“I am the Bread of Life” – John 6:43-54

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.”

The Bread of Eternal Life – John 6:30-42

Jesus is in the middle of a dialogue with the Jews as He taught in the synagogue in Capernaum.  He has just emphasized the need to believe that He is the Son of God sent by the Father.  His hearers aren’t so sure, so they quiz Him further.

30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?” (If you are really the one God has sent, what sign do you do in order that we might believe?) 31 “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’ “ 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.” (Jesus ignores their request for a sign, and goes on with His discussion about bread.  Unlike the manna in the wilderness, God is sending you “new bread”.  This bread is not coming from Moses, but from God Himself.)

33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” (This “new bread” from God gives life.) 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (The crowd is still focused on the physical, thinking whatever this bread is, we want some.) 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (Jesus says plainly, “I am the bread of life.  I am not only the giver of the gift, the new bread, but I am the gift itself!)

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 certainly not cast out. (In this one verse, we have reference to God’s sovereignty in salvation… “the Father gives”, man’s responsibility in salvation… “the one who comes”, and our security in salvation… “I will not 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 Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (The will of God is not the wish of God.  It is the promise of God.  The will of God is not a wish that everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life.  It is a promise that everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life.  It is God’s will.  It is God’s promise.  It is God’s purpose.  It is God’s plan that “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.”  The salvation message is made quite clear as John zeroes in on its essential truth.)

Now, what is the audience reaction to all this talk of Jesus, the bread of eternal life? 41 Therefore the Jews (probably refers to the congregation in the synagogue, not just the religious leaders) were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” (The Jews are complaining because Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  To them this does not make sense; it borders on crazy talk.) 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?”

You can understand why this does not make sense to them.  Messiahs do not grow up from little boys!  They knew Jesus’ parents.  In this area of Galilee, some in the crowd may have known Jesus as a child.  To say He is the Son of God, the Bread of Heaven is too much of a stretch for them.  I used to think that being in the crowd, hearing Jesus in person, would have made it much easier to believe; seeing Christ in the flesh.  But it some ways, seeing Jesus in person made it harder.  They knew Him as a regular person.  He was as far removed as possible from their Messianic expectations.  No, for His first century hearers, the need to believe by faith was just as great, if not greater, than our need to believe by faith.

We were not in that Galilee crowd.  For us looking back it does make sense, because we hear Jesus’ words through the ears of faith.  Because we have only known Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, His words make perfect sense to us.  But the requirement of faith is the same now as it was then.  Their faith requirement was to believe in spite of being well connected to Jesus’ humanity and linage.  Our faith requirement is almost the opposite.  It is to believe – almost 2000 years after the fact – that Jesus did come in the flesh and was and is who He said He was.  Salvation comes by faith.  “Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (Jn 6:40).

The Food That Will Not Perish – John 6:16-29

John 6:16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea (the Sea of Galilee), 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. (Jesus walking on the water – another supernatural sign.) 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (It is not clear if they were near their destination when they received Jesus into the boat or if this is another miracle – instantly transported to shore.)

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. (A little mystery as to where Jesus was) 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. (Given their experience from yesterday, it makes perfect sense that the crowd would be looking for Jesus and more miracles.)

25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” (When the crowd finds Jesus, they quiz Him about his path to Capernaum.  But rather than answer their question, Jesus begins another long discourse concerning His identity.)

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” (You are looking for Me because your tummies were filled, but the miracle you witnessed is merely a shadow of something greater.) 27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” (The something greater is to eat the food that leads to eternal life.  We will learn later that this food is Christ Himself, but at this point Jesus only identifies Himself as the agent God has appointed to deliver this life-giving food.)

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” (What work must we do to receive this food that will not perish?) 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (The only “work” that a man or woman can do that is acceptable to God is to believe in Jesus Christ; believe in His claim to divinity, believe He has been sent by the Father, believe He is the path to eternal life.  The only “work” that is required is to believe.)

We have now landed on the theme of John’s gospel message:  Belief in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, leads to eternal life.  In fact, this is his summary message at the conclusion of the book.  “These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31).

Coming back to what is next in chapter 6, Jesus continues His analogy about food and bread.  We will explore what He has to say next time.  But let me leave you with this pointed question from the passage, “Do you believe in Jesus whom the Father has sent?”  This the only work required to receive the food of eternal life.

