This is the conclusion of this third scene in John chapter 6. And what we see in this conclusion is the people’s reaction to Jesus’ first “I am” statement, which we talked about yesterday.
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’?”—6:41-42
The crowds grumbling is reminiscent of Israel’s murmurings in the wilderness (Exodus 16:8-9). Just as they had complained against Moses, the first giver of bread, they complained against Jesus, the true bread from heaven. They did not understand how Jesus could say he came from heaven when they knew his father (earthly father) and mother. While Joseph is mentioned by name, Mary is referred to only as Jesus’ mother. Mary’s name is never specifically mentioned in this Gospel.
“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. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 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.”—6:43-51
Jesus responded to the crowd’s grumbling by warning them that no one can come to him unless the Father draws them. He stated the truth of God’s initiative in salvation by pointing to Isaiah 54:13. Those who accept the Father’s teaching will come to (or believe in) Jesus. Those who are “taught by God” refer to those who believe in Jesus. Since only Jesus the Son has seen the Father, and since he alone came from the Father, the people should believe his words. Jesus stressed the absolute necessity of believing if one is to receive eternal life. Jesus continued by contrasting the living bread with the manna for which they longed. The contrast could not be any greater. Those who ate the manna in the wilderness died, but those who eat the bread from heaven will not die; they will receive eternal life. Jesus would soon give his life for the world. The “world” refers to those who are in opposition to God and under the dominion of Satan. Those for whom Christ died do not deserve the benefits of salvation in and of themselves. Jesus’ words indicate that his death would be both voluntary and substitutionary.
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
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 forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.—6:52-59
The crowd argued among themselves about how Jesus could give them his flesh to eat. Jesus’ words about eating the Son of Man’s flesh and drinking his blood are difficult to interpret. It is best to interpret them as referring to the same idea brought out earlier: consuming Christ is the equivalent of trusting in Christ. The results of eating and drinking are eternal life and being raised up on the last day. These are the same results that those who come to Jesus receive. Jesus used this graphic language to describe the total commitment of his followers to him. Biblical authors often us images of eating and drinking in reference to spiritual realities. And at some point during this discussion, there appears to be a change of location.
And now to deal with verse 44 in detail, which says:“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” The Father draws people to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, who opens people’s minds to God’s truth. The Holy Spirit convinces their consciences of the presence of sin in their lives and their need for God. God’s invitation goes out to all people, as Jesus says: “I…will draw all men” (12:32). But this offer does not mean we must accept the invitation; we can reject if if we choose. This shows the importance of responding to God’s spirit. If we ever sense something drawing us to God, it is a dangerous thing to resist because we cannot bring ourselves to him whenever and however we please. We can respond to God only by his grace, which is his undeserved favor. And we will pick up from here tomorrow as we finish chapter 6.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Samuel 18:5-19:24, John 8:31-59, Psalm 112:1-10 and Proverbs 15:12-14
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