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Monday, March 11, 2013

Bread of Life

          In looking at John 6, the first thing we need to note is there are not three stories but one that carries over a couple of days. We must read it with this in mind. The theme of the whole chapter is Jesus being the bread and the wine; He brings the Spirit and eternal life. He offers these. The next thing we must realize is He is talking to every person. You see this by seeing Him explain this message to the people in general, the Jews, the disciples (followers), the chosen twelve, and then to Peter, who is the spokesman of every believer. He speaks to the outermost concentric circle and moves inward, from the common people to the way in to his closest ones.  

This means Jesus’ message is for everyone. 

            Let us look deeper. The Jews learned from teachers many times a Messiah, a heavenly King, would come and be their Savior. In the minds of the Jewish leaders who taught the people, this Messiah would be a glorious King and a great warrior. They expected Him to ride in on a horse with armor and a flowing robe to be victorious over the Jews' enemies. To what societal level did Jesus arrive? He came as the infant of a carpenter. This is contrary to what the Jewish leaders expected. The leaders never forgot it nor let the people forget it, while Jesus grew up and began teaching and working miraculous acts. How would we want to see a Savior/King come in to our lives? He is supposed to save us so in what way would we expect Jesus to be a Savior? As a doctor? A priest? A teacher? A millionaire? Other nations oppressed these people several times throughout their history. They expected a savior to come in and set them free literally, not set them free from their sins and wrong doings, give them life eternal. 

            Let us continue to look at this passage. Jesus, in John 6, walked in Galilee, in Tiberias, and near the time of Passover. Over 5000 people followed Him because of what He taught and the signs He performed. The sun began its descent and the people hungered but they did not leave. Jesus showed Himself concerned for their physical wellbeing, like any compassionate person. He told His disciples, the chosen twelve, find food for the people. Phillip said it took more than 200 denarii, 200 days wages, for each person to eat a just a morsel. Andrew said a young boy had two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus instructed them to seat the people. He prayed over the bread and instructed the disciples to feed everyone. When everyone finished eating, the disciples collected twelve baskets full of food left over “so nothing will be lost” (vs.12 NASB). This miracle was important so see Jesus is sufficient for everyone. His bread and wine do not rot as the manna did for the Israelites in the wilderness. When the people saw what He had done, they said He was truly the Prophet, the one who was to come before the Messiah (vs.14). We see Jesus has power over the bread and food.
            In the next section of John 6, we watch the disciples row the boats from Tiberias to Capernaum. The disciples did not find Jesus so they went in their boats. When darkness came, they began rowing on the sea. It was twelve miles from Tiberias to Capernaum. The disciples did not find Jesus because He was on the mount in Tiberias praying. Jesus walked on the water toward His disciples when they were about four miles from the shore of Capernaum after He finished praying. The sea was choppy with a strong wind. The disciples were frightened. Jesus told them not to be frightened. When they next looked, they saw they were nearing the Capernaum. In the morning, when the people from Tiberias saw Jesus left, they climbed in their boats and crossed to Capernaum, too. When they arrived there, they said to Jesus, “Rabbi (Teacher), when did you get here” (vs.25 NASB)? We must notice two things, 1) the people called Him teacher again instead of Prophet; and 2) Jesus showed His power over the water. 

            When Jesus met the people who followed Him from Tiberias, Jesus asked them, why did you follow me? Was it because I fed you and you are no longer hungry? He told them not to work for the food that rots but for imperishable food. They asked Jesus, what must we do that we may work the works for God? Jesus told them their work for God was to believe. We must remember this response because the Jews and disciples, along with the twelve, asked this, too. The people asked Jesus for a sign so they would believe. They wanted to see with their eyes that Jesus told the truth, as others informed them about Him. The crowds reminded Jesus it was their ancestors who believed in the wilderness and acted on it by eating the manna that Moses provided in the wilderness. (Was that act of faith not enough, they wonder?) Jesus tells them, Moses did not give them the manna from heaven, the Father did. The Father, Yahweh, gave manna and gives bread from heaven. They placed their belief in the wrong person. If you believe a man gives you something, your belief is not strong since God is the giver, not a fallible, mortal man. 

        God is not mortal; He is immortal. His truths do not die, because He does not die. His love never fails because He is almighty. Jesus told them Yahweh, who gave bread from heaven, gave Jesus as the bread of life. Whoever eats of Him will not be hungry. Whoever believes in Him will never thirst. Jesus told them both breads came from God, but this bread from heaven, now, Jesus, is the true bread and it gives life to the world (vs.32-33). This was something the people never learned before, Jesus being the bread of life. Since they did not believe God gave them the manna from heaven while their ancestors were in the wilderness (they thought Moses did), their belief failed. Would they be able to believe God gave bread from heaven, which gives them eternal life?   

