“But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that 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 that 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 him up at the last day.”
John 6:36-40 (NIV)
Jesus is still preaching to the crowds who had joined Him at the synagogue in Capernaum. This crowd had seen him multiply the loaves and fishes the day before, they had eaten their fill, and then they had followed Jesus all the way to Capernaum to persuade Him that He ought to take charge of the country, so that there could always be free bread and fish for all.
But Jesus has made it abundantly clear that He did not come to feed the people on bread and fish; He had a much loftier goal in mind than that!
These five verses have sparked a lot of discussion, and even controversy, as each side in the debate between predestination and free will find ample ammunition in this same passage to shore up their own sides. But Jesus’ goal in talking to those people that day was not to give them or us a theological discourse on doctrine of predestination. The key verses, the ones that put the real issue that Jesus is debating here into the sharpest focus, are verses 36 and 40, the first and last ones above, serving as a pair of bookends to show what His real intent in this discussion is.
He points out to the crowd that, even though they had seen Him in the flesh, even though they had experienced the miracles that He had performed, not just multiplying the bread and fish, but healing all of the sick that were brought to Him that day as well (John 6:2), they refused to believe in Him. They refused to believe that He really was the very Son of the living God; God in the flesh who had come from the Father full of grace and truth. And that was shown by the fact that they didn’t just fall down on their faces before Him, surrendering themselves to Him as His slaves forever. Instead, here they were, demanding from Him additional signs, additional “need meeting ministries,” before they would be willing to believe that He was anyone special at all!
In those days there were a lot of people who didn’t believe in Jesus: most of the Scribes and Pharisees, the majority of the priests; and even a whole lot of the people that He healed. And the cold, hard fact is, those who refused to believe in Him, He wasn’t going to be able to save. On the other hand, those who received Jesus for who He really was were, at the same time, receiving the One who had sent Him (John 12:44). But these people, the ones Jesus was talking to now, by their refusal to receive Jesus for Who He actually was, were refusing the One who had sent Him.
Jesus closes His argument in verse 40 by telling them that everyone (and the Greek here means EVERYONE) who looks to the Son AND believes in Him shall have eternal life, and Jesus Himself will raise them up at the last day. And this really was the core issue: these people were seeing Jesus; they were “looking to Him,” they were seeing what He was doing, but they would not believe in Him. And it was the element of belief that was getting in the way of them inheriting eternal life through Him.
Jesus tells us that God’s will is for ALL who come to Jesus AND believe in Him to never be lost. They will be raised up and live forever in His presence. Many were coming to Jesus for what they could get from Him – but that is absolutely NOT the same thing as coming to Him because they believed that He really was the Son of God who could save them from their sins. Jesus said quite clearly that no one could come to Him unless they were drawn by more than just a desire to get something from Him, a healing or a blessing (verse 44). God Himself drew many people and sent them to Jesus – people who would indeed believe in Him for eternal life, the inner circle of the disciples being the first of those. But once they were drawn, they still had to put their will into the process by believing that He was who He said He was, and that He really could do what He claimed to have come to do. A good example of one who was drawn but who, in the end, refused to believe and be saved, was Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus.
One of the most amazing verses that has to do with this whole idea of “drawing” is John 12:32, where Jesus says, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” This really paints a clear picture that, when Jesus went to the cross, when He died there for the sins of all mankind, that a massive change occurred: instead of the Father just drawing a few that would form the nucleus of the new Church, Jesus crucifixion and resurrection would open the doors to heaven to “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:16). Men, women, and children from all over the world would be able to look on Jesus, believe in Him, and be raised up in the last day to have eternal life in His presence!