John 6, the passage that helps us realize that many of Jesus’ words were considered “difficult statements” by His original audience; and so too by many today.
Before reading the chapter, start with a light reading of John 6:59-69. The heart filled with faith will know that His words are Spirit and Life, the stony cold heart not yet made alive by the Spirit will grumble (much like the children Israel after the Exodus), saying “this is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” Jesus loved questions–when the heart of the one asking truly wanted to learn and know. Jesus knows why we question. He knows if and when and why we grumble. So it is ok to say “this is difficult” but not to grumble about it…we back up now to the beginning of chapter six to more fully see their problem, and to understand what Jesus is trying to teach His disciples through Word and deed.
6:1-14, In our time together, we paraphrased, for fun! We noted that this miracle of feeding the 5000 men also included others in the crowd, and that they had followed Jesus after seeing or hearing of other miracles.
The reaction of many to the miracle? They thought Jesus was the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18!!! Remember, they were, most of them, familiar with the readings in the synagogues, and had heard the OT Scriptures often. They knew a great prophet would come, they recognized that Jesus fit the bill.
Vs 15 Is this habit surprising? Culturally? To seek alone time was not normal–though to me, I see the value in retreating, and have experienced the refreshing times that come from what was a common practice for Jesus, but not at all common in the culture He was living in.
Mark’s gospel lets us know that the feeding of the 5000 was intended to teach His disciples, yet they learned nothing because their hearts were hardened (read Mark 6:51-52). Hard hearts. We must not add to Scripture and think we know why their hearts were hardened–yet, we know this to be true of ourselves, that our hearts become hardened by the decietfulness of sin, by untruths we believe, by laziness, by giving in to fear or anxiety…by sooo many personal reasons. But it boils down to this–a hard heart. We need the Spirit to breath life into us, (ahhhh, just think of the end of this chapter, His Words are Spirit and are life! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves).
16-21 This next miracle was seen by only the 12. Jesus walks on water. He is showing them in many ways that all of nature obeys Him, that God is not limited by the limits placed on creation, that He is indeed Sovereign and Powerful and Good. Think for a moment how these two back to back miracles, even after having been sent out in His name to perform miracles themselves, should point them to faith in Christ.
The next day the large crowd is back. We commend all seekers in this generation, but does Jesus? In verses 22-25, we see that they spent a great deal of time and effort to seek out Jesus. But is all seeking acceptable to God? Is all seeking indicative of faith?
Remember, He knows their hearts, His attitude may be different than ours.
6:26-27 Jesus rebukes them. We would not, and perhaps we ought not. But, He does. I can imagine it something like this…
Oh, how nice of you to follow Me. To spend all your time again today seeking Me out, walking, rowing for miles across the lake…so that you can be on My welfare plan. You don’t want to work, you thought I would come and be your heavenly Sugar Daddy, handing out bread every day while you relax and take it all in. You only care about physical provision. You do not care about Me, about knowing Me, about My glory, about My Kingdom, about the Great Wedding Feast I’m inviting people to… you just want a full belly without having to work for it.
So He challenges them to pay attention to what they are “working for.” He is not calling them away from what we know to be “faith alone, grace alone, etc” We miss His point entirely if we go there.
They ask what works to perform…when all along He wants them to recognize what He is revealing about God, and to hunger for that. His miracles point to this–but their eyes were not open.
Believe. He tells them to believe.
Ok. They ask Him to do something. Then we will believe. What heart attitude does this reveal to us? Have you ever challenged God like this?
39-40 Such sweet assurance! To us who believe, and to us who pray for loved ones or neighbors who do not yet believe. His call is still going out! “The last day…” Jesus is talking about epochs, we are not here to argue over whether he means last day before this, or last day of that, etc…
The verb meaning “eat” is found in: John 6:5, 23, 26, 31, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 58 (not as your fathers did eat manna). Here the Greek transliterated phago, to eat, describes a one time action. To eat dinner. To eat a morsel of bread. The Greek word transliterated trogo, meaning to gnaw or chew; as in “he eats bread” is used in John 6:54, 56, 57, 58. It is interesting that Jesus used two different forms of the idea. He did not use the same word. To believe is to eat that one time morsel. It is the first bite of your feasting of abundant life. To go on eating, chewing, gnawing; that is how we abide in His words. For more on this, I refer you here.
Our first lesson on abiding! John 6:53, 56 …Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him. Abiding, union with Christ, there is no life for anyone apart from abiding.
Vs 57…He has life, and gives life. Vs 63 He alone gives life. In the preceding chapter of John, Jesus explains that God is the only Being to have life in Himself (see John 5:26). Created beings like you and me receive life, and need a Source. God alone is self sufficient, He needs no other source. God alone grants eternal life, with the Source of that life being Himself, the Wellspring of Life. He gives life to those who eat, who believe, who abide. As our bodies will ever be in need of physical food, so we will always be in need of spiritual food. He does not “give” so that we may run along and have life apart from Him. He is the Bread of Life that we continually need and enjoy.
To eat, and to continue eating.
Jesus was speaking to a crowd who knew the OT, they regularly heard it taught in the synagogues. They were familiar with the Psalms and Prophets, which Jesus consistently taught point to Him, speak of Him. Jesus employed a word picture already used in the OT:
Read Ezekiel 3:1-4 and Jeremiah 15:16; and Psalm 119:103
(also, Revelation, which quotes more of the Scriptures than any other book, employs the same image:10:9-11)
Did you catch on to the delight and joy that came from eating His Words? Savor them, relish them, feast on them. He speaks to a purpose, and bids us to abide in those words. Do you want that joy? Do you want to taste and see His goodness?
The original audience had “manna” in the back of their minds, and the OT Scriptures. They witnessed the miracles and heard the words spoken here in John 6, and were not yet thinking about crucifixion and Jesus shedding His blood for them, or giving His body for the world. That connection would come later. Here He is giving a first lesson on realizing our need to find our very source of Life, eternal Life, in Him alone. And not a one time deal–but a feast. An abundant ongoing life. We cannot fully grasp the quality of this Life! But we can find delight in eating His flesh, taking in all the words that He says are Spirit and Life, abiding in Him as He abides in us.
We too can echo with Peter, as Jesus asks “You do not want to go away also?” a resounding “Where else would we go?!!! You alone have words of eternal life.”