Jesus knew their belief and unbelief. He said “all that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” (vs.37 NASB) for I came to do the Father’s will. All those who come to me, I will lift up on the last day. Jesus said He is the bread that never rots and is eternal. He is the bread the Father sent, not to fill their mortal hunger, but to give them everlasting life so they would never be hungry and would live forever. They only must believe and take from Him. Believing in Jesus as the Son of God and receiving Him is similar taking the Passover. The Passover identified them as God’s people of the old covenant (Old Testament). The receiving of Jesus signified them as God’s people of the new covenant (New Testament). Believing Jesus is God’s Son would give them life forever, the metaphorical bread. The drinking of His wine gives the person a filling; they would never want for anything ever again. Jesus brings the Spirit and the life.   

The indwelling Spirit feeds us every day. This appeared to be a hard saying for many people today, we people of learning. For normal people back then, seeing Jesus feed over 5000 people with leftovers remaining and seeing Jesus control the wind and water of the sea, believing in Jesus may have been a small step. They wanted never to be hungry again. They wanted eternal life. They wanted to believe in God better than their ancestors did. Jesus fed their stomachs. Jesus controlled the sea and the wind. What are better signs He is in control of life than these?   

He is the Life, the bread of Life. 

How can they not believe?

            Let us journey now with Jesus and the disciples to the synagogue in Capernaum. The Jews noted what He said to the people, He is the bread that came from heaven. They grumbled about this because they understood what Jesus meant. Jesus said He is the one God sent, the One for whom they had been waiting. Jesus told them what they were doing, grumbling, and He told them not to grumble. “No one can come to the Father unless He draws them. "No one will know that I am the Son unless the Father draws him to Me” (vs.43-44 NASB). Jesus said to them even the prophets said they shall all be taught about God so, those who listened and learned from the Father, come to Me. This was an insult to the Jewish leaders, to say they did not learn from their teachers to heed from God. It implied they are not akin the teachers of old who understood about the Messiah. How dared He insult these leaders? Jesus quoted from the Prophets, “They will all be taught by God.” Jesus continued speaking, “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me” (vs. 45 NASB). He implied since they did not believe He is the Son of God, they did not hear from God and learn right. These are insults to their pride as Jews, the chosen ones of Yahweh.
Jesus offered a way for these leaders to come back to God. He said, “Anyone who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (vs.47-48 NASB) He jumped straight to the fact that He is the bread of life. Notice, He did not say I am the bread of life to the common people. It was just to these Jewish leaders He said, “I am the bread of life” because they knew what He meant but were choosing not to believe. From this point, Jesus reminded them of their history, as He did with the crowds before them. He told them the bread He gives is different; it does not rot. Jesus gave them another hard saying; He said the bread of life is His flesh (vs.51). The Jews argued about what they heard and chose not to believe. These were the learned men; they should have understood the direct metaphor better than the common people did. This was why Jesus spoke in these terms. Jesus speaks to people at the level they can understand. These Jewish leaders chose not to understand and believe but to infer Jesus actually meant they had to eat His body and drink His blood. They made it appear Jesus said they had to be cannibals. Jesus said unless you give your life to the Father, who provided the Son as the sacrifice, and become one with Him, working as Jesus does, you do not have Life within your selves. You do not have Jesus, or eternal life; you only have mortal life. This was what He meant when He said abide in Me in verse 56. Being in tune with Jesus through His indwelling Holy Spirit so your desire is what others will understand about life with Him, this is what Jesus meant when He said abide in Me. John Gill in his Exposition of the Bible states it this way,
It is to partake of, and enjoy the several blessings of grace procured by him, such as redemption, pardon, peace, justification and such a feeding upon him as is attended with growth in grace, and in the knowledge of him, and is daily to be repeated, as our corporeal food is, otherwise persons have no life in them: without this there, is no evidence of life in them; not such live as feed on sinful pleasures, or on their own righteousness; only such that believe in Christ are living souls; and without this there is nothing to support life; everything else that a man eats tends to death; but this is what will maintain and preserve a spiritual life.
The true food and drink are the Word and the Spirit (vs.56). In Jewish teaching, they often used the bread metaphor to mean learning so well what the teachers taught that it becomes a part of you. This teaching was natural for the leaders. The teaching meant what makes a person is what comes from inside the person’s spirit that is trained by knowledge learned and wisdom acquired. Jesus wanted them to take Him within so that He, the bread of heaven, reflected from them in their words and actions. Jesus had spoken to the people earlier and stated what is on the inside of a person is what makes you clean or dirty, not the outside of a person. "This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever" (vs.58 NASB). This is the bread, faith, and knowledge from God that came from heaven. This faith is the belief in the One sent from the Father to fill the need (feed the need) of the person’s spirit, to have eternal life. If you partake of this bread, this faith, this knowledge, you will live because of Jesus; you will live forever. Jesus is the bread of Life. Abiding in this bread and wine He gives means abiding in Him and having life eternal with Him. 

