[9]   Signs and Discourses 6: the Bread of Life (6:22-71)

Explanation

 

[C10]  6:22-71........... FOURTH Discourse - the bread of life

·         The audience gathers (6:22-25)
·         Food that abides (6:26-27)
·         The works of God (6:28-29)
·         The bread of life (6:30-40)
·         Christ and the bread (6:41-51)
·         Eating the flesh and drinking the blood (6:52-59)
·         Words that are Spirit and life (6:60-66)
·         Peter’s confession (6:67-71)

 

The reference to the bread of life is mostly likely a reference to spiritual realities. Eating Christ’s flesh and drinking the blood point to that central saving act. Christ’s death opens the way to life and people enter that way by faith. There may also be a secondary reference to the sacrament of holy communion.

It is possible that the discourse took place in more than one occasion with the concluding section in the synagogue.

 

6:22     “Only one boat” refers to one boat that had been at the disposal of Jesus and His party.

 

6:26     Jesus totally ignored the opening question of the multitude. He started with “I tell you the truth.”

The multitude had only seen the bread in the sign. They came because their hunger had been satisfied.

6:27     If people seek this food, then the Son of Man will give them eternal life.

The seal showed that the seal’s owner approved.

 

6:28     The present subjunctive denotes continuity: “What is to be our regular course of action?”

There are rabbinic passages in which heavenly food is taken to symbolize the Torah, the Law. The question may mean: “What ought we do by the of law works?”

The phrase literally is “the works of God” meaning “godly works” and “works pleasing to God.”

6:29     Jesus replaces their “works of God” with the singular “work of God.” Only one thing is needed, faith.

The “work of God” means that which God requires of us.

 

6:30     Jews expected that, when the Messiah came, he would renew the miracle of the manna.

They observed the wonders but they were not satisfied. So they dared to impose on God the sign they must have before they would believe.

6:31     They brought out the kind of sign they wanted by citing the manna in the wilderness. The manna accredited Moses and they wanted to same accreditation for Jesus.

6:32     “I tell you the truth” again.

Jesus said that first of all the gift of manna was not Moses’ gift. It came from God. Second, it was not the true “bread from heaven” but an earthly, material type of the bread.

There is a contrast between “has given” and “gives”; the gift Jesus brings is ongoing. He continually gives and God keeps giving the true bread.

6:33     While Jesus said “He who” but the hearers likely understood as “that which”.

The bread of God gives life. The present tense denotes continuing action.

“The world” denotes its scope, showing God’s concern for the whole human race.

6:34     The people asked Jesus to provide the bread “always”; but the request was in materialistic terms.

6:35     “I am” is a solemnly emphatic statement, and in this context has overtones of divinity. This is the first of seven such emphatic statements in this Gospel.

“the bread of life” (6:35, 48), “the light of the world” (8:12), “the door” (10:7), “the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6), “the true vine” (15:1, 5)

Jesus Himself is the food, the sustenance that nourishes spiritual life.

Becoming a Christian is a movement away from the old life with its beggarly famine and its total inability to satisfy.

Both words for “never” are emphatic (“shall never never thirst”). There is no room for spiritual hunger and thirst after receiving Christ. This does not exclude a further desire for spiritual things, but it rules out forever the possibility of the unsatisfied hunger.

6:36     “But” introduces a strong contrast.

6:37     “All” points to all persons.

The word “never” is again emphatic.

6:38     The thought of His coming down from heaven is repeated seven times in this chapter.

The proposition is emphasized by both its negative and positive forms.

6:39     Again both negative and positive sides.

The salvation that Jesus brings is no temporary thing. It is ultimate and final.

6:40     Once more, the emphasis is on the eternal nature of the life that Jesus brings.

 

6:41     The scene now shifted to the synagogue (v.59). The leading Jews were angry and in opposition.

While the quote was not totally accurate, it conveyed the meaning of Jesus.

The tenses used in Jesus’ descent differ in different passages. The aorist tense (3:13; 6:41, 51, 58) points to the decisive action of the incarnation; the present (6:33, 50) to Jesus’ as the One from heaven; the perfect (6:38, 42) to the continuing result of the past act of incarnation.

6:42     The people felt that they could show out of their own personal knowledge that Jesus’ statement was false. Their assumption was that because Jesus was lowly, and because He was well known to them, therefore He could not have been from heaven.

6:44     Drawing people to Jesus is a divine initiative.

6:45     Jesus quotes from Isa 54:13 that God will teach His people within their hearts. All those who are taught this way, who hear God, and learn what they hear, do come to Jesus.

6:46     As in 1:18, no human has the vision of God, no one apart from the Son.

6:47     “I tell you the truth” again.

6:49     The manna had its limitations. It was food for the body, but it was no more. Those who ate it eventually died.

