John 6:41 – So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
Jesus is in the midst of teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. He is teaching the crowd that he is the ‘bread of life’ or the ‘bread from heaven’.
The main truth he is trying to impart to them is this: Just as earthly life depends upon earthly food, spiritual life depends on spiritual food. The Messiah has come to provide spiritual food by fulfilling/completing the ceremonial law and replacing it with the gospel. Through the plan set forth in the gospel message, the Messiah will become the spiritual bread which sustains eternal life.
Since Jesus is the true bread from heaven (as opposed to manna as they mistakenly believed), the Jews can be assured that Jesus has a divine commission from God the Father to bring them the gospel message.
But unlike the woman at the well, this group of Jews is rejecting the clear evidence that Jesus presents to them. Jesus gives them a picture of the Messiah that is vastly different from what they had been expecting, and they don’t want to accept it.
That particular generation of Jews was not going to receive earthly blessings from the Messiah. In reality, they were going to receive something far, far greater – spiritual blessings/benefits. But again, because that was not what they were expecting, they were offended by the doctrine of Jesus. They rejected what he longed to impart to them; they chose spiritual blindness.
As we closed our post last week, I encouraged you to examine your own life. When the next great move of God occurs (and it WILL happen), are you and I prepared to accept the new way in which God chooses to move? Or will we become AWOL from God’s army because he isn’t moving the way we expect? Are we prepared to change the way we worship, preach, and witness? Are we prepared to accept new music in our churches, or conduct our services in different ways? These are possibilities that we must be prepared for, or we run the risk of falling into the same trap as these ancient Jews.
John 6:42 – They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
The response of the crowd shows how carnally minded most of them were. They were completely focused on what was happening in the physical realm as evidenced by their reference to the birth and family of Jesus.
Capernaum was not far from Nazareth, the place where Jesus grew up with his mother Mary and his reputed father, Joseph. There can be no doubt that the details surrounding his unusual birth had been published far and wide; this news had certainly reached the citizens of Capernaum.
After all, it was absolutely scandalous for a woman to be pregnant before marriage at that time. And to add to the juicy story, she claimed the child’s conception was miraculous/divine. Human nature being what it is, this birth was on the lips of every Jewish person on the planet, and probably some of the Gentiles as well!
Joseph himself supported this claim. He testified that an angel appeared to him, confirming that Mary’s baby was the result of the work of Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
Based on their carnal point of view, the crowd’s opinion of Jesus goes something like this:
Joseph is the father of Jesus, and he is nothing but a humble laborer. The family of Jesus is not rich or politically influential like that of King David. Therefore, Jesus can’t be the descendent of David who will eventually sit on the throne of Israel. Jesus has no military training and no army. Therefore, he can’t be the conquering Messiah who is to reign a thousand years. Yes, he did feed five thousand men (plus women and children) in a single meal, but that was nothing compared to the manna our ancestors ate for 40 years.
Once the Jews adopted a carnal view of the facts surrounding Jesus, it was easy to reject his claim as the one ‘coming down from heaven’ (Messiah). This was the view that the majority of the Jews held. And without the intervention of God (see verse 45), the Jews would have remained in spiritual darkness.
John 6:43-44 – Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
Carnally minded men simply cannot understand the gospel. Paul made this point abundantly clear to the church in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
If this is true, then how can men accept the gospel and be saved?
Just as God sent Jesus into the world to bring the truth, he sends Holy Spirit to reveal or teach that truth mankind.
Holy Spirit interacts with the unbeliever, enlightening their understanding of spiritual things. He causes them to become aware of their own sin, resulting in a need for repentance. He imparts divine revelation to the sinner concerning Jesus and his atoning work. Holy Spirit prepares people to believe/trust in Jesus as Redeemer.
Then, if they will allow it, Holy Spirit will perform a divine work in their hearts enabling them to receive these newly revealed truths. In turn, this produces faith in the life of the sinner. Using that faith, the sinner comes to Christ and is made into a new creation. Old things are passed away, and all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Those who have been ‘taught’ or enlightened by Holy Spirit are able to take a spiritual point of view, and their opinion of Jesus goes something like this:
The unusual circumstances of the birth of Jesus point to a divine conception, making God his Father (not Joseph). Jesus already said he came to grant us entrance into the kingdom of heaven; a kingdom that was spiritual and not earthly. In this new kingdom, earthly riches, power and authority are inconsequential. All those who believe in the doctrine of Christ are given ‘bread from heaven’ which results in everlasting life in the world to come.
For the Jews who adopted a spiritual view of the facts surrounding Jesus, it was easy to accept his claim as the one ‘coming down from heaven’ (Messiah).
It then follows that all who accept Christ have eaten the bread from heaven which results in eternal life. That person can rest assured that when time ends, regardless of what happened to them here on earth, their body will be raised to life once again and changed in the twinkling of an eye to an immortal body (I Corinthians 15:51-53).
