is of some comfort to note that Jesus spoke things to ordinary people – who
just didn’t get it.
am the bread of life
Joh 6:22-40 NIV
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake
realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it
with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. (23) Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where
the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. (24) Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor
his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in
search of Jesus.
(25) When they found him on the other side of the
lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" (26) Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you
are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate
the loaves and had your fill. (27) Do not
work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the
Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of
approval." (28) Then they asked him,
"What must we do to do the works God requires?" (29) Jesus answered, "The work of God is this:
to believe in the one he has sent." (30)
So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may
see it and believe you? What will you do? (31)
Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them
bread from heaven to eat.'"
(32) Jesus said to them, "I tell you the
truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my
Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. (33)
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the
world." (34) "Sir," they said,
"from now on give us this bread." (35)
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will
never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (36) But as I told you, you have seen me and still
you do not believe. (37) All that the Father
gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (38) For I have come down from heaven not to do my
will but to do the will of him who sent me. (39)
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he
has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (40)
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him
shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
may note that many of Christ’s most difficult moments concern his desire for
the crowd to know who He really is – God in the flesh. He will express this
thought in many ways; the phrasing “bread of life” is one of the richest of
those ways. But, as always, the transmitter sends and the receiver receives.
attitude towards truth
may think our attitude toward truth – especially that there is no absolute truth
– is unique to our time. It isn’t. What is unique is that those who should
know better (philosophers and thinkers) now agree with the mob, formalizing
their mental laziness into philosophical principle. See if our contemporary
attitude shows in this vignette from two millennia before:
no longer discover truth; we decide it. Even in matters technical. We
are the arbiters of truth (which is why something can be “true for you”
but not for me.)
only do we decide truth, we decide the criteria for truth. Certain
subjects are now incapable of truth (see intelligent design, for
we have decided, we are rather paternalistic about “our truth.” We defend
it not so much because it is true but because it is our truth.
people are not so different from us, after all.
us this bread”
us be clear: one of the biggest reasons these people don’t get it is that
they’re not looking for it. As Paul put it,
Php 3:18-19 NIV
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many
live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (19)
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in
their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
– for that is what this really is – has always been recognized as a sin. But
you might well ask why they couldn’t see that He was not talking about baker’s
bread. The answer, I’m afraid, might well be known as the “familiar mud hole
problem.” We tend to stay in our own little realm of thought, no matter how
dirty it is.
takes a supreme incentive for most of us to break out of the mud hole. See,
therefore, the incentive Christ gives – eternal life! The resurrection of the
dead! The coming of the Lord of Glory! Mercy at the Judgment Seat! Shake,
rattle and roll – and some still stay in the mud hole.
if you do “get it,” there is still a problem here. Some would read this
passage as being a clear teaching of predestination. The argument goes that
God has called certain ones, the elect, and not others. All who are
predestined are saved for sure; all others are surely bound for hell. But this
has its little problems:
the passage can also be read that we need the Father to draw us to himself
because we could never make it on our own. As Chrysostom put it, “the
words do not take away our free will, but show we need assistance.”
if we are completely predestined, how can blame be attached to those who
sin? They had no choice in the matter; is it just to send them to hell
for that which was impossible to change?
may, however, say with certainty that the Father’s power to draw us to Himself
through Christ is all-sufficient. Those who are drawn to him, no power on
earth or heaven or hell can bar the entrance.
may note one other thing. Christ gives us a work to do: believe in Him. To
modern minds this sounds like no work at all. But the ancient knew better. To
believe is to do. Belief is work, because belief implies commitment and
action. Belief is the necessary foundation of good works. It is not “academic
Joh 6:41-59 NIV
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the
bread that came down from heaven." (42)
They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother
we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" (43) "Stop grumbling among yourselves,"
Jesus answered. (44) "No one can come to
me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last
day. (45) It is written in the Prophets:
'They will all be taught by God.'
Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (46) No one has seen the Father except the one who
is from God; only he has seen the Father. (47)
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert,
yet they died. (50) But here is the bread
that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. (51) I am the living bread that came down from
heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my
flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (52) Then the Jews began to argue sharply among
themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (53) Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no
life in you. (54) Whoever eats my flesh and
drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (55) For my flesh is real food and my blood is real
drink. (56) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks
my blood remains in me, and I in him. (57)
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one
who feeds on me will live because of me. (58)
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and
died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." (59) He said this while teaching in the synagogue in
not weather forecast
has only to look at the number and variety of interpretations of the book of
Revelation (all of them true, at least for their authors) to know that prophecy
is not necessarily easy to get right. Often enough, the language is pictorial
or metaphorical – and the correct interpretation is only known after the fact.
