Apr 27, 2022
Jesus said in John 6:41-59 “I am the bread of life.” The crowd murmured in disagreement. But that didn’t stop Jesus from teaching truth. What did this statement mean to the Jewish people and what does it mean for us today? Let’s unpack this together.
Last week we focused on the blessing after the miracle – that is, Jesus using the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 to point to the glory of God. Now Jesus moves from the area of Genessaret to teach in Capernaum, his home base and a prosperous town of about 1000 people. The lesson He shared is difficult for us to understand TODAY, but if we put ourselves in the shoes of the Jewish people who were contemporaries of Jesus, we can barely begin to imagine the difficulty they would have had with His words.
Which is why John states in chapter 6 verse 41 as written in the New Living Translation…
41 Then the people[a] began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
I can hear it now…What was that He said? Some translations say that the people “grumbled” which can give us a different picture…my dad would have called that “belly aching” … and that can make us think that the crowd may have even been speaking belligerently; but the correct interpretation, I believe, is that they were all kind of whispering to each other, a bit shocked and in unbelief, not knowing what to make of this statement that was said openly in the synagogue. “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
To give you some background, after the Israelites left Egypt, and as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, God provided them manna every single day. The actual word manna means “what is it?” – because the people didn’t know what it was! They quickly learned that manna was bread from heaven that would keep them alive if eaten daily but would only last for a single day. They were to gather what would sustain them for the upcoming 24 hours – or 48 hours if it was the day prior to the Sabbath. If they collected more than that, it would rot in a disgusting way. So they had to trust that God would provide more for them every single day. Later, the Jews were taught that when the Messiah came, He would also bring manna, or bread, that was capable of giving them life.
So now Jesus said, not “I BRING the bread of life,” – which is what they would have been expecting from the Messiah… but “I AM the bread of life – sent down FROM heaven.”
What could this mean?
Instead of trying to understand Jesus’ words, however, they simply dismissed Him by attacking His character. Verse 42…
42 They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
They didn’t understand what Jesus said, so their response was to dismiss His authority. As WE study the Bible and apply it to our lives, there are certainly going to be things we don’t understand. Our job is to keep seeking God’s answer and to trust Him AS the authority even when we don’t understand.
Have you ever heard a word from God, and then questioned whether you heard it at all? Any relationship counselor will tell you that the key to a good relationship is listening. If something confuses you about God or the Bible, keep seeking…keep listening…keep asking questions. Our God is not a God of confusion, and He knows better than we do how we learn and grow. We can always trust His timing and revelation to us.
Jesus didn’t answer their murmurs that dismissed His authority. Instead, He told them to focus in…He wasn’t done explaining. Verse 43…
43 But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. 44 For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.
Anyone who hears about Jesus or feels the pull of faith in Jesus, does so because God has had them in His sight since the beginning of time. We cannot draw ourselves to God – that is one of the reasons we marvel at how gracious and loving He is! Just like the Israelites could do NOTHING to make the manna that would sustain them fall from the sky, we cannot bring God closer to us. On the contrary, God has positioned HIMSELF in our lives – He has OFFERED Himself – our job is to say yes. To accept the manna and ingest it…to receive Jesus, THE bread of life, into our very lives. But unlike manna, which lasted only 24-48 hours, the one who openly receives Jesus, receives life eternal. Jesus is THE bread that will sustain us for ETERNITY.
Jesus backs up this bombshell with the news that He is now their direct access to God the Father. Isaiah and Jeremiah both had prophesied that a time would come when the people would have a direct connection with God … something they had always had to rely on the high priest for…and Jesus is saying that HE is now that direct contact…verse 45
45 As it is written in the Scriptures,[b] ‘They will ALL be taught BY God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
And Jesus gives them further revelation, saying…
46 (Not that anyone has ever seen the Father; only I, who was sent from God, have seen him.)
This was huge! The process of meeting with God prior to Jesus was extreme. God is so holy that a strict prescribed protocol had to be followed for the high priest to enter the holy of holies, where the ark of the covenant was kept and God resided. And that could only happen one time a year. And yet Jesus states that not only is He the Bread of Life sent from God, but He has actually seen God.
I imagine the murmuring was hushed as He underscored this revelation…vs 47
47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the bread of life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.
53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
There is little doubt in my mind that the Jewish people did not understand these puzzling statements. I say that because it is difficult for us to understand, and we’ve had 2000 years to digest and analyze them. In hindsight and in view of history and the rest of the Bible, it is evident that Jesus was referencing His upcoming death and crucifixion as an offering of His body and blood. Life was considered to be in the blood, and flesh represented humanity. Jesus, as a human, died, giving up His flesh and His blood.
We assume that death is a part of life – what’s that saying…the only sure things in life are death and taxes, right? But death is only a given because of sin. When God created humankind, His purpose was that we would spend eternity with Him. Life was perfect. The earth was perfect. But then man sinned, and the effects of sin ushered in not only death, but disease, corrosion, pain, suffering, rain … I could go on and on. The penalty for our sin is our death. We sin. So our death IS sure.
But JESUS lived a perfect, sinless life, and should have never died. He gave up HIS life, in payment for ours. And He rose again, that we might be resurrected if we accept the gift of salvation that He offers us.
Remember that I said that like manna that fell from the sky through no effort of the Israelites, God comes to us through no effort of our own? God CHOOSES to come to us. Jesus CHOSE to come to us. Though no effort of ours, Jesus died for us. Our role is to believe – to accept the gift of His body and blood as a sin offering. Jesus’ body is our true food, that can bring us eternal life. Jesus’ blood is our true drink that will keep us from thirsting for eternity.
Jesus reiterates beginning in verse 56…
56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
We must receive Jesus to live. As complicated as it seems, it really is that simple. There have been theologians throughout the years who use this passage to say that to receive salvation, Christians must literally eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus via communion where the bread and wine miraculously become the flesh and blood of Jesus.
There are others who also believe that salvation hinges on communion, but consider communion as a symbolic ingesting of the flesh and blood of Jesus.
But there are many, and I am in this camp, who believe that this teaching is separate from the teaching of communion. At the last Passover supper, Jesus told His disciples to eat and drink in remembrance of Him, but nowhere linked the physical eating and drinking to attaining salvation. Instead, receiving communion is an act of worship and praise as we remember all that Jesus has done for us.
In this passage, however, Jesus was teaching that to receive the true bread of life, we must repent and surrender our lives to Jesus. We must live by faith, believing that Jesus died for our sins. To eat the bread of life is to accept Jesus into your life and to live with the Holy Spirit inside – guiding you, directing you and sustaining you.
We live in a sinful world, and our bodies will die. But when we yes to Jesus, we begin living a life that will last forever – just as God originally intended. Our commitment seals us to Him as wedding vows seal a bride to her groom. And Jesus will walk us into God’s presence on His arm – from now until eternity. Jesus is the Bread of Life. The only sustenance our souls will ever need.
Will you pray with me…
Dear Most Holy Jesus…we come to you today repenting of our sins and giving our life to you. You are the Bread of Life – your promise to sustain us into eternity is sure – we just need to hold out our hands to you. God help us to surrender. Help us to listen in faith when we don’t understand. Help us to trust your perfect timing when we think we know the best way. Help us to always cling to you. Quiet our murmurs and help whatever unbelief we still hold in our hearts. We give you our lives and trust in your ways. In Jesus mighty name, I pray. Amen.