Study Series in John's Gospel

The Witness of Bread

Study Series: The Gospel of John

Larger Context: Jesus’ Self-Disclosure in Word and Deed (1:19-10:42)

This Study: The Witness of Bread (6:1-71)

Murray McLellan

The Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:1-15)

The episode of which we are about to read is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. This sign which Jesus performs again testifies to the public nature of His miracles.

V. 1-2 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.

These people followed, not so much because they wanted to obey Him, but like those of 2:23-25, they saw the signs. That was their focus. This multitude was not interested in a Savior from sin, or a Lord over their lives, but they were definitely impressed by a worker of miracles. These miracles were signs, but this was not understood by the crowd.

V. 3-4 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews was near.

Jesus moved to the high ground on the east side of the lake (known today as the Golan Heights). The Jewish Passover celebrated the exodus from Egypt, in which each household would slaughter a lamb and eat it. In the upcoming discourse in the latter half of this chapter, John is going to identify Jesus, in His flesh, as the bread of life which must be given for the world (v. 33, 51) – the bread which must be eaten if people are to have eternal life. The old Passover is superseded by the new Passover. The Old Testament manna is superseded by the real Bread of life. The movement from Moses to Jesus is John’s continuing testimony.

V. 5-6 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

Jesus already had His own plan!

V. 7-9 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denari worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

So typically, the disciples are thinking in terms of the natural world. This was a very large number of people in contrast to such a tiny amount of food. This is given to heighten the miracle. Read 2 Kings 4:42-44 to see what God had done through Elisha – but a greater than Elisha is here!

V. 10-11 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

Jesus thanks God. He does not bless the food or say a blessing over the food.

This multitude was hungry, not having eaten for some time. They got as much as they wanted and were full.

V. 12-13 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

Again we see that all were satisfied. It is not just that they each got a little bite, but all were completely filled.

This is not a lesson to get people to share their lunches. This is the sign that the Lord who declared …”I will satiate (i.e. fill to the full) the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.” (Jer. 31:14) … and … “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” Ps. 81:10 (He is the Lord of Passover!) Unfortunately with a stubborn heart, Israel walked in their own counsels, when “He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.” (Ps. 81:16)

Read also Neh. 9:15-21. Jesus is declaring by His works, “I am that God!”

See 1 Kings 17:8-16. Jesus is saying, “I am the Lord of Elijah!”

V. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

They recognized Him as the prophet spoken of by Moses (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:18-26). However, they saw Him like a Moses, providing manna in the wilderness, but they did not see Jesus as the fulfillment of Moses.

Does not this miracle show that Jesus has power? Does it not give you confidence that He can build up that which is ruined and strengthen that which is weak? Our Master can create and renew. If He declares, “Let there be bread,” there is bread! The disciples distributed the bread to the multitudes, but it was not their hands that made it increase and multiply and satisfy hungering souls. It was their Master’s. It was His almighty power that provided an unfailing supply. Let us who have received the Bread of life, be faithful distributors of the food which our Divine Master has provided. Bring your loaves and small fish to the Lord and you will be amazed what He can do!

How like the gospel is this miracle. Weak and feeble and foolish as it may seem to man – the gospel of the cross of Christ is the power of God unto salvation! (1 Cor. 1:18)

V. 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

They did not understand the nature of the kingdom. They saw Jesus like Moses, who delivered the people out of slavery to Egypt. They were thinking that surely this one would help them escape the bondage to Rome.

They had seen His healing power and experienced feeding from food provided by His miraculous power. Surely nothing could prevent such a one to be the powerful Deliverer so many of the children of Israel longed for. They wanted to force Him to assume the role they had in mind for Him.

The truth is, Jesus’ kingdom was like no other (John 18:36). Jesus knew His kingdom would triumph by His dying and rising from the dead. He would go to Jerusalem, not to wield the spear and bring judgment, but to receive the spear thrust and bear the judgment!

Jesus Walks on the Water (6:16-21)

V. 16 – 18 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.

The absence of Jesus equals darkness.

V. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.

Read Job 9:8; Ps. 95:5a; Hab. 3:15 (Greater than through … “on” and “above”) Ps. 93:3-4

V. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

i.e. Don’t be afraid – I am your salvation! (See Isa. 41:10,14; 43:1-3a)

V. 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

Willingly – what an understatement! The effort of the disciples couldn’t overcome the storm and get them where they wanted to go (Mark 6:48-52). When they received Jesus into the boat, they immediately got there without effort on their part. (Read Ps. 107:4-9, 17-31)

If people are so frail that they faint for lack of food, how will they bear the anger of the ruler of the seas? Oh to see a multitude, not seeking God, but seeking the food that perishes; a multitude without a shepherd. In fact, when the Shepherd came, they would not follow. Let us pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into His harvest – others who have compassion on a multitude of a lost and perishing people. Let us tell them where they can eat and be filled! (2 Kings 6:24-7:20)

The ‘Bread of Life’ Discourse (6:22-58)

This discourse on the bread of life has an obvious link to the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. The other link, we shall see, is to that manna provided in the wilderness in Moses’ day. As we move through this section, we will see that the Passover (as referred to in verse 4) shifts to a focus on the new and better Passover, continuing John’s theme that Jesus is the Christ – the fulfillment of the promises.