            The Word uttered from the beginning of the world gave humanity its first breath. The Word spoke all things into being. The Word is not mortal, but transcends time and power. The Word Jesus speaks is Spirit. If Jesus did not ascend, His Spirit would not descend to be our helper, our reminder, our guide. His Spirit leads us in the way of God and leads and grows us to be more Christlike. Jesus is the one who gives us eternal life through his life, death, and resurrection. His Spirit, whom He leaves with us, directs us in life in this world, as He reminds us now, and takes us into eternal life. This Word gives us life.           

        Let us now seek out what Jesus said regarding his close followers, the twelve He chose to walk with Him every day. Because the disciples noted what He said to the people and to the Jewish leaders, they were questioning and complaining among them. They were saying these are difficult things to comprehend and believe. This is more than seeing Him heal the sick or feed the 5000 people. He is telling the leaders He is the bread of Life, the promised Messiah. The disciples grumbled and Jesus noticed and confronted them. He asked them what they needed to help them believe. They watched as He performed many miracles and taught many lessons. What was necessary for them to believe? “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? Will you believe then?" (Vs.62 NASB) He explained His actions and words to the common people and the Jewish leaders.  

 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (vs.63 NASB). The flesh, whether your actual mortal flesh or your actions, cannot gain you eternal life. Christ gives believers eternal life. “The Word (Logos) I speak to you is Spirit and life,” Jesus said. This is the Word from the beginning of the world. (John 1:1) The Word spoke and gave humanity its first breath. The Word spoke all things into being. The Word is not mortal, but transcends time and power. The Word Jesus speaks is Spirit. If Jesus did not ascend, His Spirit would not descend to be our helper, reminder, and guide. His Spirit leads us in the way of God by guiding and growing us to be more Christlike. Jesus gives us eternal life through His life, death, and resurrection. He leaves His Spirit with us. The Holy Spirit gives us life in this world, reminds us of Jesus’ teachings now, and takes us into eternal life. The Word gives us life, mortal and eternal. This spoken Word gave us mortal life and eternal life by Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we believe He is the Son of God, we take in the symbolic body and blood of Christ. The triune God fills the hunger and need of people for God’s Word and presence by giving access to God forever. Several followed Christ after He said this while others turned back (vs. 66). They understood what Jesus said and chose not to follow Jesus any longer. 

         Jesus did not explain in detail as He did when He was speaking with the common people. The disciples paid attention to His words and perceived what He meant. He did not go into detail as when He told the Jewish leaders, who should have known and recognized what He meant by His being the broken bread and spilled out wine for them. The disciples understood Him at that point and should have known after being with Him for so long. Jesus is the bread so we should never be hungry again. He is the wine so we shall never thirst for God’s words and presence ever again. Yet, even though Jesus said these things and did these things in the strength and power of God in their presence each day of their following Him, several of them did not believe nor felt compelled by an inner and higher law of the soul to trust in Jesus. (There was not even an intellectual faith.) The disciples understood this, but many fell away at this time because they did not want to give God this much of themselves. Jesus said, “Some of you do not believe because He knew from the beginning who would not believe and who would betray Him” (vs.64 NASB). Jesus discerned not every one of them would believe and follow Him. (See verses 60 and 66) Jesus fed these people with mortal food, as well as spiritual food, for many days, letting them see signs and wonders. He fed them with the Truth from the Word of God. Jesus gives and is the bread of Life. He gives Spirit and life. 

         Nearing the end of this chapter, Jesus confronts the twelve chosen ones, in particular Peter, one of the three in His innermost circle. Peter lead the church after Pentecost just as Jesus foretold when He said He would build His church upon the stone Peter laid. After the other disciples had left the chosen twelve, Jesus asks them, “You do not want to go away also, do you” (vs. 67 NASB). Peter replied for each of them, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know You are the Holy One of God" (vs.68-69 NASB). This is what each of the groups Jesus addressed should have said, You persuaded us and we have come to understand with a heart knowledge You are the most Holy One of God. How did they gain this heart knowledge? They asked and received the gift of faith God willingly bestows upon those who ask. This is one of the three most important gifts from God with the other two being hope and love. They chose to receive faith, use it, apply it, and trust in Him.   

Faith is an actual knowledge that hears and understands, and then acts upon this acquired knowledge. This is what everyone who ever believed did. Did the Jewish leaders have faith? They had faith in the God of the Old Covenant but not enough to believe God could work in new ways. Did the people have faith? A few did, believed, and led changed lives. Did each of the disciples have faith? Eleven of the original twelve did and many of the large group did and acted upon it to receive eternal life. 

To end the chapter, Jesus asked Peter next, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil” (vs.70 NASB)? Jesus chose the twelve, as He chooses each of us. The choice is ours whether we will choose Jesus. Judas Iscariot did not choose Jesus. He chose for riches for himself, which could not and did not save him.   

We can choose for ourselves what we want; God gave us freewill when He created us. We can choose to trust in Jesus and accept His gift of forgiveness and eternal life (bread from heaven) or we can choose our own way, manna that rots. It is our choice. Will we choose Jesus and eternal life or will we choose to be our own guide and die.  

 Which bread do you choose?