The Bread of Life

John 6:22–71 (NKJV)

22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone—23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks—24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”
32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore 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 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

John 6:22-59

This lengthy passage is known as part of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. Jesus has just fed the five thousand, and then walked on the water to His disciples in the boat. The people surely have been captured by the mystery and power of His presence. They seek Him and follow His trail in hopes of seeing Him again, and eventually catch up to Him in Capernaum. There, He begins to scold them for seeking after the bread and fish, accusing them of only seeking Him because of the blessings. He declares to them that He is more than a provider, He is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven. He encourages them to eat of this bread. They begin to scoff, knowing that He is son of Joseph and Mary, and they ask for a sign. He reiterates that He is from heaven and the Father has sent Him, and that they should eat of the living bread, Jesus Christ. He even goes so far as to say that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood, they have no life. They recoil at the literal interpretation of His words, eschewing cannibalism.

These were considered hard sayings for a few reasons in particular. First, Jesus claims that He is from heaven. Although the Jews following Jesus realize that there is something special, even supernatural, about this man, they have not yet accepted Him as divine. He establishes that He is divine, from heaven, in these passages. Second, He is presumed–if He is the Messiah–to supply manna from heaven as a sign. He is telling them that He is the manna, or Bread of Life, come down from God out of heaven. This is confusing as well. Third, He tells them “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (53-54).” This call to what appears to be cannibalism flies in the face of decency and human law. Schlatter states poignantly, “What we have to do with his flesh and blood is not chew and swallow, but that we recognize in his crucified body and poured out blood the ground of our life, that we hang our faith and hope on that body and blood and draw from there our thinking and our willing” (Das Evangelium nach Johannes, Erläuterungen 3:116).* Jesus is perhaps referring to the Lord’s supper as a model of this teaching, but is basically saying that they must have faith in Him if they are to be saved.

*George R. Beasley-Murray, John, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1999), 95.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

John 6:60-66

After these sayings, many were confused and declared these sayings hard or impossible. They do not know how to respond, and begin to grumble. Many go back from following Him, seeing this as an impossible ask. Jesus characterized this as a lack of faith.

67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” 71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

John 6:67-71

Jesus saw His crowd at the seaside dwindle from the teaching of the bread of life, then further over the “eat my flesh, drink my blood” sayings, then turns to His twelve disciples in the synagogue and asks them if they would leave as well. Peter answers with a unique moment of deep theological insight and–as a representative of the group, declares their faith in Him as the Life-giver. In this powerful moment, Jesus declares that one of them will betray Him.

What does this lengthy exchange tell the reader? Jesus declared Himself as the Son of God, and made it clear that He brought life to all that believe, and yet people, because of their traditions and teachings, denied this powerful truth and powerful spiritual blessing because it did not fit into their scheme of spiritual life. There are many in the church today who would reject Jesus if He walked in their churches today, because He would likely upset their ecclesiastical apple cart and show them a better way. Be open to Christ and His Spirit. Be willing to hear from God. God will not contradict Himself or the Scriptures, but He will show you a better way–nay, the best way–to live. Receive Him and live!

Artwork from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckgrrnur0Rw

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