John 6:31-68 – Part 3: Eating the living bread (6:45-58)

INTRODUCTION. This third part of an in-depth study of John 6:31-68 is a continuation of post #523 and post #529 and focuses on the crucial teaching in John 6:45-58.

[NOTE: This part of the study is longer than the other parts because the concepts presented here are complex and are not easily explained in a few words. I feel that the additional reading will be rewarded by greater understanding of this beautiful passage. RMB]

OVERVIEW OF THE PASSAGE. This passage (6:45-58) is the heart of this section of Scripture (6:31-68) and contains important teaching about how Jesus, the bread from heaven, provides life to His people. The passage is also crucial in giving us a vivid analogy of what it means to believe in Jesus, teaching us figuratively to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

KEY CONCEPTS covered in this passage include:

  • believing in Jesus
  • eternal life/live forever/not die
  • the bread of life/the living bread that came down out of heaven
  • eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man (Jesus)
  • being raised up on the last day.

The main DIFFICULTY of this passage consists in correctly understanding what Jesus means when He instructs His disciples to “eat My flesh and drink My blood” (6:53-56).

REVIEW. The first part of John 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five small loaves and two fish. The amazed crowd follows Jesus to Capernaum where they seek more bread and another miraculous sign. Jesus declares that the manna from Moses is not the true bread out of heaven, but that He is the bread of life.

In strong teaching from John 6:37-6:44 (see post #523 and #529), Jesus makes clear God’s sovereignty in salvation as He teaches the people that:

  • The Father has already given a people to the Son (election; see Eph. 1:4, etc.)
  • All those given to the Son will certainly come to the Son for eternal life. (predestination; see Romans 8:29-30)
  • Jesus will raise up all His people in glorious resurrection on the last day
  • By His providence and effectual calling, the Father draws people to Jesus

THE TEACHING OF JOHN 6:45-58

The passage is best understood by understanding WHO JESUS IS, then by seeing WHAT JESUS OFFERS, and finally by discovering HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS.

WHO JESUS IS. Jesus uses direct statements and the metaphor of bread to make His identity unambiguously clear. First, He says, “I am the bread of life” (6:48). This is a repetition of 6:35, when He also said that those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst. What Jesus means by His metaphor may not be clear, but this much is clear: Jesus is the bread of life.

Next, He says twice that He is “the (living) bread that came down out of heaven” (6:50, 51). Here, Jesus is contrasting Himself with the manna that the children of Israel ate in the Exodus. They ate that manna (“bread from heaven”) and they died (6:49), but Jesus is the “true bread out of heaven” (6:32). Jesus is the bread of life and, “if anyone eats of this (living) bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life.

Finally, notice that Jesus is the bread that came down out of heaven sent by the Father. “The living Father sent Me” (6:57), and Jesus has come from heaven to give life to the world. Since He came down out of heaven and was sent by God the Father, Jesus is divine.

SUMMARY. From this passage, we see that Jesus is God in the flesh, the living bread sent by the Father from heaven to give eternal life to the world.

WHAT JESUS OFFERS. As the bread of life and the living bread that came out of heaven, what does Jesus offer the people? From the passage we see, first, “one may eat of it (the bread) and not die” (6:50). As strong as this verse is, Jesus states the truth even more clearly in the next verse: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Eat of Jesus and you will not die but will live forever. Of course, we need to determine what it means to metaphorically eat of Jesus as the living bread, but at this point we see that Jesus is offering people the opportunity to live forever. (NOTE: “Live forever” is the same as “have eternal life.”)

A few verses later, Jesus again declares His offer of eternal life and connects this eternal life with participation in the resurrection on the last day. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:54). Once again, we are confronted with the need to understand Jesus’ metaphor about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but what He offers us is in plain view. He offers eternal life and a resurrection.

SUMMARY. Jesus offers His hearers the opportunity to not die, but to live forever, to have eternal life, and to be raised up on the last day (in glorious resurrection).

HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS. We see the incarnate Son of God offering the people eternal life and declaring to them that He Himself will raise them up on the last day. This spectacular offer is available to all who hear His voice, but obtaining it is not automatic. We have already seen that Jesus imposes conditions on His offer and it is only those who satisfy Jesus’ conditions who will obtain the eternal life that He offers.

