The Bread of Life (6:22–71)
Are you prepared to confront the person of Jesus as the fullness of God? Jesus has confessed in dramatic fashion His true identity.
Jesus will now challenge His interested followers to see if they are willing to accept Him as He truly is.
The Crowd Pursues Jesus (vs.
This is the same crowd that enjoyed the miraculous meal.
They had completely misunderstood Jesus, seeking to forcefully make Him king.
This new day they were again seeking Him for their own purpose.
But He was not there; the disciples had left in a boat without Him and there was still a small boat there.
Some of the crowd was able to continue their pursuit of Jesus due to the arrival of some boats from Tiberias to the shoreline nearby the scene of yesterday’ miracle.
There were not enough boats for everyone to travel over the sea to follow the disciples’ direction of travel last night, since they assumed that Jesus had left by Himself also.
So those who climbed into the boats available set course for Capernaum, hoping to find Jesus there.
Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him to Capernaum.
2 Jesus Interacts with the Crowd (vs.
A. First Interaction: “When Did You Come Here?” (vs.
They arrived at Capernaum and discovered that Jesus was there.
Their first question was when did He arrive there?
Even though they spoke to Jesus with the honorific title of ‘Rabbi,’ their use of it does not reveal the nature of their intended discipleship; they have been more motivated by hunger than humility.
Jesus calls their spiritual bluff: they seek Him because of their stomachs, reflective of their selfish desires and passions.
They saw signs, but did not comprehend them.
What they wanted was a king who would take care of all their physical needs; not a prophet who would condemn sin and announce the plan of God.
There is a contrast here between physical food, which is the result of work and perishes quickly, and spiritual food, which comes by grace and lasts forever.
We need both because they fulfill two legitimate human life needs, life cannot continue without either.
Our natural man craves one to the exclusion of the other.
The distinction between physical food and spiritual food is symbolic here.
What is the food that perishes?
It is physical food, representing any and all things that satisfy legitimate bodily desires: nourishment, clothing, shelter, medicine, sex, exercise, rest.
The spiritual food represents the need of the human soul to be sustained by its Maker.
Jesus challenged the crowd to stop working for food that perishes and to devote equal passion to fulfilling the hunger of their souls.
Jesus invites them to “Work … for food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
This paradox echoes the invitation of God in Isa.
B. Second Interaction: The Work of God (vs.
Jesus offer of grace was entirely missed by these people, who entirely ignoring His offer to “give,” focused on what “work” they could do to do the “works of God.”
This illustrates the issue of spiritual blindness, caused by one’s stubborn fixation on physical, earthly matters.
John 1:5 illustrates
Those who choose to serve the fallen world system become increasingly self-absorbed, proud, shortsighted, and unable to look up long enough to comprehend such things as spiritual hunger and God’s grace.
Jesus extended His earlier paradox.
The only “work” required is belief in the Son, which involves no work at all.
C. Third Interaction: God Gave You Bread, Not Moses (vs.
Their request for a sign is bizarre in light of their proclamation just the day before that Jesus is the Prophet Moses promised.
But it points to their perspective with the emphasis on “do” and “work” so that they may once again “believe;” their belief is temporal earthbound.
They want Jesus to keep “doing” what they said Moses did so that they could keep “believing.”
But they got it wrong!
Jesus points out that it was God the Father who gave them the manna from heaven, not Moses.
And God is not limited to provide just sustenance for our earthly lives.
He has provided the true Bread from heaven which truly satisfies and is life giving to all who partake of it through faith.
D. Fourth Verbal Exchange: Jesus Is the Bread, Not Manna (vs.
The people did not comprehend Jesus’ spiritual message.
So Jesus makes Himself unmistakably clear.
In verse 35, Jesus links the concepts of belief, bread, eternal life, and Himself.
The people had seen a sign.
Yet they want Him to give them a sign.
They have seen Jesus, yet they do not believe.
Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and then presented a different perspective on the relationship between “signs” and belief.
The people said they needed a sign, claiming it would give them the ability to believe.