Also, in Christ’s discourse that follows, verse 63 makes it clear that this is NOT talking about the Lord’s table or “communion” or physical bread. “…the flesh profits nothing…” There is no reference to the bread and wine of the communion table.

V. 22 – 25 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone- however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place when they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks – when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. And when they found Him on he other side of the sea, they said to Him,”Rabbi, when did You come here?”

Witnesses saw that the disciples alone got into the one boat. The seekers of bread go to Capernaum to seek Jesus, and they are somewhat amazed that He’s there already.

V. 26-27 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you ,you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

Had Jesus told them how He got there, they would have been totally impressed. Jesus gets right to their hearts. What knowledge of men’s hearts our Lord Jesus Christ possesses! He knows exactly why people do what they do. He knows the motives of your heart. His are the eyes that are a flame of fire (i.e. Rev. 1:14 – the Ancient of Days does not have dim eyes!).

The dialog that occurs in the following paragraphs took place in the synagogue at Capernaum (see v. 59). This may give us a glimpse of how teaching took place in the synagogue in a dialog kind of format.

These people who labored for the food which perishes, failed to see the significance of the signs. They saw the miracle but they missed that it was a sign testifying to who Jesus was. Even His disciples’ hearts were hardened (Mark 6:52 and later in Mark 8:14-21). How much less did the crowds understand the parabolic significance of the sign?

Like the woman at the well, they are living for the pleasures of this world – things which perish with the using. Even the bread they ate in the wilderness was such that it perished with the using. It was a sign of something greater. Men and women should pour their energies into pursuing food that endures to eternal life, and water that wells up into eternal life (Jn. 4:14). The continuing dialog shows that the food is Jesus Himself! Jesus not only gives the food; He is Himself the Bread of Life.

We see a similar message in Mark 8:34-36. This is repentance unto life. It is to change one’s master. It is to recognize Jesus as rightful owner (He bought and paid for His own). Your life is not given to you as a gift for you to do with as you please. Your life is bound up in Him – for whatever He desires to do with it. Christ can exalt you or put you in a prison cell to be tortured – whatever He desires. Your life (your opinions, your goals, your ideas) you subject to Christ, who has created and sustains and owns your life. You lose your life of these 70 years or so to Christ, for whatever He wants to do with it. In return, He forgives all your sins and you get to live with Him in absolute paradise for eternity. That is the cost (see Luke 14:25-33). To repent is to give it all up to Christ the Lord – everything – your family, your possessions, even your own earthly life. God may give it all back to you and more. He may also take it all away. To hold on means you have not repented. You do not believe in Him, and unless you repent, you will perish (Luke 13:5).

Three burning questions:

  • Has this life been so radically changed that I now consider what God wants above what I want?
  • Have I presented this life to Christ, its rightful owner, for whatever He wants to do with it?
  • Am I totally trusting in Christ’s work to make me acceptable to God, not adding anything of mine into the mix?

The answer to these three questions is an unconditional “yes” in the heart of a true child of God. It is no kindness or love to flatter professing Christians, who do not bear the marks of a repenter. Rather we need to call them to believe, as Jesus does in John 6:26-29.

The unbeliever always considers, “What’s in it for me?” The unbeliever still foolishly claims ownership to this life.

Labor for the food which endures to everlasting life. God the Father “has set His seal on” Jesus Christ (v. 27). God has His own seal of approval and He has certified the Son as the giver of this food. The Son of Man is the only authorized and designated giver of eternal life. As Joseph was set apart and appointed as the one who alone could distribute food from Egypt and feed Israel in the days of the famine (see Gen. 41-42); Jesus is set up and appointed by God to relieve the spiritual famine of His people.

Oh, the sadness of multitudes laboring for the food which perishes. I would like to examine one more passage so that we do not lightly pass over this statement of warning by our Lord Jesus Christ. Please carefully read Luke 16:19-31, as what is written below in the next few paragraphs will relate to the truth given there.

Here (Luke 16:19-31) we have a striking picture of two men – one who labored for the food which perishes and the other who pursued the food which endured to eternal life.

Fix your attention on the rich man. Listen to his cry. Hear the voice of one who had received his good things in this fleeting life, who had fared sumptuously every day without providing for eternity, now crying for a drop of water to cool his parched tongue. He who labored for the food which perishes – he who had it in abundance – is now plunged into unspeakable, inconceivable, and everlasting torments. Hear the sighs and groans of the damned soul in Hades. If you will not heed my voice, heed his. He speaks from experiential knowledge.

The rich man personifies all the thoughtless and unconverted who die in their sins. Can we truly grasp his regret for having neglected the great salvation! If this passage ended at verse 21, many, judging according to outward appearance, would have drawn a wrong conclusion. They would see the rich man as the happy one. But when you have read the whole passage – and have received the complete picture, you see that there is no one in a worse condition than he.

It is sad to see how most people neglect their precious souls, turning their backs on the glorious gospel, and giving little attention to the crucified and risen Lord of heaven and earth. The things of this present life are highly prized. Such is the blindness of their understanding, that people will venture the loss of their eternal souls for a moment’s pleasure – for short-lived comforts – for the food which perishes. Be wise, dear reader, before it is too late, and repent, or it will be a dagger to your heart one day, to remember what a Christ, what a soul, what a heaven you have lost for a few pleasures; a little enjoyment of this present passing world.

