“First, what does Jesus mean by “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”? If we just stay in the Gospel of John, and work our way out from the near context to the farther, what becomes clear is that Jesus means not that he draws everyone and then some of them provide the decisive impulse and come, but that everyone whom he draws actually comes. The drawing is the decisive impulse. We will see it again and again in this Gospel that this drawing is not at all in conflict with our choosing to come and our freely coming because we want to come. But his drawing is decisive. And without it no one would come.
5 Clarifications and Confirmations
Consider 5 passages which say essentially the same thing and confirm and clarify this understanding.
1.1) John 6:37. We saw this verse last week. “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37). In the flow of thought here between verses 37and 44, I don’t think there is any reason to view the Father’s giving people to Jesus (verse 37), and the Father’s drawing people to Jesus (verse 44) as different experiences. I think they are the same. And Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me”—not some of them will come to me, but all of them. So there is good reason to think that verse 44 means, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” because all that he draws, all that he gives, will come to me. The drawing is the deciding cause. Inside our seeing Christ as compellingly desirable is God’s drawing, God’s opening our eyes.
1.2) John 6:63-65. Here Jesus explicitly refers back to verse 44 and applies the truth of verse 44 to those who do not come, especially Judas.
He says, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Then John inserts, “(For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)”—a reference to Judas in particular. Then Jesus continues in verse 65 by referring back to verse 44. “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’”
Notice the logical connection between what Jesus says in verse 64 (“There are some of you who do not believe”—like Judas) and what he says in verse 65 (“This is why—or on account of this, what I said back in verse 44—no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”). Because there are unbelievers—like Judas—that’s why I said no one can come without being drawn (verse 44) or being granted (verse 65) to come. If the Father’s drawing, or the Father’s granting (as Jesus means it in these verses), were something he did for all people, this would seem to make no sense. He would be saying, “I know that there is a Judas among my disciples, and that is why I told you that it takes a universal drawing of everyone for anyone to be able to come.” But a universal drawing of everyone doesn’t explain Judas. What verse 65 is saying is this: There is a Judas among my disciples, and that’s why I made the point that no one can come unless God draws him. God has not drawn Judas in this way. God has not “granted” him to come. He has left him in the rebellion of his greed and stealing and unbelief.”
2. They will all be taught of God – John 6:41-51
From Every Tribe, Tongue, People, and Nation
These last words describe the scope of Jesus’ death as John presents it in this Gospel. Jesus died not just for one ethnic group, but “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” This is a reference to Gentiles whom God will effectively draw to himself when they hear the gospel. They are called “children of God” because God has chosen them to be adopted, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:4-5. So if this is a good parallel, then the all in John 12:32 is not all human beings, but “all the children of God.” “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all the children of God to myself.” From every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).
. . .
“How did he draw you? Here our focus is on John 6:45-47. After saying in verse 44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day,” Jesus says,
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— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
Drawn by Being Taught
The answer John gives to how the Father draws people to the Son is by teaching them. “No one can come unless the Father draws him . . . . It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’” So the connection between drawing and teaching is clear. The drawn are the taught. They are drawn by being taught.
And the connection between being taught and coming to Christ is unbreakable. No one is taught and then decides not to come. The teaching produces the coming. You see that most clearly in the second half of verse 45.
Verse 45 says, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (This is why I said this verse confirms our understanding of John 12:32.) Not some of them come. All of them come. So Jesus uses at least three phrases to describe how the Father draws people to Jesus. He calls it “being taught,” and he calls it “hearing from” God, and he calls it “learning from” God. “‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”
3. It is the Spirit that Gives Life – John 6:52-71
“But what does eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking the blood of Jesus mean? This was incredibly offensive language. It sounded like cannibalism. And it was especially offensive for Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries because the Mosaic law prohibited eating any flesh with the blood in it, let alone drinking blood itself (Leviticus 19:26).
The answer is the same thing we saw in John 6:35. There Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Coming to Jesus as the bread of life to still the hunger of your soul is the same as believing in him. That’s what believing is. It is being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.
Now see the same thing with the more graphic language of flesh and blood. Notice the very close parallel between verse 40 and verse 54.
Verse 54: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Verse 40: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This parallel (just like the parallel in the first and second half of John 6:35) shows that, in Jesus’ mind, eating his flesh and drinking his blood are a figurative way of saying: Believe in me, trust me, receive me, get your nourishment from me. Get life from me. St. Augustine said, “Believe and you have eaten” (In Johan. Tract. xxvi. 1).
So the pervasive offer of this chapter from beginning to end is: Anyone may have eternal life if they will receive Jesus and trust in Jesus and treasure Jesus and be satisfied with all that God is for them in Jesus. Whoever feeds on my flesh—that is, whoever believes in me—has eternal life. I abide in you and my life becomes your life—forever.
Pointing Forward to the Cross
And we can be more specific about how Jesus gives us eternal life. When he says in verse 51, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” he is referring to giving his flesh as a sacrifice for the world. He is talking about his flesh and blood being given as a substitution for the world. In other words, he is pointing forward to the cross.
Remember he already referred to the cross in John 3:14-15 where he said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” So when he talks in chapter 6 about eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus, he means trust him as one who dies for you. Receive him as one who gives his life for you. Treasure him as one who bears God’s wrath for you (John 3:26). Feed on all that God is for you in him because of his suffering flesh and shed blood."