Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jesus the Bread of Life Part 3 (Jn. 6:41-59)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 15 August 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 6:41-59

When Jesus said He is the bread that comes from heaven, people began to question it. His father was Joseph and His mother was Mary, and His siblings were with them, so what could He mean by saying He was from heaven. The Jews thought He was deceiving the masses so they asked some soldiers to come and capture Him. The soldiers in the end did not capture Him as they said, “Nobody spoke like this man.”

Jesus was not talking about things of the earth, but things of heaven which would last to all eternity. His existence far transcended our lives. For listeners who were so narrow-minded, how could they understand what He meant? The Word of God transcends space, time, culture and eras. Human natural response is to criticise when they cannot understand the truth. So the religious leaders criticised Jesus for His teaching.

Jesus used words that are quite obscure and very hard for people to understand. He would have mercy on whom He will have mercy. He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion. This is His sovereignty. When you cannot understand the truth, it is not that He failed to convert you but because He has not enlightened you.

Moses led the Israelites for 40 years in the desert and they experienced the miracle of the manna during the period. On the day they entered the Promised Land the miracle of the manna stopped. But manna is a representation of a greater reality, not the reality itself. Jews thought they were superior to all the other races because their ancestors received manna from heaven. But Jesus said He was the bread of life and reminded the Jews that their ancestors ate manna and died.

Likewise Jesus told the Samaritan woman that her ancestors drank from Jacob’s well and thirst again, but those who drink from His living water will never thirst anymore.

Jesus now compared the manna to His own body. If you eat His flesh you will never die. What does it mean? He brought them out of the boundaries of their limited understanding, their focus on the material and visible, into the spiritual and invisible. Jesus wants to elevate our mind so that we can break through our limitedness. But we tend to focus on material things and despise things spiritual.

When they could not understand, Jesus said to them not to grumble as nobody came to Him unless the Father drew him. He wanted to bring them into eternal, uncorruptible realm. Most of us are very satisfied with the material world and uninterested in the spiritual. Because they knew Jesus in the flesh, they had distorted understanding of Him. When you go to the wrong seminary, it is very hard for you to unlearn the wrong thing than to learn the right thing. You become very stubborn because you think you already know.

Jesus taught that material food cannot bring eternal life. Thus man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out from the mouth of God. All other religions paint men as the seekers of the truth. But when Jesus said He is the Bread from heaven, it is profound statement that the Eternal One is the Initiator who came down to earth to give life to men. It is not men seeking after God.

Jesus said three times that He will raise up at the last day those who believe in Him. This means that is that life comes from Him. He is the True Manna from heaven. The manna in the Old Testament is temporal, it is a shadow of what is to come. The Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament. The Word of God Himself (Christ) is the manifestation of what is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. You are to receive this Word become flesh to gain eternal life. Thus Christ said they are to eat His flesh. People think he is crazy.

Many people who do not know Jesus Christ judge Him by outward appearances. He did not have comely outward appearance. He was despised and rejected, and died crucified. But He never retaliated.

Jesus is the word of God. He is the Truth Himself. Other religions seek truth from their own perspective. The Bible shows that the truth is life itself. Truth is combined with the word. Truth linked to way and life.

Jesus also said to drink his blood (Jn. 6:54). This appears to contradict the Old Testament command which forbids drinking blood. In Acts 15:28 there was a command to abstain from blood for the Gentile believers. Why then did Jesus say to drink his blood? Deuteronomy said the life of all living creatures is in the blood. Moses was saying the mystery of life lies in the blood therefore we are commanded not to eat blood. Jesus says to drink His blood so that you can gain His life. Both imply that life is in the blood, so there is no contradiction between the Old Testament and Jesus' statement. We need to partake in Christ in order to have life.

It is a great invitation by the Son of God to drink His blood so that we can receive the life of God. Those who receive life from Christ are new creation. Without the shedding of blood sin cannot be forgiven. Jesus is God become flesh. As human being, He has flesh and blood. The life of Christ is in His blood. The precious blood of Christ contains the eternal life of God.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jesus the Bread of Life Part 2 (Jn. 6:34-51)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 8 August 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 6:34-51

Other than physical body, we also have a spirit. When we truly understand this, we will not only seek physical desires and temporal needs. True value is not in the temporal, but in the eternal.

Jesus fed the five thousand with material food, but He emphasised the spiritual meaning of the miracle. He said, “I am the bread of life.” Eternal truth is not the product of our reasoning, but is alive and living among us. The words of Christ seem simple but the meaning is deeper than all philosophy. Pharisees became more confused as they listened to Jesus and despised Him more. God revealed Himself to the Hebrews. Yet the Hebrew culture became the greatest enemy to the New Testament. The Pharisees’ attitude was very different from Nicodemus’ attitude.

The emphasis of Jesus was that He was the food that came from heaven. You need earthly food when you are on the earth. But man not only needs food, but also the Word that come from the mouth of God, His eternal word that gives life. Where is this eternal truth? Where is this word of God? The Pharisees believed they already have it, i.e. the Old Testaament. But Jesus demonstrated that the Old Testament is just the shadow of the real object. Why would they reject the real object for the shadow? That is the failure of Hebrew culture. The Old Testament is pointing towards Jesus Christ. Yet when Jesus appeared the Jews held fast to the shadow.

“At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"” (Jn. 6:41-42)

In their wrong understanding of Jesus, they fell into a terrible trap. They thought Jesus must be mad, boastful or demon-possessed. They thought His mother was an adulteress since His natural father was not known. He was from Galilee which was uneducated unlike Jerusalem. Therefore He must be most arrogant for calling Himself the bread of life.

Jesus became a stumbling stone for those who reject Him and the capstone for those who believe. The Word became flesh, the Eternal One entered into the temporal world. Can you recognise him? If you judge him by mere physical criteria, you will treat him like another human being. But internally He is the Eternal One. When you only use only the physical eyes to judge, you cannot recognise the real person and you are the one at a loss. The Bible teaches an important principle, that is not judge a person by mere appearances.

Jesus came in loneliness and had no comely appearance. He was like a shoot in a dry land and He was despised. Yet He never reacted to insults. When he suffered, He never threatened. These are most difficult things to for humans to do.

The Scripture said God the Father gave the flock to God the Son and through His resurrection, He gave eternal life to the flock God has given to Him.

When we come to Jesus, we need to listen to His word, like Mary who sat at His feet. Faith comes through hearing the Word of God. Therefore, if you do not hear how can you believe? But many who hear never believe. That means they are not the flock of Christ. Jesus said His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.

So Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn. 6:44) And secondly, of those who came to Him, none will be lost. Put together, this establishes the reformed theology of salvation. People welcome the message on the second part, i.e. if they come to Him they will be saved. But people do not like to hear the first part which emphasises God’s sovereignty in drawing people unto Himself.

Jesus said that He will raise those who believe in Him on the last day. So this establishes the doctrine of election and the last days. So there are those who belong to Christ’s flock and those who do not.

If the Jews truly heard the word of God in the Old Testament, they would honour Christ, the Word become flesh. The true test of whether they have heard God’s word came when Jesus appeared. And the Jews failed the test.

Paul, as a Pharisee himself from Jerusalem, academically trained in the law, expounded most clearly in his epistles the doctrine of salvation from the angle of the Jews. What he wrote is consistent with what Jesus said as recorded by John. Paul confessed there is only one God and one Mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ. And he preached that he knew nothing except Christ and Him crucified.