Read John 6:22-59

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi,’ when did you get here?

This reminds me of the narrative concerning Nicodemus (John chapter 3). Nicodemus asked Jesus a question, but not the one really troubling him. Jesus ignored his spoken question and spoke to his heart. Here the people asked ‘when did you get here?’ but they really wanted to know ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you?’ (v30)

So again, Jesus used the opportunity to teach the people, and this was actually more formal teaching, the people looking for Jesus had eventually found him in the synagogue at Capernaum (v59). Again, just as John has used the Samaritan woman at the well to introduce us to Jesus’ teaching on the ‘Water of Life’, here we are to learn about the ‘Bread of Life’.

26 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 

The Pharisees taught only a practical religion: ‘do this, don’t do that’. It satisfied the needs of the people for an eased conscience, and it promised eventual access to Heaven. The people were accustomed to understand things only in the physical dimension.

Jesus pointed out that they had totally missed the fact that he could only perform miracles because of who he was; they were only interested in being fed for free.

27 Do not work for food that spoils,

The word translated ‘spoils’ is interesting. Usually it means destroyed completely, or killed (usually violently). Possibly here is the suggestion that physical food, once eaten, is gone. Any benefit we obtain from it is only temporary, and Jesus reminds us that it has to be worked for!

but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

Jesus is offering spiritual food, food that will endure into eternity. (The word endure is the exact opposite of ‘spoils’, above).

Not only that, but this is the food that Jesus offers to give people freely.

For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

What do you understand by that?

To place your seal on a document proved that it was yours, and that everything within it could therefore be trusted. As people accepted Jesus they too added their seal certifying the truth (see John 3:31-33). By giving Jesus the power to work miracles, God has put on him his own ‘seal of approval’.

28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

Here again the people revealed the religious training they had received from birth. And today people still expect to have to do something to be right with God.

29 Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

It is as if people who do not know Jesus live in a grey world. They know nothing of colour. They sense that something in their lives is missing, that there must be more, but whatever they do they cannot find it. Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus: ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3) and his reply here ‘Believe in me’ is the simple answer, yet many people find it so difficult.

30 So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 

Again, like so many today they still did not understand the difference between faith and sight.

How can we explain it?

You meet some friends who tell you that they have just seen a terrible accident. You believe them; you don’t need to see it for yourself.

Why not?

You have faith to believe that what they say they have seen is true.

Jesus tells us he is God’s son, sent by God himself to be our Saviour. Now we must be careful because although we say we believe our friends because we trust them completely, can we believe Almighty God?

When we are prepared to take him at his word, God himself will give us the faith to believe:

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’ Ephesians 2:8-9

But is seemed that the crowds were still not ready to commit themselves; they still wanted free bread!

31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’

They are suggesting that if Moses could feed a whole nation for forty years, perhaps the Son of God could at least do the same?

32 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 

First of all, says Jesus, don’t misquote scripture: God gave the Manna, not Moses. And as God fed the people then, so he wants to feed you now.

34 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’

They still didn’t understand. They thought that ‘the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’ would still be physical bread for their physical bodies. Jesus has to lift their thinking to a different dimension, and widen it too – this bread from heaven was for the whole world.

35 Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 

Their bodies had been hungry, and he had fed them bread and fish. But their souls were starving and needed the nourishment that only Jesus could satisfy. But what are the two things needed before Jesus would give the Bread of Life?

They first had to ‘come to me’ and ‘believe in me’.

36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 

There are still many today who find it difficult to accept that Jesus is a real person who must be treated seriously. But there was no excuse for those who had seen him face-to-face. They still wanted just one more miracle.

What does that tell us about ‘faith’ and ‘sight’?

Faith is when you are prepared to believe without any proof.

Sight is often when you have seen the proof and still can’t believe.

Now we are going to enter the realms of difficult theology! We need to read a few verses before commenting on them.

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 

John 15:16

You did not choose me, but I chose you

Ephesians 1:4-5

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

As we mentioned earlier, ‘It is by grace you have been saved  .  .  .  it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God takes the initiative; it is his will that we are saved. We respond to the gift of grace, and our will chooses to accept or reject what God has given. The difficulty for our poor brains is that before the creation of the world God chose that we personally should freely respond to his call!

