For an introduction to this series, click here.
April 25, 2007
As we left off yesterday, Jesus was correcting the Jews' superstitious belief that Moses had provided the manna in the desert. Jesus then goes farther and says there is something more precious than physical food. That of course, is Jesus himself.
The Jews are mystified that Jesus would call Himself the bread that came down from heaven. They misjudge Him, saying, "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'?"(6:42) They could see nothing beyond the physical fact of the man standing in front of them.
Jesus responds: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 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." (6:44-45) This is one of the clearest statements of the doctrine of election in the Bible. Notice the phrase "I will raise him up on the last day." Who is the him? If you examine the passage, you will learn that the ones who are raised are those whom the Father draws. All that the Father draws will be in heaven. No more, no less. That's a mystery we cannot understand. We can debate the particulars, but the fact that God is the first actor in salvation is clear in Scripture.
The people, who have lived their whole lives in a culture of very strict dietary laws, still cannot get past Jesus' statement that He is the bread that came down from heaven. They say, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus does not allay their fears. In fact He compounds them: "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. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." (6:53-58) Naturally, the people are stunned: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (6:60, ESV)
Now some take this verse out of context and say that Jesus is referring to the elements of communion. They teach that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ or that Christ is spiritually present in the elements. Nowhere in this passage does Jesus mention communion, and this event took place at least a year before the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted that ordinance. Jesus is talking in this whole context about believing in Him, and that is all this passage means. Jesus corrected their assumption about Moses, but He also builds off their error to draw a parallel to prove that He is better than Moses. Moses fed the people with manna: physical food. They are all dead. Jesus provides Himself: spiritual food. Those who take in Him will live forever. That's the simple message of Jesus here in this passage.