posted on May, 15 2015 @ 05:05 PM
“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven”- John ch6 v32
Jesus was fond of using the phrase “Truly I say to you”, but this “double” version, with the repeated AMEN, is found only in John’s
He seems to use it to mark the statements which he wants people to remember.
The discourse in the sixth chapter presents three of them, like the discourse in the previous chapter, underlining its importance.
The background of the discourse is the feeding of the five thousand.
Jesus is addressing the crowd who followed him back to Capernaum.
Through them, he’s addressing the whole Jewish community, still holding to the covenant with Moses.
When the crowd find Jesus in Capernaum, they ask him “When did you get here?”
But Jesus responds to the implied complaint “We were looking for you for a long time”.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (v26)
Instead of looking for the “signs”, the pointers to spiritual truth, in what he was doing for them, they were interested only in the practical
He corrects them on two points
They should not be “seeking”, in that casual way, but “working”, putting real earnestness into the search.
And instead of looking for physical food, which only has a short-term effect, they should be looking for the kind of food which gives eternal life.
He himself, the Son of Man, can supply that food, because the Father has authorised him for the purpose.
They ask, taking the easy point first, what he means by “working”.
“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
He answers “Believe in him whom he has sent”.
Correctly understanding that Jesus means himself, they ask him to justify his claim that he has been sent by God.
Let him show them some great “sign”.
As an example, they cite the manna which the Israelites received in the wilderness, “he gave them bread from heaven to eat”.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”
Again, he corrects them on two points.
He puts them right on their unspoken assumption that Moses gave them the manna; as the Psalmist says, it came from the Lord.
And in any case, the manna was not the true bread from heaven.
The true bread comes down continually (rather than just once in the past), and gives life to the world (rather than just the Jews).
They are convinced. Let’s have this bread always.
Then he identifies himself as the bread of life.
This completes the explanation of his original statement.
Believing in Jesus is the work they must do in order to receive the bread, and Jesus himself is the bread they will receive when they have done the
As for their demand to be shown a “sign”; he stands in front of them as the required “sign”, in person, and they have withheld their
(However, their unbelief does not frustrate the Father’s will, which is that “everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal
So he goes through it again (from v47)
First, “he who believes has eternal life”. This has been established in previous discussion (such as ch5 v24).
Secondly, Jesus is the bread of life.
The difference between this bread and the manna is that those men who ate of the manna later died, while the man who eats of the bread which comes
from heaven does not die.
As the bread of life, he can also be called “living bread” (v51), able to pass on the life which he possesses.
As the living bread, he has come down from heaven (this refers to the Incarnation).
“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever”.
Now we seem to have two competing statements.
On the one hand, eternal life comes from believing.
On the other hand, eternal life comes from eating “the bread from heaven”.
The only way to reconcile the two is on the understanding that “eating the bread” means “believing”.
In other words, “believing” is not just the way to reach the bread of life, but also the act of receiving it.
Then he adds a further complication.
The bread which he gives is his flesh.
The phrase “for the life of the world” attaches to one or the other or both. It echoes the statements in the other gospels, that his life was
given “for many”.
It’s very understandable that the Jews should then ask each other “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
But this is another example of the “materialistic misunderstanding” which plagues the dialogue between Jesus and other people.
He says something with a spiritual meaning, and they understand it in a materialistic sense.
Thus “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”; “It is because we have brought no bread”.
“You must be born again”; “How can a man enter again into his mother’s womb?”
The same is true here. He talks of spiritual feeding, but they can only understand physical feeding.
In fact their question has been answered already, from the teaching he’s already given them.
If “eating the bread” means “believing in him”
And if the bread he gives is his flesh
Then “eating his flesh” also means “believing in him”.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”. (v53)
The combination of “flesh and blood” obviously invites comparison with what was said at the Last Supper about his body and blood, identified with
the bread and the wine.
But I stand by my previous conclusion, that the essence of spiritual feeding is the state of “believing” in him.
The allusion to the Lord’s Supper adds the message that our belief needs to include the significance of his death (already implied in “given for
the life of the world”).
“As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians ch11 v26).
One way of expressing the relationship between this feeding and the Lord’s Supper is a definition found in the Anglican catechism, that a sacrament
is the “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”.
In this case, the physical act of eating the bread is the “outward and visible sign” of the “inward and spiritual grace” of being nourished,
through faith, by the life received from Christ.
Our “feeding upon” the Son of Man is our access to eternal life.
His flesh and blood are “true” (ALETHES) nourishment, rather than the temporary nourishment we get from physical food.
The real key is that in this way we abide “in him”, and he in us (v56)
There is a bond between us, which unites us together.
The result is a continuous link between ourselves and the Father, and a transmission of life through that link (v57)
The God who sent Jesus is the “living” Father. As Jesus observed (ch5 v26), he has “life in himself”.
The Son lives “because of the Father”, through his connection with the Father.
And those who “feed upon” the Son live “because of me”, through their connection with the Son.
Finally, v58 recaps the overall message of the discourse.
Those who eat only physical food, even the manna of the Old Covenant, will die in due course.
Those who eat the bread of the New Covenant, the bread of life, will live for ever.