John: Lesson 9: The Food of God’s Kingdom (John 6:25 – 71)

Jesus is back in Galilee with another Passover soon approaching.  He crossed over the Sea of Galilee and a crowd follows Him there.  Hungry, Jesus took five loaves and seven fish and multiplied them to feed a crowd of 5,000 men, plus women and children.

Both Jesus and His disciples leave and the crowd follows him the next day.  The crowd catches up with them, and they dialogue with several questions or statements to understand more, Jesus uses to shape His instruction for them.

 

“Rabbi, when did You come here?”

Read John 6:25-27

  • Jesus told the crowd, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” What does this reveal about what they are not understanding?

 

“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Read John 6:28-29

Jesus then tells the crowd not to work for food that perishes but, instead, for food that lasts to eternal life. 

  • How does their question understand show their misunderstanding that to be doing the works of God depends on the person, not God?

 

  • According to Jesus, who is doing the work and in what does that work consist?

 

“What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?”

Read John 6:30-33

Exodus 16:16: Moses to the Israelites, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of [the manna] as each person needs to eat.  You may take two quarts per individual, according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.’”

Deuteronomy 18:15-18: Moses speaking to the Israelites:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to him.  This is what you requested from the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’  Then the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.

Within the Jewish tradition, the people held this belief, which prompted their question to Jesus.  2 Baruch 29:2, 8; 30:1:

And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed.…  the treasury of manna will again descend from heaven, and they will eat of it in those years, for they have come to the consummation of time.  After these things, when the time of the advent of the Messiah is fulfilled, He will return in glory.”

  • What did the crowd demand Jesus do? (vs. 30)

 

  • How does their demand show they are seeing if Jesus is the new Moses?

 

The crowd’s demand for the manna of the Messiah is what prompts Jesus to launch into His “bread of life” discourse.  For the Jews of Jesus’ day hoped for the coming of a new Moses, which included manna from heaven as a sign.  Jesus still needs to point them in the proper direction.

 

“Give us this bread always.”

Read John 6:34-40

  • How does Jesus’ response show He is the true Manna come from heaven?

 

  • In what way is Jesus referring to people “eating” Him as the “Bread of life”? (vs. 35, 40)

 

The people know enough of Jesus’ earthly lineage to question one of His statements.

 

“How does [Jesus] now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Read John 6:41-46

  • Why does the crowd balk at Jesus for saying that He came down from heaven? (vs. 42)

 

  • How only can someone believe in Jesus? (vs. 44)

 

  • When Jesus was teaching the crowd, He quoted Isaiah 54:13. What was He saying about Himself? (vs. 45)

 

Read John 6:47-51

In John 3, we saw Jesus point Nicodemus to the reality of what God does in baptism.  Later, Jesus linked baptism to belief by including both in the same discussion (John 3:16).  Here, in John 6, Jesus starts with belief (vs. 47) and then segues to what God does in the Lord’s Supper.  In both chapters, the words “baptism” or “Lord’s Supper” are not used.  Yet, John brings in Jesus’ words to teach about those two sacraments in ways the other Gospels do not.

  • Jesus starts out by speaking of believing in Him and then eating Him as referring to the same thing: faith. When does Jesus begin to switch over to referring to the Lord’s Supper?

 

The Old Testament manna, given to the Israelites in the desert, foreshadowed the “bread of life,” the “bread come down from heaven” (John 6:49-50).

 

Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse The Lord’s Supper
   The bread that I will give    This
   is my flesh    is my body
   for the life of the world (John 6:51)    which is for you (1 Corinthians 11:24)

 

“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Read John 6:52-59

  • How does the crowd react?

 

Referring to manna, Jesus began, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness” (John 6:48).  He ended by contrasting the Supper to come with the old manna: “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).  Jesus surrounded his teaching about the mystery of His presence in His Supper by referring to the manna from heaven.  The “manna” God will give to His people will be Jesus in the Supper.

If the Supper of Jesus gives the new manna from heaven, then what is received can’t be a mere a symbol.  Like the manna of old, it must also something physical, to be physically eaten.

