Week 18: John 6:51-59. "Jesus offers a better bread (than Moses)."
Week 18: John 6:51-59 Today, we continue working our way through John 6. Let's start by simply rereading, starting from verse 22. This verse picks up after Jesus fed 5,000 people the bread and the fish, and after Jesus walked on the water. (22) On the next day, the crowd-- the one standing on the other side of the Sea1-- saw that other boats weren't there, except only one, and that he hadn't entered with his disciples-- Jesus-- into the boat, but his disciples alone had departed, but boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread/loaf, after the Lord gave thanks.2 (24) Then,3 when the crowd saw that Jesus isn't there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats, and they came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus, (25) and finding him on the other side of the Sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when here4 did you get?"5 (26) He replied to them-- Jesus-- and he said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the breads/loaves, and you were filled/satisfied. (27) Don't work for the food-- the one perishing/being lost, but the food-- the one abiding for eternal life, which the son of man to you will give.6 For this one, The Father-- the God-- has set his seal on. (28) Then, they said to him, "What shall we do, in order that we may work the works of God?"7 (29) Jesus answered, and he said to them, "This is the work of God: that you give allegiance to the one whom That One sent." (30) Then, they said to him, "Then what sign do you do,8 in order that we may see it, and give allegiance to you? What will you work? Our fathers, the manna, they ate in the wilderness, just as it is written, "Bread from heaven he gave them to eat." (32) Then, he said to them-- Jesus-- "Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses hasn't give you the bread from heaven, but my father is giving you the bread from heaven-- the true one. For the bread of God is the one coming down from heaven, and life giving to the world." (34) Then, they said to him, "Lord/sir, always give to us this bread." (35) He said to them-- Jesus-- "I am the bread of life. The one coming toward me9 will absolutely never hunger, and the one giving allegiance to me will absolutely never thirst again, but I said to you, that indeed you have seen me, and you don't believe/give allegiance. (37) Each one whom the Father gives, toward me he will come, and the one coming toward me I will absolutely never throw out, because I have come down from heaven, not in order that I would do my will,10 but the will of The One Sending me. (39) Now, this is the will of The One Sending me: that each one whom He has given me, I would not lose any of them, but I will raise them up on the last day. (46) For this is the will of my Father, that each one looking at the son and giving allegiance to him would have eternal life, and I will raise him-- I-- on the last day.11 (41) Then, the Judeans12 were grumbling13 about him because he said, "I am the bread-- the one coming down from heaven," (42) and they were14 saying, "Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose, we know15 the16 father and the mother? How now does he say that "from heaven I have come down"? (43) Jesus answered, and he said to them, "Don't grumble with one another. No one is able to come toward me, unless only the Father-- the One Sending me-- draws him, and I will raise him on the last day. (45) It is written in the prophets, "And they will all be taught by God."17 Each one hearing from the Father and learning comes toward me. (46) It is not that, the Father, anyone has seen, except only the one being from God. This one has seen the Father. (47) Truly, truly, I say to you, the one believing/giving allegiance has eternal life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate in the wilderness, the manna, and they died. (50) This is the bread-- the one from heaven coming down, that each one from it may/shall eat, and he may/shall not die. (51) I am the living bread-- the one from heaven coming down. If anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever. So that's where we cut off last week. This week, we begin with the last half of verse 51. Jesus is still talking about how he is the bread, and how he offers bread. But now, his words takes a small step forward ("de"; "Now,). And we are going to find ourselves thinking about Jesus as bread, in a very different way suddenly: Now18, also, the bread that I will give, my flesh it is, for life of the world. (52) Then, they were fighting/quarreling with one another-- the Judeans-- saying, "How is this one able to us to give his flesh to eat?" Jesus says that his bread, is his own flesh. And, in contrast to Moses' manna, his flesh is for the entire world, and not just Judeans. Now, the Judeans, hearing Jesus' words, immediately misunderstand him. They hear from a lower, earthly, human (fleshly) level-- like when Nicodemus asked how people were supposed to crawl into their mothers, and be born a second time. Here, the Judeans struggle to understand how Jesus can cut off pieces of himself, and give those pieces to them to eat. And so Jesus helps them, starting in verse 53. Except, the catch is, he doesn't help them in the way we'd expect. Instead of telling them "how" Jesus can give them his flesh to eat, he