I've been reading through the book of John again, with the help of the First Nations Version. I'm not a philosopher, and John has never made a lot of sense to me, so I've always struggled to get through it. More often than not, this book leaves me confused, fumbling, and generally dejected at my ability to understand the word of God. However, I've found the fresh take of the First Nations Version to be immensely helpful, and have been discovering many new things within the text. 

Today I would like to examine the similarities between two different conversations that Jesus had—one with a Gentile, and one with a group of Israelites. 

Let's start with the second conversation. If you would like to read the full exchange, take a look at John 6:25-66. For now, though, let's pick it up in verses 30-34.

“What powerful sign will you show us, that we should trust in you?” [the Israelites] asked. “What sign will you perform? When our ancestors were wandering in the desert they ate bread, just as the Sacred Teachings tell us, ‘From the spirit-world above he gave them bread to eat.’”

“Listen closely,” Creator Sets Free (Jesus) answered. “Drawn from the Water (Moses) did not give you the bread from the spirit-world above. It is my Father who gives you the true bread that comes down from the spirit-world above. This bread gives the life of beauty and harmony to the world.”

“Honored One,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

(John 6:30-34)

Have you ever noticed that Jesus' conversation with the Israelites in John 6 closely mirrored his conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4?

I've created a diagram outlining the two conversations.

It's clear that by verses 36–37, Jesus already recognized the futility of speaking to His current audience. "You still do not trust Me," He said. It's as if He was remembering the contrast between the Samaritans and the Israelites. 

As He continued, He made it easy for the Israelites to walk away, inserting two exit points into the conversation. In the second, He talked about eating His body and drinking His blood. (The Israelites understandably mistook this as referring to cannibalism, although Jesus was speaking metaphorically.)

Then, He reprised His earlier statements:

  • "You have no faith in who I am."
  • "No one can come to me on their own, but only as a gift from My Father."

And those who were never going to believe anyway—they walked away.

This was one of those times when the unbelievers had been winnowed. That way, those who remained were truly believers. That way, Jesus' resources and efforts were focussed on those who would receive and embrace His teachings, rather than being diluted among those for whom His teachings might be trivial.

Numbers don't matter. Only hearts do.

This reminds me of a talk by Francis Chan, in which he said, "How many people today would think of Jesus as a failure for focussing all his time and attention on only 12 people?" [1]

And yet, Jesus said to His disciples:

“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, SO THAT

‘they may indeed see but not perceive,

and may indeed hear but not understand,

lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” 

(Mark 4:11-12, ESV, emphasis mine)

As Chan points out, Jesus focussed on the twelve whose hearts were good soil [2], and spoke to the rest in parables SO THAT they wouldn't see. 

He conserved His resources for where they would be most effective.

We are infatuated with crowds, but Jesus was and is different. [3] How often that "SO THAT" in the Bible makes us uncomfortable! I've often allowed my thoughts to jump over that phrase, like a skipping record, not hearing or recognizing its significance.

God knows the human heart. The good news of Jesus is for everyone, but not everyone receives it. [4]

This leaves me with a few questions:

  • Will I allow God to direct whom I spend my time and other resources with?
  • Will I allow Him to place some SO THATs into my life, or will I allow my discomfort to limit the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit's work?

We are so entrenched in the here and now that sometimes we forget about God's eternal perspective. 

Sometimes SO THATs can be deferred yeses. We've seen that in our own life and ministry. When we first went to Japan, my back injury delayed my meeting with many people outside of our home. But our ministry—both then and in the future—became more effective because of the injury, not in spite of it. 

In the same way, Jesus' "SO THAT" might have been SO THAT the people wouldn't be able to understand until everything had played out. Perhaps their hearts wouldn’t have been ready until then. Perhaps an invitation given too soon would have been rebuffed and never reconsidered.

It's interesting that in the comparison above, both conversations addressed national history—that of the Samaritans and of the people of Israel (see the text in orange boxes). Yet, Jesus only addressed the Samaritan woman's personal sins/history (see the purple box), and refrained from focussing on the Jews'. Later on (in Acts 2:36), Peter addressed the Israelites' personal sins. He addressed them when the people were ready. And they responded, overwhelmingly.

In recent times, I (along with many pastors) have fretted when people haven't come back to church after COVID, but what if this is another SO THAT moment? What if the thinner crowds mean that we can focus our time and resources more on the people who will bear more fruit?

We are not alone in our struggle. Just as we are infatuated with crowds, just as the Pharisees shared that infatuation, so Jesus' brothers expected the same of Him.

"Why not show everyone who You are?" they said. "The ones who want to be well known do not hide in secret. You should show all the world who You are." 

(John 7:4, FNV)

But this was not Jesus' way. He was not there to entertain the masses. He did not share the modern Christian devotion to "the great God entertainment", which A.W. Tozer so lamented. [5]

No, rather than "leading the crowds down a false path" [6], Jesus took the road to Calvary, and there showed those with "ears to hear" who He was—the Saviour of the world.


[1] Francis Chan, The Gospel of Mark, Mark 3:7–4:34 session, Right Now Media, 2021, video.

[2] Remember the parable of the sower and the seeds.

[3] Francis Chan, The Gospel of Mark, Mark 3:7–4:34 session, Right Now Media, 2021, video.

[4] One of my favourite song lyrics says, "Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come." (See "If We Are the Body" from Casting Crowns' self-titled album.) These decisions cannot be made by human beings, but only by the Holy Spirit. How crucial it is for us to maintain a careful and alert connection with our Creator and Saviour.

[5] A.W. Tozer, Root of the Righteous, Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 955, pp. 32-33.

[6] John 7:12, FNV.