Because of the crowd’s reaction, Jesus will soon switch words.  Earlier, He spoke of eating, using fagomai (vs. 51), which is a verb to describe eating in general.  The people responded using a form of the same word: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  

To make His point clearer, Jesus then switches to trogo (vs. 54), which is a word that denotes chewing: “Whoever chews my flesh…”  Now, no one is to doubt Jesus is referring to eating and drinking Him physically by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. 

 

The Similarities Between John 3 and John 6

 

 

“Whoever feeds [trogo, chews] on this bread will live forever”: The only other reference in the Old Testament to “eat and live forever” refers to the fruit of the Tree of Life, from which Adam and Eve were driven out (Genesis 3:22).

  • How does Jesus’ use of this phrase show us what He give us in his Supper?

 

Leviticus 17:10-11 reads: “I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut that person off from his people.  For the life of a creature is in the blood…”

  • Why would Jesus command what was forbidden in the Old Covenant?

 

Moses gave bread from heaven, the manna in the wilderness, and still the people died.  Manna could sustain them but not save them.  The bread Jesus gives is not like the bread from heaven during their wilderness wanderings; the bread Jesus gives is Himself.  “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

 

Read John 6:60-65

  • How did Jesus’ disciples respond to what He taught?

 

  • In verse 63, Jesus uses the word “flesh,” not referring to Himself, but to what?

 

  • Again, what is required to believe in Jesus (vs. 65)? What does the word “given” denote about faith?

 

Read John 6:66-71

  • From that time (when Jesus told His disciples about eating His flesh and drinking His blood), what did many of those who were following Jesus do?

 

  • When Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” what did He reveal about to necessity of believing “chewing” on Him in His Supper? (vs. 67)

 

  • How does Peter’s response show He doesn’t fully grasp what Jesus said?

 

Jesus’ disciples took him literally.  They “took offense” at His words and decided to leave.  This gives us firsthand testimony how Jesus’ words sounded to actual first-century Jews.  Jesus’ insistence that they eat his flesh and drink his blood in the form of food and drink so disturbed them they could barely stand to hear it.  “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60).

Like the Israelites in the desert who murmured about the manna (Exodus 16:2-9), Jesus’ followers “murmured” at His difficult and distressing claims.  They didn’t believe Him, as Jesus said, “There are some of you who don’t believe” (John 6:64).

By the end of the chapter, Jesus not only lost most of this “huge crowd” (notice this movement in vs. 26, 30, 36, 41-42, 52) but he also loses a large number of more dedicated followers (vs. 60-66).

 

  • How did eleven of the Twelve handle Jesus’ “hard words”? (vs. 67-69, 70-71)

 

Jesus’ earlier statements helps us understand and link “chewing” on Jesus to what He will later accomplish.  “If you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before” (vs. 62) points forward to His coming death, resurrection, and ascension.  The Supper will be after these events for His Church.  Further, “the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (vs. 63) reveals the Spirit raising Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11) and also the day of Pentecost to come.  The Spirit will descend and the Eleven will then administer Jesus’ holy Meal.  They will understand by the Spirit, not by their fallen flesh.

 

Excursus: The Link between Faith and the Lord’s Supper

Why did Jesus tell His disciples they must “eat his flesh and drink His blood” (vs. 53) or “eat him” (vs. 54)?  To “eat” Christ is to receive Him, so the life that He is becomes someone’s own life.

The phrase, “eating His flesh” expresses an intimate union with Jesus—a communion.  This is what believing in Him entails and leads to—an intimate union with Christ.  The Protestant world refers to this as having a “personal relationship with Jesus”; however, they miss that which brings about this “relationship” or communion.

Jesus joins belief and eating His flesh and drinking His blood together.  That’s why Christ says more than “Truly, truly, I say to you: Whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:47).  To stop there is to stop short of Jesus’ full saving message.  Jesus also says, “Whoever chews on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day” (John 6:54).

John 3:3-8 refers to baptism.  John 6:53-58 refers to the Lord’s Supper.  It doesn’t matter that Jesus had not yet instituted His Supper (or Baptism), for Christ was speaking of what would soon be for His disciples if they continued being His disciples.  This was the same when Jesus spoke of them receiving the Holy Spirit (John 4:10, 14; 7:37-38), even though this would not happen until later.

 

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