Title: Instruction concerning the Bread of Life part 2
Scriptures to Read: John 6:47-71
The Parable of the Bread of Life
In verses 47-51, we find His next “truly, truly, I say to you.” Here in this section the eating of bread is the real life experience He is using as an analogy. And the point made by this real life experience is that eating bread sustains our life until we die. The patriarchs ate manna in the wilderness, and they died. The key elements of the parable are the bread which is eaten, the act of eating the bread, and the outcome of the eating, which is life sustained until death.
What are the spiritual realities represented by these elements?
1. Jesus already declared that He is the bread.
2. The act of eating the bread is the act of believing that He is the Messiah.
At this point in time they do not have to believe that He died for their sins and rose again for that has not yet happened. But they do have to believe that He is the Messianic person and if they believe that then they will have this new kind of life He is offering.
3. The outcome of eating the bread of life is that the one who eats will not die, but will live forever. He will have eternal life. Those who believe in Him will not die, and as we will learn when we get to John chapter 11, they will live even if they die (John 11:25).
The spiritual truth taught by this parable is that those who believe in Him have eternal life and live forever.
Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52). Clearly, the Jews do not understand the parable, and this is one of the reasons He uses parables.
The parable restated
He answers their question in verses 53-58, but He continues to speak in terms of the parable. Again He begins, truly, truly, I say to you in order to highlight what He is about to say. Then the end of verse 53 is the negative statement of the parable and verse 54 is the positive statement of it. Now notice the parallel between verse 40 and verse 54.
• v40: “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life,
and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
• V54: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life,
and I will raise him up on the last day.”
In verse 40 it is those who behold the Son and believe who will have eternal life. In verse 54 it is those who eat His flesh and drink His blood who have eternal life. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood is the element of the analogy taken from everyday life, and in the spiritual reality it means to believe in Jesus as the Messiah who was promised. When He says that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life He is saying that those who believe in Him will have eternal life.
Elements of the parable
In verses 55-56 He points out three elements of the parable.
1. His flesh, He says, represents true food.
2. His blood represents true drink.
3. And the act of eating His flesh and drinking His blood represents abiding in Him.
In verse 57 He further explains that the life we receive by believing in Him and abiding in Him comes from Him. He uses His relationship with the Father as an illustration of our relationship with Him. Just as He lives because of the Father, so we who believe in Him will live because of Him.
Jesus concludes by returning to the contrast between the manna and the living bread. The former will not result in eternal life, but the latter will.
Response of His disciples
Then John records the response of His disciples (John 6:59-60). The disciples referred to here are the larger group beyond the twelve. Many of these also grumbled in unbelief, and Jesus asked them if His teaching causes them to stumble. Isaiah 8:14-15 prophesied that, for those who don’t believe, the Messiah would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. (This is also referred to in Romans 9:31-33; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 1 Peter 2:5-8.) Because they don’t understand that He is speaking to them in a parable, they think He literally means them to eat His flesh, and so they are offended and grumble.
Aware of their grumbling, He asks them: if this causes you to stumble, what will you make of it if you see Me returning to heaven where I came from? In other words, if they only understand His words literally, how will they accomplish the eating of His flesh when it is removed from them as he ascends into heaven? So He argues that a purely literal interpretation of His statement doesn’t make sense. Then in verse 63a He points out that the life He is talking about comes from the Spirit and not from the flesh. This is just what He told Nicodemus at the outset of His ministry. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6.) Although the statement is generalized, the flesh profits nothing, surely He is making a particular application to His own flesh, which by now is uppermost in their minds. And in 63b He says that life comes from the words that He has spoken to them. His words are the way in which the Spirit can and will convey to them the eternal life He is speaking about. In the parables of the kingdom we learned that the word of God is sown like a seed into the hearts of men. And it has a life of its own, and in the heart of the believer it will germinate and grow of its own accord.
Now John records three results that follow from His discourse on the Bread of life (John 6:66-71)
1. Firstly, there is a response from many of the disciples outside the apostolic group– As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
2. Secondly, there is a reaffirmation of faith on the part of eleven of the twelve apostles.
3. Thirdly, Jesus already knows who will betray Him.
Truly, truly, I say to you …
Four times in this discourse Jesus used the words, truly, truly, I say to you, to focus the crowd’s attention on what He was about to say. Now that we have looked in detail at what He said, let’s go back to these words to see how He develops His argument.
1. The first one is in verse 26, where He begins by pointing out that their motivation for seeking Him. They are not seeking Him because they saw the signs that authenticate His Messiahship, but they are seeking Him because they ate the bread and were satisfied. Then He points out that bread perishes, but the food the Son of Man provides endures to eternal life.
2. The second one comes in verse 32, where He says that true bread is given by the Father, gives life to the world, and is satisfying of both hunger and thirst.
3. The third one comes in verse 47, where He points out that those who believe have eternal life, and that He Himself is the one they must believe in.
4. The fourth one comes in verse 53, where He says that those who believe in Him will have eternal life and He will raise them up on the last day.
In this discourse He is teaching the crowd in parables because His Messiahship has been rejected by the leaders of Israel. He speaks in parables so they won’t understand, and even many of His disciples don’t understand and stop following Him. With one exception, the apostles understand and believe. But in Judas we find the beginnings of his apostasy. The key message of the discourse is that eternal life is given to those who believe in Him. And this is in fact the very purpose for which He was sent by the Father, a purpose that will be accomplished. In spite of their unbelief, there will be those who believe and receive eternal life, and they who believe are secure in Him and will be raised up on the last day.