How many look upon serious Christians as fools and deluded for pursuing the Christ of the Bible? The time will come when they will change their tune. Ask the rich man spoken of in Luke 16, who was the fool – he or Lazarus? He would soon tell you clearly. “The triumphing of the wicked is short;” (Job 20:5) but the afflictions of the righteous are but for a season. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17)

Ponder the passage one more time. Behold the rich man clothed in fine linen, fed with delicacies, and faring sumptuously every day; but look a little farther, and this same man is clothed with vengeance, destitute in torments, and earnestly begging for a drop of water to cool his tongue. What a sad change. On the other hand, we behold a poor but righteous recipient of grace, with a hungry belly, naked back, and running sores, begging at the rich man’s gate for a morsel to feed his belly. What a sad state, but short. Look again and behold this beggar gloriously carried, as in a chariot of triumph, by the angels to Abraham’s bosom, shining in glory, clothed with beautiful garments, and his soul abiding with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the Father! His rags are gone! His sores are healed! His soul is full of joy unspeakable! As the one did not carry his wealth and goods with him into hell, the other left his coarse diet, filthy rags, and painful body behind when he entered heaven. The worldly man’s portion was for his brief life (Rev. 18:14). The godly man’s afflictions were for his brief life. (See Psalm 37:34-38).

What joy to be a partaker of Christ’s salvation and to share in the everlasting communion of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Oh, what eternal rest in the soul-satisfying, soul-saving Christ, who came from the bosom of love, and gave Himself as the Way to everlasting glory. All you who see your need are called, invited, and persuaded to come to Him whose heart is open, arms spread, and who has room enough in His bosom to receive you; grace enough to pardon you; blood enough to justify you; treasures enough to enrich you; and pleasures enough to delight you for all of eternity!

Would you lose this Christ, this food, this pleasure, this heaven, this happiness, this fountain of living water for a vain drink out of a broken cistern? These are solemn realities. He who came from the heaven itself- from the bosom of the Father – reveals them to us. “Hear Him!” “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

V. 28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

In verse 27, Jesus’ focus was on the goal to which one should labor or work. They focus on the works and ask what God requires, that they might perform them. They do not have a sense of sin, unworthiness, helplessness, and hopelessness. They figured that if they just do the right work, they would earn any and every blessing of God. “Doing” was their only idea of the way to heaven.

V. 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

What God requires is faith – faith in the One He has sent! The “work” that pleases God is faith, for that is the way that exalts Jesus with all the glory and honor. It is not some abstract faith that pleases God. Faith must have its proper object – the true and living Christ of God!

V. 30-31 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

They get right back to their original agenda. They have ears but not ears that hear what Jesus is actually saying. They are basically asking, “Who are you that we should believe in you?” Perhaps they are saying that Jesus gave them earthly bread (i.e. v. 1-14), but Moses, their first redeemer, gave them bread from heaven. So maybe they want to see a sign at least as great as that. The bottom line seems to be that they want bread for their bellies. They want Jesus to prove His credentials by bringing down manna again.

There seems to be no limits to man’s dullness, prejudice, and unbelief in spiritual matters. Here, fresh from the mighty miracle of the loaves and fish, they are no more ready to believe than before. No wonder Mark records that the Lord marveled at man’s unbelief (Mark 6:6). Let us remember, as we carry forth the gospel, not to be cast down because our words are not believed and our effort seems to be in vain. We must not complain or think it strange that the people with whom we have to do are particularly stubborn or hard. Just look at the men to whom the Lord preaches. If He who was perfect and so great a teacher was not believed, it should come as no surprise is men do not believe us.

V. 32-33 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father 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.”

Jesus is telling them that they are putting too much attention on Moses. Moses is not on center stage; he was only the warm up act! The bread (manna) in Moses’ day wasn’t the ultimate and true bread. They were focusing on the wrong thing – the wrong bread!

Again, the word true is not used in opposition to “false”. It was not that the manna was false, or that the bread to feed the 5000 was false. Rather, this is the ultimate reality – the true bread – the ultimate bread to which all the others pointed. However, just as their fathers had responded to the manna (see Num. 21:5), so too, the true bread was despised and rejected of men. Jesus alone nourishes, and He feeds us on Himself. Everything else is husks – vanity. He alone is true bread.

When Jesus says, “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven,” He uses “gives” in the sense of “offers to you” or “presents to you.”

The bread of God and the bread of heaven and the bread of life are referring to the same thing. (Similar to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven.)

Jesus gives His life to the world – for all He represents. This great Savior is not just presented to Israel, but to the whole world. Remember in John 1:4, where we saw that in Him (the Word) was the life, and when the Word became flesh (1:14), life was brought down to us. In His flesh, given for us, we have life. The life is in the blood that the Man Christ Jesus shed for us (Lev. 17:11)! It is life full and abundant and glorious and everlasting. It is life abiding and unbroken. It is life undeserved and unearned. It is life which no power of death or influence of disease can affect or impair. It is life from the dead. Like Lazarus, the Word of God has called forth, “Arise, My love!” We now have spiritual life in Him. How different everything is to us now! It is life that looses our bonds and brings in the liberty. It is life that casts out the darkness and fills us with light. It is life that gives us eyes to see, and ears to hear, and feet to run in the heavenly way. We are partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Don’t get over it!