This, then, becomes the critical issue. Every person must first identify and then satisfy Jesus’ conditions before they obtain the eternal life He offers.

TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS, YOU MUST SATISFY HIS CONDITIONS. Our first task, then, is to identify Jesus’ conditions. In this passage, when we were discovering what Jesus was offering, we also heard Him state His conditions.

ONE SET OF CONDITIONS.

“If anyone eats of this bread (Jesus)                                                  he will live forever.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      has eternal life.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                          I will raise him up on the last day.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      abides in Me, and I in him.”

Here, then, is one set of conditions that must be met to obtain eternal life.

ANOTHER SET OF CONDITIONS? We also need to notice, however, that Jesus has talked about another condition for obtaining eternal life. In fact, in the gospel of John, the major message of the book is that anyone can receive eternal life by believing in Jesus. John 3:16, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, declares that whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) will have eternal life. According to John 20:31, the whole reason for the gospel of John is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In this very passage that we are studying, Jesus repeatedly tells men and women how to obtain all the blessings that He offers. “He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will not thirst” (6:35). “Everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (6:40). “He who believes has eternal life” (6:47). Throughout the gospel of John, the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

So, is Jesus now imposing another condition for obtaining salvation?

ONLY ONE CONDITION. When we compare side-by-side two verses from this passage, we will see that there is, in fact, only one condition that separates the sinner from salvation.

Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:54

As we compare these two verses, we notice, first, that the results of the sinner’s action in 6:40 (“believes in the Son”) are exactly the same as the results of the sinner’s action in 6:54 (“eats My flesh and drinks My blood”). In both cases, the sinner’s action yields eternal life and a resurrection on the last day.

Next, we observe that John 6:40 falls within a section of teaching where Jesus is speaking in literal terms. That is, when Jesus speaks of “beholding the Son” and “believing in the Son,” we observe that Jesus is speaking literally.

By contrast, in John 6:54, Jesus is speaking metaphorically about Himself as the bread of life. The Lord has established His identity as “the bread of life” (6:48), as “the bread that comes down out of heaven” (6:50), and as “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (6:51). Jesus has thus made clear that He is now speaking figuratively about Himself as bread. Therefore, in this context, the Lord speaks about how to obtain eternal life in figurative terms.

Jesus intentionally parallels these two verses to teach that “believing in the Son” should be understood metaphorically as “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus has been proclaiming that anyone who believes in Him will obtain eternal life. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (the Father) has sent” (John 6:29). Here, then, the Lord is giving a vivid picture, an illustration of what believing in Him means.

What we see is that “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” is actually an explanation and an intensification of “believing in the Son.” Imagine a person who is there in Capernaum listening to Jesus teach or imagine someone who is reading John 6 in our own day. This person is convinced that believing in Jesus is the only way to eternal life and the only way to be saved, but then they ask the question, “What does it actually mean to ‘believe in Jesus’? Can you give me an illustration of what that looks like?” The Lord Jesus answers that question by saying, in effect, “Believing in Me is like eating My flesh and drinking My blood (6:53-56).”

EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD. For the disciple of Jesus, believing in Him is a matter of life and death. If the disciple cannot eat of Jesus and cannot drink of Jesus, then he will die of hunger and thirst. Communion with Jesus is the disciple’s means of survival. When Job considered his relationship with the LORD, he said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). This gives a taste of what it means for the disciple of Christ to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Lord Jesus Himself, when tested by the devil after forty days without food, declared, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). For the follower of Jesus, Jesus is more to be desired than food that will sustain our physical life.

David had the attitude of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” when he wrote,

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1

David’s soul thirsts for the LORD and his flesh hungers for Him, not literally but figuratively, as a thirsty man would yearn for water in the middle of the desert.

To believe in Jesus means to receive Him and embrace Him without reservation as a starving man would consume a loaf of bread. The believer eats and drinks all of Jesus in all His incarnate deity to satisfy his sinful soul. And the one who eats Jesus’ flesh and drinks Jesus’ blood is the one whom Jesus will certainly not cast out.

