John 6:41-59: Feed on Jesus
October 21, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Such strong teaching provoked “grumbling” as it so often does. Do not think that past Christian leaders or heroes from yesteryear had no opposition! Spurgeon was so opposed and so shook by his opponents that his wife had posted on the bedroom door for him to read as he left each morning the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:11-12 to rejoice and be glad when people utter all kinds of evil against you.
And even Jesus had people “grumble” against him. The nature of the grumbling was also typical: they had known him since he was a kid! What could this mere whippersnapper teach them when they knew his parents and knew he was merely the son of Joseph?
Evangelist, pastor, missionary, witness to Christ: be not surprised when people speak falsehood against you. T’was ever thus. And this is also true: you have reason to rejoice when it happens, so rejoice!
Jesus’ answer to the grumbling is partly that they will only be able to accept him or come to him if the Father draws them. The faith and behavior of others is not finally in our control, but only in God’s. We cannot completely predetermine the destiny of others, nor we can manage the perspective of others, nor their actions towards us. They are being “taught by God”—right there and then as Jesus teaches them! But they are not responding to it. How blind! But no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them.
And Jesus reaffirms again that he is the bread of life which if they eat they will live forever. This picture language is too much for them—they are literalists, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52). And so Jesus presses into the picture language yet more: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (6:53).
Many fanciful notions have been invented attempting to explain what Jesus meant by these words, but in context Jesus himself explains to his disciples who come to ask him about it. “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (6:63). In other words, we are not to take Jesus to mean that we are literally to eat him (how absurd!), nor to adopt the tortured logic that Jesus is speaking of communion (speaking before the communion meal was established, and in any case, he does not say eat the bread that will become my flesh but eat my flesh—the metaphor is not landed). No, instead Jesus is talking “spiritually,” or his words are “spirit.” What he means is that whoever “believes in him” shall have eternal life (6:40).
By talking of eating the bread he is talking spiritually. But this does not mean he is “merely” talking metaphorically; no, you might say he is talking more really of more real food than any kind of bread that was ever made. He is the bread of life. Bread, the physical bread, is merely a sign of this real bread, this real food—the real sustenance that gives real, and eternal, “life” (6:63).
The application, then, is obvious. Feed on Jesus. Feed on him in Bible study. Feed on him through prayer. Feed on him through faith. But above all, eat of the bread of life!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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