- A couple things up front.
- First, there is a lot in this passage, yet the passage needs to be taken together. A lot of ideas are brought out, but it’s all a cohesive whole. So we are going to cover a lot of ground this evening.
- Second, there is so much in this passage that there are obviously numerous ways to unpack it. I’ve chosen this evening to divide the points up into five. I’m doing that in part to try to get to all the big themes that this passage brings out.
WHY THEY TURNED DOWN THE BREAD OF LIFE:
- “Bread of life”: vv. 35, 48, 51 (“living bread”).
- “Bread from heaven”: vv. 32 (x2), 41, 50, 58.
- “Bread of God”: vv. 31, 33.
1. They only wanted physical things when Jesus was offering eternal life.
- John 6:30-31, 40, 47, 51, 54, 58.
- Going back to the earlier miracle of mass feeding (John 6:1-15), there was still a focus on physical bread among the crowd. Indeed, Jesus calls them out on that (John 6:26-27).
- Looking at their heritage, they only see the miracle of manna in the desert as a lesson on getting some free bread (v. 31).
- Many do this today.
- They want Jesus for the healing He can give.
- They want Jesus to keep them safe.
- They want Jesus to bless their finances.
- They are only interested in the physical things that believing in God bring.
- This is most obviously true of those in the prosperity gospel, but many in other churches hold onto something like this as well.
- This is one reason why Jesus is not that bothered by them walking away. What good is it someone is staying with you as a “disciple,” but is only really interested in the physical benefits that you can give them?
- He’s not interested in that kind of a disciple.
- On the other hand, Jesus is offering them an unbelievable gift: eternal life (vv. 40, 47, 51, 54, 58).
- How sad, how pathetic to be focused on a stomach full of bread when you are being offered eternal life.
2. They were relying on religious traditions and didn’t think they needed anything else.
- John 6:30-32, 49-50, 58-59.
- vv. 30-32 – Faced with Jesus’ statement about believing in Him, the crowd reverts to Moses and manna.
- Their reliance on their Jewish roots blinded them to the need for the “bread” that Jesus was offering.
- vv. 49-50 – Jesus points out that the manna that Moses brought (well, actually the Father and not Moses (v. 32)) did not keep them alive. They died in the desert. But Jesus is offering something more than that.
- vv. 58-59 – This is “bread” that will allow them to live forever.
- Note that Jesus is teaching this in a synagogue, which undoubtedly played against them looking beyond their traditions.
- We see the same thing happening today. People trust in their church memberships or in the fact that their family has been pillars of this church for decades.
- None of that changes the fact that we need Jesus. We each need the “bread” He is offering.
3. They were trying to figure it out on their own.
- John 6:34, 41-42, 44-45.
- Jesus tells them about this bread that’s better than Moses’ manna and they say, “Give us that bread” (v. 34). They are interested, at least in the physical bread.
- vv. 41-42 – They think they know who Jesus is. He’s just Joseph’s kid from Nazareth, right? How can He say such outlandish things?
- vv. 44-45 – What do we need instead? We need to be drawn of the Father. That includes an openness to what He is saying and where He is leading as well as a desire to know His truth. We can’t just figure it out on our own.
4. They were thinking “physically” when Jesus was talking “spiritually.”
- John 6:32-33, 35, 51-52.
- vv. 32-33 – They want physical bread when Jesus is offering something to satisfy the soul.
- v. 35 – That should have been clear from His definitive statement in v. 35. But they missed it.
- vv. 51-52 – This leads to enormous confusion when Jesus gets into His communion teaching.
- This is reminiscent of John 3 and Nicodemus’ confusion about being born again as well as John 4 and the Samaritan woman’s confusion about living water.
5. They were confused and offended by Jesus’ “bloody” offer.
- John 6:37-40, 53-56, 60-69.
- vv. 37-40 – Jesus seems focused on holding to those the Father has given and not being desperate to convince the others to stay.
- vv. 53-56 – Jesus doesn’t not back off when the crowd responds with confusion and disgust (v. 52).
- vv. 60-69 – The disciples don’t give an especially rousing endorsement of what they understand from Jesus’ words here. They just kind of say, “You’ve clearly got the answers, so we’re sticking with You.” Notice that they don’t say that they understand what He’s said about the bread of life or about people eating and drinking. I expect they are confused by it all. But they knew Jesus was the guy.
- This relates, for me, directly to today and something many Christians go through. The bright and shining point of focus is the amazing story of Jesus, His death, and resurrection. It is spellbinding, convicting, and compelling. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the story doesn’t have some problems. As we read the Bible, there are things that are challenging to understand and difficult to comprehend. There are times when you can figure out the answer. But there are also times when you can’t and you just have to say, “Jesus, what I do understand about You is compelling enough for me to keep walking.”
- It is telling that this chapter begins with what may have been Jesus’ point of highest popularity and ends with most of those who had been interested walking away. Jesus doesn’t beg them to stay. He doesn’t soften His teaching to entice them. He seems ok with them walking away. It’s a stunning picture: the Son of God being rejected by the masses.
- This too is something we need to ponder. Often churches today will do whatever it takes to gather and keep a crowd. Popularity seems the end-all and be-all. Here we have a wildly different picture. Perhaps we should quietly ponder what Jesus does here.