tells them that they absolutely must eat Jesus. He strengthens his words. Verses 53-55: (53) Then he said to them-- Jesus-- "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and you drink his blood, you don't have life in yourselves. The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh, true food it is, and my blood, true drink it is. Let's pause here. My wife will tell you that some food, is more truly "food" than others. "True" food is food made from scratch, made with just a few ingredients. And those ingredients are real things, that you can pronounce. "True" food can't sit on a shelf for months without getting moldy, or stale. A homemade cookie is "true" food. A Twinkie is not. Jesus sounds a bit like my wife here, but he takes it a step further. Jesus alone is "true" food and "true" drink. Everything else you put in your mouth is artificial. It's not the real, genuine thing. Only Jesus' food gives you "true" life. How can this be? Every time you put bread in your mouth, what you are doing, is extending your life. When you eat lunch, you've bought yourself another 4 hours of life. Bread is life. But there's a catch to this. All of us will die, at some point. One day, I'll eat my wife's cooking, and I'll be dead 3 hours later. The bread Jesus offers is different. Jesus' bread is "true" food. His bread extends life, forever. Jesus says here, if you don't receive the food he offers, by eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, you don't have eternal life. And Jesus won't raise you on the last day. Verse 56: (56) The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood, in me19 abides, and I in him. "Abiding" is discipleship language. It's part of the cluster of verbs that you have to do, to be one of Jesus' disciples. [Cf. John 1:40, where the disciples "abided" with Jesus, and John 4:40, where Jesus "abided" with the Samaritans 2 days.] And here, Jesus says that if you eat his flesh, and drink his blood, that you will abide in Jesus, and Jesus will abide in you. It's for this reason (connecting this to vs. 53-55) that his flesh and blood give you eternal life-- his flesh and blood, lead to Jesus abiding in you, and you abiding in Jesus. Verse 57-59: (57) Just as He sent me-- The Living Father-- and I live because of the Father, so also the one eating me-- that one-- will live because of me. (58) This is the bread-- the one from heaven coming down-- not just as the fathers ate and they died. The one eating this bread will live forever. (59) These things he said in the synagogue, teaching in Capernaum. We learn in verse 59 that everything Jesus just said, was spoken in the synagogue. And why does AJ tell us this? Why is this important? Let's flip back to John 6:4: "Now the Passover, the festival of the Judeans, was at hand." What we see, near the beginning of John 6, and near the end, is AJ deliberately framing all of chapter 6 against the background of the early church's struggle against Judaism. It's like a picture frame, that changes how you see the picture in the middle. Or a flannel board, that everything else is set against. At the time the gospel of John was written, Judeans are persecuting Christians. They think that Moses is superior to Jesus-- because he parted the Red Sea, because he saw God, because he fed the people manna from heaven, because he gave his people life. Judeans have heard what Christians have to say about Jesus, and rejected it. What Jesus claims, is that he is in every way superior to Moses. He offers a far greater grace. (1) When Judeans celebrated the Passover meal, three parts of that meal were lamb, and bread, and wine. [I'm going to do a poor job explaining this, because there are parts to this I don't understand]. Eating the lamb was a remembrance of the killing of the lamb at the day of Passover, when the angel of the Lord passed over the Judeans' houses to kill the Egyptian firstborns. Eating the bread was a remembrance of the unleavened bread that they prepared quickly, because they were fleeing to escape. In doing all of this, Judeans symbolically entered into the Exodus story, and participated in the release from their slavery to Egypt. [It's the day when "you" came out of Egypt; Deuteronomy 16:3). John 6 systematically works its way through the Passover story, and demonstrates that Jesus offers a greater grace. Jesus is the Passover Lamb (John 1:29). And he is the bread from heaven-- the true bread, the one given for the entire world. What makes Jesus' bread "true" bread? Jesus' bread will cause you to abide in Jesus, and Jesus in you. And, on top of that, his bread will give you eternal life. So if you want to abide in Jesus, and have Jesus abide in you, which meal do you need to eat? You need to eat Jesus' flesh, and drink his blood. Now, this should raise two questions in our minds. The first question, is the one the Judeans asked: "How is Jesus able to give his flesh and blood to us to eat and drink?" At this point in the gospel, we know that Jesus is going to die for the sins of the world. He will sacrifice himself, for us. He will be our Passover Lamb. He will give us his flesh and blood. He will be Bread from heaven for us. But there is also a second question we find ourselves asking. How do you eat Jesus' flesh, and drink his blood? Part of the answer, for sure, is found in John 6:29. "This is the work of/for God: give