“And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Cor. 15:45) Our food and life is the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, given in sacrifice (see John 6:51).

V. 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord give us this bread always.”

They still haven’t got it. “Always” seems to imply that they want Him to keep repeating the miracle, but Jesus tells them that that is not how it works. He identifies Himself as the bread of life.

V. 35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

Now obviously, there is a sense in which even we as Christians thirst for more and need constant nourishment, but that is not what Jesus is dealing with here. He is dealing with salvation – in that sense when you have eaten of the bread of life, your hunger is satisfied – your thirst is quenched forever. (i.e. You only need to bathe once, yet you still wash your feet – John

13:9-10). When I came to Christ, I stopped looking elsewhere. My hunger has been satisfied. I don’t go looking for another source of food. That is not to say there is no growth to come, but the basic, deep-seated hunger and thirst are gone.

Notice v. 35 tells us that the bread of life is received by people coming to Jesus and believing in Him – not by chewing on Him! Coming is believing. Thus, Jesus already reveals what He means when He later refers to eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

V. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.

Is He a failure then? No, verse 37 makes that clear. Christ sees their unbelief with sorrow, but not with anxiety or surprise.

V. 37-39 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

In the midst of unbelief, all His sheep will come in faith and be gathered within the fold.

Jesus’ confidence is not in the positive responses of well meaning people, but in His Father and His Father’s redemptive purpose. Jesus is not driving away His people. All will come and He will keep every last one, for that is His Father’s will, and Jesus always does the will of His Father. This is a calling which cannot be revoked; an inheritance that cannot be defiled; a foundation that cannot be shaken; a seal that cannot be broken; and a life that cannot perish!

In these words we hear of the irresistible power of God’s electing grace. Though he be unclean, a spiritual leper, who would have been shut out of the camp under the old covenant, will be received by Christ, and cleansed and kept. Jesus will raise them up gloriously on the last day. Not one of His lambs will be left behind in the wilderness. The life-giving Shepherd will raise to glory, in the last day, the whole flock entrusted to His charge, and not one of them will be found to be missing.

The last day is closing time. There is coming a last day of the last days. It will be the dawning day of the new heavens and the new earth.

V. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The day of glorious resurrection is a theme presented to the saints throughout the New Testament Scriptures. What does happen at death? This topic is important because the joys and miseries after you die are trillions of times greater than in the few years on this earth before you die. In fact, the Bible compares this life to a vapor such as appears as you breathe on a cold winter morning and then vanishes (James 4:14). In great contrast, what follows this earthly life is referred to as “forever and ever.” (i.e. Rev. 14:11) In addition, facing eternity has a great way of sobering us out of complacency. Do we really believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain?

The Bible does not give a large number of details concerning what happens right after we die. We are told that believers will be taken into the presence of Christ in heaven. Christ is in heaven now (1 Thess. 1:10, 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 10:12), and believers will go to be with Him (Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23-24). Heaven is a place of resplendent glory, and being with Christ in the glory of heaven will be far superior to our present earthly lives. As Paul stated in Phil. 1:23, being with Christ is far better. In 2 Cor. 5:8, he refers to being in heaven with the Lord as being “at home.” One of the things that will make heaven so great, is that, being with the Lord, we shall finally feel that we are in our true home.

When we are in heaven, we will continue to look forward (as we should be doing already in this life) to the resurrection of our bodies from the dead. Disembodied existence is not God’s ultimate and final and greatest purpose for us. As great as it will be in heaven after we die, God has something greater in store – being resurrected from the dead so that we will live soul and body forever in the new heavens and the new earth. While still alive, Paul stated that he was waiting eagerly for the redemption of his body (Rom. 8:23). This eager anticipation for our resurrection does not stop when we die. The saints will continue to anticipate the final fulfillment in the resurrection of our bodies.

It seems often that the hope of resurrection does not have the same place of power and centrality for the church today that it had for the early Christians. One of the reasons may well be of a wrong view of the age to come. When we talk about future and the eternal state, we tend to talk about heaven; and heaven tends to suggest a place far away with non-material, disembodied spirits. However, the truth is, that the condition of the departed saints now, without their bodies is not the way it will always be. Yes, it is good for them now, but it is still an imperfect state and not the way Paul wanted it to be for himself. When we look at 2 Cor. 4:16- 5:9, we see that something else gives the decaying man heart. As he focuses on the unseen glory, Paul’s heart is greatly encouraged.

His first preference would be the second coming and his resurrection body without having to die. His foremost desire was not to simply die and be without a body. That would be good, but it would not be complete. Our final destiny is not a disembodied state in heaven, but it is to be with Christ in a renewed and transformed body on the renewed earth. There is sometimes a tendency to assume that the condition that the departed saints are in now without their bodies is the way it will always be. How often have we perhaps encouraged ourselves with good it is for them now, that we can forget that it is an imperfect state and not the way it will be, nor the way Paul wanted it for himself (Phil. 3:20-21)? Yes, to die is gain, and yes, to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord, but no, this is not our ultimate hope. This is not the final state of our joy. Christ will raise us up on the last day! The true Bread gives resurrection life!

V. 41-42 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says,’I have come down from heaven?”

The Jews start to grumble and murmur. They want a king to do their bidding, not one to rule over them with all authority (i.e. v. 15). They are offended by His claim of authority, as shown by the use of “this Jesus” (i.e. showing contempt).

