Are you hungry? Would you like to eat some Jesus today? Are you thirsty? Would you like to drink a cup of his blood? Sounds kind of graphic doesn’t it? And yet, Jesus says these offensive words in John 6:51-58…
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.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 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. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.”
In fact the people were so offended that even some of his disciples took issue with Jesus’ words, being tempted to leave Jesus:
60 “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? …66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
What was the reason for Jesus saying such controversial things?
If we keep the context of the whole chapter, we started off John 6 with the story of Jesus feeding the (at least 10,000) in verses 1-15. It turns out this whole chapter is about feasting, about eating and drinking. We start off at the beginning of the chapter with Jesus providing miraculous food and drink and then the same crowd that feasted on the other side of the Sea of Galilee comes to Capernaum to again, seek food (vss. 22-26).
27 “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.”
In other words, Jesus is trying to get them to understand that the miracle he performed, the very act of eating was to illuminate them to a deeper spiritual truth, one that they were missing.
28 “Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Jesus makes it plain here that the point of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is that Jesus is the one who supplies everything we need. The point of the miracle is not the food, it is him! He is the one that we need to look to. He is the one where our sustenance comes from.
30 “So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
The problem here is that they have already seen the sign. Jesus IS the sign. His life, work, miracles, words, are all the signs they should need to make the decision to believe in him. So Jesus says…
32 “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. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
And again, Jesus makes it plain. He says…
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.”
Jesus’ words here underscores a theme that runs all throughout the gospel of John and that is that, in order for us to follow Jesus, to see—really see—what the miracles point to, to understand that He is the bread of life—one has to be illuminated first by the Father through the Spirit. At the very beginning of his gospel, John records these words:
9 “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:9-13
John makes it clear here that though God’s light shines on all, not all come to the light. But to everyone who did receive Jesus, to those who believed in his name, God gave them the right to become children of God. But note the last couple of phrases. They are children born, not of natural descent, nor of human decision, but people born of God.
This concurs with Jesus’ words all throughout John 6. Note again…
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.”
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.
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.
63 “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
Two great lessons come to clarity in these words. One, Jesus absolutely knows those who are His, those the Father draws to him, and two, no matter what Jesus will never lose any that God gives to him. This speaks to God’s Sovereignty, Divine Election, and Eternal Security.
And then comes the crux of the text in verses 51-59, quoted previously—the part about eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood. The whole point of the passage is not about cannibalism (as was erroneously believed by unbelievers in the first century who heard these teachings), it was feasting on Jesus himself, his words, and the life that comes from them.
Again, Jesus make it clear in verse 35. He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
All this language of eating and drinking, feasting on Jesus, is wrapped up in the idea of having faith in Jesus. Listen how many times faith is talked about in the chapter…
1. 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
2. 30 “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you?
3. 35 “…whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
4. 36 “…you have seen me and still you do not believe.
5. 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.”
6. 47 “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”
7. 64 “Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.”
8. 69 “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
That last verse in verse 69 underscores the whole point of the chapter, and the whole point of what it means to eat and drink, literally feast on Jesus. Jesus turns to the 12 and asks them if they too are going to leave because of the hard words that he had just spoken. Peter replies no, because they have come to believe, and know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. They are partook of the feast, and found that nothing else satisfies.
A question we have to ask everyday is d we believe in Jesus? Are we hungry? Are we thirsty? Are we looking only to him to fulfill us, to draw us close to the Father? This passage is squarely about our relationship with Jesus. Ever had a great meal placed in front of you and you couldn’t wait to “dig in” and eat? The same is to be true spiritually for us in our relationship with Jesus. When we wake up each day, are we ready to “dig in,” in our relationship with Christ?