Were one to casually read John 6 and the apostle’s record of Jesus’ sermon on the “bread of life”, he might overlook the apt analogy the discourse is to the events in which it finds its setting. Jesus had blessed five loaves and two fishes, and with them fed a multitude of 5,000 men beside the women and children. When everyone had been fed and was full, He commanded His disciples to gather the remaining fragments which they did and they filled twelve baskets with them. What a marvelous miracle! The multitude was astonished and being convinced Jesus was the prophet to come into the world, intended to forcibly make Him a king. Jesus eluded their efforts, however, crossed the sea (rejoining His disciples on the sea), and then crossed over to Capernaum.
The multitude was not dissuaded, however. They got into boats, crossed the sea, found Jesus in the synagogue, and asked Him, “Whence came thou hither”? Jesus knew their motives were carnal, and He told them they did not seek Him because they saw signs but because they ate of the loaves and fishes. He challenged them to “work not for the food which perisheth but for the food which abideth unto eternal life” (John 6:27). The multitude revealed Jesus’ accusation of them was true when they asked Him to show more signs to prove who He was, and the illustration of the sign they were really interested in was the manna which God gave Israel through Moses. Jesus’ response was, “It was not Moses that gave you the bread out of heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread out of heaven, for the bread of God is that which giveth life unto the world. They said unto him, Lord, evermore, give us this bread” (John 6:32-34). Jesus mentions the bread which perishes (the five loaves and two fishes; the manna in the wilderness) and the food (bread) which abides to eternal life, viz. “the true bread out of heaven”.
So long as Jesus did not identify what the true bread “come down out of heaven” was, the multitudes wanted it. But as soon as Jesus revealed that the “true bread” was not physical but was He and His word, they could not conceal their disappointment: “The Jews murmured concerning him because he said, I am the bread down out of heaven” (John 6:41). They said, in essence, “We know who his father and mother are. Why does he say he came down out of heaven? We know where he came from!” The significance of Jesus’ miracle in feeding the 5,000 was forgotten. At first they had been astonished by it, saying, “This is of truth the prophet that cometh into the world” (John 6:14). And when Jesus continued to teach the value and necessity of coming to believe and abide in Him as He whom “God sent into the world” by continuing the analogy to Himself as true bread and saying, “For my flesh is meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him” (John 6:60), their disappointment and unbelief grew even stronger.
Jesus then asked, “Doth this cause you to stumble? What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending where he was before?” (John 6:61-62). If they stumbled and found it unbelievable when Jesus declared His Father sent Him from heaven, what would they think if they had been present with the eleven when they witnessed Jesus returning back to the Father who sent Him? Finally, Jesus dropped all figure of speech and said, “It is the Spirit which quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. The words which I speak unto you they are Spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Still, although Jesus had dropped the analogy of Himself as bread God sent to feed and give life to the world, that was not enough. He had claimed to have been sent by God, and God had shown that to be true by the miracles He gave His Son to work. This is what Peter affirmed at Pentecost: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves know” (Acts 2:21-22). They had seen with their own eyes, but they refused to believe what their own eyes told them.
There were some on whom the analogy was not lost. When the multitudes left Him, Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “Will ye go away also?” Peter immediately responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Peter understood that Jesus did not mean one should literally eat His flesh and drink His blood. He understood that it was Jesus’ words or teaching which brought light and life to sinful man.
In our next article we will see the beauty of this sermon Jesus gave. Be looking for our last article of Jesus’ sermon on the bread of life.