John chapter six appears to be a carefully crafted chapter. It is characterized by a tight interweaving of narrative and discourse. It follows a pattern seen elsewhere in John’s gospel: The performance of a miracle followed by a dialogue between Jesus and another person or other persons followed by a discourse from Jesus. If we isolate the discourse section of chapter 6 (6:35-66) we can detect three subsections, each containing a discourse from Jesus followed by the response to His teaching (see 6:35-42, 6:43-52, 6:53-66).

For John, a sign alone (i.e., the performance of a miracle) is not an adequate ground for faith. A true believer must come to understand the higher spiritual truth being revealed by that sign. God can miraculously give, and has miraculously given, literal bread to human beings in order to feed their hungry bellies (e.g., manna in the wilderness, the feeding of the 5,000); however, if that gift is met with self-centered, ungrateful, disobedient grumbling then the miracle has served very little purpose. The recipients receive something useful but ultimately they die.

On the other hand, if the miraculous manifestation of God’s grace is met with self-emptying, grateful, obedient belief then God’s eternal purpose is achieved. And what is that eternal purpose? To share with human beings what John refers to as eternal life. More—much, much more—than merely an existence that has no end. Eternal life is the perfect, harmonious blending of the divine nature with the created human experience. A melding of wills, a convergence of natures, a voluntary union of beings, an incarnation.

What God is trying to accomplish boggles the human mind. It seems preposterous, outlandish, unthinkable. And yet it is what He wants to accomplish. In fact, He has gone to great lengths, extreme lengths, self-sacrificing lengths to bring about His will. This meshing of the divine with the created is now not only possible, it is happening—right here and right now!

But, it is only happening with those who see that it is indeed an extraordinary thing, believe that is a thing worth pursuing, trust that it is a thing that only God can accomplish (in His way, His time, His everything), and obey by putting everything—and I mean everything—on the line in order to receive it and participate in it.

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