10.01.17 Jn. 6:22-59
THE MYSTERY OF JESUS’ CROSSING
22 The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea knew there had been only one boat. They also knew that Jesus had not boarded the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone off alone. 23 Some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord gave thanks. 24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.”
28 “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked.
29 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God — that you believe in the One He has sent.”
30 “What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?” they asked. “What are You going to perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
32 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always!”
35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. 36 But as I told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe. 37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 Therefore the Jews started complaining about Him because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
43 Jesus answered them, “Stop complaining 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 will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to 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 “I assure you: Anyone 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 that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
52 At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. 54 Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, 55 because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. 56 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate — and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
How did Jesus elude the crowds; how did He cross the lake? It is a mystery that remains hidden. He wanted them to realize that He was not there to provide miraculous healings and free dinners. They wanted entertainment, a free meal, but not worship; they wanted food that perishes while Jesus desired to give them “food” that endures. They followed Him to see what they could get for themselves. However, it was not our Lord’s desire to give handouts, but rather, to remove what ought not to be in the heart of the believer and recreate a new person in His image. While this is far more significant than a miracle of multiplied bread along the shores of Galilee, it is the true Bread of Life that many people say they want, but they choose to reject. It is important that the student of Scripture understands this dialogue that Jesus had with the people and His disciples before reading John 6:53-57. There He spoke of “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” and this passage can only be understood in the context of the entire incident above: the Bread of Life discourse.
“Real bread from heaven.” This was a direct reflection that He, Jesus, was the one who provided bread, which meant life and not starvation – to the Hebrews when they were in the desert (Ex. 3:14). A constant theme in the gospels is that Jesus is life; abundant and eternal life. The phrase “real bread from heaven” was a significant statement because of the concern people had for famine or invading armies that could bring immediate devastation. Jesus said He is the “true bread of heaven” (Jn. 6:32); the “bread of God” (Jn. 6:33); the “bread of life” (Jn. 6:35, 48); and the “living bread that comes down from heaven” (Jn. 6:51). Jesus went on to teach “He (God) gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:3). Jesus used this type of metaphor because the prophets used metaphors to describe God. Examples are “the Lord is my rock and my fortress” (2 Sam. 22:2) and “You have been a shelter for me” (Ps. 61:3).
“The One who comes down from heaven.” Jesus did not make a direct statement, “I came down from heaven,” but indirectly demonstrated that He was the Messiah who came down from Heaven for two reasons:
- This statement was for the specific reason that He did not want the people to make Him the political-messiah king to overthrow the Romans. His claim was eventually clearly stated in John 6:33, 38, 41, 50-51, 58.
- He wanted people to discover for themselves who He was.
“I am the bread of life.” John underscored the deity of Jesus by recording seven “I am” statements that are unique to His gospel. Jesus revealed His deity yet did not make a direct claim that He was the Messiah or God, as that would have produced severe negative consequences. The other six statements are,
- “I am … before Abraham was” (8:58)
- “I am the door” (10:7)
- “I am the good shepherd” (10:11)
- “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6), and
- “I am the true vine” (15:1, 5)
John clearly connects the actions of Jesus with the attributes of God Jehovah. In this case, Jesus functioned as Jehovah Jirah – our Lord God who is our Provider. Just as John emphasized the deity of Jesus with these statements, so likewise he mentioned seven miracles Jesus performed. The number seven represents wholeness and completeness, which John connected in this Hebraic manner to the life and ministry of Jesus.
“Everyone the Father gives Me.” Some translations say that “all that the Father gives me.” The word “all” literally refers to everything that Father has put under the control of Jesus. In the vertical human-God relationship, the definition of this word is all encompassing. This is noticeably different from the use of the word in horizontal human-human relationships where it is often used as hyperbole; an exaggeration to enhance the truth.
“The Jews.” This phrase should not be understood as meaning every Jewish person, but the context of the passage points to only those who were challenging him, namely the aristocratic leadership representing national Judaism.
“Stop complaining among yourselves.” Jesus confronted the leading Jews just as Moses earlier had confronted the Israelites who had murmured against him in the desert (Ex. 17:3, 7; Num. 17:14). Not only did Jesus speak to them personally, but He also spoke against the Sanhedrin to which they belonged, an organization they believed was almost as sacred as the temple itself. Finally, in this seemingly harmless statement, in their eyes, Jesus equated Himself with Moses. They could not miss the imagery. They detested the comparison.
The words, “Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood,” were hard to understand even at the time of Jesus. Even at the time of Jesus, there were those who thought it to be grotesque. However, the Hebrew language is a pictorial language that presents a hint to the correct interpretation. For anyone familiar with ancient sacrifices, as the Jewish people were, it really was not that unusual. There are two interpretations of which the second one is generally seen as the most acceptable.
- All the sacrifices of the Old Testament were, in some way, symbolic of the life and ministry of Jesus. When the Passover lamb, for example, was sacrificed at the temple, it was roasted and then taken home to be eaten. When Jesus said, “Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood,” He was saying that He is that sacrifice – the sacrificial lamb – that the Jewish people were eating. While they did not drink blood, Jesus was speaking of the entire sacrifice as pointing to Himself – He will be the sacrifice for the sins of humanity. The phrase “blood of Jesus” is to be understood as the atoning death of our Savior.
- This phrase was a figure of speech that Jesus used to dramatize the point that the essence of Him has to become the essence of each of us. An Old Testament example that shed light on this was spoken by God to the prophet Ezekiel. In 3:1, God said to him, “Eat this scroll, then go and speak to the house of Israel.” Obviously, that did not mean a physical scroll, but it did mean Ezekiel was to “internalize” the Word of God thoroughly, understand it completely, and then speak to the Hebrew people. Likewise, when Jesus said “eat the flesh of the Son of Man” it was His intent for the people to internalize His words. He meant that His followers ought to consider Him the bread of eternal life. Just as physical food becomes a part of the human body, likewise spiritual food is to become part of the spiritual body.
He deliberately made some statements knowing these would be challenging, and thereby, He forced the people to think and debate His words and His identity. As has been often stated, the primary challenge Jesus had was to convince the Jews that He was radically different from their preconceived ideas of the messiah.
Not only is this a difficult saying for us today, it was also difficult for some disciples. John recorded that some who heard these words decided to leave. Yet this was not the first lesson they failed to understand. Jesus was surprised that they did not grasp the significance in the feeding of the five thousand (Mk 6:51-52). The gospel writer said their hearts were hardened and their minds were closed. It is important not to separate this passage from the multiplication miracle, but consider it an extension of that event.
One scholar condensed the meaning as follows: When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, they would have died without manna and water. So likewise without Jesus in their lives, people have no hope. Just as manna and water were essential to physical life, so Jesus is essential to spiritual life.
. See 10.01.13.
. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 735.
. See “Jesus, the Fulfiller of Selected Names of God” in Appendix 32 for additional attributes; Evans, Praying the Names of God. 123-24.
. The Seven Signs: Water into Wine (Jn. 2:1-2); Healing the Nobleman’s Son (Jn. 4:46-54); Healing the Paralytic (Jn. 5:1-17); Feeding the 5,000 (Jn. 6:1-14); Calming the Storm (Jn. 6:15-21); Healing Man Born Blind (Jn. 9:1-14) and Resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11:17-45).
. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 127.
. Morris, “Blood.” 1:202.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 498.
. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 9, 10.