This week we begin with Question 35 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 2 (questions 21-35), which focuses on Christ, redemption, and grace.
Question 35: Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone, where does this faith come from?
Answer: All the gifts we receive from Christ we receive through the Holy Spirit, including faith itself.
In John 6, Jesus feeds a crowd of over 5,000, and then the next day encounters them again on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, where he tells them something that seems surprising: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe” (John 6:35-36). What is striking about this statement is that the same people who had eaten of the bread he miraculously produced the previous day nevertheless did not believe in him.
What conclusion should we draw from this seemingly odd situation? Should we say that Jesus is a failed messiah who can’t convince the multitudes to follow him, in spite of his best attempts to do so? No, not at all! Jesus goes on to explain why he is not shaken in the least by their lack of faith: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Later he adds, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). Coming to Jesus, which is a metaphor for faith, is itself a work of the Father in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. No one believes in Jesus unless God grants the gift of faith. And that means Jesus is not trying so hard to persuade the multitudes, but simply failing in his mission. On the contrary, he is doing exactly what the Father sent him to do for the sake of his elect people.
Jesus is not a failed messiah. His mission is to keep all those given to him by the Father, drawn to him by the powerfully working of God. Even though the multitudes may not believe in him, he has not failed in the least to do exactly what God sent him into the world to do. The only way any of us will ever come to Jesus is if we are drawn to him by the Father. Faith is a gift of God.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: John 6. What does this passage teach us about who Jesus is? What does it teach us about his mission? What does it teach us about how we come to faith?