A Bible Lesson on John 6:10-14, 26-27, 35-40, 47-51

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This lesson concerns John’s account of the feeding of the 5000 and its aftermath.  We’ll dwell primarily on the aftermath, Jesus’s discourse on the “bread of life,” but note enough points of the setting to put the discourse into perspective.

The first 9 verses of John 6 let us know that there’s a mob following Jesus because of the healings he was doing.  It’s Passover time and Jesus uses 5 barley loaves (the food of the poor) and 2 (probably sardine-size) dried or pickled fish to feed 5000 men plus.  Outside of the resurrection, this is the only of Jesus’s miracles recorded in all 4 Gospels.

John 6:10  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.

11  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.

12  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

13  So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

God gives in abundance, but there is no place for waste.

14  When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

15  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Note verse 14 and the word sign.  Remember how John uses this word.  It denotes a demonstration of God’s miraculous power that points to who Jesus is.  At this point, the sign has not completed its job.  The people absolutely do not know who He is, and even think Him to be some kind of earthly king.  BUT, the sign does provide the platform for Jesus to explain.

In verses 16-24 of John 6, Jesus walks on water and he and disciples get to Capernaum.  Crowds follow.  Psalm 107 may very well be a prophecy of the feeding and the lake scenes.  Verses 25-33   give an interchange with the people.  Jesus presses the people into deciding either for or against Him.

John 6:25  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

The crowd asks the question on one level and Jesus answers it on another.  He tells them who He is and where He came from.  Again and again in the Gospel of John, we see Jesus cutting through the irrelevant and mundane chit chat of earthbound man to that which is truly important.  Indeed, how did He get here?!

26  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

27  Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

As always, man wants to think he works for and earns eternal life.  But the food that endures to eternal life is GIVEN by the Son of Man.  The “seal” is one of approval and authorization.

28  Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

“How do we get God’s approval? What things do we need to do?” the crowd asks.

29  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

This is the work (singular) of God.  There is one thing.  And the phrase has double meaning: 1) what God wants done and 2) what God does in us.  The point is not to check many things off of a list, but to believe (to rely upon, trust in, adhere to, cleave to) the One He has sent.

30  So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?

“SO”!  They understood that He was talking about Himself.  “Prove yourself,” they say.  “What sign?” they ask?!  They’ve just seen the loaves and the fishes.  Apparently that wasn’t enough!  Except that God mercifully works in us and produces faith, NOTHING EVER IS ENOUGH!

31  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

The Jews quote Psalm 78:24.

Psalm 78:24  and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven.

Why does manna come up naturally here?  Because it’s Passover.  After the Exodus, the Jews ate manna in the wilderness.  The popular expectation was that Messiah would set up rule at Passover time and that manna would again begin to fall.  There is a clear parallel between the giving of manna and what Jesus has done in the wilderness.  But in the minds of the people, one meal in the wilderness wasn’t in the same class as what “Moses” had done.  Jesus had given them very ordinary barley bread once, while “Moses” had provided heavenly bread for 40 years.

32  Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

33  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus corrects them on 2 accounts.  1st, it was God, not Moses, who was (and is) at work.  Second, the true bread from heaven wasn’t manna, but is instead Jesus.

Bread is the most fundamental food, the sustainer of life, the satisfier of hunger.  Jesus is doing here something very much like what He did with the woman at the well.  Here the subject is not water and living/real water, but bread/manna and true bread.  Manna fed the Israelites for 40 years.  He will be the food of the entire world for eternity.

34  They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

“give us this bread”  Like the woman at the well who said “give me this living water so that I won’t have to come back and draw” these folks continue to not understand.  They’re still thinking in terms of physical bread.  But Jesus doesn’t leave them in their misunderstanding.  He presses them until they understand His claim.

35  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

“I myself am the bread of life.”  Think how that sounds to a serious Jew!  It’s especially stunning because it contains one of the “I AM” statements.  That is, “I AM” is the meaning of the personal name of the one true and living God.  There are 7 such I AM’s in John: the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and life, the way, truth and life,  and  the vine.  This is a clear claim to divinity.

36  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

These folks HAVE expressed that they know He has miraculous powers.  But they are not believing in Him in the Biblical sense of relying on, trusting in, adhering to Him.  They haven’t cast their fortunes with Him.

37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

39  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

40  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jesus is working in harmony with the Father, giving eternal life to those that God calls and who respond.  Notice the holy balance in the plain meaning here.  The Father sovereignly gives ones to Jesus.  People in free will look to Jesus.  Both election and free will are here.

Eternal life is eternal in at least the senses that 1) it is everlasting, 2) it is abundant in quality and 3) it belongs to God.

Jesus says, “I will raise him up,” making another clear claim to that which belongs to God alone.

41  So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

The Jews are annoyed and begin to grumble/murmur.  This should remind us that the Israelites in the wilderness grumbled after the 1st Passover.  It indicated their ungratefulness for God’s provision and their unwillingness to rely upon God.  The same is happening here.

42  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

There is real irony here.  On one level they sort of know Jesus’s origins.  On the more important level, however, they are clueless.

43  Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.

Jesus addresses their ungrateful, disbelieving hearts.  They are not going to get to the Truth by haggling among themselves, complaining, debating and splitting hairs.  They personally have a part in their salvation and they must begin to exercise it.  When we are griped and complaining, humility must come before we’ll give up our discontent.  That was true in the Old Testament as here.

Deuteronomy 8:3  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

44  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Jesus clearly teaches here that even our response to God is somehow at His initiative.  we don’t have it in us to humble ourselves, except that God do His work.  He must, draw/pull/tug us toward Himself.  Barclay points out that the word translated “draws” almost always indicates drawing against some pressure.  There is in the human heart the predisposition to resist.

45  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—

To hear God is to come to Jesus.  If there is no reliance on Jesus, there is no hearing from God.

Jesus brings the conversation back around to Himself as the bread of life and the relation of His work to that of Moses and the provision of manna.

46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

47  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

He who believes (trusts, relies, adheres, cleaves to Christ) has life.

48  I am the bread of life.

49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus makes a contrast between the supernatural bread that nevertheless sustained only physical life temporarily and Himself, the bread of life who sustains life eternally.  A person may eat of Him and not die.

Tasker said, “Christian faith, in other words, is faith in Christ crucified.  True nourishment, which brings eternal life. is possible only for those who accept His sacrifice, who are incorporated by faith into His body, who are crucified with Him that they may live with Him, and who abide in Him because He abides in them — truths which are sacramentally set forth every time Christians partake of broken bread and outpoured wine at the Lord’s supper.”

In the rest of the chapter, Jesus amplifies in such graphic language that His hearers are forced to decide about Him one way or the other.  The sign of feeding the multitude has its full effect.  Some believe in the Biblical sense.  But most choose to turn away, and in the process, bring God’s implied judgment upon themselves.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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