Bread to Eat - Letters to the Prison
From the series - Letters to the Prison
Two weeks ago, in our study of John 6, we saw Jesus say something amazing:
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” -John 6:44a
- “…Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me…” -John 6:45b
So, Jesus is making it plain that God must draw people to him. Yet look what he says next:
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” -John 6:47
In this tenth “truly truly statement” by Jesus, we see yet again the parallel truths that God must draw people to himself and that people must believe. Belief in Jesus matters eternally. Yet we cannot come to Jesus unless God draws us. Both things are true. So, if we’re having trouble believing that Jesus is who he says he is, what are we to do? The simple answer is: Ask. We can ask God to draw us. We can (like the man in Mark 9:24) say, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” We learned last week that each person who asks such a thing brings a unique and profound joy to God’s heart –a joy that can only be shared between God and that person. Believers, pray that God would draw the people in your life to Jesus… whether they’re friends or enemies, family or strangers… Ask. You might be surprised by how God answers.
Meanwhile, Jesus has more to say in this profound conversation with the Jews in Capernaum:
- “I am the bread of life.” -John 6:48
He’s repeating what he said back in verse 35, but he’s saying it in a discussion about belief and eternal life. So, his meaning couldn’t be more clear. Jesus isn’t speaking of literal physical bread to sustain physical biological life. He’s speaking of eternal spiritual life. In fact, he makes this point explicitly. Look what he says:
- Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. -John 6:49
The ancestors of the Jews literally ate manna from the sky during their 40-year journey in the wilderness (the book of Numbers records this journey). This was the “bread from heaven” provided by God to sustain the physical lives of the Jewish nation during that time… all 2.5 million of them. Yet they all still died. The food God provided back then did not give them eternal life. So, there is a clear distinction between what they ate then and what Jesus is offering now. Jesus goes on to clarify:
- “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” -John 6:50-51a
There is so much that could be said about those two verses. But there are two major points to look at:
- When Jesus talks about people “eating the living bread,” he means when people believe in him and follow him. They’re taking the truth about Jesus in and living their lives accordingly. In this way, it nourishes and sustains them spiritually… and eternally.
- When believers “eat” the living bread, they will live forever in the kingdom of God, not in this temporary world. Yet they will have bodies –new ones designed for eternal life. Revelation 19-22 explains a lot about the coming kingdom of God, if you’re interested in further reading. So, believers don’t live forever in this life. They will live forever in Jesus’ kingdom at the end of all things.
That’s not all Jesus says about himself in those two verses. Keep in mind, Jesus is talking to Jews who don’t believe in him. They’re not getting it. And because they’re not getting it, what Jesus is about to say next will absolutely shock them:
- “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” -John 6:51b
To the Jews’ way of thinking, there’s a lot wrong with what Jesus is saying here. But for our purposes, it is more important to first understand what Jesus truly means. We know plainly that the “bread” Jesus will give is himself. But he is not giving it so people can eat it. What he means is that he will sacrifice his life to atone for the sins of the world. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is a perfect sacrifice to perfectly fulfill the perfectly just requirements of God’s perfect law. Jesus’ sacrifice is a one-time act for the sake of all believers for all time.
It’s also important for us to remember that, though Jesus is giving his flesh for the “life of the world,” only those who believe in him will have eternal life in his kingdom. This is not a new concept for us. We’ve seen this earlier in our study. Jesus makes it plain in John 3:16-20. So, understanding this, we can look at where the unbelieving Jews in this conversation get hung up.
Their first and primary problem, as we know, is that they don’t believe. This is the root of the issue. But beyond that, they don’t understand that Jesus intends to sacrifice himself. They can’t wrap their heads around this idea because they don’t properly understand the Old Testament predictions about the Messiah. The short version is that they think the Messiah is supposed to be an earthly king of an earthly kingdom that conquers all of the Jews’ enemies (including Rome) and establishes a permanent kingdom where everyone is wealthy, and no one goes hungry. Sounds pretty grand, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want that? But that’s not how it works. That’s not the promise God made to his people. Then, because the Jews don’t get that part, they assume instead that Jesus must mean people are supposed to literally eat him. Ewww. Look how they respond:
- The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” -John 6:52
Jesus will respond with his eleventh “truly truly” statement. We will examine it next week. We love you!