October 6 – John 6:35-59
To catch up to verse 35, Jesus miraculously fed 5000 men and their families with a few loaves and then subsequently escaped from the crowds for a while to pray on the mountain. Before he left he sent his disciples on ahead of him to Capernaum, but he ended up meeting them halfway across the Galilean Sea when they hit rough seas and accompanied them the rest of the way to the city (a process involving no less than three separate miracles). However, the crowds realized Jesus was missing and tracked him down in Capernaum. At this point it’s pretty clear they just want another free meal. Jesus says as much in verse 26, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” They even try to haggle with Jesus, telling him they’ll believe him if he does another miracle, maybe even one that involves a little manna for instance (v.31).
Now at this point Jesus most certainly could’ve shooed them away or publicly embarrassed them like he often did with the Pharisees. Instead he lets the crowd in on who he is and what he was doing giving people food. He uses the idea of bread, the staple and cornerstone of the Jewish diet, and hunger, the driving force of first century living, to illustrate his relationship to man. Just like they needed physical bread to live each day, they had a spiritual need for nourishment. But this nourishment wasn’t something you had to keep on partaking of; this was a partaking that provided eternal nourishment, sustenance that could be found nowhere else.
And this metaphor is so very layered. Jesus’ use of bread is a reminder of manna, the “bread of heaven” (v.32). Jesus’ earlier miracle echoes Elisha’s bread multiplied, an abundance of provision from an unlikely place. And this was a foretaste of Christ’s body broken for us on the cross, the starting point of our eternal life found in Jesus’ death. And this metaphor was so important to Jesus that he memorialized this concept through the Lord’s Supper, which he tells us to partake in every time we gather as believers (Mark 14:22-25). He declares both to doubters and seekers in this passage and to the communing Church throughout the ages that he, and he alone, is what our soul craves.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read John 6:35-59 for us?
• What stood out to you from this section?
• How do you think this passage relates to the feeding of the 5000 from earlier in the chapter (v.1-15)?
• What do you think Jesus is telling us by calling himself the “bread of life”?
• What do you think it means to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood?
• How do you think eating and drinking of Jesus is meant to characterize your daily life?
• What are some ways Jesus has been your nourishment, sustenance, and/or source of life lately?