Setting

Seeing that the people seek Him only to be satisfied with bread, the Lord Jesus begins teaching them to believe in Him as the bread of life. This study continues with the rest of Jesus’ discourse in Capernaum. At the same time, a significant part of the passage directs our attention to the diverging responses of the unbelievers and true disciples.

Key Verse

(6:51)

Did You Know...?

1. “And they shall all be taught by God” (6:45): This quotation is from Isa 54:13, and possibly also alludes to Jer 31:34.

Outline

Keywords/Phrases

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General Analysis

  • 1.

    Record the responses of the Jews and unbelieving disciples to Jesus’ discourse.

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    1. They complained about Him and murmured among themselves because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (6:41, 43). 2. The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (6:52) 3. After hearing Jesus teach about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, many of His disciples found it offensive and complained (6:60, 61). 4. In the end, many of Jesus’ disciples went back and walked with Him no more (6:66).

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  • 2.

    What kinds of hurdles kept them from believing in the Lord?

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    1. They knew Jesus’ earthly parents, and thus could not accept Jesus’ claim to have come down from heaven (6:42). 2. They could not understand the teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood and found it difficult to accept (6:52, 60). What the Lord had taught them was against their common sense, and probably even seemed repulsive to them.

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  • 3.

    Note the repeated mention of manna in the passage. What is Jesus’ purpose for making reference to manna?

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    The people cited the miracle of manna (6:31), implying that they expected Jesus to do what they thought Moses had done for their forefathers (cf. 6:32). In reply, the Lord Jesus made a contrast between the manna that could not give eternal life to the Israelites and Himself as the true bread from heaven which He shall give for the life of the world (6:48–51, 58).

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  • 4.

    Record the promises Jesus makes for the present as well as for the future.

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    1. Those who come to Him He will raise up on the last day (6:44). 2. He who believes in Jesus has everlasting life (6:47). 3. He who eats of the bread which comes down from heaven does not die but will live forever (6:50, 51). 4. Whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life, and the Lord will raise him up at the last day (6:54). 5. Those who eat His flesh and drink His blood abide in Him, and He in them (6:56).

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Segment Analysis

  • 6:41–51

    1.

    How are Jesus’ words in 44–46 a response to the complaint of the Jews?

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    Jesus’ words were directed at the murmuring of the Jews regarding His true origin. They could not accept Jesus’ claim of heavenly origin because they thought they knew His origin. In response, the Lord Jesus spoke about the gulf between the unbelievers and heaven that underlay their unbelief. Jesus is from the Father and has seen the Father (6:46). He is one with the Father (cf. 10:30). Consequently, unless the Father draws a person, this person could not possibly come to Jesus (6:44, 65). On the other hand, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Jesus (6:45). The Jews had no knowledge of Jesus’ true origin and could not accept Him because they had neither been drawn by the Father nor taught by Him.

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  • 2.

    What does it mean that Jesus is the “living” bread (51)?

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    Jesus is “living” in the sense that He always lives (14:19) and has life in Himself (5:26). He has no beginning or end of life and does not derive His existence from anyone else, since He is the author of life (1:4). Thus the bread of life is characterized by His eternal being. Because He is “living,” He can be the giver of life.

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  • 6:52–59

    3.

    How can we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood?

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    In a broad sense and as the first step, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man means to believe in Him as the Savior who has sacrificed Himself for the world. This is what the Lord meant when He said, “the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (6:51). The Lord teaches us to trust Him with our being and receive Him as our Lord of life instead of seeking Him for external benefits as the multitude did. Figuratively speaking, He wants us to “feed on” Him rather than “feed on” the things He gives. Trusting in the risen Lord Himself also encompasses partaking of His body and His blood through the Lord’s supper (Holy Communion) which He has given us. On the same night in which He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus gave the bread and the cup to the disciples to eat and drink, saying that they were His body and His blood (Mt 26:26–29; Mk 14:22–25; Lk 22:19, 20; 1 Cor 11:24, 25). This command uses the same language as seen in John 6:53–58. The meaning of the Lord’s supper (Holy Communion) lies in the fact that the Lord Jesus is our Passover (1 Cor 5:7) who has laid down His life for us and risen to life again. Today, as we partake of the bread and cup of the communion, we are in fact having communion with the body and blood of the living Lord (1 Cor 10:16, 17). If we believe that the Lord has risen and accept Him as our Redeemer, we would believe in the sacrament He has established and receive it with the recognition that we are partaking of the Lord Himself.

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  • 4.

    Reflect on how we can feed on the Lord Jesus (57) in our daily lives.

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    Rather than come to the Lord only with our demands, wishes, and predicaments, we must continually follow everything He commands us to do with the conviction that our eternal life depends on Him, who is our Redeemer and Savior.

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  • 6:60–66

    5.

    Do you also sometimes find Jesus’ words “offensive”? Give some examples.

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  • 6.

    Why does the Lord ask the question in verse 62?

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    The words “the Son of Man ascend where He was before” pertain to the fact that the Lord Jesus is from heaven. Jesus wanted the disciples who could not accept His teaching to recognize that His flesh is food indeed and His blood drink indeed because He is from God and will return to God (cf. Jn 3:13, 8:42, 13:3, 16:28). Because He Himself is the Word who had become flesh, He is able to give life to those who feed on Him.

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  • 7.

    Explain the contrast between Spirit and flesh (63).

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    Continuing with the thought of His heavenly origin, the Lord explained that only the Spirit of God can give life. The Lord Jesus Himself is the life-giving Spirit (2 Cor 3:17; 1 Cor 15:45), and His words are Spirit (Jn 6:63). He is not the mortal flesh and blood like us, who are subject to corruption (cf. 1 Cor 15:50).

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  • 8.

    If the flesh profits nothing (63), why does our Lord teach us to eat His flesh?

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    The “flesh” in verse 63 is the flesh of the natural man, not the flesh of our Lord Jesus, who is the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45). Thus, the Lord Jesus is not teaching the disciples about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of an ordinary human being.

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  • 9.

    How are Jesus’ spoken words spirit and life?

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    Jesus’ words are God’s very words, for Jesus speaks only what He has heard from His Father (Jn 8:26, 28). His words are not of the will of man but are of the Spirit of God. Just as God’s words carry life (Deut 32:47; Ps 119:50), so Jesus’ words also impart life to all who believe in Him (Jn 5:24, 8:51, 52).

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  • 10.

    What was Jesus’ view about the people’s unbelief?

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    Jesus was not surprised or discouraged. He knew from the beginning who did not believe and who would betray Him (6:64). He was also fully aware that only those who have been granted by His Father would come to Him (6:65). While an unbeliever stands condemned for his unbelief (Jn 3:18), his unbelief is nevertheless under God’s foreknowledge and sovereign will.

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  • 6:67–71

    11.

    What makes you stay when you see other followers leave the Lord?

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  • 12.

    How does the mention of the betrayer fit into the context of this passage?

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    From the narrative, we learn that many people could not believe in Jesus’ words of life. As a result, they complained, murmured, quarreled, and stopped following Jesus. These unbelievers were disciples at first, but were not part of the twelve disciples the Lord had chosen. From verse 67 forward, Jesus turned His attention to the twelve, whose belief in Jesus was captured by Simon Peter’s confession (6:68, 69). However, even in the midst of the twelve was an unbeliever, a betrayer in fact. Betrayal constitutes the worst form of unbelief, and that this should come from the closest followers of Jesus is startling. Nevertheless, even this did not escape Jesus’ divine knowledge or election (6:70, 71).

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