35 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. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 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. 40 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.”
41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 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’?”
43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 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. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
(John 6:35-51 NIV)
The day before this day, Jesus had fed the masses (approximately twenty thousand men, women, and children), then departed the area. A smaller group of people sought Jesus and hired boats to take them across the lake to Jesus’ home base in Capernaum.
As expected, Jesus is there. Jesus anticipates their question and rebukes them for why they are seeking Him – just for another free meal. Jesus notes that the crowd is wanting physical bread, and offers them something far better – spiritual bread that leads to eternal life in Himself. The crowd is hooked and asks where they can obtain the spiritual bread Jesus was offering. Jesus is still misunderstood – the crowd is looking for manna while Jesus is talking about eternity and how to get eternal life.
As we pick up the dialogue today, Jesus answers their question. Again Jesus points to Himself as the bread of life. Just as the manna came down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert, so Jesus explains to the crowd how He has come down to be the bread of life for them, leading to eternal life.
In verse 40, Jesus uses another familiar analogy (the bronze snake on the pole in Numbers 21:7-9) to illustrate further His offer of salvation. The crowd again completely misunderstands Jesus and gets hung up on another literal interpretation of His words.
The crowd is shocked that Jesus would say that He came down from heaven. They knew this guy – his dad and mom and siblings. They knew all about Jesus’ scandalous conception out of wedlock, and all the questions around His parents. How could Jesus say what He said about coming down from heaven?
The word “grumble” (verse 41) and “grumbling” (verse 43) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Moses used to name the complaining spirit of the Israelites in the desert. After all these generations and with Messiah standing right in front of them, the Jewish crowd still is the same as their ancestors.
Jesus then further describes this offer of eternal life He is making to them. Jesus goes on with His analogy to describe Himself as the bread of life, and they must eat the bread (i.e., His flesh) which He freely offers to them, as it provides eternal life.
The crowd is scandalized by Jesus’ statements. Again, taking Jesus’ words in the purely literal sense, they think He is talking about cannibalism. But surely He is not – He would have to be crazy to suggest such a thing, right?
Does Jesus’ reference to Himself as the bread of life, and His offer to eat His flesh seem scandalous to you? Jesus was not in the business of building a following. In fact, He said hard things to separate His “fans” from His faithful followers.
How do we present Christ to others? Do we encourage them to be “fans” or “followers”?