Bible Study – Bread Of Life

We come to one of the most difficult to understand of the many discourses Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry. I will try to unpack it as best I can, but like Jesus’s hearers, I am also a mere man. Taken literally, this discourse is gory to the extreme, eating flesh (cannibalism) and drinking blood were repulsive and forbidden by God, however, Jesus was speaking using types and symbols which had many Old Testament parallels and pointed-forward to a soon-to-be New Testament reality.

We must remember that this was the season of Passover, so Jesus used “Passover-symbols” which His audience should have been familiar with, and as He spoke, He was pointing-forward to when He would be the final Passover-Lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“, whom John the Baptist announced in John 1:29. His audience, however, couldn’t get past the physical to see the spiritual. So, let’s see if we can unpack this passage and understand what Jesus was really saying. We are going to take this passage one little chunk at a time.

Words to the People
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. 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.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 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? 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. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (John 6:26-34)

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. As you may remember, after the feeding of the five-thousand, the crowd wanted to make Jesus their earthly-king. They just knew that He could solve ALL of their problems, and make sure that they never went hungry. Jesus is acknowledging this; however it wasn’t His true mission.

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.” Jesus never said that eating “real” food was “wrong“, rather He was pointing them to the real reason He was among them, to bring them eternal-life. He is also validating who He is based on His relationship with God the Father.

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” They had a very “works-centered” religion, which was based on keeping the Law. They believed that they could be right with God by keeping the Law and performing the required-rituals, not realizing that the entire Old Testament pointed-forward to the coming Messiah.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Was that “work” “too-easy” or “out-of-reach“? It should have been simple, but they asked instead for another “sign“. What was it going to take to get their attention?

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? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” When they were hungry during their wilderness-trek, God provided food for them. When they were thirsty, God provided water for them. Who else was “thirsty“?

When Jesus offered “living-water” to the woman at the well, she thought that He meant “indoor-plumbing“.

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. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” First, Jesus corrects their notion that Moses was responsible for feeding them in the wilderness, but they STILL don’t “get-it“. They still want God to feed them – FREE

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. 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. 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.” (John 6:26-40)

The simple take-away from this section is that salvation is from God, and ONLY from God, and ONLY from believing in Jesus Christ. His shed-blood and finished-work are all-sufficient for our salvation, and if we are trusting in Him alone, we need not fear for our eternal-destiny.

Words to the Jews
41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 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’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 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. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has 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; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 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’?” Jesus was a “localboy” whom they assumed was the son of Joseph and Mary. They knew His “parents“, so there was no way He could have come from Heaven. NOT

43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 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. Jesus is reiterating that nobody can come to Him unless God opens their “eyes” to see and understand who He is. They were “spiritually-blind” and wrapped up in their own agendas, so no matter what Jesus did, they would never own Him as their Lord and Savior.

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Even though they had, and were familiar with the Old Testament, which was God’s revelation about Himself, they were blind to the fact that God had woven His redemptive-plan into the very fabric of it, and it all pointed forward to Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the incarnate God-Man, was the visual-representation of the Father.

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. Jesus again reiterates that salvation is ONLY of God, and ONLY through faith in Him.

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. Jesus now compares “physical-bread” to “spiritual-bread“. Physical-bread only sustains physical-life for a short time, and must be eaten regularly. Those who ate the manna in the wilderness all died, including Moses, who was not permitted to enter the Promised Land and died in the wilderness. However, those who partake, through faith, of that spiritual-bread, will live forever. Jesus IS that spiritual-bread.

“and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus was forecasting His crucifixion, when His broken-body and shed-blood would pay the final price of redemption for all who believe in Him.

43-52: Jesus tells them to stop grumbling amongst themselves, always a command we need to keep in mind, for while we grumble we neglect what He is teaching. He goes on to give a memorable passage in which He tells them that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, and that we must eat of Him to have life. We must eat of His flesh which He will give for the life of the world. Physical bread will not give eternal life. The people, who are always stuck on the mere physicality of life, are horrified! Yuk!

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “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. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:41-58)

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The Jewish religious-leaders were still stuck on the implications and the horror of physically-eating Jesus’s flesh and blood. They should have known the Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming Messiah, but they were blind to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst.

53-59: Since the people are determined to be stuck on the physical, Jesus gives them physical. He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood as though He were going to offer Himself to a bunch of cannibals. Of course the traditional Sunday school lesson will teach here that Jesus was only speaking of Communion: Laughable! Again, we only see physical things. Jesus was talking about what Communion represents; the reality of Communion. Communion has little to do with its physical aspects; it is all about redemption and what sustains a new life. When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup are we nourishing our bodies? Hardly…

We do this in remembrance of what He did for us; this is important. We go through an act that symbolizes taking Jesus into ourselves to sustain our lives spiritually. When you eat a meal, that food enters your body, and in due course provides energy and nourishment to your body; the elements that make up the food become one with your body on a molecular level. Thus in a sense the food becomes a part of you. When we take the Spirit within us (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) the Spirit becomes a part of who and what we are spiritually, and grows within us when we allow it. This gives us eternal life. This gives us fellowship with God, which was God’s purpose for creating Man in the first place; and completes the cycle of redeeming and reclaiming Mankind for God.

Words to the Disciples
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:59-65)

Even some of His disciples had trouble “digesting” what Jesus just said, because they were still stumbling over “eating” and “drinking” Christ himself. Then He told them “You ain’t seen nothing yet“, because those who stuck-around were going to be eye-witnesses of His ascension into Heaven.

Peter’s Confession of Faith
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:66-71)

Upon hearing all of this, the people following Jesus largely abandoned Him. Of course we now know that this is typical of people who cannot allow themselves to discern spiritual truth. People will often follow Jesus for a time, but when they realize that this involves more than a “get out of jail free” card, and that it will result in growing far beyond the merely physical they bail. Jesus spoke one more great line here, one that we should commit to memory: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” This is truly something we must always keep in mind, for they are the key to unlocking the things of God.

Conclusion
It is important to note that Jesus in this discourse used typology in His treatment of manna and bread. The manna is the type; Jesus is the antitype or the reality that the type represents. God gave provision to the Israelites in the Wilderness with the manna; it sustained them. However this was not God’s ultimate purpose. His ultimate purpose was to redeem Mankind to Himself through Christ, thus the manna as sustenance was the type of Jesus the Redeemer and sustenance unto eternal life. A related type would be the Communion elements: they are not what redeemed us; they are the representation of the body and blood of Christ: Christ is the redeemer. Of course, the Old Testament in particular is full of typology. Moses as the leader and redeemer of the people was a type of Christ; the Promised Land is a type of Heaven, and so on…

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions from Dr. Don Merritt, my beloved friend and mentor, who offered his Reflections on John, without which, I would STILL be stuck.

In Christ,
Steve

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