We say, “Ah, that’s what He was talking about!”
this does not relieve us of our responsibilities in regard to prophecy:
we must do the best we can to understand it – even while admitting our
such prophecy has within it moral lessons, and these we should understand
and learn even when we are unsure of the prophecy itself.
whatever else you do, believe in what the Scriptures tell you. I may not
understand it, but I know it is true. My stupidity does not negate his
this section we see clearly some of the nature of Christ. It is sufficient to
point out three areas which Christ makes plain – and his hearers muddle.
He is come from heaven itself. The virgin birth is not a footnote; it is
essential if Christ is to be both perfectly man and perfectly God.
He makes it clear that He is superior to Moses – the highest authority in
the Jewish faith.
he promises to raise up the believers on the last day, giving them
eternal, bodily life.
we might point out, is a lot to grasp at any one time. Fortunately for us,
Christ repeats himself.
of Life – Metaphor
you like fuzzy logic, listen to our modern liberals re-interpret this section.
There are a couple of questions we need to answer.
just how are we supposed to feed upon Christ? How do we eat the bread of
life? I submit that there is an obvious answer: Communion.
1Co 10:15-17 NIV
I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (16) Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we
give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that
we break a participation in the body of Christ? (17)
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake
of the one loaf.
just how did this ceremonial meal acquire such significance? How can this be
effective? Christ himself makes it clear that the connection is his sacrifice
on the Cross. By that sacrifice he makes himself available to feed on him.
Just as the priests of the Old Testament fed themselves on the sacrifices
brought to the altar, so the royal priesthood feeds itself symbolically on the
sacrifice of Christ. The one who spoke and the worlds began now says, “This is
on me, for I am the food of a grown man.”
Whom Shall We Go
Joh 6:60-71 NIV
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who
can accept it?" (61) Aware that his
disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend
you? (62) What if you see the Son of Man
ascend to where he was before! (63) The
Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you
are spirit and they are life. (64) Yet there are some of you who do not believe."
For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who
would betray him. (65) He went on to say,
"This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has
enabled him." (66) From this time many
of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (67) "You do not want to leave too, do
you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. (68) Simon
Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of
eternal life. (69) We believe and know that
you are the Holy One of God." (70) Then
Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a
devil!" (71) (He meant Judas, the son of
Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
is this so hard?
our side of the Resurrection, this appears to be straightforward, allowing for
the paths of metaphor in the mind. Why was it so tough then?
is offensive. It is an abhorrent thought – some form of cannibalism.
More importantly, it means that we need to acknowledge Jesus for who he
really is. That offends; we’d like to be in charge. The stone of
stumbling and the rock of offense are always with us.
of us live in the flesh alone. Something can’t be spiritual as long as
there is a physical interpretation; pass the bread, please.
is a problem. Christ’s hearers put their problem into a verb. The King James
says “hear” – as if it’s a problem with our ears. The New American Standard
says “listen” – the problem is that we won’t pay attention. The New International
uses “accept” – we understand what’s said; we just don’t buy into it. The
Contemporary English says “understand” – it’s beyond our mental abilities.
Perhaps it is all the above. Sometimes, a lack of desire is a lack of hearing,
listening, acceptance and understanding.
with those who do stay
would be nice to state that this exercise in metaphor separated the sheep from
the goats. The actual process is a bit simpler, and less final.
I don’t understand, I don’t stay.” Teachers know this student. He’s
lazy. When it’s at all hard to understand, he tunes out – and blames the
teacher for not making it clear.
the problem is that of the herd. One leader or two, and hundreds of
people who get along, go along. And if the leader leaves?
of all, there is the devil within. Jesus knew what Judas would do. It’s
a lesson for us; the wolves in sheep’s clothing are ever with us.
because someone stays in the building doesn’t mean he’s in church.
you also go?”
may note from this remark that Christ gives his disciples the choice: they may
come or go as they please. But it would please him to have them stay. Free
will is rampant, in Christ’s eyes.
in the eyes of Peter, at least, this is not much of a choice. There is no
option B. Interestingly, the “words” here are not logos, but another
Greek word meaning “something said.” It is precisely the exposition that
Christ has been giving that Peter finds irreplaceable.
His eyes are set on the goal: eternal life. No where else can such be found,
whether Peter understands it all or not.
late Bill Blodgett, a student of ours, often found himself in the position of
not knowing just what the Scripture meant at various points. His solution was
not to leave until he got smarter, but to say, “I don’t understand – yet. But
I do believe.” Words for all of us.