Today’s passage: John 6:1–71
Focus verse: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
Jesus offered the Samaritan woman living water to drink. Now he wants to feed the people life-giving bread. Just as we need water to live, we also need food—our daily bread.
After Jesus teaches a massive crowd of over 5,000 people, he intends to feed them. But the disciples don’t have the money to buy that much food, and all they can scrounge up is a boy’s lunch: five small loaves of bread and two tiny fish.
Jesus tells the people to sit to eat, anyway. He blesses the boy’s food, passes it out, and everyone has enough to eat. There are even leftovers. It’s a miracle, and the people wonder if Jesus is the Savior whom the prophets predicted.
That evening Jesus and his disciples leave, but the people find him again the next day on the other side of the lake. He criticizes their intentions.
They’re not seeking him because of his miraculous power, but because he fed them. “Don’t strive for food that spoils but for food that leads to eternal life.”
“What must we do?” the people ask.
“Believe in the one God has sent.” He reminds them of God giving the people manna—bread sent from above—to eat when they were in the desert.
The crowd wants this bread too.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus says. “If you come to me, you’ll never go hungry or be thirsty again. Just believe, and you’ll live forever.”
He follows this with one of his more shocking statements. Jesus says they must eat his body and drink his blood, something prohibited by the Law of Moses.
Everyone who eats and drinks of him will have eternal life. Jesus’s followers have trouble understanding this teaching. But this is not a call to eat human flesh. It’s a metaphor. Just as we need food and drink for physical life, we need Jesus’s body and blood for spiritual life.
To eat his body and drink his blood is a euphemism for receiving him and his death as the solution for the wrong things we have done. In making this bold statement, Jesus foreshadows his execution, which he willingly accepts.
By doing so, he offers himself as a redeeming, life-restoring sacrifice—the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Jesus isn’t contradicting the laws of Moses. Instead, he voices his intention to fulfill it.
The idea of eating his body and drinking his blood also foreshadows communion, which serves as a reminder of his death and resurrection—that is, his victory over death—to save us.
This appalls his followers, all Hebrews. The people grumble. They complain he’s hard to understand and say no one can accept his message. They view his statement as heresy, many turn on him and leave.
These followers become ex-followers. They reject him and go in search of something else, but his main twelve disciples stay. They’re committed.
The principal message of Jesus is easy: believe in him. He loves everyone and opens his arms to accept all. But sometimes he’s hard to understand. Sometimes his message offends people. Their response is to give up on Jesus.
To eat his body and drink his blood is not a physical call to cannibalism, but a spiritual invitation to salvation. All we need to do is believe Jesus is the bread we need for life.
- Have you ever miraculously seen food multiply to feed everyone?
- Why do you seek Jesus? What do you expect to gain when you follow him?
- What should you do that leads to eternal life?
- How can you embrace Jesus as the bread of life?
- How do you understand Jesus’s command to eat his body and drink his blood?
Discover more about blood in Leviticus 17:10–12, Ezekiel 39:17, and 1 Corinthians 11:25–27. What insights can you glean from these passages?
Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
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