"The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, 'I am the bread which came down from heaven.' And they said, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, "I have come down from heaven"?' Jesus therefore answered and said to them, 'Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, "And they shall all be taught by God." Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.'" John 6:41-46
How could Jesus be the life-giving Son of God, come down from heaven to give spiritual and eternal life to sinners? Jesus' Jewish hearers stumbled over this question because they knew Mary and Joseph, His parents.
Of course, they didn't know or grasp that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (cf. Mat. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38) and was not, therefore, the biological son of Joseph, but the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He was true God and true man.
The Gospel of John also expresses this truth in the first chapter, when it says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1-5,14).
Why didn't Jesus' hearers believe in Him? Jesus tells us: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (v. 44). Unless God reveals the truth taught in His Word, no one can come to Jesus and trust in Him as the Messiah and Savior from sin and eternal punishment.
John also teaches this truth in the first chapter of his Gospel: "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:10-13).
Jesus cited the Old Testament Scriptures (Isaiah 54:13) when He said: "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (John 6:45). Only those taught by God from His Word recognize Jesus as the Son of God in human flesh and place their trust in Him as their Savior. Those who neglect God's Word or reject it cannot and do not come to Jesus in faith. It is as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
And the only way to see the Father is to see and trust in Jesus Christ, God's Son. Therefore, Jesus' hearers who rejected Him and stumbled over Him in unbelief did not see or know the Father whom they claimed to worship and serve. Nor do those today who do not look to Jesus in faith as God the Son and their Messiah and Savior see or know God the Father, even if they claim to worship and serve Him! (Cf. John 14:6-11.)
And what does Jesus promise to those who come to Him in faith, trusting that He is the eternal Son of God in human flesh and that He has fulfilled all righteousness for us and made full atonement for our sins and the sins of all by His innocent sufferings and death on the cross? Jesus says, "I will raise him up at the last day" (v. 44). Those who come to Jesus and trust in Jesus for pardon and forgiveness partake of the true Bread from Heaven, and Jesus nourishes their souls and keeps them in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting.
May God grant you to know and come to Jesus!
O dearest Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, grant that we hear Your Word and come to You in faith for pardon, forgiveness, and the everlasting joys of heaven. We ask this for the sake of Your redeeming sacrifice for us on the cross. Amen.
[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted by email at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings are freely available at https://mercifulsaviorlutheran.net. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]