Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg – Bible study material on John 6:25-71
Introduction and background (6:22-31)
John 6: 22-31 gives the setting for Jesus’ message. Jesus had just fed the 5000 multitudes. He then reads their hearts and confronts them with their motive. The people, interested in food, have followed Jesus over the sea to Capernaum, and they meet in the synagogue (verse 59). Jesus revealed their shallow, carnal motives (verses 26-27) and their ignorance of what it means to be saved through faith (verses 28-29). Just as Jesus graciously fed them the bread, and all they had to do was receive it, so he wanted to give them eternal life. The Jews threw out a challenge to Jesus in verse 30: “Show us a sign!” This reminded Jesus of the way God sent bread (manna) from heaven to feed the people (Exodus 16). Jesus used this as the basis for his message. There are three divisions to the sermon, each followed by a reaction from the crowd. Jesus thus directs their thinking to a deeper hunger!
A. Jesus reveals himself as the Bread of Life (verses 32-40)
This is a bold claim that shows that Jesus is the very Son of God! The Bread of God is a Person from heaven (verse 33). He gives life, not just to the Jews, but to the whole world! The way to receive this Bread is to come and take it. And this Bread will give life not only today but also life in the future at the resurrection. Note the reaction of the Jews (verses 41-42) who denied Jesus’ deity. Jesus said that God was his Father (verse 32), but they said Joseph was His father (verse 42). The use of Bread of life in John 6:35 portrays Jesus’ life-giving role. Here Jesus could be seen as the only source of eternal life.
Comparing Jesus as the bread of life to the Manna in the Old Testament
It is interesting to compare the manna to Jesus the Messiah:
i. The manna came from heaven at night. Jesus came from heaven when men were in darkness.
ii. It was not defiled by the earth. Jesus was sinless and separate from sinners.
iii. It was small, round and white. This suggests Jesus’ purity.
iv. It was sweet to the taste. Jesus is sweet to those who trust Him.
v. It had to be taken and eaten. Jesus must be received and appropriated by faith (1:12-13).
vi. It came as a free gift. Jesus is the free gift of God to the world.
vii. It was sufficient for all. Jesus too is sufficient for all.
B. Jesus reveals the process of salvation (verses 43-52)
The lost sinner does not seek God (Romans 3:11), so salvation must begin with God. How does God draw people to Jesus? He uses the Word (verse 45). 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 describes what “drawing men” means. See also John 6:44. To eat earthly bread sustains life for a time. But the person will ultimately die. To receive the spiritual Bread (Jesus) gives one eternal life. Jesus clearly states in verse 51 that he will give his flesh for the life of the world. The Jews argued about this (verse 52) because eating human flesh was contrary to Jewish law. Like Nicodemus, they confused the physical with the spiritual.
C. Jesus reveals the power of salvation (verses 53-65)
What does Jesus mean by “eating” his flesh and “drinking” His blood? He is not speaking in literal terms. In verse 63, Jesus clearly says, “The flesh profits nothing.” What gives life? “It is the Spirit who gives life” (verse 63). “The words I have spoken to you, are Spirit, and they are life.” In other words, a person eats the Jesus’ flesh and drinks his blood – that is, partakes of Him – by receiving the Word as taught by the Spirit. Jesus is not talking about the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper or any other religious ceremony. The Lord’s Supper had not even been begun. When it was begun, Jesus clearly stated that it was a memorial. It did not impart life. To say that a man receives eternal life by eating bread and drinking wine is to deny the grace of God in salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
A division among Jesus’ disciples (6:66-71)
It is the Word of God, revealing the Person of the Messiah, that separates the true from the false. The more the people heard Jesus’ message, the more they divided into two groups – the honest seekers wanting to understand more and those rejecting Jesus because they did not like what they heard. The crowd, desiring bread for the body, rejected the Bread of Life for the soul. Peter and ten of the disciples affirmed their faith in Jesus. Their faith came by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). Judas, however, was a pretender and ultimately would betray the Messiah.
Application and conclusion
Like the multitude, many people in contemporary times want the Lord to meet their physical needs but not their spiritual needs. They are like stray dogs, that if you feed them they’ll stick around, not because they love you, but because you have food! Once you stop feeding them, they are gone. For many seek God only for their carnal needs to be met. It is important to emphasize that we are to seek God not for what God can do for us, but for who God is.
By Jesus’ use of the title “I am the bread of life” is meant Jesus satisfies our deepest spiritual needs. Jesus picks a common staple that all could relate daily and throughout the day. That is it was attached to each meal. For bread was found on both the rich and poor people’s table. In Asia it might be “I am the Rice of Life”; In Mexico it might be “I am the Tortilla of Life”; In India it might be “I am the Curry of Life” and in Ghana, among the Akans, it would be “I am the fufu of life.” In whatever case, by the use of bread of life, Jesus wishes to indicate that he sustains life.
The conclusion is obvious. When you receive the Word into your heart, you receive Jesus the Messiah. We “eat Jesus’ flesh” by partaking of the Word of God. “I am the living Bread,” said Jesus in verse 51. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Peter grasped the meaning of the sermon. For in John 6:68 he said, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
1. Jesus said of himself as the “bread of life.” What does it mean?
2. How can one receive Jesus, the bread of life?
3. What is your greatest motivation for seeking God? For a healing? To pay your bills and debts? In search of a nice spouse?
4. What does it mean by eating Jesus’ flesh?