CONCLUSION

From this study of John 6:45-58 we have seen that Jesus, as the metaphorical bread of life, has been sent by the Father to earth to offer eternal life to the world, and that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive eternal life and will be raised up by Jesus at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus uses the metaphor of “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” to help His disciples understand the depth and the intensity of true saving faith.

SDG                 rmb                 7/5/2022                     #551

John 6:31-65 – Part 2: The Father draws him (6:41-44)

INTRODUCTION. An in-depth Bible study on John 6:31-65 in several parts. This section of the gospel of John is important for several reasons. In these verses, Jesus gives some of His clearest teaching about the sovereignty of God in salvation, from initial choosing to final glorification. Also, Jesus here instructs us about the timing of the resurrection, that it will occur on the last day. Thirdly, in this passage, Jesus teaches using different metaphors and analogies to explain what it means to believe in Him and so helps the reader have multiple readings of the same concepts. This second part of the study is a continuation of Post #523 on 4/29/2022 and will cover John 6:41-44.

In this short passage (John 6:41-44), Jesus continues His teaching about who He is. He is the bread of life that came down out of heaven sent by God the Father so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day. This is a bit much for these unbelieving Jews to grasp, so they grumble.

John 6:41-42. Since the Jews continued to believe that Jesus was a mere man, simply the human son of Joseph and Mary, they grumbled at the arrogance of His saying, “I have come down out of heaven.”

6:43-44. Jesus continues His previous teaching about God’s sovereignty in salvation and about the last day (6:44). Before going on to explain 6:44, however, I wanted to review what we  covered in John 6:35-40.

REVIEW

  • In the previous section (6:35-40), we were introduced to two key phrases: those who “come to Me” (6:35, 37 (2)) and those whom the Father has given to the Son (6:37, 39), and we saw that these two phrases describe exactly the same group of people.
  • From John 6:35, we also saw that those who “come to Jesus” are the same group of people who “believe in Jesus.”
  • We also recall that John 6:39 taught us that “all the Father has given to [the Son] (i.e., all those chosen in Christ before the world began; Ephesians 1:4), these the Son will “raise up on the last day.” That is, all those given by the Father to the Son before the foundation of the world will surely be resurrected (glorified) on the last day (see Romans 8:29-30; 1 John 3:1-2). In other words, we see that God ordained the beginning and the end of salvation, and everything in between. God the Father began salvation by giving the elect to the Son in eternity past, and the Son will end salvation by raising up all the elect on the last day.
  • Finally in 6:40, Jesus again states the connection between believing in Him and having eternal life (previously stated in John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24), and we see that everyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life. So there is a 1:1 correspondence between believing in Jesus and having eternal life. And from this verse there is also a 1:1 correspondence between believing in Jesus and being raised up on the last day. So, everyone who believes in Jesus will be resurrected (glorified) on the last day. [NOTE: It is obvious from this passage that the resurrection occurs on The Last Day. Literally, on The Last Day.]
  • In John 6:40, Jesus also teaches us that eternal life is not the same thing as having a glorified body or even the same thing as being in heaven. Eternal life begins when a person believes in Jesus. This is clearly stated in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.” But we know that Jesus will not raise up believers until The Last Day. Therefore, all believers will spend some time having eternal life in our fallen bodies, and all believers will spend eternity having eternal life in our glorified bodies, and most believers will spend some time having eternal life as disembodied souls in heaven awaiting the resurrection.

Having reviewed Jesus’ previous teaching on God’s sovereignty in salvation and the certainty of the last day, we return to John 6:44 to discover what Jesus adds to His lesson.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44

6:44. Jesus introduces us to another necessary part of our salvation. We have learned that it is necessary for us to come to Jesus to be saved, but here we read that not all have the ability to come to Jesus. “No one can come to Me (unless).” In the original Greek, the verb translated “can” speaks of ability. A possible paraphrase of this verse might be, “Everyone is unable to come to Me (unless).” A man may want to fly through the air like a bird, but he is physically unable to do that. He cannot fly. Just so, Jesus is saying that you cannot come to Him unless the Father does something first. Also, as the verse reads in the text, it appears that the “rule” is that a person is unable to come to Jesus, and that the “unless” speaks of the exception to the rule. That is, most cannot, but a few can. But regardless of whether those that come are the exception or the rule, Jesus is definitely teaching that, unless the Father draws the unsaved person, that person cannot come to Jesus for salvation. In other words, that person’s eternal salvation depends entirely on the Father’s action.

