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John Chapter 6, verses 41-42
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
Jesus’ words set the Jews to grumbling. Many would not believe him. To them it was outlandish that Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” That is no surprise, since the gospel is always foolishness to those who depend on their own wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
Having drawn that conclusion, the Jews did the next thing unbelievers invariably do. They discounted Jesus’ words and his miraculous works and simply followed their own reason. They knew Jesus’ (step)father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary. To them, that ruled out the possibility that hecame from heaven.
John Chapter 6, verses 43-45
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
Jesus told them to stop their grumbling. By nature they balked at Jesus’ words. People cannot believe in Jesus and come to him on their own. The Father must draw them. We who have come to Jesus didn’t make a decision from our reasoning to do so. God the Father impelled us against our natural will, and God the Son will raise us on the Last Day against our natural condition.
God worked on us through his Word. The prophets had said the people would be taught by God (Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:33,34). And everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Jesus.
John Chapter 6, verses 46-48
No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.
Everything centers on Jesus. We cannot see the Father. We cannot go directly to him to see who he is and what he’s like. No one has ever seen God in all his glory, no one except the one who has come to us from God. That one, Jesus, has seen the Father.
Once again Jesus stressed the solemn truth of his words. Then he repeated the main thought of what he had to say: “He who believes has everlasting life.” Those words not only help us understand the rest of this chapter, but the entire gospel of John. Jesus stressed again, “I am the bread of life.”
John Chapter 6, verses 49-51
Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
What Jesus is and what he gives is just the opposite of the manna these Jews spoke of and hoped to get from Jesus. Their ancestors ate manna in the wilderness. It helped keep them alive then, but eventually they all died. Still the Jews looked for that kind of bread. This bread from heaven that Jesus brings, however, gives eternal life. Anyone who eats of it will not die. The Jews didn’t want to hear that spiritual truth.
Jesus repeated: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Jesus is the bread. Eating the bread means believing in Jesus, and believing in Jesus means having eternal life. This is essentially the same message Jesus told Nicodemus (3:13-18) and the Samaritan woman (4:13,14). We cannot hear it too many times.
Jesus then expanded the thought to show for whom he is the bread and at what cost. He came to give the bread, his flesh, for the life of the world. God’s own Son came as a human being to give up his perfect life for the life of all in this world. Jesus’ words pointed to the cross and his sacrifice for us there.
John Chapter 6, verses 52-54
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 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.
Jesus’ words caused still more commotion among the Jews. They took his words literally and could not imagine how Jesus could give them his flesh to eat. If that thought was distasteful to them, however, what Jesus said next musthave been completely revolting to them.
Once again Jesus stressed the solemn truth of his words as he made his point in graphic terms. His message of life spoke of death for those who would not believe. He warned, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Whoever does not believe in the Son is condemned (3:18).
Again and again Jesus came back to the truth those Jews resisted. By including his blood in the picture, he made sure they would be proven wrong if they took him literally (Leviticus 17:12). But if they saw the spiritual truth (Leviticus 17:11), they would see in Jesus’ blood the blood of atonement. With the blood the reference to his sacrifice on Calvary was complete.
Some see this section as a reference to the Lord’s Supper, but it cannot be, because the Lord’s Supper was not yet instituted. This section is an extension of the Bread of Life declaration. Jesus is continuing the thought expressed already in verses 29 and 40: he who believes will live.
We do no harm, however, when we remember here that just before he gave his body and blood on the cross, Jesus also instituted the Supper in which we eat and drink his body and blood for our forgiveness and life.
John Chapter 6, verses 55-56
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.
As the Jews grumbled among themselves, they denied that Jesus could be the bread from heaven. They balked at the very idea of eating Jesus’ flesh. Many felt he was a fake: “Eat his flesh! Drink his blood! Preposterous!”
In response Jesus insisted he was talking of true meat and true drink. The Jews had known figurative flesh and figurative blood. The Old Testament feasts and sacrifices were shadows; Jesus was the reality.
Jesus was also talking about an intimate spiritual union that takes place between him and us when we believe in him and continue to feed on him. Each Christian needs to see the importance of continuing to nurture faith in Jesus. We do that by the Word, as Jesus shows elsewhere (8:31).
When faith is so nourished, the believer remains in Jesus and Jesus in the believer. So in our faith we are united with Christ. We cannot explain how that works; we just know it does because Jesus said so. Each day and each hour we have the comfort of knowing that he stays with us.
