John 6: 25 – 59 Jesus the bread of life
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’
Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed 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. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’
Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’
This seems like a fair question, but I’m not sure that it is. The Jews had a detailed religious law that covered their entire daily life. They believed that they already knew what they must do to do the works God requires. At best, they were wondering what changes of emphasis Jesus thought necessary. More likely they wanted to measure his reply against their existing practices in order to judge him.
It wasn’t an honest question because they had no intention of changing.
And if I am to be honest in my faith, I must be prepared to change. In fact, that’s only step one. I must work diligently with Jesus to accomplish change in my life
Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’
What does this mean? My provisional and tentative thought is that it means I should act as I see Jesus acting; that everything I do should be motivated by what I believe Jesus wants me to do.
By comparison with the life I lead now, that seems like a tall order. I shall take heart from Jesus’ teaching to Martha, who was distracted from his message by household tasks. He was wonderfully gentle with her. (See Luke 10: 38 – 42)
So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness: as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’
The Jews ask for a sign. They compare Jesus with Moses and say, “Feed us with manna like Moses fed our ancestors.” Perhaps some of them remember an earlier clash, when Jesus told them that Moses would be their accuser (see John 5: 45 – 47)
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, 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 the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’
Okay. Go on. Prove it. Give us this bread.
Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those 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 those 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 them up at the last day.’
The emphasis of this gospel has been on eternal life being spiritual life. When Jesus says “I am the bread of life,” he is referring to spiritual life.
At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”?’
It must have been difficult for the Jews of Galilee to accept what Jesus was saying about himself. I can imagine that if one of my near neighbours suddenly claimed divine authority, I would find it very difficult to accept the claim.
‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered. ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness yet they died. Yet here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’
“This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
That must have caused tremendous controversy and disquiet. Even today, with the benefit of hindsight, knowing of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, it stops me in my tracks.
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
From their stand-point, a very good question. But once again they have taken Jesus’ words as referring to the material world rather than the spiritual.
Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, 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 them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’ He said this while teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
The flesh and blood of Jesus refer to his death on the cross. Exactly what that means, exactly how it plays out in this material world in which we live, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, is the centrality of Jesus’ death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection.
Heavenly Father, I want to do your will. Help me to always be aware of the presence of Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.