Have you ever been in a situation where there was much tension and something had to give? Perhaps you have experienced the joy of playing the game of tug-a-war. Two teams strain to pull on one rope over a pit of mud. The team that finally breaks the tension finds themselves laughing at their opposition who are knee deep in the mud. We all face times of tension in our lives, perhaps even on a daily basis. There is tension in the home. There is tension at work. There is tension at school. Yes, there may even be tension within the church. In the passage we are studying here, we find some sort of tension. It is what I call, Gospel Tension. There is this tension between belief and unbelief. There is tension between works and grace. There is also tension between free will and election, as we will look at in a future study.
The background to this conversation that Jesus has with those who are curious about him begins with the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. After feeding the five thousand, Jesus goes to a mountain to pray and later walks on the water in the midst of a storm to board the boat that His disciples are frantically trying to keep afloat. Jesus then calms the storm and places the boat at the shore in Capernaum. The crowd also hops on their boats and crosses the sea to Capernaum and there they find Jesus. Some in the crowd enquires as to why Jesus came across the sea to Capernaum. It is in this setting that Jesus engages in a rather deep theological discussion.
The Reality of Man (v. 22-28). In these verses we see human nature in all its glory. First of all we see the hunger of man. As human beings we are created with this inner sense of curiosity. This can be traced all the way back to the garden of Eden when Eve was tempted by the serpent. We all have a desire to know and to understand. We want to know how things work and we are curious about our existence and our purpose. However, this hunger that we have is distorted due to our sin nature. We hunger for that which pleases ourselves and satisfies our flesh. Jesus knew this inner desire of man and He told them that they came not to see more miracles but to get more food. Jesus encouraged them to not seek after physical satisfaction, but rather, to seek after spiritual nourishment. But, then we see another reality of man and that is the ignorance of man. Mankind is ignorant of the truth. They ask Jesus what they need to do to work the work of God. In other words, they were asking Jesus what work did they need to do in order to be saved. Man has a hard time understanding the issue of grace. We tend to think that in order to receive anything that is good then there must be something that we must do in order to earn it. For centuries man has tried all types of thing to earn favor with God. Let me tell you something, you can never earn favor with God. You can never be good enough. You can never satisfy the righteous demands of God. This is the problem with religion. It’s all about how we can get God’s approval or earn His favor. The reality is that man is very ignorant when it comes to understanding what salvation is all about.
The Truth of Jesus (v. 29). Jesus answers the hunger and the ignorance of man by stating that the only way to salvation is by believing on Him. Salvation is a free gift and there is nothing anyone can do to earn it. The Gospel is both simple and complex; this is where the tension lies. The Gospel is simple in that all you must do is repent and believe. The Gospel is complex in that it is a work of God. Yes, grace is a hard thing to understand. It is hard to understand that God would love me so much that He would freely give me eternal life. Yet, it is true. He does love me. He has done for me what I could never do for myself. He has removed the penalty of sin and has given me a home in heaven. Though hard to comprehend, it is the truth.
The Stubbornness of Man (v. 30-31). Those talking with Jesus still did not get it. They tell Jesus, that they will believe if He gives them a sign. Did they forget about all the miracles they have already seen? What more proof do they need? They went on to say how their fathers ate manna in the wilderness. In other words, they ate physical food. In making this statement, they were comparing Jesus to Moses. They were saying that Moses gave them manna that they could taste and feel, but what can Jesus give them? Here we find the stubbornness of man. Mankind has a tendency to not believe anything unless they see, touch, and feel it. Faith is something that man has always struggled with. You can argue all you want to and debate the facts all you want to, but the bottom line is that you must get to the place where you will simply surrender to Jesus and believe on Him.
The explanation of Jesus (v. 32-35). Jesus reminds them that it was God who provided the manna in the wilderness, not Moses. Jesus then explains to them that He is the bread of life and those who come to Him will be satisfied. Jesus makes it very clear that He is the Savior of the world and that He is the only way to salvation.
This Gospel tension remains to this very day. There are many who refuse to believe simply because of their stubborn hearts and their ignorance. Many will attempt to fill the hunger and void in their lives with other things. However, the truth remains: Jesus is the only way!