The question that must follow is, “Whom does the Father draw?” Is His choice arbitrary, just a random selection? Or is it based on the goodness of the people who are drawn, that they are the ones who are more righteous and holier than the rest? But of course Jesus’ teaching already makes clear those whom the Father will draw. The Father will draw those whom He has given to the Son so that these can (are able to) come to Jesus, and these will believe in Him for eternal life. Those who are drawn to Him and who come to Him and who believe in Him, He will certainly not cast out (6:37c), but “I will raise Him up on the last day” (6:44).

SUMMARY SO FAR

This is a good point to stop and try to summarize what Jesus has taught so far in this passage. In eternity past, the Father has given some people to Son. In time, the Father draws those whom He has given to the Son, and those whom the Father draws will come to Jesus and will believe in Jesus. Those who believe in Jesus have eternal life and they will be raised up (resurrected, glorified) by Jesus on the last day.

SDG                 rmb                 5/12/2022                   #529

John 6:31-65 – Part 1: Come to Me, believe in Me (v. 31-40)

INTRODUCTION. A Bible study on John 6:31-65 in several parts giving insight into the metaphors and analogies Jesus uses with the crowd to explain what it means to believe in Him. This is the first part of the study, John 6:31-40.

OVERVIEW. As our passage opens, Jesus has just fed the five thousand from “five barley loaves and two fish (6:9). The Lord created food from heaven to feed the five thousand in order to make clear to the crowd that He was the bread that came down out of heaven, but the people are spiritually blind. They understand Christ’s metaphors literally and thus become confused and even disgusted. We want to be sure, as we go through this story, that we are not likewise confused by Jesus’ analogies and metaphors, but instead are encouraged to draw closer to Him and to enjoy Him more.

JESUS IS THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN. One of the main messages that we should receive from this passage is that Jesus is the bread that the Father has sent from heaven. Jesus says this many times and in many ways to make unambiguously clear that He is the bread of life (6:35, 48) and that, by believing in Him, you will be satisfied. Eat Him, and you will have life. The Father has sent Him from heaven to be the bread of life for the world. Jesus did not just show up one day and start making outrageous claims. Rather, Jesus was sent by the Father to the world to accomplish a specific mission (17:4; 19:30). So, Jesus = bread from heaven. This is the message. Let’s see how Jesus communicates this.

6:32. “My Father gives you the true bread out of heaven.” Jesus is the true bread from heaven and has been given by the Father.

6:33. “The bread of God (from heaven) gives life to the world.” Jesus gives life.

6:35a. “I am the bread of life.” Can’t get much clearer than that!

HE WHO COMES TO ME, HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME. Jesus now shifts slightly from proclaiming to teaching. In 6:35b – 6:47, Jesus teaches about the significance of His being the bread of life. For the value of bread is not merely beholding the bread or acknowledging that bread exists, but the value of bread comes from eating the bread. Bread cannot sustain life unless it is eaten. Just so, Jesus will not give you life unless you come to Him and believe in Him.

6:35b. “He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Jesus now introduces these two critical phrases, “he who comes to Me” and “he who believes in Me.” The two phrases mean essentially the same thing. The one who comes to Jesus comes to Him because they believe in Him, and the one who believes in Him has first come to Him. Thus, they are equivalent expressions and mean “to trust in Christ savingly.”

6:37a. Here Jesus speaks of God’s election of those He will save. “All that the Father gives Me” makes clear that the Father is the One who initiates salvation. The people who come to Jesus for salvation come, not because they personally have made a decision, but because the Father has given them to the Son. And whom does the Father give to the Son? The Father gives to the Son those “the Father chose in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

6:37b. “will come to Me.” Jesus now moves from God’s election, those whom the Father chose for salvation, to God’s certain calling. The math in this verse is clear: If the Father has “given you to the Son” (chosen you for salvation), you will (definitely, irresistibly) come to Jesus for salvation. Or again, if you have been given to Jesus, you will certainly (eventually, before you physically die) believe in Jesus. That is simply what these words mean. Jesus is not here speaking about possibilities but about divine certainties. Those who are chosen will be saved.