John 6:45 – “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me,…”
The concept of God teaching people to embrace the Messiah and his work occurs in many places throughout the scriptures (Micah 4:1-4, Jeremiah 31:34), but Jesus was probably referencing the book of Isaiah here, as he specifically mentions the book of the prophets (Isaiah 54:13).
Those who are taught by God in the person of Holy Spirit receive ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart to understand the gospel message. It is then up to them what they will do with that information. They can choose to accept it and be changed, or they can reject it and remain in sin.
John 6:46 – “…not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.”
Jesus seems to add this last phrase to avoid any misunderstanding among the people.
In any ordinary earthly setting, students/pupils will see and hear their teacher. But in this case, people do not have to physically see God or naturally hear his voice in order to be taught by him, as they do with natural teachers. God teaches through his word by his Spirit.
On the other hand, Jesus has seen Father God, because he was one with God and he came from heaven. He is the only begotten Son (John 1:18), the express image of his Father (Hebrews 1:3). The Jews have NOT seen God at any time, but they can still be taught/instructed by God through the work of Holy Spirit.
John 6:47 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
In order to receive eternal life, one must believe in Jesus as the Messiah; there is no other source. In his teaching, Jesus has presented us with the steps that occur when someone arrives at eternal life:
- They are drawn by Father God.
- They hear his instruction/word.
- They accept the redemption offered to them.
- They are given to Christ, so they can be justified by faith.
- They are nourished by the bread of life.
- They continue in faith until their earthly race is over.
- They are raised up at the last day.
- They partake of eternal life.
Of course, we want to point out the essential role of Holy Spirit in this process. He brings conviction upon the sinner as they hear the word, making it come alive in their hearts. It is also Holy Spirit who continues to sanctify the believer throughout their earthly journey.
The promise of Jesus in this verse should produce a flood of joy and hope in our lives. Regardless of the trials and difficulties we now face, we are assured of eternal life.
In that life the believer is free from sorrow/tears, disease, fear, poverty, etc. In short, sin and its effects are permanently removed from us as we enjoy eternity with God.
John 6:48 – “I am the bread of life.”
Here we have the final revelation of a spiritual principle/lesson that began the day before with the miracle of the loaves and fish.
The miracle prompted people to seek Jesus, because they desired him to continue feeding them physical food, like the manna their ancestors ate. But at that point, Jesus begins to compare the loaves/manna to spiritual food or the bread of life.
Manna came down from heaven (the atmosphere) from God. It was freely given by Father God to the people; they did nothing to earn or deserve it. Furthermore, it was equally made available to anyone who took the time to collect it – rich, poor, old, young, etc. When it first appeared, no one understood what it actually was; it was unknown. But once discovered it provided physical life and health to all who partook of it.
Obviously, this mirrors what is happening in the spiritual realm.
Jesus came down from heaven (the dwelling place of God). He was freely given by Father God to the human race; we did nothing to earn or deserve this gift of grace. The atoning sacrifice of Christ is equally available to all people – rich, poor, old, young, Jew, Gentile, etc. When Jesus first appeared, no one understood who or what he actually was; he was unknown. But once he was revealed as Messiah, he provided spiritual/eternal life to all who partook of his atoning sacrifice.
Jesus has now explained the simple yet profound principle of the gospel to the Jews. He is the ‘bread of life’ or the bread which came down from heaven, bringing life to the world (John 6:33). Jesus has now done exactly what the Jews requested – he has given them access to the bread of life (John 6:34).
John 6:49-50 – “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”
The physical bread which these Jews were seeking would never result in eternal life physically or spiritually. If it could, their ancestors would still be alive.
Those who ate the manna were receiving food into their stomachs (physical body) for the sustenance of earthly life. Those who receive Jesus into their hearts (spiritual body) are sustaining their eternal, spiritual life.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus often draws attention to a physical truth which mirrors a spiritual principle? In this case, it was the manna that reflected Jesus as the bread of life. Other examples include marriage, sowing and reaping, etc. This is an excellent way of showing spiritual principles to your kids and other Christians who might be new in the faith.
Let me offer you some encouragement:
What is the only thing better than a good meal? Answer: Sharing that meal with someone you know and love. The same thing is true spiritually. Once you have tasted the goodness of God, you will want to share it with all those you know and love.
So don’t wait. Reach out to those you know and love and offer them the gospel message just as you would offer bread to a starving man. It will be the best meal they ever have!
Let me offer you some relief:
Often times we put a tremendous burden upon ourselves because we feel it is our responsibility to ‘save’ our loved ones. Let me offer you some relief – this is not true. We do not have the power to save anyone! Our responsibility is to share the truth of the gospel in love. Only Holy Spirit can take the truth of the gospel and produce faith in the life of a sinner.
Let me offer you some strength:
If I had to guess, I would say that all of us eat food every single day. When it gets close to meal time, my stomach doesn’t hesitate to let me know it wants to be fed!
In the same way, it is essential that we feed our spirits; if we are spiritually empty, we can’t minister to those around us. So feast on the word today. Only then will you have the ability to strengthen others.