John Chapter 6, verses 57-59
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your fore-fathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
The important issue is life, the life that comes from God and is eternal. When the heavenly Father sent his Son into this world, he gave him that life also in his human nature. That’s why Jesus could say, “I live because of the Father.”
Similarly, when a person eats of (believes in) Jesus, that person lives because of Jesus. That same life, which is the very essence of life in God, passes on to each believer.
To summarize and close his talk, Jesus repeated the comparison he made earlier with the manna (verses 49,50). Those who heard Jesus that day did not misunderstand him. He made sure of it by continually returning to key thoughts (remember the spirals). Each of the following repeats several times:
• Jesus is bread.
• Jesus, the bread, came down from heaven, sent from the Father.
• Whoever eats the bread, that is, believes in Jesus, has eternal life.
• Jesus will raise that person up at the Last Day.
Jesus taught these truths at the synagogue, where worshipers met regularly.
Many disciples desert Jesus
John Chapter 6, verses 60-65
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
Many of those Jews listening counted themselves as Jesus’ followers, his disciples, but they weren’t ready for what they heard. They considered his teaching hard to accept. The word “teaching” here is the same expression used for Jesus in chapter 1, namely, “Word” (Logos). Ironically, without making that connection themselves, they were saying Jesus was hard to accept.
Jesus knew about their grumbling and asked them literally whether this teaching was a trap for them (“Does this offend you?”). What, then, if they would see him ascend to where he was before? Jesus had repeatedly said he was the Son of Man, who had come from heaven. Would they believe more readily if he ascended into heaven?
The Jews’ offense at Jesus’ Word is not surprising. They were depending on their flesh, trusting their own reasoning, for understanding. But their flesh could not comprehend Jesus because his message was of the Spirit and was meant to reach their souls and give spiritual life.
Those people could not accept Jesus on their own terms. Jesus’ words had to penetrate their souls. Jesus’ words had to give them life. The Holy Spirit works through the words of Jesus. Yet in spite of hearing Jesus’ words, some resisted the Spirit and did not believe.
Jesus knew all along—“from the beginning”—who would continue in unbelief and who would betray him. He knew that not just from the beginning of this sequence of events, but from the beginning of time.
He told them again, therefore, that they could not come to Jesus, that is, believe in him, unless the Father enabled them to come. Every Christian can thank God for Jesus and faith.
John Chapter 6, verses 66-67
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
This encounter following the miraculous feeding was the turning point for many who were following Jesus as his disciples. They couldn’t accept his teaching, so they left him and no longer walked with him.
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve, whom John identifies in this way for the first time, thus distinguishing them as a group of Jesus’ close disciples. But were they any different? Jesus expected them to stay with him but allowed them to answer for themselves whether they too would now leave.
Jesus does not coerce people to follow him.
John Chapter 6, verses 68-71
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
Simon Peter was typically quick to answer Jesus. His reply spoke of a faith that grasped the wonderful truth of Jesus’ message. Peter could not imagine leaving Jesus and ever finding someone to take his place. The reason was simple: Jesus had the words that gave eternal life. The words of Jesus about the Bread of Life, his descending from heaven, his flesh and blood, conveyed the blessing he promised from them. The disciples believed and had eternal life from God.
Yes, they had believed before this and still did, asserted Peter. And they knew that Jesus was the Holy One of God. Their faith continued to grow. Jesus had identified himself as the one sent from God. “We see that,” confessed Peter, identifying Jesus as “holy”—as the one set apart by God and consecrated to carry out God’s mission.
All was not as it should be, however. These disciples were designated “the Twelve,” indicating they appeared as one in their faith and dedication to Jesus. They were a team. Peter’s confession appeared to speak for each of them.
But Jesus knew differently. One of them was listening to the devil, not Jesus. One of them in unbelief was serving the purposes of Satan. That one, Judas, son of Simon Iscariot (“man from Kerioth”), was going to betray Jesus.
Jesus’ accusation must have baffled the disciples. Jesus didn’t reveal who or what he meant. At the least, they should have realized that one in their midst was a hypocrite. But that didn’t dissuade them from following Jesus either.
When we hear these words today, we will not only think of Jesus’ upcoming suffering and death, but we will learn something also about hypocrites in the church. Though there will always be some (even one of Jesus’ chosen Twelve was a hypocrite), we will probably not recognize them. But if a hypocrite is to be led to the truth, what better place to be than in the church!