Abba’s classroom | John 6.41-46
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ 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 | ESV
The crowd of would-be disciples’ cheers turned into churlish murmurings about him because they simply couldn’t swallow his claim, “I am the bread delivered right from heaven itself!” Then the snide remarks began. “Wait a minute, isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his mom and his dad? So what’s this talk about being ‘bread right out of heaven’? If he’s bread, he sure is from a local bakery – and a pretty run-of-the-mill one at that!”
Jesus shot right back at them, “Oy, cut the snarky remarks to each other! Your snarkiness is proof positive it’s not the aroma of Abba’s bread at work here – it’s a much fouler smell driving you. It’s Abba, the Great Sender, who draws people through the door to me – otherwise they just stand outside debating the quality of the bread. But those he draws in through the fresh aroma of life, well, when all is said and done, I’ll see they’re standing up with me. And this is just what it says in the old books of the Prophets, ‘God himself will be the one teaching all your kids.’ All who show up in Abba’s classroom, take good notes, and really learn the lessons he teaches end up on my doorstep. And when you end up on my doorstep I’ll take you to the front of the class and introduce you to my Abba, because no one has seen him, except the one sent from Abba’s side – only he has seen him. MAV
“They all shall be taught by God.”
It was the promise in Isaiah to a people exiled and cut off from temple, priesthood, law and home. Echoes of Jeremiah’s telegraphing of the New Covenant: “No more will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’ for they all will know me, from the least to the greatest.”
Anticipation of Paul’s pronouncement in Athens some seven centuries later: “He is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our very being.’”
And then John himself chimes in again in his first letter: “My little children, I write these things to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you; but as for you, the anointing which you received from him abides in you and you don’t need anyone to teach you, but as the anointing itself teaches you concerning all things and is true, and is no lie, and just as it taught you, so you are abiding in him.”
Human systems inherently build into themselves a dependence upon a human voice to instruct, guide, and make moral pronouncements.
Rabbis, priests, reverends, pastors – clergy of all stripes and shades – we naturally depend on them to tell us what’s what, and where they go, we go, because they are the ones who know.
But Isaiah foresees bedraggled refugees without a book or learned scholar among them – all learning through direct connection with the Father himself.
Jesus envisions sons and daughters for whom revelation is a matter of personal experience and exposure directly to the Father, revelation that is confirmed in Scripture and empowered through accountable community (“church”). He would empower us to see ourselves as sitting at Abba’s feet in his classroom, hearing his heart, receiving his insights and words in an unceasing sermon woven into all of life.
The fact that this disaffected crowd was anything but receptive towards him as the “bread of life” was simple proof that whatever classroom these people were enrolled in,
it wasn’t Abba’s.
How would you describe a healthy balance between careful Bible study and public teaching and personal experience of God’s instruction? To what extent do you feel “taught by God”? What does this look like for you?
Abba, open my heart to walk and talk with you, to hear your voice and learn directly from you – and show me how to do so while working in healthy rhythms of reading and human instruction that won’t cause me to sacrifice the one for the other. Through Jesus.