V. 43-44 Jesus therefore answered and said to them,”Do not murmur among yourselves. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

How do you come to see who Jesus is? “O, Lord, open our eyes,” is not the cry of those Jews who complained about Him. They are confident in their own ability to decide and come.

It is the Father who inclines our will to believe. He secures our affections in drawing us in irresistible grace (Ps 110:3; Ezek. 36:26). This same word “draw” is used of Jesus in John 12:32. We also see its use in John 18:10 where Peter draws a sword. In John 21:6, we see it used in the attempt to draw or pull in a net full of fish. A synonym shows up a few verses later when Peter drags the net to shore. In Acts 16:19, Peter and Silas are “dragged” off to the authorities. In Acts 21:30, Paul is seized and “dragged” out of the temple. This “drawing” overpowers the inclination and resistance of the object being “drawn” or “dragged”.

The work of regeneration by the Spirit of God is certainly included in this drawing process. For later in John, He is the one who fulfills the “teaching” role of the fulfilled prophecy. He draws by illuminating the truth to our hearts.

There are some who will be content to say, “I decided for Christ. I made up my mind to be a Christian.” But, oh, those who have seen the grace of God could never steal God’s glory in this way. Rather, they love to credit God! Having chosen us before the foundation of the world and having sent His Son to redeem us, God did not then leave it to us to find our own way to Him.

The drawing of v. 44 is often referred to as irresistible grace. Nothing – not any circumstances – not the devil – can keep God’s love from conquering us! Most of our fellow men in this world live in unbelief. Their entire view of the world and of life is based upon a rejection of the claims of Jesus Christ and disbelief in His Person and His work. Why? Why does the Christian heart long for Christ, while others hate Him and use His name as a curse? Why do we who believe long for God and His grace while others do not even have a sense of their desperate need? God. God’s sovereign purpose. It is solely God’s grace that makes any man to differ from another man (1 Cor. 4:7).

If God the Father gives a person to the Son, that person will come to Christ in faith (John 6:36-37; 17:1-2). But that one would never come “unless the Father who sent [Christ] draws him” (John 6:44). John 17:24 shows the incredible privilege of those people. They are allowed to behold; to look upon; the glory of the Son! The unbeliever cannot figure out why this would ravish the believer’s heart.

Some will argue against the doctrine of irresistible grace by saying that God can be resisted. They will turn to verses that make statements like, “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Rom. 10:21). Also, Stephen’s declaration in Acts 7:51 is very clear. “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as did your fathers did, so do you.” We agree that men resist God’s gracious invitations. In fact, men always resist all of God’s invitations and mercy. This would always be the case … unless God conquers the resistance. Natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:11; John 5:40) … UNLESS there’s a “BUT GOD…” Unless there’s an “unless!” Such is the testimony of Lydia while others were resisting by nature and by choice (Acts 16:14). I believe that is what happened to every Christian in this room. God may well have suffered with your resistance for years – your ignoring Him and dishonoring Him. Then in glorious grace the great King said, “It is enough! Fetch him out of Lo Debar! (See 2 Sam. 9) It is the season of my love.” My Beloved spoke and said to me, “Rise up, my love, my fair one and come away! The winter is past … the time of singing has come.” (See Song of Solomon)

O, why do you love Him? How is it this One whom you ignored and resisted is now seen for the wonder that He is – the chief among ten thousand!” God Almighty has conquered our resistance and drawn us irresistibly to His beloved Son in love. Now we see the truth that He is indeed altogether lovely. The beloved Son has become our beloved Savior and Lord.

V. 45 “It is written in the prophets,’And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

We now get a great lesson on how to understand that which was written in the prophets. Christ takes a truth foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament Scriptures, and explains its fulfillment in Christ and His establishment of the church – the people who come to Christ and are received, kept, and raised up at the last day for eternal glory. The “drawing” to Christ in verse 44 is explained. God “teaches” a people. He causes them to truly “hear.” In granting them spiritual life, He reveals Jesus to them. This spiritual people come to Jesus Christ is humble repentant faith, with worshipping hearts, and praises on their lips for the One who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Is the Church really the goal that God has been working toward since the entrance of sin? Is she the true fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, David, and

Israel by the prophets? Is she the true Temple, the true House of God, and the true Holy Nation made up of Kings and Priests? Dispensationalism cannot see that we now live in the very days “promised to the fathers and the prophets.” For them, the kingdom, the King, David’s throne, the days of glory, the display of power, etc., must all be pushed into the future. However, Jesus and His apostles unveil a very different understanding of the Old Testament prophecies. They proclaim a glorious fulfillment in Christ – above and beyond what had ever entered the heart of man (1 Cor. 2:6-10).

The new birth which establishes a new holy and spiritual nation in Christ, is the fulfillment of this promise spoken of by several prophets in the Old Testament Scriptures.

In Isaiah 54:13, the prophet writes, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Jesus is clear. This will be fulfilled in His day – by and in Him. This is why the bread of life has come from heaven.

