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He Will Drive No One Away
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
August 9, 2015
Exodus 16:1-15 John 6:35-51 Psalm 34:1-10
Jesus gives us a comforting promise, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). Jesus says further that those who come to Him have eternal life,
I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:48-51).
How comforting that is. Jesus will drive no one away who comes to Him, and those who come to Him have eternal life.
We use portions of John’s Gospel in our communion service. In particular we use this section from John, when Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. We cite John 6:35: “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
How can Jesus give eternal life? There are several verses in this John passage, and elsewhere in John, where it is clear that Jesus is God. Or at least, Jesus has powers that had been attributed to God.
To ease into this idea, let’s look at the passages that say Jesus has God’s power. Jesus says that He came to do the will of the Father, not His own will, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (6:38). This suggests that Jesus is acting as God, since He is doing God’s will. Again,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing” (5:19-20).
So Jesus is doing what He sees the Father doing. The two are one in action. Earlier in this chapter, Jesus says about Himself, “On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval” (6:27). Jesus says that He lives because of the Father and we live because of Jesus, “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (6:57). Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that God has given Him God’s power to judge. “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son” (5:22). As God gives life, so does Jesus,
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will (5:21).
We are to revere Jesus just as we would God, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (5:23). Finally, Jesus has life in Himself, as does God. This appears to make Jesus equal to God, as there can be only one life in itself, “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself” (5:26). Jesus calls God his Father, “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him may have eternal life” (6:40). So far, one could read these verses and conclude that Jesus and the Father are two very closely related beings.
But there are a couple of verses that make the startling claim that Jesus is God. For instance, Verse 5:46, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (5:46). Moses wrote only about God’s relationship with humanity. There is no mention of the Messiah in Moses–only God. So how can Jesus say that Moses wrote about Him? That can only be true if Jesus is God. Jesus makes this explicit in John 6:45, “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God’” (6:45). This means that Jesus, who is doing the teaching, is God.
This is a sticking point for many people. Many see Jesus as a great teacher. Many see Jesus as a great prophet. But some find it hard to see Jesus as the Word made flesh, God in human form. The Jews of Jesus’ day refused to see Jesus as divine. They knew Mary and Joseph, and think that Joseph is Jesus’ father,
Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven? (John 6:42).
This is what makes Christianity different from other religions. We believe that this kind, healing, patient, loving God, our Lord Jesus is our Savior. Even if there is still a heavenly Father besides Jesus, it is this loving Jesus who saves us. We have seen so many scriptures that say Jesus is the one who judges, who gives eternal life, who is the true shepherd. And this loving Jesus will turn no one away who comes to Him, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).
The question of belief and good deeds comes up in relation to Jesus as Savior. In John 6 there is a lot of talk about believing in Jesus. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him may have eternal life” (6:40). “He who believes has eternal life” (6:47).
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (6:28-29).
That sounds like easy work. And it is not surprising that many Christians would like to end the discussion at that. But there are other verses that say our deeds matter, too.
A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28-29).
This passage clearly states that our deeds determine whether we are condemned or whether we will inherit eternal life. And John 3:19-21 agrees with this passage–belief and deeds both matter,
And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God (3:19-21).
This is a clear statement that deeds matter as much as does belief. And this passage follows that one verse that Evangelical Christians emphasize so strongly, namely, John 3:15:
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:15).
My Bible is published by an Evangelical company, and I was amused to read a footnote about this John 3:15 passage. The publishers appear to want to do away with John 3:19-21. The footnote is tricky, and if not read carefully can be misleading. The note reads, “Some interpreters end the quotation after verse 15.” Many Christians would like to read only verse 15 about salvation by belief only. The quote doesn’t say that reliable manuscripts end at verse 15. Nor does the footnote say that translators end the passage at verse 15. It says only that some interpreters end the quotation at verse 15. Indeed.
Evangelical Christians would like to end the quote with that verse about belief. But John says that deeds do matter. The passage above says that those whose deeds are wrought in God turn toward the light. And the passage from chapter 5 says that “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
It would appear that believing in Jesus and living a good life is what John tells us to do to inherit eternal life. If we turn to the light, if we come to Jesus, we will live. Turning to Jesus means following Jesus. It means following Jesus’ teachings. It means following the life Jesus demonstrated.
Thinking of God as Jesus is a very welcoming image to me. Jesus is not a judging, wrathful being in the clouds. He is a humble, human, forgiving, healing God who walks in earthly dust. This is the God who will not drive away anyone, not anyone, who comes to Him.
Lord, you have promised that you are always with us–even to the end of the age. And you have promised that you will never turn away anyone who comes to you. We know that you never stop in your efforts to save and regenerate us. And you are continually putting before us opportunities to let our light shine as your disciples and your children. We thank you for your love. We praise you for your holiness. We worship you for your omnipotence. You have all power to save us and we ask you into our hearts this morning and always. For when you are in our hearts we are in heaven and in heavenly joy. We are grateful that there is no where that we can hide from you. For wherever we are, you can come to us and lift us up to you and your kingdom. Thanks be to you.
And Lord, we pray for the sick. May they experience the power of your healing love. Fill them with the grace of your healing power. We pray for the grace of your healing power for all who are ailing in body or soul.