allegiance to the one whom That One sent." If you want to eat Jesus' flesh, and drink his blood, you have to come to Jesus, and give your allegiance to him. What's more controversial, is whether or not we are supposed to hears echoes of the Eucharist in John 6:51-58. When we break the bread, and drink the wine, what exactly are we doing? What exactly are we eating and drinking? In my opinion, when we eat the bread, and drink the wine, we are eating Jesus' flesh, and drinking his blood. And when we do that, I think Jesus is actually present with us, in this room with us. But it's even bigger than this-- it's not just that Jesus is present. Jesus actually becomes connected to us, and we become connected to Jesus. There is a mutual indwelling-- a union. Now, many of you probably find yourself disagreeing with me here. Maybe you think I sound awfully Catholic, or Lutheran, or something. But the apostle Paul teaches close to the same thing, only in a more straightforward manner. Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 (and hopefully I can drag you at least partway toward me): (14) Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. As to sensible people I speak. Judge what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, a fellowship/partnership is it not, in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, a fellowship/partnership in the body of Christ, is it not? (17) Because [there is] one bread, one body, we the many, we are. For we all from the one bread share. (18) See Israel according to the flesh: Are not the ones eating the sacrifices, partners/fellowshippers in the altar? (19) Therefore/so then, what am I saying? That food sacrificed to idols, anything it is? Or that an idol, anything it is? but what they sacrifice, to demons and not to God they sacrifice. Now, I don't want you, partners/fellowshippers with demons to become. (21) You aren't able, the cup of the Lord to drink, and the cup of demons. You aren't able, the table of the Lord to share, and the table of demons. Paul tells the Corinthians, when you go to a pagan temple, and offer sacrifices to other gods, it's not a harmless thing. You can't tell yourself that an idol is nothing, and that it's no big deal. And the reason for that, is that demons are present. Idols are a demonic thing. So when you sacrifice, you are sacrificing to demons. And, what is the end result? Verse 20: you become "partners," or "fellowshippers" with demons. You are inviting demons to be present with you, and eat a meal with you. [And that's something high on my list of things I want to avoid] Now let's go back to 1 Cor. 10:16. When you eat Jesus' bread, and drink his blood, you become partners-- fellowshippers-- with Jesus. You are inviting Jesus to be present with you (in the same way you'd invite demons to be present at idol temples). You share a table with Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:21). And, somehow, as part of this, you become partners/sharers in Jesus' body and his blood. What Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 10, is not exactly what Jesus teaches in John 6. Paul describes this as "partnering," or "fellowshipping," instead of " mutual abiding." But it's close enough, that it should make us pause, and consider whether or not our views about the Lord's Supper, are what the New Testament actually teaches. [And the differences aren't contradictions-- they just show that the meaning of the Eucharist is complicated/multi-faceted.] When we celebrate the Eucharist (and it is a celebration, not a sad depressing thing), Jesus is with us. We are partnering, and fellowshipping, with Jesus. And what you are eating and drinking, is Jesus' flesh and blood. Now, let's reread John 6:56: (56) The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood, in me20 abides, and I in him. What Jesus adds to Paul, here, is that Jesus isn't just "with" you, sharing a meal with you. Eating the Eucharist actually causes you to abide in Jesus, and Jesus to abide in you. If you want to be in Jesus, and have Jesus be in you, you have to eat his food. ---------------------------------------------- Schnackenburg, The Gospel according to John, vol. 2, 63: "Receiving the Eucharist has this effect because it brings about an intimate connection with Jesus. The participial phrase is identical with that in 54, but a different result of the eucharistic meal is mentioned in the second half of the sentence: the communicant remains in Jesus, and Jesus in him. There is, however, an underlying connection between the two effects: the obtaining of life promised to the recipient of the Eucharist takes place through the enduring union with the divine bearer of life. The only purpose of the association with Jesus achieved through the sacramental communion is to bring the recipient into the sphere of God's life (57). The sacramental doctrine is now being extended: it is not the eating and drinking itself which is important, but the personal union with Jesus which it brings about. The sacramental link becomes a personal union." Schnackenburg then goes on to talk about this union as a "reciprocal union." Gail O'Day, "Luke-John", The New interpreter's Bible commentary, 613: "When the believer eats Jesus' flesh and drinks his blood, the believer and Jesus abide together. Participation in the eucharist places the believer in relationship with