John 6. Following Jesus For the Wrong Reasons.
The Bread of Life Is the Flesh of Christ.
Key Notes: Feeding 5000. The shock was on purpose. The Father fore-ordains. The invitation is given ten times. Abiding is the bottom line.
This is the second of a series of dialogs that Jesus had with the people of Israel during the period of conflict and confrontation in John chapters 5–12. The first was provoked by healing the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. Jesus taught and challenged his audiences, giving them major blocks of spiritual truth and at the same time confronting their unbelief and confusion. They were confused about where He came from, what He said and what they should do.
John 6 is a large chapter, dealing with the feeding of the 5000, Jesus walking on the water, and the discourse on the Bread of Life. You will note that John makes the Feeding of 5000 and Jesus’ walking on the water subordinate to the discourse on the Bread of Life. I think a key to Jesus’ actions--and John's emphasis--in this chapter is the Jews’ intention to make Him king by force. The scene is in Galilee and part of the chapter was taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. In John 6, they come to the point of rejection.
Eating bread is the parable, drawn from the feeding of the five thousand. Eternal life and resurrection are the promised gifts. The Father's plan and Jesus' invitation are spelled out. The expected outcome is abiding in Christ.
6:1–13 Jesus left Jerusalem and then Capernaum and went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd went after Him. He was on the Golan Heights and the crowd came on. “Now there was much grass in the place” speaks for an eye-witness: John was there. It was near to Passover, the festival in which sacrificing and eating the lamb was remembered as the means of salvation of Israel in Egypt. Jesus also incorporated the manna in the wilderness into His message.
Matthew adds a note in preface: “…He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matt.14:14). He fed them after first challenging Philip to feed them. He knew that more than six month’s wages would be needed to feed so many. Andrew came up with a boy’s lunch---a couple of herring and five “poor-boy” breads. Jesus used that small meal to feed the masses.
6:14–15 When they saw the miracle, the crowd decided that Jesus was the prophet who was fore-told. (Deut.18:18). They intended to make Him king by force. This may well have been a temptation for Jesus, as well as an obvious obstacle to their understanding His methods and message. He turned the feeding of the 5000 into an occasion for a major message, but first He had to reduce the crowd.
6:15–21 Jesus went back up the mountain leaving His disciples to go back across the Lake by themselves. He came to the other side during the night, walking on the water. He caught up with the disciples who were rowing in an adverse wind and got them safely to shore.
6:22–25 The crowd looked for Jesus in the morning and when they did not find Him, took to the boats themselves and went across, looking for Jesus. They could not understand how He had gotten back to Capernaum and He did not explain. We are left with the distinct impression that Jesus was trying to shake and diminish the crowd. But rather than dismiss them , He took up their fixation with free food and began His discourse.
6:26–31 The first part of the lesson is about their work.
Jesus said they should work for food that lasts to eternal life.
They asked how to do the work of God--a crucial question.
He said the work of God is to believe in Him whom God had sent.
They bypassed his response and asked Him what work He would perform—with the broad hint that giving them bread as Moses had given their ancestors manna would be wonderful.
6:32–40 Then Jesus began to expound on their desire for free food.
God gave the manna to Israel in the wilderness but the true bread from Heaven would give life to the world.
They asked Him for that bread and He responded.
He is the Bread of Life, satisfying spiritual hunger.
But He is rejected by those who were there seeing Him.
Those who come to Him had been given to Him by the Father. He would lose none of them. He would not cast them out because keeping them was God’s will.
Those who do see Him and believe, receive eternal life and resurrection.
6:41–42 They grumbled. How could the son of Joseph say He came down from Heaven?
They were stuck on the first line. 6:33
6:43–51 Jesus repeated the message that they could not come to Him unless drawn by the Father. Those who learn from God come to Him.
He is the bread of life come down from Heaven
Their fathers ate manna in the wilderness and died.
Anyone who eats this Bread will not die but live forever.
The Bread He gives is His flesh.
6:52 They were shocked. How can this man give us His flesh to eat? They had heard Him correctly.
6:52–59 Jesus expanded. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood gives the believer eternal life. It means that He abides in us and we in Him.
6:60–65 Even some of His followers turned away from this scandalous idea. Jesus challenged the disciples and elaborated His position.