But Jesus pointed out that faith responds to God when He reveals Himself.
The presence of God, then, becomes a sort of litmus test.
Those who are His respond in belief and are attracted to Him, while those who are not respond in disbelief and reject Him.
Jesus, who is God in human flesh, came to earth to gather His own, who can be identified by their belief in Him.
E. Fifth Verbal Exchange: “I Am the Living Bread” (vs.
The people grumbled against Jesus just as their forefathers grumbled against God in the wilderness.
But just as God provided them manna in the wilderness as a provision of His grace and to test their forefathers, how they received what God had offered and whether they followed the Lord’s instructions revealed the genuineness of their faith.
Their emphasis on their knowledge of Jesus’ family living in their midst shows their rejection of His claim of having come down from heaven as the true Bread, rejection of his heavenly origin, miraculous conception, and natural birth.
Jesus uses the imagery of “eating” to drive home a spiritual truth: individuals must appropriate His sacrifice through belief.
John had proclaimed in John 1:29
Jesus would become the sacrifice of atonement, which would pay the penalty of sin on behalf of the whole world.
However, only those who believe in Him, receive this gift, and then apply it to their sins will benefit.
This truth was illustrated in the first Passover, described in Exodus 12.
The Israelites had been instructed to sacrifice a lamb on behalf of the whole household, apply its blood to the doorposts and lintel of the house, prepare the meat for consumption, and remain inside as the death angel descended upon Egypt.
Those who did not apply the blood mourned the death of their firstborn sons.
Those who appropriated this symbol of atonement to their homes were spared.
As they ate the flesh of the paschal lamb, the death angel passed over their homes.
Jesus then intentionally pressed his metaphor to extremes to achieve two objectives.
First, He left any reasonable person without excuse for adopting a physical interpretation of His teaching.
How absurd to think He had cannibalism in mind!
Second, He winnowed the wheat from the chaff, allowing the nonbelievers’ own bias to carry them away with the wind.
F. Sixth Verbal Exchange: Life in the Flesh and Blood of Jesus (vs.
The sound of chaff is found in verse 52.
Jesus did not try to clarify any misconceptions they had, but rather intensified their confusion.
The problem they had was not intellectual but spiritual.
But for the genuine believer, Jesus reassures him that there is no danger of being lost.
For the third time in His words to the crowd, He reassures authentic believers that “I will raise him up on the last day” (verse 39-40, 44, 54).
3. The Crowd Deserts Jesus (vv.
A. The Offense of Some “Disciples” (vs.
How many disciples did Jesus have?
By this time in His ministry, He probably had tens of thousands who followed Him with varying degrees of devotion, out of which hundreds may seriously have considered Him to be their rabbi and would have been eager to make Him their king.
Jesus knew their kind of faith and did not entrust Himself to it.
They were the ones who described Jesus’s teachings as “discomforting.”
They would describe Jesus teaching not as hard to understand, but hard to accept.
Jesus challenged the grumblers with a question.
In effect, He asked, “You find yourself unable to accept my claims that I came down from heaven and that you must eat my flesh and drink my blood, so what will you think when I tell you that I will ascend to heaven?”
To put it another way, “If this teaching is impossible for you to accept, you have no capacity to understand anything else I have to say.”
Jesus reiterates His earlier statement in John 6:44:
What God has to teach is so utterly contrary to the sinful, selfish sensibilities of humanity that no one can understand divine teaching without divine help.
The people interpreted the words of Jesus literally because they lacked the spiritual wisdom God gives those who commune with Him.
What is more, people are so entangled in their sinful ignorance that no one can escape unless God draws them toward Himself.
Many of those disciples chose to withdraw from Jesus and to stop following Him, revealing their ignorance of spiritual things.
B. The Confession of the “Twelve” (vs.
When the Twelve were asked if they, too, would stop following Him, Peter spoke for the group.
He answered with a question that revealed his motivation for staying: “To whom shall we go?”
The implied answer is, “To no one, for Jesus is our only option.”