The past week or so, I’ve been drawn back again and again to the passage of Scripture where Jesus is talking about how he is the bread of life (John 6:25-59).
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53).
Sometimes, I fall into the habit of reading through Scripture in this mundane manner when I fail to be engaged in what it’s saying. Other times, I read something like this and think to myself, “If I was reading this verse alone, it would sound like Jesus is advocating for cannibalism.”
The beginning of this passage is slightly humorous. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (John 6:25). Before all of this, Jesus had taken five small barley loaves and two small fish, broken them, and fed five thousand men. After everyone had eaten and had their fill, leftovers were collected. Jesus withdrew from the crowd to a mountain by himself, avoiding the people, for he knew they intended to make him king. Meanwhile, his disciples set sail, crossing the Sea of Galilee, to Capernaum. Jesus wasn’t in the boat. He joined them later, strolling up to the boat, walking on the water. This was at night. When morning arrived, the crowd from the day before realized that Jesus was gone. There were no boats after the disciples left; they knew Jesus had not gone with them. The crowd then saw some boats coming in to the shore, which were from Tiberias. So, they hopped into them, setting off to cross the lake in search of Jesus (John 6:1-24).
“Rabbi, when did you get here?” They ask, probably somewhat baffled.
Jesus doesn’t answer this question. He doesn’t explain that he walked across the lake (3.5 miles) out to where his disciples were caught in the strong wind and waves. He doesn’t tell how his disciples where terrified when they saw him, thinking he was a ghost or how the wind and waves became calm instantly. He cuts straight to the heart of the matter.
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
The crowd asks him what they have to do in order to do the works God requires. “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” The crowd asks him for a miraculous sign, so they might believe. They refer to the manna which God provided for their forefathers in the desert. Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Sir, give us this bread, they said (John 6:30-34).
Jesus tells them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” (John 6:35-36).
They had seen Jesus multiply five small loaves of barley and two small fish just the day before. Jesus (God himself John 1) displayed his power, yet they asked for another miraculous sign. He had provided for their physical needs, knowing that the hunger and need they possessed went far beyond the physical.
Jesus continues, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:37-40).
The Jews in this crowd began to grumble. How could this man be say he came down from heaven? He’s Joseph’s son. We know his mother and father (John 6:41-42).
Jesus tells them to stop grumbling and that no one can come to the father unless the Father draws him, raising him up at the last day. Jesus says that no one has seen the Father except the one sent from him. He says, “He who believes in me has everlasting life.” He then goes on to explain that unless a person eats from his flesh and drinks of his blood, that person will not have life. Many disciples desert Jesus because of this hard teaching (John 6:44-59).
Jesus is the bread of life. Over and over again in this passage he states, “I tell you the truth…” I’m offering you this bread, this gift, this LIFE. You are hungry, not only physically but deep in your soul. Nothing you try, nothing you do will satisfy it. What you are seeking is only temporary. Seek what is LASTING, what ENDURES. Your condition is broken and fragile apart from Me. There is nothing you can do to earn it, to work for it. Rather, “Believe in the one he has sent.”
This word is pisteuo in Greek, derived from pistis, which means to trust, to have confidence in. Another way of defining it would be “God’s divine persuasion.” It’s amazing that the very nature of this word points back to a Giver, to God. This trust, this faith, this knowing is never generated but rather received.
John 6:44 states “No one can come to me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” This verse is not saying that God is selective in who is drawn to him. God’s will is that none shall be lost (John 6:39). The word draw means to drag, pull in, persuade. It again points back to God as the initiator of the persuasion. He desires to be known.
Later in verse 65 of this chapter, Jesus states, after many disciples had left and claimed that this teaching was hard, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” This word enable (didomi) means a gift that is offered or placed, to grant.
God is holy. Humanity is fallen. Think about this in light of these words.
Acknowledging the holiness of God would require the realization that I am unholy. In my broken, sinful state, I’m separated from God. There is nothing I can do to generate my own holiness or to put myself in a place of being acceptable to God. He alone enables; he gifts it.
This is why Jesus says that he is the bread of life and that he is “…the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Cue the grumbling Jews. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat” they ask. Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:51-54).
In giving his life for the world, he was making reference to his willing suffering that would come, the cross. The only way to be restored to the perfect holiness of God, to be accepted and reconciled to him, would be a perfect sacrifice. This is the gift of God and the bread of life. He invites us to come to him. We must choose.