They would see the Son of Man at the Ascension, confirming His identity.
The teaching He gave them was to be understood spiritually, not materially.
There were still some who did not believe.
No one comes to Him unless the Father grants it.
6:66–71 Even more disciples left. What of the Twelve?
Peter affirmed. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God. “
Jesus said that even among the twelve, there was a devil. That was Judas, but they did not hear it.
Jesus had to shake off a political movement that would make Him its head. I think His move to the Mountain, leaving the disciples to go across the Sea of Galilee by themselves, and the shocking nature of His parable was intended to sift the crowd and defuse its political and economic ambitions. He well knew that feeding them was compassionate but would lead to a false assumption. He decided to move the crowd and teach them a vital and costly lesson. It was costly because the majority were alienated, but also enriching and valuable for believers.
In Matthew (13:13) Jesus said that He spoke in parables as a judgment on the unbelieving. For the earnest seeker, the parable of feeding on the Bread from Heaven illuminates the truth and makes a memorable topic for discussion. For the doubter, it adds confusion if not revulsion. John 6 is taught in this parabolic method. He told them how to come to faith in Him, depending on the Father, using the metaphor of bread and flesh. To those who understood, the discourse is full of spiritual insights. Those who did not understand turned away.
Do religious people today seek Jesus for the wrong reasons?
Jesus intensified the message by six statements, shifting from work to food to bread to flesh and blood" .
"Labor ...for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you." 6:27
“The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 6:33
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger….” 6:35
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever.” 6:51
“And the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” 6:51
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you have no life in you.” 6:53
After this climax, He progressively lessened the intensity.
“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in me and I in him.” 6:56
“This is the bread which came down from heaven; he who eats this bread will live for ever. “ 6:58
“It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail.” 6:63
“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” 6:63
An important feature of Jesus’ narrative is the role of God the Father, fore-ordaining our salvation..
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me….” 6:37
“…that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me….” 6:39
“...this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life.” 6:49
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….” 6:44
“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” 6:45
“…no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father” 6:65
His invitation to them (and us) to receive the gift is said even more times.
"Labor for the food...which endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give you." 6:27
"...believe in Him whom He has sent." 6:29
"...he who comes to Me shall not hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." 6:35
"...everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life." 6:40
"...he who believes has everlasting life." 6:47
"This is the bread which comes down from Heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die." 6:50
"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life." 6:54
"He who eats Me will live because of Me. 6:57
"...he who eats this bread will live forever." 6:58
The promise of salvation is the keynote.
He speaks of “life” (6:33, 48, 53); “live” ( 6:57, 58); “not die” (6:50); “eternal life” (6:27, 40, 47, 54); “live for ever “ ( 6: 51, 58).
Jesus says “…and I will raise him up at the last day.” four times. (6: 39, 40, 44, 54)
So resurrection and eternal life are central themes of His message. Attaining eternal life and resurrection life is the goal of our existence.
It is clear that there is no salvation without the Father teaching, drawing and granting believers to Jesus. This is contrary to our thinking because we think our salvation is up to us. This is another way of looking at predestination. Sometimes we see predestination and the invitation in the same sentence.
"All that the Father gives me will come to Me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.” (6:37)
The word “eat” and the word “bread” are used 12x in this chapter. Eating is a common metaphor for thinking.
We devour books,
Gag on jokes,
Ruminate on ideas,
Chew over problems,
Eat our words.
It is also an expressions of our loves. We want to “eat up” our little grandchildren.
Jesus uses the “bread” theme with increasing intensity.
He satisfies our spiritual hunger .6:35
He saves us to eternal life. 6:48
He gives Himself as a sacrifice for the world. 6:51
Finally, Jesus uses another word that clarifies the “eating bread” theme: abiding.
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him” (6:56)
Now we understand that we incorporate not only His life (flesh) but also His death (blood) so that He indwells us, and we dwell in Him as Jesus said in His High Priestly Prayer.
“I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfectly one….” (Jn.17:23)
“… that they may also be in us….” (Jn.17:21)
This deep and large concept is called "Union with Christ". It is the foundation on which all the parts of our salvation depend. We incorporate His life and His death into our beings, and He in turn indwells us, transforming us into His likeness.
Union with Christ is further discussed in Romans 6 and II Corinthians 3:18.