So do we have completely free will, or is our salvation pre-ordained?

The answer is both, at the same time, and we will have to be happy with that; otherwise this whole study will be side-tracked. (For a more complete look at this topic, see the studies in John 15 on Predestination.)

38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’

Jesus had a specific purpose given him by father God. He knew that his work was not just ministering to the needs of people during his life on Earth. Nor was it only to die on the cross to purchase salvation for the world. His work would only be completed when he had raised to new life everyone who had put their trust in him. Jesus said: ‘I will raise them up at the last day’.

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 42 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”?’

43 ‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered. 44 ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

Why it is that often spiritual things cannot be understood by those who are ‘of the world’?

Until Jesus himself opens their eyes, they will continue to be blind.

 45 It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 

Again Jesus points out that the initiative is God’s. He calls, and those who hear his call come to Jesus.

46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 

Why is this verse here?

Jesus needed to reinforce the fact that he has come from God. He has seen God and he is here to do God’s will. And he was here to fulfil prophecy.

47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’

What is the difference between ‘the bread of life’ (v48) and ‘the living bread’ (v51)

The first speaks of nourishment, the second of the gift of life itself. Again, Jesus was trying to move their thinking from earthly things to spiritual things.

Now, as they were approaching Passover, Jesus introduced the concept of sharing in his death in the same way that all Jews shared by eating the Passover lamb.

This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world

Jesus was ‘The Word become flesh’ (John 1:14), but Jesus was also ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’

Again it seems that some Jews were unable to grasp the spiritual meaning behind Jesus’ words; but others perhaps did understand – hence the strong arguments!

53 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’

Jesus refused to be drawn into their arguments. He simply repeated and expanded on what he had already said. Now he also speaks of drinking his blood.

Why particularly would that be a major problem?

Eating meat that contained blood was strictly forbidden in scripture

Leviticus 17:10-12 explains: 

10 I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, ‘None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.’

So how do we explain verse 53? ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’

This was difficult to hear for people who as yet had no knowledge of Christ’s death at Calvary. They had no concept of Christ’s body broken and his blood shed for the remission of sins. But as we saw earlier, there were those who understood the spiritual message: not that we physically had to eat or drink, but that we have to receive Jesus into our life not only as the bread of heaven which will nourish our souls, but also the very life of Jesus which will give us his new life – ‘you must be born again’ (John 3:7).

(Last supper – Luke 22:15-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Read John 6:59-71

59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’

Here we see that even among his disciples there were those who had truly made a spiritual connection with Jesus, and others who just couldn’t get it.

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life.

In verse 63 Jesus repeats that it is the spiritual message that he is trying to tell them; but some still don’t believe, and won’t even when he ascends back to heaven (v62). But that was no surprise to Jesus:

 64 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. 65 He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.’

This is the mystery of predestination that we touched on earlier (v37) and see John 1:10-13

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

There were a large number of disciples; some were true, some were false, some were just ‘hangers-on’. Jesus had just introduced concepts that the more worldly disciples could not accept, and they left him. The number of disciples was much reduced, leaving a smaller group who would be closer to Jesus during the next, final year of his life on earth.

Jesus now addresses his ‘inner circle’:

67 ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’

What other Rabbi had ‘the words of eternal life’? Who else could they possibly follow? Besides they had by now come to accept that Jesus actually was ‘the Holy One of God’.

70 Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’ 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

Jesus had carefully selected twelve to be his Apostles, and they had all recently gone out, two-by-two, on a ‘missionary experience’; in fact it was only two days ago that they had returned (Mark 6:7-13, 30-31).

We are told in John 13:17 that it was only at the Last Supper that ‘As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him’, so for now we have to assume that Judas continued, with the others, not knowing to whom Jesus was referring. But the words of Jesus concerning the need to fully accept him ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them’ (v56) may well have jarred in the soul of Judas. We don’t know, only Jesus did; and whether Judas finally repented can only be a matter for conjecture.  

John 6aJohn 7a

John 6:22-71 I am the Bread of Life

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