Who are the “all” of Isaiah 54:13? Is this promise made to all physical Israel? Jesus answers that clearly in John 6 – all who come to Him (John 6:37; see also passages like Acts 2:39; Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6-8; 11:1-5, 26-29; Gal. 3:7, 16, 29; John 3:1-8). The context of Isaiah also makes it clear. The Lord teaches us the sufficiency of the suffering Servant who was made an offering for sin in Isa. 53. Gal. 4:21-31 helps uncover the interpretation of Isa. 54:1. It is the children of promise who will inherit the nations (Isa. 54:3). They will be redeemed with the great redemption described in Isa. 53 by the Lord Himself (Isa. 54:5) and will be gathered in with everlasting kindness in a covenant of peace that shall never be removed (Isa. 54:6-10). This everlasting covenant for those who hunger and thirst is given freely (Isa. 55:1-9). In Isa. 54:11-12, we have the description of a foundation laid and a new and glorious building established (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Rev. 21:9- 21). The church is the New Covenant “Most Holy Place” where the presence of God is manifest! The veil of the Old Temple in the old Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom, that day when the Lord laid on Jesus, the Lamb of God, the iniquity of us all. Thus, the way into the presence of God was now wide open for sinners like you and like me, through the veil of His flesh (Heb. 10:19-22).

Our peace is indeed great, as stated in Isa. 54:13. We are established in righteousness (Isa. 54:14) – the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself (Rom. 3:21-26). Thus, we are accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6-7). We are no longer enemies of God and fearing His wrath. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ! (Rom. 5:1-2)

Do not these truths of Isaiah echo again and again in the New Testament Scriptures?

Another old testament prophet who foretold these days was Jeremiah. According to Jesus in John 6:45, God will ensure that all He has given to the Son will hear with understanding and come to Jesus. Through Jeremiah, God promises to not make a complete end of Israel in judgment (Jer. 30:11). He will redeem a “seed” and they will be gathered to serve a risen King (Jer. 30:9- 10). They will be His people and He will be their God (Jer. 30:22). In the latter days, Israel of promise will understand; being taught by the Lord (Jer. 30:24). These people will be delivered from judgment, in grace and will find rest for their souls (Jer. 31:1-2). Is this not exactly what Jesus reveals will be the case for those who come to Him? (See Matt. 11:20-30). All those the Father has given to Christ will come – drawn in lovingkindness in irresistible grace (Jer. 31:3!). Notice, it is this “drawn” people that are the “you” of the promises of the prophecy (continue to follow Jer. 31:4- 30). It is the remnant according to the election of grace that “hear” the word of the Lord (Jer. 31:10). It is the New Covenant foretold in Jer. 31:31ff that will be the righteous basis of acceptance for this “drawn’ people.

All of these people will be taught of God and will know the Lord and be forgiven their sin (Jer. 31:34). This is precisely what Jesus is saying in John 6. Jesus will never cast off this New Covenant nation of redeemed people established through His blood (Jer. 31:36-37; compare with John 6:37-40).

A third prophet that makes reference to being taught by God is Micah. He speaks of a people who will be taught of God (Micah 4:1-2). This will be a New Jerusalem people who in the “latter days” (Heb. 1:1-4; Acts 2:16- 17), the Lord will establish “on top of” the “old temple mount” (compare Micah 3:12, with 4:1). The peoples that flow into this exalted house of the Lord will include peoples from many nations (Micah 4:1-2) and God will teach them His ways. They will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever (Micah 4:5). This people will be made a strong nation, with the Lord Himself their King (Micah 4:6-7; Luke 4:16-21; Matt. 11:3-6). The Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion (Heb. 12:18- 29). This Ruler will come forth out of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He shall be peace for His people (Micah 5:5). Outside of Christ there is no peace for the wicked. Apart from the majestic Shepherd King, there is hunger, desolation, and the sword (Micah 6:13-14). He is the Bread of life. Come, eat of the bread that satisfies and let your soul delight itself in abundance. He who comes to Christ shall never hunger and he who believes in Him shall never thirst!

Is it not wonderful to be taught of God? What grace that we hear and learn from the Father and as a result come to Christ! He has revealed to us the truth – in Jesus! (Compare Micah 7:18-20 with John 14:6; Rom. 4; Luke 1:68-79; Luke 24:44-47; and Acts 3:23-26).

V. 46 – 47 “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.

Jesus here clearly identifies His Father as the eternal God whom no man had seen nor could see. It is Jesus who testifies of the Father. Since Jesus is the only Man who has seen the Father, He alone is the Mediator of the knowledge of God. Jesus is the One who “narrates” God (John 1:18; 12:45). God teaches men in and through the Lord Jesus Christ – His own Beloved Son.

It appears that Jesus is identifying Himself, the Person now with them, as the Person who appeared to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Thus, as the One sent from the Father, Jesus reveals Himself as the object of faith. He is the Gospel way of salvation (John 3:36).

V. 48 – 51 “I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

Here we see the inferiority of the old. That old manna was useful for preserving natural life, but could not bestow spiritual life. Thus the manna could not preserve life forever. All who were partakers of that bread ended up dead. The true and living bread imparts and sustains spiritual life and it banishes spiritual death. The one who is a partaker of this bread will live forever. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” What an invitation – anyone! It does not matter what you are or what you’ve been. Eat this bread and you’ll live forever.

Jesus is that soul-satisfying bread – not simply some doctrine, but Himself. (Even as Jesus is the New Covenant – Isa. 42:6; 49:8). Through union with Him we enter into life. Our soul shall not be hurt by the second death and our body shall have a glorious resurrection. This is the superiority of the true bread from heaven.

