Would you all please pick up a Bible and open it to the book of John, Chapter 6. Today, we are going forward in our series, with a lesson entitled, “Bread of Life”. The passage we are looking at starts in verse 10 and ends at verse 59. It is a long passage. We won’t have time to look at it completely; rather, we will look at sections of it. We will face an additional challenge in the fact that this section of scripture is hard to understand. Right from the start, I want to say that poor studies of this passage have led many in false doctrine, so we really have to move carefully through this passage. As some would say, we’ve got reefed waters and we’ve got to navigate our ship carefully for fear of crashing where others have crashed and ending up on an island removed from true Christianity.
Now let me remind you of the context of verse 22. It is Passover time and the Jews patriotic feelings and hopes are soaring. They have heard of a man who could be the Messiah; so they have gone to see him to check things out. At least 5000 men have come to Jesus in hopes he will lead them to victory and freedom. When the Master sees this crowd, he is moved to compassion and feeds them.
Now that’s incredible because no mere human could have done that. Philip must be quite impressed. This reminds me of a small boy who one day tells the story to his mom. He is back from Sunday School and he has just learned about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. His mom asked, “Oh yes, how did he do it? The boy said, “He got out to the Red Sea and called all his engineers. They built a bridge for all of the Israelites to cross over and run away from Pharaoh. Then when they were all safe on the other side, the army of Pharaoh started to cross over. Moses called for air attacks. They sent in flaming arrows and dynamite and blew the bridge to pieces. Pharaoh died!”
Now the mom is a little puzzled by what she hears. She is not a Bible expert, but she knows there was no bridge in the story she was told as a child. She looks closely at her son and says, “Really, is that the story you learned today?” The boy backed away and said, “No! But if I told you what they told me, you’d never believe it!”
You see, some miracles are very hard to believe, but they are true. The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 is one of those “hard to believe”, but true miracles. In fact it is so true, the people seeing this, try to make Jesus a king. If you don’t believe in the miracle, you’ve got to come up with an explanation of why they try to make Jesus a king.
The Bible says Jesus withdrew. He is not interested in establishing a physical kingdom. His goal was never to fight the Roman Empire and establish a literal, physical throne on the earth. Pre-millennialists should read this passage and highlight it again.
Jesus had the opportunity to establish a physical kingdom on earth, but he didn’t come for that. So, at the height of his mission, Jesus leaves everyone behind and sends his disciples home, by ship.
We read he later meets them by walking on the sea.
Look now at what verse 22-25 says. And so you see the crowds are puzzled because Jesus is in Capernaum and he has had no natural way of getting there before them. 5000 of them see, with their own eyes, that something is not right here. How can a mere man do that? Looking at Jesus, they all understand the hand of God is on him. How could we think otherwise, even looking at it 2000 years later? If Jesus didn’t get there by walking on the sea, how else do we suggest he did it? 5000 people knew that and never contradicted the miracle. How can we contradict it 2000 years later?
Now, look at the text. Jesus doesn’t greet them with a nice welcome and words of explanation. Rather, he starts with one of his most severe and most demanding sermons of his ministry. In verse 26 and 27, he said “…….”. You see the people were following Jesus not because they had learned from the miracles that he was the son of God, Jehovah-Jare; but because they wanted their physical needs met.
They were nailed to the things of this life. Their thoughts were not turning to God or His will. And it’s almost as if, Jesus is saying, “You cannot think about your souls for thinking about your stomachs. And now the crowds are shocked. They say, “What do we need to do for eternal life?”
And Jesus answers, “Believe in me! You have here before you, in myself, more than what Moses gave to people. You have more than the manna. You have bread that can give eternal life.
In verse 35, he says, “….”. Oh these words must have exploded in their ears. Jesus is saying, “I am.” Literally, Yahweh, Jehovah. These first words are the same that resounded in Moses ears from the burning bush. So he is claiming deity here, equal with God. Not only is he claiming deity, but he says, “I am the only one able to meet your true needs! I am the one who can fill your spiritual hunger and thirst forever.”
Now you can imagine how that was received. Verse 41 says the Jews were incredulous and offended at his claims. How can Jesus be “the bread of life” when he is the son of a carpenter? How can he come from heaven when he has earthly parents like everyone else? So here is what Jesus answers in verse 43 – 45, “….”
We’ll pause here for a second. Watch out for these words. You have a reef here. John Calvin, studying this passage, said “It must be that no man can believe unless God has chosen him in advance and worked specially in his life.” This gave way to what we call the “irresistible grace” doctrine regarding the doctrine of predestination. You see, they say those who believe in this world do so because they were destined and specially gifted to do so. They have no choice but to respond to God’s grace. And of course, others have no choice but to be lost. The human will has nothing to do with it!
Folks, it’s not what Jesus is saying here! Turn to John 12:32. You have the same word here as in John 6:44. I am talking about the word “draw”. It says, “…..” You see, if the drawing is irresistible in John 6:44, then it must also be in John 12:32. That would mean all men would believe in Jesus. All would be saved. But we know it’s not so. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are elected.” So the drawing is not irresistible.
