "from the beginning" the heart of all who followed him around and listened to his teaching. Jesus knew whose faith was steadfast and who would fall away when they didn't like what he said. He knew who wanted to learn the secrets of God. He knew who just wanted their own beliefs substantiated.
In like manner, according to John, Jesus knew he was headed for the cross of Calvary. That everyone would turn against him and he would be executed Roman style. For that to happen (for one to die and not many) and for the prophecies of the ancient Scriptures to be fulfilled, his popularity must decrease. Therefore, when we read that many disciples left him, it is not cause for alarm. Rather, John wants us to understand it was all a part of God's plan.
Second, Jesus himself "went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'" Was this Jesus' way of justifying his loses and making excuses? Probably not. More likely it was his way of accepting the will and direction of his heavenly Father.
Defections hurt. It's much more pleasant to have the praise and excitement of popularity. But his Father was in charge and Jesus would be obedient to the end.
More journal entries
June 20, 1983When many of his disciples were leaving him, Jesus did not offer a hang-in-there message. Neither did he encourage them to stay with him. You may stay if you want to but I'll not try to help you make that decision. Your own flesh will not help you--your own body, mind, strength, will--this will not help you. Only God (the Spirit) can bring you to believe and stick by me with a loyalty that endures, persists, preservers.
Jesus was dealing with people struggling to believe, people open to following him yet not understanding the words he spoke. How does Jesus deal with that? By telling them the reason they aren't believing is that God is not drawing them to him. The Spirit makes you capable of believing; on your own, you can't.
Like the Gideon army, it seems Jesus was purposely cutting back on the numbers. I imagine Jesus watched them sadly as they left, like he did the rich young ruler in Mark's gospel. Many are called, but few are chosen. That thought troubles me.
I want to be called and chosen. I want to believe and follow Jesus. In some ways I think God accepts me and draws me to himself. I don't want to minimize my experience with God, neither do I want to exaggerate it. All I can do is trust God, keep up my disciplines, practice his presence and love him. I would do well to concentrate on loving God rather than questioning whether I'm one of the chosen.
January 22, 2002 A person could read verse 65 and conclude it's not up to each individual whether they have the faith to believe. It sounds like shifting responsibility --if we don't follow Jesus it's God's fault. Why would Jesus say that? Whatever happened to "Whosoever will, may come."?
[The Message Bible states verse 65 this way: "This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the Father."]
Yet also in this chapter, in verse 37, Jesus promised and assured us, "I will never refuse/reject anyone who comes to me."
June 22, 1983Verse 65 puzzles me. It may be a good example where one verse doesn't tell the complete story and we need to look elsewhere to get a fuller picture.
This is about believing in Jesus and who's to blame for those who don't. What is God's role? What is our responsibility? This verse seems to put the burden on God, like it's all determined at a higher level--God decides who will be saved and who won't, and there's nothing we can do about it. Then we could argue, "If God doesn't draw me to Jesus, I'm not capable of belief!"
But then we remember that God has given us freewill. We have the option of accepting or rejecting, saying "yes" or "no" to the gift of God's grace. In that scenario we must assume some liability and decide that God draws all people toward life in Jesus. Those who respond positively are saved, or in John's terms, receive eternal life, with the added option of living in union with the Father and feeding on the Son.
Back in chapter 3 Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto myself." If that's the case, this puts responsibility on all Christians everywhere to lift Jesus up, exult his name and put in a good word for him whenever we have opportunity to do so.
So what are we to conclude? Whose responsibility is it if we keep thedoor closed or open it when Jesus knocks? Maybe the answer is 3-fold--God's, the individual's, and the Christian community whose mandate is to spread the message of Jesus' life and death to the ends of the earth and pass it on to every generation so that his name and memory will never perish from the land.
All three must act together. Jesus bridged the gap from earth to heaven, from darkness to light, from death to life. The Church must live and proclaim it faithfully. Individuals must believe to receive it.
The ability to come to Jesus is given to us by the Father. If God gives us the ability, then we must use that ability and come. And we must tell others that God has given them the ability to come to Jesus, too.
I doubt if I can blame God if I miss the boat, when God has done so much to insure that I will be on board when it arrives at the heavenly shore.
May 8, 2011If you seek food for your soul, if you feel drawn to talk to your Maker, if you return to God again and again like a wanderer does to a favorite spot, then thank God for the grace shown to you. It is our heavenly Father who enables these desires. Just as Jesus is the way to the Father, so the Father makes it possible for us to walk with the Son.
Verse 64 sounds very much like the Gospel of John, wherein Jesus knew all things from the beginning. He knew the choices people would make before they made them. That doesn't mean he pre-determines our choices, it simply means he knows all things, even before they happen.
June 28, 1983Here's a quick summary of John 6: Believe I am the bread of life for you, for the world. Take and eat Share my food with others.
A longer version:The work of God for you is to believe. . . in Jesus. 6:35 I myself am the bread of life. . . come to me, believe, and never be hungry. 6:47 The person who trusts in the Father has eternal life already. 6:57 The one who eats my body and drinks my blood shares my life and I share his.These are beautiful words to savor and bind to one's heart.
Other words in the chapter sound like Jesus is fighting his listeners, deliberately stirring up hostilities against himself. Saying things in a way they can't be understood in order to confound them and make it impossible for them to follow him further. Jesus didn't want crowds, he wanted individuals? He didn't want many, he only needed a few? A few individuals who would repent of their sins and let God transform them into his servants.
There's nothing in these verses about either loving God, understanding, or knowing Him. Only believing. The first step is belief, trust, faith. Even though I don't understand, sometimes it doesn't even make sense and others are leaving. Yet my choice is to believe him even though he could be deceiving me. Is that the attitude God is looking for in his followers?