Jesus, and the believer receives life through Jesus' abiding presence. The Fourth Evangelist does not draw a line of demarcation between participation in the eucharist and the faith response that many commentators, both Catholic and Protestant, seem to insist that he draw. Rather, what is definitional for faith in the Fourth Gospel is also definitional for the eucharist: the centrality of Jesus in the believer's life and the believer's relationship with Jesus." --------------------------------------------------------------- So when you celebrate the Eucharist, understand that you are not simply doing this in remembrance of Jesus (although that's also biblical language-- 1 Cor. 11:24), and what Jesus did for you through his cross and resurrection. You are inviting Jesus to be present with you. You are eating a meal with Jesus. You are sharing a table with him. You are eating his flesh, and drinking his blood. You are abiding in Jesus, and Jesus is abiding in you. ------------------------------ And if you want eternal life, the feast/festival you celebrate is the Eucharist, not the Passover. The Passover is the "feast of the Judeans." Eternal life is found in the church, and not the synagogue. And, in the larger context of John, people who are trying to be secret Christians, need to understand you have to make a decision about Jesus, either way. Eat the right/true bread. Translation: Now21, also, the bread that I will give, my flesh it is, for life of the world. (52) Then, they were fighting/quarreling with one another-- the Judeans-- saying, "How is this one able to us to give his flesh to eat?" (53) Then he said to them-- Jesus-- "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and you drink his blood, you don't have life in yourselves. The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life, and I will rise him on the last day. For my flesh, true food it is, and my blood, true drink it is. (56) The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood, in/with me22 abides, and I in/with him. (57) Just as He sent me-- The Living Father-- and I live because of the Father, so also the one eating me-- that one-- will live because of me. (58) This is the bread-- the one from heaven coming down-- not just as the fathers ate and they died. The one eating this bread will live forever. (59) These things he said in the synagogue, teaching in Capernaum. 1 It's important to know that in the interaction between Jesus and the crowd that we are about to read, the crowd has just seen the sign of the bread. 2 so the scene is set. AJ confirms something miraculous/unexpected happened, and we learn there are now extra boats sitting around, available. 3 signaling the actual beginning of the story. 4 I'd have to check to see if this is irregular, putting the "here" before the verb. It feels focused. 5 They sense a miracle, and want an explanation? Or, AJ making sure we understand that what we just read is a miracle-- there was no second boat. It doesn't make sense that he's here. 6 Runge has "the son of man" being the focus here, but this seems like Position 1, marking a shift in the topic/subject from "bread" to "son of man." "To you" is normally after the verb. 7 An honest question? They know how to chase food and eat. But how do you work for the eternal bread? 8 Present tense verb, where we'd expect a future. 9 discipleship language. First thing you do is come to Jesus. 10 the will the one of me. 11 Jesus isn't talking here about making sure no one falls away. He's talking about what happens, when some of his sheep fall off a cliff and die, or die from old age, or whatever. Our death here is not the end; Jesus will make sure that's not the end of our story. 12 the "crowd" here now becomes "the Judeans." They've made a conscious choice to reject Jesus-- they have indeed seen Jesus, and not given allegiance. 13 English Bibles are going to translate this ingressively, "began to grumble," but this is again raising our expectations that something else is about to happen. People imperfect verb about Jesus, and then Jesus speaks against that backdrop. 14 A second imperfect. 15 The Judeans are like Nicodemus, "knowing" certain things. 16 sometimes, Greek uses the definite article "the" as a possessive pronoun. The thing I'm wrestling with, at the end of the book, is that Jesus gives up "the" spirit. His spirit, or The Spirit. 17 God is teaching every single one of them. But you can choose whether or not you will hear Him, and whether or not you'll learn. You can tell who is hearing the Father, and learning, by whether or not they come to Jesus. 18 I think this "de" marks a transition to talking in terms of "flesh." The Judeans are now going to grumble about this new addition. Maybe I'll save that for next week? 19 Position 2, after the topic about "the one eating" comes first. A good example of how focus works. 20 Position 2, after the topic about "the one eating" comes first. A good example of how focus works. 21 I think this "de" marks a transition to talking in terms of "flesh." The Judeans are now going to grumble about this new addition. Maybe I'll save that for next week? 22 Position 2, after the topic about "the one eating" comes first. A good example of how focus works. --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------ --------------- ------------------------------------------------------------