6:37c. “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Having declared God’s sovereignty in salvation in His election and in His calling (see above), Jesus now tells us that, once a person has come to Christ (that is, once they have believed in or trusted in Christ), they will never be “cast out.” That is, those whom the Father has given to the Son are given forever. These are saved, and they will never be lost. (See John 10:27-30 for another strong statement of this doctrinal truth.)

6:38a. Jesus now returns to His essential message in the gospel of John, but here He leaves out the bread. “I have come down from heaven.” Jesus again makes a clear declarative statement about His origin. There is no ambiguity. You either believe what He said or you don’t, but there is nothing to be misunderstood. Simply put, Jesus came from heaven.

THE WILL OF THE FATHER

6:38b. Now another central theme in the gospel is voiced, namely that Jesus came to do the will of the Father. “not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Notice again that Jesus was sent from heaven, and the One who sent Him was the Father. Jesus, as God the Son, has submitted His will to the will of God the Father. Jesus has been sent to accomplish the will (or possibly “mission”) of the Father who sent Him.

6:39. And what is the will of Him who sent Jesus? It is explicitly stated in this verse. “Of all that He (the Father) has given Me (see 6:37a) I lose nothing (see 6:37c) but raise it (or “them”) up on the last day.” Much theology is packed into this verse. First, the Lord affirms that He will certainly not let anyone who has come to Him be lost. This is not only a statement that gives the believer security in their salvation, but it is also a statement of Jesus’ deity, for He is claiming the power to guarantee that no one who comes to Him for salvation will ever be lost. How can He make such an outrageous claim? He can do so without arrogance and with complete confidence because He is God.

TEACHING ABOUT THE END OF THE AGE

But second, there is much here about the end of the age. Notice that Jesus says He will be there on the last day. This is another testament to His deity. The Man who is here making statements to this crowd about being the bread of life will also be the One who will raise up in glorious resurrection all those who believed in Him throughout the ages. Jesus is God, and He will be there on the last day of human history to speak to those who are in the tombs, and “all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth” (John 5:29). So, the message is that, on the last day, Jesus will personally raise up all those who have come to Him. He will lose nothing.

Notice also that there is certainly coming a last day. Many people live as if things will just keep going along like this forever and there will not be a day of reckoning when God will judge the living and the dead, but that is foolish. There is coming a last day when the resurrection will occur and the final judgment will take place. God will surely render recompense to the unrighteous for their sins and will finally redeem the righteous. It will be an awesome day. I know where I will be on that last day. How ‘bout you?

6:40. This verse parallels 6:39 and says essentially the same thing in different words. This is a common occurrence in John’s gospel. Jesus will say the same thing several different ways in order to make the message unmistakably clear. This teaching method also allows us to see that there is more than one way to state a theological truth.

Phrase in John 6:39Phrase in John 6:40
the will of Him who sent Methe will of My Father
all that He has given Meeveryone who beholds the Son and believes in Him
I lose nothing **will have eternal life **
I raise it (them) up on the last dayI Myself will raise him up on the last day
** not exactly parallel, but similar

Now we can see how this teaching method helps us understand phrases in this passage and in other passages in John. Below I lay these ideas out explicitly.

  • “Him who sent Me (Jesus)” = “My Father”
  • “all that” = “everyone who”
  • The person given by the Father to the Son (Jesus) = The person “who believes in Him” Every person given by the Father to the Son will believe in the Son.
  • This is not an exact parallel, but “I lose nothing” tells of the believer’s eternal security and “will have eternal life” also gives assurance, because an eternal life that can be lost is obviously not eternal
  • “I raise it (them) up on the last day” = “I Myself will raise him up on the last day”

This study is taking more time than I thought, but it is an edifying experience, so I will cut off this part here at the end of John 6:40 and pick it up with John 6:41 with the next post.

SDG                 rmb                 4/29/2022                   #523