We are near the halfway mark in our exploration of John chapters 5 through 7. Summarizing to this point in the story, Jesus is confronted by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem over what we might now consider a minor offense, healing on the Sabbath. The confrontation escalates when Jesus claims to be following the example of God, His Father. Jesus first made the Son of God claim in John 5:17 and followed it up with the statement that, therefore, eternal life is found only in Him. Between His discourse in Jerusalem (John chapter 5) and His teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum (John chapter 6), Jesus has claimed at least seven times that believing in Jesus, the Son of God, is the path to eternal life.
- John 5:21 – The Son gives life.
- John 5:24 – He who believes has eternal life.
- John 5:25 – Those who hear (synonymous with believe) will live.
- John 6:29 – The work of God is that you believe.
- John 6:33 – The Bread of God gives life.
- John 6:35 – He who believes in Me will never thirst.
- John 6:40 – Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.
All this talk of bread coming down from heaven and believing in the Son left the Jews in Capernaum pretty confused and they began to discuss among themselves, “We know this guy. We know his parents. He can’t be anything special. Messiahs don’t grow up from little boys.”
So Jesus addresses their confusion. 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. (Don’t be stumped by this. Here is some more explanation.) 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; (God the Father does the calling,) and I will raise him up on the last day. (And I do the raising.) 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. (Jesus says that He has seen the Father.) 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” (For the eighth time; belief equals eternal life.)
48 “I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; (ninth reference to eternal life) and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (Christ is now referring to His death on the cross. His death is both voluntary – “the bread which I will give up” – and vicarious – “for the life of the world.” Christ is going to die in place of the world to bring life to the world. The use of “world” emphasizes the global scope of Christ’s death in our place. The gospel message is not targeted to a specific group, but is open to all.)
52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (The Jews are still thinking on the physical level with their concern, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”) 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
I am not so sure that this last statement of Jesus really cleared anything up in the minds of His listeners. The idea of eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood was not only confusing by outright offensive to the Jews. But again, their focus was purely on the physical angle of bread and drink, flesh and blood.
Of course, we see now that Jesus is focused on the spiritual and the spiritual significance of His teaching about bread and drink. The spiritual lesson here – Jesus’ tenth reference to Him being the path to eternal life – is that to share in God’s life, the eternal life, it is necessary to be united with Christ by faith. “He who eats and drinks (is connected to Christ in a spiritual union) has eternal life.”