The Jews state, in verse 52, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ The passage relates to the Lord’s discourse on the bread of life. The bread of life gives life to those who eat it. Reference had been made to the manna in the wilderness which was for sustaining life. There was no power in it to give eternal life to those who ate of it. The Lord sought to point out His coming from heaven, and, if any person ate the bread of life, he would not die. He spoke of men eating His flesh but not in a physical, literal way. The idea is unthinkable. The passage really makes clear that to eat of Him is to believe on Him. By believing we partake of the benefits of Himself and His work.
However, the Jews did not appreciate His teaching. They could not appreciate that He was using physical things to teach spiritual matters – an unknown truth was revealed. The Lord tried to explain it further, in the following verses, but the outcome is revealed to us in verse 60, ‘this is a hard saying’. Many followers thought His teaching was offensive, hence the Saviour’s words in verses 61, ‘Doth this offend you?’
Ultimately, many disciples went back and walked no more with Him – unpalatable teaching! They turned their back on the Saviour.
Some said, ‘Howbeit we know this man whence he is’, v. 27. They had already queried, ‘How knoweth this man letters having never learned’, v. 15. The people of those days did not accept that He was the Christ. Where did the Lord come from? Some were living in the expectation of the Messiah and some expected Him to come from Jerusalem, and others from Bethlehem, so no wonder we read, ‘There was a division among the people because of him’. There was a lack of understanding. They were ignorant of His person. They did not fully appreciate the Lord’s miracles, wonders and signs, for they asked, ‘When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?’ v. 31. It took a blind man, chapter 9, to see the truth!
Officers had been sent by the Pharisees and the chief priests to take the Lord. These men must have listened, awaiting their opportunity to carry out their task. The people were divided, and the officers came back empty handed. Their mission failed. The soldiers were disarmed by the words of the Saviour Himself. Here is an undisputed fact: ‘Never man spake like this man’. What glory there is in His words: words of peace, power, and pardon!
Three times the Lord is referred to as ‘this man’ in this chapter:
Verse 16: ‘this man is not of God’, spoken by the Pharisees.
Verse 24: ‘this man is a sinner’, said the people.
Verse 33: ‘if this man were not of God he could do nothing’, said the blind man.
The miracle of the restoration of the blind man’s sight is related in only seven verses, but the narrative reveals many who opposed the work of the Lord. However, against that we have the increasing appreciation of the one who received the benefit of the miracle: a man, v. 11, a prophet, v. 17, of God, v. 33. The parents of the man were in fear of the Jews, for if they said the miracle worker was Christ, v. 22, that would mean excommunication from the synagogue. This man, whose life was changed, came to appreciate the One who wrought the miracle on him. Here we have the uniqueness of the person of Christ.
We will insert this short section into our consideration. The Lord went to rest, recall, and reflect upon where his ministry began. But we have here the comment of scripture itself that ‘John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true’. The forerunner was preparing the way of the Lord, and all that he said in his life was true concerning the one who was to come. Like John, the Lord was uncompromising in His preaching and teaching.
Jesus wept. This indicates the true humanity of the Saviour, and His love to Lazarus and his sisters, v. 5. But the people were about to witness a great miracle – one who had been dead four days raised to life. Sadly, the Jews looked on and asked, ‘Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?’ v. 37. This is unreasonable thinking. We know that He could have dealt with Lazarus beforehand, but our Lord’s ways are past finding out. Here, instead, He revealed Himself as the resurrection and the life, and, despite this comment, many believed on Him, v. 45; 12. 11.
‘This man doeth many miracles’. They were in a quandary. The evidence was overwhelming yet they ‘took counsel … for to put him to death’, v. 53. This was an incontestable fact. They had three options: either to follow Him, to ignore Him, or put Him to death. It’s amazing that here is One who went about doing good and they wanted Him to be put to death!
‘What accusation bring you against this man?’ Pilate asks. Their allegations against the Lord were lies, unsupported accusations. The Jews desired the Lord’s death, but they lacked the legal authority to carry it out. Shady dealing and scheming is evident, as they did not want the Lord at all. J. N. Darby wrote, ‘God’s ways are behind the scenes, but He makes all the scenes which He is behind’.
‘Not this man, but Barabbas’ – unwanted. John merely states of Barabbas that ‘he was a robber’. What a contrast to the ‘just person’ in whom men could find ‘no fault’. Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. ‘They denied the Holy One and Just’, Acts 3. 14.
The Jews cried out, ‘If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend’. Here is a clear ultimatum. Would Pilate be a traitor to Caesar? This comment challenged Pilate’s reputation and standing before his superiors. Thus, to preserve his position he pronounced judgement upon the Lord. He heard that saying and yet, despite the Lord’s innocence, he gave sentence for the Lord to be crucified. The Jews hated Caesar, but they hated the Lord, their Messiah, more!
In considering the theme of ‘this man’ in the Gospels, one passage must not be overlooked. The recorded words of the centurion standing near the cross were, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’. This is the last recorded words at our Lord’s crucifixion. What compelled the unnamed soldier to say these words can only be speculation. He may have witnessed other crucifixions, where he heard oaths and swearing. Here, he heard the Lord’s words as He hung on the cross. This scene, and all the events surrounding it, provoked him to say these words and for them to be recorded in holy scripture – an undeniable truth to us who believe.
As we bring this meditation to a close, we cannot but recall the lovely story found in Genesis chapter 24, when Abraham sends his servant to obtain a bride for Isaac. He is led to Rebekah and when he realizes that God has led him to her he is anxious to return to his master for the completion of his task. Rebekah’s family want her to stay a little while longer, but they ask her a straightforward question, ‘Wilt thou go with this man?’ v. 58. She says, ‘I will go’.
In our experience, the Spirit of God has said to us, ‘Wilt thou go with this man?’ We have seen that He is indeed the Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord Himself. We have said in our heart and in our lives, ‘I will go’, and we have never regretted that decision to be part of a bride to a man whom we have not seen but with whom we will spend eternity.
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