There is a world of difference between receiving a blessing and receiving the one who blesses.

Jesus Himself is God’s manna. God does not give us a thing called eternal life. Life is not floating up in space somewhere and does not pour into your life when you believe certain facts. Eternal life is a Person. The life is the Son. All of God’s precious gifts are bound up in His Son. If you have the Son, you have everything (1 John 5:11-12). You lack nothing.

Even the physical blessings Christ gives will not ultimately satisfy. He alone can satisfy. The Israelites enjoyed the manna from the hand of God. The multitudes ate the gifts of the bread and the fish from the hand of Jesus. After a while, however, the hunger came back, the stomachs began to growl, and they had to seek the Lord for bread all over again. This pattern had repeated itself for ages. So Christ offered them more than another meal. He offered Himself as the final solution and fulfillment of all they hungered for!

Jesus also makes clear that believing in Him (John 6:47) is more than “intellectual knowledge;” we must “eat and drink” (compare John 6:53-54; 63).

In verse 51, Jesus foretells that He will give His flesh in atoning sacrifice for the life of the world. It is through His offering up His body as a sacrifice on the cross that sinners can have life. Christ’s death shall be the ransom, the payment, by which eternal life shall be purchased for a world of sinners. Isaiah’s suffering Servant (Isa. 52:13 – 53:12) reaches out to Jew and Gentile alike (Remember Isaiah 54 has just been quoted; see also Isa. 49:6). It is in the giving of His flesh in His voluntary sacrifice on the cross that the already presented “Lamb of God” will “take away the sin of the world.” Oh, ponder such love towards hell- deserving sinners, that the eternal Son of glory took upon Himself a weak, frail human soul and body, so that He could suffer, weep, groan, bleed, and die. Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh. If Jesus would save sinners, he must drink their cup of suffering. He must bear their stripes – their sins – in his own body. Oh saints, He stood silent under our accusations. He lay down under our curse. He bore our hell, and died our death. Does not amazing wonder well up in your soul? Does not the testimony of the Lamb slain that moves the hosts of heaven to praise (Rev. 5), cause you to praise Him who qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of eternal life in the kingdom of light and love?

Consider Christ Jesus, whose love to perishing sinners compelled Him to bear wrath in their stead. The nails that pierced His hands and feet held Him firmly on the bloody cross, but oh, His love was the strongest nail! When His Father bruised Him with all the infinite wrath of holy justice, He declared by His actions, “Though this wrath is not mine; I should not bear it; yet either I or My people must bear it. I will bear it for them.” Oh, believers, behold how He loves you. Can you count the drops of the ocean? Then you may fathom the depths of His love towards us.

Some of you believe not. How will God respond to you for making light of such a Savior; for brushing off the supreme sacrifice of love of His own dear Son? Give glory to the Lord in coming to Him in repentance and faith. Eat of Him before your feet stumble and you fall in death; never to recover.

Perhaps some who, in the gracious providence of almighty God, are now hearing these words are trying to convince themselves that there is no hell – no hereafter. Yet, deep inside, despite all your self- convincing attempts, you know there is a hell. In fact, despite all the laughter of those who seek to ruin your souls, you know that God is true. Your own conscience tells you that God will punish you for sin. Be assured that you will find no happiness in trying to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This is not the path to great joy, to resist those thoughts that would lead you to Christ. I plead with you to stop resisting. Bow your knee. Come to Christ and believe on Him.

If you are successful in your attempt to push the truth from your mind, and you continue on in your own way, your success will be the most awful disaster that can ever occur to you. It may be that this is the last warning you will ever have. It may be that the conviction you are now trying to put down may be the last you ever have, and the Lord will declare, “Let him alone. He chooses drunkenness; he chooses lust. Let him have them, and let him reap the wages in the everlasting fires of hell.” Oh sinners, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Repent and escape from damnation before you learn by experience what damnation really means. Why would you perish, when there is such a great Redeemer as Jesus? Today the Bread of life is held out to your starving soul. Take and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Christ, and your soul shall live abundantly (Isa. 55:2-3). Oh the joy of being drawn to Christ in irresistible grace!

V. 52 – 53 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

“Unless you …” is similar to the statements, “unless you are born from above” and “unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”

Blood is a symbol of violent death (even a sacrificial death!) [i.e. ; Gen. 4:8-11; 37:31-33; 2 Sam. 3:27-28; Ex. 12:6-7; Lev. 1:5]. When we read of someone having a man’s blood on their head, it means they are guilty of the death of that man. Blood outside the body has been poured out. Thus it is a metaphor for a violent death. It indicates that you did not die in your sleep!

In Psalm 27:2, David speaks of the wicked who come up against him “to eat up my flesh.” Did David mean they were cannibals or is he using picture language? I believe he is talking about wicked men who want to benefit or profit from his death. “Eating” would give them some kind of benefit from David’s death. This perhaps gives us a small insight into what Jesus means by eating His flesh. It is connected to benefiting from His death.

David also uses the image of drinking blood. In 1 Chronicles 11, David was on the run from Saul. At one point, he was fighting the Philistines who had taken the town of Bethlehem. David remarks how he would love a drink from the well of Bethlehem. Three of his mighty men overheard this comment and took him seriously. They fought through the Philistine line and brought water back to David. David, however, would not drink it but poured it out on the ground. Then in verse 19, David replies, “Far be it from me, O my God, that I should do this! Shall I drink the blood of these men who have put their lives in jeopardy? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”

To David, the drinking of that water would be like drinking the blood of these men. Of course, he is not speaking of literally drinking their blood. What he is saying is that he would be profiting from their near death – their great risk of life. For him to drink would be to enjoy the benefits which came at the expense of their lives.

