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Two Groups of Followers – John 6:32-52

This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.

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 So far in chapter 6, we find Jesus moving toward a confrontation, an ultimatum, for those seeking and following Him only for selfish gains. Tomorrow’s post will see how He presents that ultimatum in a difficult statement that provokes many followers to leave Jesus. In that context, what is most interesting to me about this passage is Jesus’s statements in verses 36-40:

But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 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. 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.” John 6:36-40

Why does He say He will never drive away those the Father has given Him? There is an emphasis placed upon those given by the Father to Christ, contrasted to everyone else. Jesus will not drive away those given to Him. They will come to Him, and He will lead them because that is the desire of the Father, not only in that specific moment that Jesus spoke but for all eternity.

Theologians and scholars have needlessly debated ideas like predestination for centuries, but that is not really what Jesus is describing here. Although in God’s mind He has chosen those who would belong to Christ before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4), in the human experience, that selection manifests in our choosing to believe in Christ and tossing away all alternatives.

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. John 6:40  

The people listening to Jesus’s words in John 6 consist of two groups – although they nor we know that until the end of the chapter. The first group is those who follow Jesus for the wrong motives. They are not looking upon Jesus with belief. They look upon Jesus out of convenience, intrigue, and even selfish interests. They are looking for actions from the Messiah that He never intended to fulfill. He knew their hearts, and that is why Jesus constantly worked with caution around them lest they try to cloak Him with their own motives and perspectives.

The second group is the true followers. These follow Jesus beyond their understanding, convenience, and comfort. We will look at them in greater detail tomorrow, but for now, we note that these true disciples of Christ have tossed out all possible alternatives. They follow Christ beyond the point of no return because they have tossed out any detours or reservations that might preserve their interests and allow them to turn back. He is all they have left in life. That is the nature of the belief of the true followers of Christ.

At no point did Jesus ever drive the first group away, although they certainly turn away by the end of this chapter. He does, however, present the truth to them. It is a truth that exists outside their understanding and preconceived notions. They cannot grasp it. Their failure to get what Jesus says is not an issue of mental understanding. The true disciples also did not understand what Jesus was talking about when He said they must eat His flesh.

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.” Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” John 6:51-52 

The root issue was the posture of the heart. Although both groups are offended and even confused by Jesus’s statement, one small group continues on the journey with Christ, despite that confusion. The other larger group turns away. It is not Christ that turns them away. It is their own lack of faith.

Considerations

  • Which group would I fit into if I was standing in the crowd listening to Jesus on that day?
  • What preconceived notions, biases, or perspectives might I use to cloak the image of Christ and prevent myself from truly seeing Him?
  • How far is too far in my journey with Christ?

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JB Shreve

JB Shreve is the host of the JB Shreve podcast and the End of History podcast channels. He is the author of multiple books.

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