The Feeding of the 5000 – John 6:1-15

Moving now to John chapter 6, Jesus has left Jerusalem and gone to Galilee.  1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias ). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii (two hundred days wages) worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” (Philip was from this area so it made sense to ask him where to buy some food.  Of course, it was just a test and rather than giving a grocery store recommendation, Philip stated the obvious that the crowd was much too large for the disciples to feed.)

8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” (Andrew draws attention to the ludicrous idea that we could somehow use this boy’s lunch to feed the crowd.  Besides it being far too small, the word for fish here is a specific Greek word for small fish used as a relish.  These were not a couple of ten pound catfish and two traditional loaves of bread.  The boy’s meal was basically some kipper snacks and small dinner rolls.)

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. (Starting with the boy’s meal of kipper snacks and dinner rolls, Jesus feeds five thousand people and the disciples pick up twelve baskets of leftovers.  Jesus had said earlier that His miracle works were one of the signs He had been sent by the Father and this is one of the more spectacular.)

14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (When people saw the “sign”, they immediately proclaimed Jesus to be the Prophet of Moses [see Deut 18:15].  The people were looking for the Prophet of Moses and in fact had asked John the Baptist [Jn 1:21] if he were the Prophet.  John correctly answered, “No.”  But now, they give that title to Jesus based on the miracle He had just preformed.  Despite this recognition, it must be pointed out that the Jews did not necessarily put the Prophet of Moses and the Promised Messiah together as the same person as we do today.

15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, (If Jesus is the Prophet of Moses, the next logical step is to make Him king.  If Jesus is the Prophet of Moses, He would surely do what Moses did for their ancestors and deliver them from the oppression of the Romans.  The crowd understood the Prophet’s appearance only on the material level.  They did not understand or embrace the spiritual significance of Jesus’ arrival on the scene.  In fact, later in this chapter, when Jesus explains the spiritual significance of His coming, many fall away.)

withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. (It was not yet time for Jesus to accept the King title – a mantle He would accept and embrace on Palm Sunday – so He slipped away from the crowd.)

Jesus Calls His Witnesses to the Stand – John 5:31-47

(Note:  John chapter 7 was published this morning by mistake.  Here is the next post in the series.)

Up to this point in John chapter 5, Jesus has been identifying Himself as the divine Son sent by God.  But now Jesus explains that the testimony of one person about himself is not worth much and He calls on the testimony of several witnesses to support His claim to be the divine Son of God.

John 5:31 “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true.”  (There is not only “another” who testifies about Jesus, but several “others” as we are about to see.)

33 “You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth.” (The first witness Jesus calls is John the Baptist.) 34 “But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” (John the Baptist’s testimony regarding Jesus is recorded primarily in chapter 1 of the apostle John’s gospel.  John the Baptist said of Jesus, ” ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.’  Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ ” (Jn 1:29, 34-36) ).

Next is the witness of Jesus’ works. 36 “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do – testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.” (The testimony of Jesus’ works is even greater than the testimony of John.  Three miracles have been recorded so far in this gospel and many more have surely been performed.  And even greater miracles are coming; the feeding of the 5000 and the raising of Lazarus from the dead, for example.  These works Christ performs are clearly supernatural, and indicate that He has been sent by God.)

Continuing on… 37 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.”  (The Father is also His witness, referring to His baptism.  What did the Father say?  “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:17).  They did not hear the voice, but it was enough to convince John the Baptist (Jn 1:32-34).) 38 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.”

Now a new witness, the Scriptures, is called to the stand by Jesus. 39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (You search the Scriptures for the key to eternal life when eternal life is right in front of you; Me!  The Scriptures bear witness of Me.  I am the eternal life you seek, but you are unwilling.)

41 “I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (If you had the love of God, you would have received the One who came in God’s name.  If you had the love of God, you would have listened to the testimony of John the Baptist, the miracle works, God the Father, and the Scriptures.  But you were more interested in the accolades of your peers than of God.)

45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words ?” (Even your most sacred prophet, Moses, wrote of Me.  The testimony of Moses and Christ are so closely linked that Jesus expects His listeners to embrace the testimony of both.  At least that is how it should be.  But as we will see in the passage ahead, the Jews are not buying it.)

We close our exposition of John chapter 5 with this quote from F. F. Bruce in his commentary on the book of John.  “The conflict between Jesus and the religious establishment in Jerusalem, begun in this chapter with His claim to be the Son of God, continues to be waged with increasing intensity throughout the gospel until it reaches its climax in the passion narrative of John 19:7, “By our law He ought to die, because He has made Himself the Son of God.”