So when Jesus refers to eating His flesh and drinking His blood, I believe He is making a connection to enjoying the benefits which come from His death. We gain and enjoy great benefits at the expense of His death. We do drink of the water of life that has come from Bethlehem. It cost Jesus His life that we might take and drink of the water of life freely.

V. 54 “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

Lev. 17:11 tells us that the life of the flesh is in the blood. Most certainly, true life is in the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for those the Father had given Him!

Jesus, as in verse 51, is declaring to sinners to take and eat and live forever. What a reversal of the curse, where we read in Gen. 3:22 that man is banished from the Garden lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. This is not a command to not eat or you’ll die. No, oh blessed thought, in the day you eat, you will live forever! Oh, poor prodigal starving on the husks, come eat and live.

V. 55 – 57 “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.”

Augustine wrote, “Believe, and you have eaten.” As food and drink sustain our lives, Jesus is teaching that we need to depend on Him utterly, moment by moment, in order to survive. Like branches in the vine, if we are cut away from the main branch and source of life- flowing sap, we will die.

In verses 50, 51, 53, and 54 we are told that eating and drinking result in everlasting life. In verses 40 and 47, we are told that believing in Christ results in everlasting life. Whatever Jesus means by eating and drinking, is the same kind of thing as Jesus means when he speaks of believing.

In this discourse we also see that “eating and drinking,” “believing,” and “coming” all lead to everlasting life (John 5:40; 7:37-38).

We are to feed on Jesus, the living bread, as He feeds on the living Father (see John 4:32-34). He does this by utter submission to the Father’s will, and complete dependence upon Him. If we compare verse 56 with John 15:10, we see the parallel to keeping His commandments. True belief always results in obedience for the glory of His name. Christ lived every moment and breathed every breath to obey the will of the Father. To do the Father’s will for the Father’s glory, was His drink, and His meat. It was everything to Him. Can you imagine Jesus one day saying, “I’m going to have a day for myself today. What shall I do?” His agenda was the Father’s glory and will. His focus every moment was to please the Father (John 8:28-29).

V. 58 – 59 “This is the bread which came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

Here Jesus sums up the whole discourse. The manna provided no lasting benefit – not spiritually; not even physically – for they all died. The one benefit a hungry sinner could receive was to see the reality of the true spiritual manna – Christ Himself – foreshadowed in the fleshly type. In the eating of the true Bread, His life is transferred to the eater. Thus, this one will live forever. Just as we benefit and live physically from the “life-energy” received from eating plants and animals that have died, so too, we live forever from the life imparted to us through eating the One who loved us and gave Himself for us in the death of the cross.

The Response (6:60-71)

V. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

It is hard to get past hearts of pride, unbelief, self- satisfaction, and glorying in tradition. It is not just that it is hard to understand, but rather, it is hard to receive; hard to accept; hard to embrace; hard to take. The hardness of the heart is a far greater problem than the hardness of the message.

V. 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?”

If this had offended them, how will it be in that moment on the cross when – oh scandalous thought – the Messiah would die in humiliating shame? What will be the response in that hour when He is despised and rejected by men, pierced for transgressions, and bruised for the iniquities of ungodly men? How you respond to this “scandal” determines your destiny.

V.62 – 63 “What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

When men see the Son of Man, risen, and ascend to heaven, will this not prove who He is and where He is from? Notice also the connection between the ascent of Christ and the Spirit given. (See also Acts 2:33 and its context). Believing in Christ is believing His words (see also v. 68, 5:46-47, and Deut. 8:3!).

There is no profit for the soul in union with fleshly food or physical ceremonies.

V. 64 – 65 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

Unbelief is the root of rebellion. Jesus knows His own, and to them it is granted by the Father to believe. Oh precious grace!

V. 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

If this happened to the greatest teacher, no teacher of the gospel should be surprised if it happens to him.

All is not gold that glitters. All blossoms do not come to fruit. And all are not Israel who are called Israel. Remember Demas; remember Judas Iscariot; remember Lot’s wife. The phrase “went back” means to forsake or desert. It is to go back to what they had left behind. They proved by their actions that they were not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

V. 67 – 69 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter knew he could not stand by himself. He had been taught of God (Matt. 16:17).

V. 70 – 71 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

Jesus knew that Peter’s confession did not represent the belief of all twelve of them. There was one exception. The term “devil” means “slanderer” or “false accuser.” This man believed he was sovereign over his own life, but in reality he was the slave and instrument of the devil. He who was “one of the twelve” would perish with the devil and his angels. How much more should you who are a part of the visible church not rest in your “nearness.” Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.

~ Murray

About Murray McLellan
Murray is the lead church planter and Bible teacher at Grace Fellowship Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He and his wife Cheryl have labored in the Gospel for many years despite the many discouragements along the way. Our brother is associated with “InDepth Studies”, the Acts 29 network of church planters, and more recently the uniquely Canadian C2C church planting network. In new covenant circles Murray is a long time contributor to new covenant thought and discussion.
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