John’s Gospel Chapter 6
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
Subject -THE BREAD OF LIFE. The First Wonderful
Saying. Study Portion - Chapter 6.
THE CONTEXT, VV. 1-34.
a. Multitude and Miracle - vv. 1-26.
With five barley loaves and two small fishes, from the hand of a little lad, the Saviour had satisfied the physical need of five thousand men, with twelve baskets to spare. There had been not only sufficiency but surplus. As a result of this miracle, the multitude sought Him, not because they understood the significance of the sign but because they had eaten their fill of the loaves.
b. Moses and Manna - w. 27-34.
From their reference to the wilderness miracle of manna, it was obvious that they were still thinking in terms of visible and material things. Further, they were insinuating that Moses had done something far greater than that of the loaves and fishes. Had he not fed millions rather than thousands, and not on one unique occasion only but daily for the space of forty years? What sign showest Thou then, that we may see and believe Thee? What dost Thou work? v. 30.
In the natural world to see is to believe, but in the spiritual realm to believe is to see.
Let them not labour (toil, sweat) and spend all their energies for earthly satisfaction, but let them seek by faith to be partakers of the bread of God - this is life indeed, v. 27.
THE CLAIM, VV. 35-41.
'I am the bread of life', v. 35; 'I am the bread which came down from heaven', v. 41; 'I am that bread of life', v. 48; 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven', v. 51.
These are indeed astounding claims. They present –
The Secret of Deity - 'I am'. This was the name of God revealed to Moses from the bush that burned but was not consumed. God said, 'I AM THAT I AM'. . . 'I AM hath sent me unto you', Exod. 3. 13. 14. The name expresses the 'ever-existing one'.
The Stoop of Humanity. 'The bread which "came down" from heaven', vv. 41, 51.
How great was the stoop of grace! Meditate upon the following Scriptures:
'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor',
2 Cor. 8. 9. 'And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh', 1 Tim. 3. 16. 'And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and .truth', John 1. 14.
'We see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels' (see Heb. 2. 9, R.V.M.).
'Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men; and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross', Phil. 2. 6-8, R.S.V.
The Symbol of Necessity.In eastern lands at this time, bread, made of meal and perhaps made daily (ref. Matt. 6. 11), was the primary food. Whatever else was eaten, must be regarded as luxury, bread was the essential, necessary food. The Lord Jesus, under the severe test of hunger rebuked the devil with 'man shall not live by bread alone' for on the human and physical level, bread was the vital principle of life.
In the disciples' prayer, the request was, 'give us this day our daily bread', and in Gen. 3. 10, God addressed Adam with the words, 'in the sweat of thy face shalt thou cat bread'.
In view of its absolute necessity for life, bread had a sanctity all its own. No one would tread under foot a piece of bread; it comes from God.
The Source of Vitality, vv. 48. 51. 'The bread of life, living bread'. Man is a hungry soul, with a hunger that can only be satisfied by the bread of life. This hunger is not essentially physical or mental, but spiritual. The vital need of humanity is Christ, the Bread of Life.
Man has made futile efforts to satisfy his hunger - educational reform, to teach people to think aright; social reform, by enabling people to live aright; political reform giving people right laws to be governed aright; religious reform by encouraging people to worship aright. All these without Christ are vain efforts, for Christ alone is the Bread of Life.
THE CONTROVERSY, VV. 41-60.
We note the effect upon the Jews and disciples of three fundamental sayings of the Lord Jesus, v. 41. They murmured at Him, that is, they muttered, grumbled, spoke in a low tone, v. 52. They strove among themselves, that is, they fought, quarrelled, disputed; v. 61, His disciples murmured and He said 'Doth this offend you'.
a. They were doubtful as to His Deity. Jesus said, I am the bread which came down from heaven', v. 41. They said, 'Is not this the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?', v. 42.
The deity of Christ is the foundation stone upon which stands the whole edifice of Christian life and doctrine. Make sure you are right in this.
b. They were disturbed as to His Death. v. 52. 'The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, how can this man give us his flesh to eat?'
The Lord Jesus had referred to the bread He would give, as His flesh, which He would give for the life of the world. They knew that 'flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof they were forbidden to eat, Gen. 9. 4. Flesh and blood were inseparable, apart from death. Now He invites them to cat of His flesh and drink of His blood. 'Eating and drinking' meant fellow¬ship and participation; if they were to receive eternal life, it must be through His death and their personal acceptance of it on their behalf.
There is no hint here of the taking of the emblems at the Lord's Supper. This does not make us 'partakers of the divine nature', it is rather for those who are His own, a remembrance feast.
c. They were displeased as to His Doctrine. v. 60. 'Many therefore of the disciples said, this is a hard saying, who can hear it?'
The word 'hard' indicates harsh, objectionable, even inhuman; and it created a crisis and a climax in the course of the Lord's ministry. The cross, the atonement and the blood of Christ are still a stumblingblock to many. It savours, they say, of the middle ages and they will have nothing to do with a 'blood religion'. God says, 'without shedding of blood is no remission', Heb. 9. 22, and 'the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin', 1 John 1. 7.
THE CHALLENGE, VV. 66-71.
'Will ye also go away?' The claim had been made, the conditions had been stated, the conflict had been waged, and now the inevitable choice had come. 'Will ye also . . . ?'
Simon Peter's answer was instant and confident - 'Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God'.
Have you believed? Are you sure? The challenge is to you? Answer it now.