[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — John 1:1-2].
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away, 38 for I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”
35 Εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς· ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρὸς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ πεινάσῃ, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ διψήσει πώποτε. 36 ἀλλ’ εἶπον ὑμῖν ὅτι καὶ ἑωράκατέ με καὶ οὐ πιστεύετε. 37 πᾶν ὃ δίδωσίν μοι ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἥξει, καὶ τὸν ἐρχόμενον πρός με οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω, 38 ὅτι καταβέβηκα ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οὐχ ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με· 39 τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με ἵνα πᾶν ὃ δέδωκέν μοι μὴ ἀπολέσω ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἀλλὰ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸ τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. 40 τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου ἵνα πᾶς ὁ θεωρῶν τὸν υἱὸν καὶ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον, καὶ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐγὼ τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ.
I chose you; no, wait, you chose me!
Jesus is the Life-giver. He is bread of life who satisfies our deepest hunger and provides the living water that quenches our greatest thirst. On the one hand, we can understand this divine bread to mean his teaching — we’ll see more on this in our next blog. But it is also his very presence who, like manna, came down from Heaven.
While it seems as though Jesus could forsake God’s will (v. 40) — think of the Garden of Gethsemane and his prayer to take the cup of suffering away — instead, Jesus puts God’s will first. “Not my will but yours be done.” We find echoes of that here.
And what is the will of God for Jesus: that all who see Jesus — gaze upon him — and believe, belong to Jesus, have Life everlasting, and will be raised on the Last Day.
Jesus refers to “everything the Father gives me” in verse 37 and that Jesus should lose nothing of “all that he has given me” in verse 39. These verses appear to refer to the people who believe and belong to Jesus — they have been given to him. Presbyterians and Reformed believers love this section because it would indicate these people are given to Jesus, or destined to believe.
But on the other hand, there are many verses in John that emphasize the need to make a choice. For example, in John 12:36 Jesus says: “While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
So which is it? There have been countless debates regarding predestination and free will. Some scholars think we are reading 16th-century arguments into John’s Gospel when both claims would seem ridiculous to the people of Jesus’ time. To say one came to the state of believing in Jesus as the Son independent of God’s sovereign will would seem absurd, and to say that one is supernaturally handed over to Jesus regardless of their free will seems oppressive. The two belong together.
I just don’t know how. Did I choose God or did God choose me? Am I blessed with Life because I was smart enough to “see” him and believe? Or because God graciously extended this gift to me even though I am so foolish? The first would swell my head. The second takes away my freedom to choose.
Somehow, I guess I don’t need to know the answer to this dilemma. I enjoy the Life the Lord bestows however that came about!
Have you fully given your life to the One who has fully given Life to you?