Today’s passage opens up in the middle of what was becoming a very unsettling interaction between Jesus and the crowd which had followed Jesus after he fed them on the hill the day before.
Jesus had just finished claiming to be from heaven and that he was equal with God. He had identified himself as the source and giver of life, and the One Who satisfies the longings of people’s hearts. Jesus had claimed the Father drew people to him, and Jesus received all those whom the Father had given him. Many people began to argue with Jesus and take issue with him. These were not the sort of claims they were expecting from the Messiah. But Jesus was not backing down or changing course.
It seems, according to verse 59, time had transpired and a new conversation begun, or Jesus and the crowd around him had been heading towards Capernaum’s house of worship, because by verse 59 John explained this was all taking place in the synagogue.
Bread of Life
At this point, Jesus was surrounded by the people who had followed him from the other side of the lake, as well as his disciples and the local scribes and Pharisees. It was this last group of men who became contentious.
Consequently, the Judeans were grumbling-and-muttering about him that said, “I AM the bread that came down out of heaven.”
And they were saying, “Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How now he says that ‘Out of heaven I have come’”?!John 6:41-42
They understood what Jesus was saying, but they could not see how Jesus could claim it. They knew his parents, they knew the house he grew up in, maybe some of them had even had Joseph the carpenter do some work for them. When was the last time you had a workman over to your house? This is who Jesus was to them.
Jesus basically said, “Stop arguing about that, because that is not why you are having a hard time believing me.” Jesus did not explain about the virgin birth, or the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, or being born in Bethlehem as prophesied, or the confirmation of the magi, the shepherds and the angels. There is so much Jesus could have added to the conversation, facts that could have really nailed his divine origin.
But he did not do that.
Because that was not the real problem.
These religious leaders already had enough facts for belief. They already had plenty of data that had been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. What they lacked was a foundation for that belief to be built upon.
Not even one is able to come to me unless the Father, the One Who sent me, drew that one; so also I will raise that one up on the last day.John 6:44
God the Father draws hearts to come in response to God’s Son.
If the people who were grumbling had already been in a right relationship with the one true God, Yahweh, Whom they professed to worship, the God of the scriptures, then they would have yielded to God’s drawing power at work within them.
Unbelief is basically a spiritual issue, not an intellectual issue. As you and I study the Bible, we come across all kinds of hard sayings, difficult teachings, unfamiliar and even uncomfortable perspectives, principles, and depictions of faith. All the while, as we wrestle with these passages, and seek to live out their truths as best we can, God is conforming our character to be holy and righteous, as God is.
We grow closer to God, we grow spiritually deeper, we learn to love better.
That is what the Bible calls sanctification, and that is what “being in God’s word” is all about—being both in scripture, and in Jesus. As a rule, you and I do not need more facts, we need a deeper faith.
“It is written in the Prophets, ‘And all will be taught by God.’”Jesus, quoting Isaiah in John 6:45
The Lord directly and personally teaches those who respond to God’s drawing to faith in Jesus. These Judeans had not harkened to what God had already taught in scripture.
Everyone who has heard from the Father and learned, comes to me.Jesus, explaining the quote from Isaiah in John 6:45
The Pharisees and scribes considered themselves Bible experts, but they were resistant to certain spiritual truths in God’s word, and to the Holy Spirit.*
“Because no one has visited-beheld-experienced-perceived-discerned-nor-known the Father if not the one from God, this one has visited-beheld-experienced-perceived-discerned-and-known the FatherJesus, in John 6:46
Only Jesus can give direct revelation from God because he is God, God the Son, of the same essence of God. Jesus had taken on a body, but that did not change his nature of being God. Therefore, Jesus is the source of eternal life.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the one who believes has life eternal.
“I AM the Bread of Life.”Jesus, in John 6:47-48
To believe in Jesus is to possess eternal life immediately.
The illustration Jesus referred to had already been brought up, and the corollary to the miraculous feast Jesus had served the day before was unmistakable.
These Bible scholars were missing the most significant, the most powerful and spiritual aspect of all: the manna foreshadowed Jesus.
“Your ancestors in the wilderness ate the manna then died—this is the bread that came down out of heaven in order that any may eat of it and not die—I AM the Bread of Life that came down out of heaven: whoever eats of this bread lives into eternity.”Jesus, in John 6:49-51
Imagine Jesus speaking with great energy and persuasion. He may even have had the scroll out that contained the story of the manna. Picture Jesus pointing to the story (Your ancestors . . .” then gesturing towards the direction of Capernaum’s cemetery, “. . . then died.”
Then pointing to himself as he again described himself as the Bread of Life. Perhaps Jesus also raised his hands to heaven, and back to himself.
Eating the manna had kept their ancestors alive from day to day, it was everything they needed, a miraculous food that God rained down from heaven six days a week. It was a flaky, sweet substance that tasted something like coriander, and it had all the nutrients in it the body needs. All the Israelites had to do was go out and pick it up.
Forty years, that is how long they were fed from heaven.
That is a long time.
But it still had an end date on it.
Everyone eventually died.
The manna did not have the power to extend life indefinitely. And God did not continue to send the manna once they were settled in the Promised land.
Jesus, on the other hand, has all you and I need, forever.
Eating, in this illustration, is a metaphor for assimilation into one’s life.
And this is how Jesus explained it.
“So then, the bread that I give is also my flesh on behalf of the life of the world”Jesus, in John 6: 51
At first read, this is a shocking, gruesome thing to say, transgressing deep taboos.
Yet, a deeper look reveals embedded in Jesus’ saying, the prophecy of his giving of his life for the life of the world, and the prophecy of his later gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave his life so we may have eternal life
How do you and I respond to those things in the Bible which, at first read, are hard to swallow? Most of the people who first heard this teaching utterly rejected it.
*The deacon Stephen made this astonishing claim in Acts 7:51, accusing the scribes, Pharisees, teachers of the law, and members of the Sanhedrin that they did not obey the scriptures, they resisted the Holy Spirit, and their legacy was the murder of every one of God’s prophets.
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