6:50     The bread that Jesus offers is not of earthly but of heavenly origin. And when anyone takes it (“eat” is in aorist tense, of the once-for-all action of receiving Christ), he will not die. “Died” in the previous verse referred to physical death; here the same verb refers to spiritual death.

6:51     The positive statement balances the negative statement of the previous verse.

The future “I will give” would be made on Calvary.

The word “flesh” (Gr. sarx) is distinct from “body” (Gr. soma) used in eucharist such as 1Co 11.

 

6:52     Some were strongly for Jesus resulting sharp arguments but they must have been outnumbered.

6:53     “I tell you the truth” again. Jesus wanted the saying to be deliberate and important; he wanted there to be no doubt about it.

He spoke explicitly of eating His flesh, and He added the drinking of His blood. This idea would be especially abhorrent to Jews because they were forbidden to partake blood (Gen 9:4-5; Lev 17:11, 14; Dt 12:23) as blood and life are very closely associated in the OT.

Both “eat” and “drink” are aorists, denoting once-for-all action, not a repeated eating and drinking (such as sacrament), and these are absolutely necessary for etenal life. It is a graphic way of saying that people must take Christ into their innermost being. Westcott: “To ‘eat’ and  and to ‘drink’ is to take to oneself by a voluntary act that which is external to onself, and then to assimulate it and make it part of oneself...this spiritual eating and drinking brings the object of faith into the believer.”

It is also an allusion to the atoning death that Jesus would die as biblical evidence shows clearly that blood points to violent death.

6:54     What has been put negatively is now stated positively again.

“Flesh” is not commonly used with reference to the sacrament. In every other NT passage referring to it the word is “body”.

The word “eats” is different from that used previously with the tense pointing to a continuing appropriation. The word also conveys the notion of eating with enjoyment.

The continuing reference to Christ’s raising up the believer at the last day is interesting, pointing a prominent life in the age to come.

6:56     The word “remains” is continuous tense with the thought of abiding, a permanent fellowship with the Lord.

6:57     The life of the Son is bound up with that of the Father and the Son lives for the Father.

6:58     The thought of verses 49-50 is repeated in another form. In contrast with “our forefathers” (plural) is “he” (singular); faith must be personal.

 

6:60     Jesus’ saying is difficult to accept. It is no longer possible to follow Him unreflectively and without committing oneself.

“Hard” means not so much that the saying is hard to understand as that it is hard to accept.

“Accept” (literal “hear”) means “hear with appreication” or “take in”.

6:62     The sentence is unfinished. The meaning might be “If, then, you see the Son of man ascending to where he was before, will you not be convinced?” Or we could add: “will you not then be even more offended?” Neither view is really satisfactory, and it may well be that both are required.

“Where he was before” implies Christ’s preexistence.

6:63     There is a contrast between “the Spirit” who “gives life” and “the flesh” that “counts for nothing.” It is a reference to the Holy Spirit, the Life-giver.

The limitation of fleshly life is that those whose lives are taken up with material things, things of the here and now, cannot understand Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus’ words are creative utterances (compare with the words of God in Gen 1) and they bring life.

6:64     Jesus knew who would believe and who would not. He knew that Judas would be the betrayer.

6:65     It is impossible for anyone to come to Christ unless that Father gives the grace to do so. Conversion is always a work of grace. Some think that this is predestination.

6:66     “From this time” might also be rendered “for this reason” or John may mean both.

For some, following Jesus meant something different from anything they had anticipated. They were interested in a messianic kingdom. Instead they found themselves invited to believe, to receive Christ, to eat His flesh and drink his blood, to enter into eternal life. Because their expectation was different, they left.

“Followed” is literally “walked”, revealing the wandering nature of Jesus’ ministry.

 

6:67     Jesus’ question seeks for an answer of loyalty.

6:68     Peter became the spokesman for the Twelve in a magnificent declaration of allegiance and acceptance.

The word “Lord” may mean much or little; it can be no more than a polite form of address or it might also be the proper form of addressing deity. In this context, it no doubt has the maximum meaning.

Peter correctly understood Jesus’ words about eternal life.

“We” is emphatic meaning that whatever be the case with the others, we, the Twelve, have made our decision.

The verbs “believe and know” are both in perfect tense meaning: “We have come to a place of faith and continue there. We have entered into knowledge and retain it.”

“You” is also emphatic, stressing Christ’s place and person.

“The Holy One of Israel” clearly sets Jesus with God and not man.

6:70     Judas was “a devil”, meaning that in the spirit of Satan he would actively oppose what Jesus stood for.

6:71     “Iscariot” is a place name, probably referring to a place (Kerioth) not in Galilee. If so, Judas was the only one of the Twelve who was not a Galilean.