And to be good exegetes, verse 44 of John ought to be kept in its context. Verse 45 is the context and explains how God brings men to him with his spirit. It is through the Bible and through the prophets. If you listen to this book and learn from it, then you are drawn to Jesus. That’s how God does it! And that’s why we ought to preach the Truth to the whole creation. So now you know Jesus is not saying, “You are not responding to me because you have not been chosen!” Rather, he is saying, “You are not responding because you are not Bible students!”
And now he goes on in verses 51-58 to say, “…..” So Jesus is the “bread of life” and he is saying eat me and drink me. But wait a second, Lord. Do you mean I’ve got to literally eat you and drink you? Do you really want me to become a cannibal? No! Don’t miss the point. He is not talking of cannibalism here. He didn’t want people to literally drink blood. Remember, Noah was told that the law prohibited that. Gen 9:4 and Deut 15:23. The apostles repeated that in Acts 15:29. That command applied before the law, during the law and after the law of Moses and under Christ. So what was Jesus talking about?
Many have looked at this through the years and said “the Lord’s Supper”. The catholic church has made a doctrine of that. They say, “If you don’t take the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) every week, you will not have eternal life.” This has become an important sacrament. They use this to justify the bread really turns into Jesus flesh on Sundays and that the wine really turns into Jesus blood. The friar says a prayer over it and miraculously the Spirit transforms it while he speaks. The wine and the bread keep their original taste, but they believe it is the true flesh and blood of Jesus. That doctrine is called transsubstiation.
Folks, that’s not what Jesus was talking about in this passage. This doctrine didn’t even come into the picture until the 4th century after Christ. No where in the text is he referring to the Lord’s Supper. In fact, in the Greek, in verses 53-55, where he says he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, this is in aorist tense. That means for those of you who are not Greek scholars, the action is done once and once only. He is not talking about something that needs to be repeated every week. So it can’t be the Lord’s Supper. Plus, not everyone who takes the Lord’s Supper is saved. You see, the real meaning of this text was, you must take Jesus, all of Jesus, into the very center of your being. Jesus was saying, “ You want life, abundant life? Then take me into the very core of your heart!” That is done at baptism. Gal. 3:27 Now time is pressing me so I want to stop here and draw 3 quick lessons from the text.
Because he will never fit there! Doesn’t the text show this?
You see, as humans, we have a tendency to make Jesus like us. We try to impose our will on him rather than let him show us who he is. The Jews tried to make him a king; but he had to leave because he could not reason with them. The French see him as French; the Americans see him as an American; the Italians, as an Italian. The rich see him as rich; the poor see him as poor; the educated see him as an educated man; while people without education see him as one who shares in the dislike of instruction. And the list goes on. The emotional see him as emotional and the laid-back people see him as a more laid-back Jesus. But I tell you today, the picture of Jesus leaving the 5000 shows us how we can be wrong when we force our intentions on him. He is Lord and he ought to tell me the way I am supposed to be, not the opposite. That’s my first lesson.
Have you forced Jesus into your mold today? Do you really have in your mind the picture the Bible gives of him?
Look at the crowds in our story. They go to Jesus to escape their hunger. They go to him hoping to find someone who will lead them to battle and then to freedom. And Jesus says what they need is not that for which they search. Rather than feeding their stomachs, he wants to feed their souls. He says what you really need is God.
He redefines the meaning of the words, primary and secondary. You know we say that water, air and food are primary. But Jesus says no. All of that is secondary. Our primary need is God. I wonder how many times I am like that. How many times am I blinded to the spiritual needs, simply because of my physical desires. Why do I go to Jesus? To escape work and get a better job? To escape physical hurt and to be blessed in my health? To be richer? To escape conflicts and have a better marriage? Is it because I want to be one with God? It’s amazing sometimes how our desires and immediate problems blind us. We are so consumed with what we face today that we forget to look at the greater questions of life.
One thing I learn here is that any religion that does not seek Jesus and to put the Father first and foremost is not true religion! Why? Because the first need of man is not food or water, but God. That’s lesson two.
Are you spiritually awake and seeking today?
“Truly, truly I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you!” John 6:53 What Jesus wants out of everyone this morning is to become part of you. You see he desires to be closer to you than an earthly king with his people. He wants to be closer to you than a general to his armies. He even wants to be closer to you than a rabbi with his students. He wants to be like the bread that you digest and is absorbed by each of your cells. He wants to be as close as the blood in our veins, as close as the air in our lungs; as close as the marrow in our bones.
Are you this close to him today? Let me tell you something today. Do you want eternal life? Do you really want to live forever? Then let Jesus enter all the private parts of your life. Let him be there when you are with your wife. Let him be there when you are with your friends; let him be there when you are at school or at work; let him be there when you make your budget and when you entertain yourself.
As the “bread of life”, he rejects anything that is less than 100% of an intimate relationship with us.
And so today, there are three lessons in this text.
#1 Don’t put Jesus in a mold because he can’t fit there. #2 My true need is for him to lead me to the Father, not my immediate physical problem #3 Jesus desires nothing more than a very intimate relationship with us.
What will be your response to these three points. Today will you reject him as the crowd rejected Jesus or will you say as Peter did in verse 68, “…..” If you need to respond, why don’t you do so as we sing.