Mystery of Life
John 6:35, 41-51
35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, "I have come down from heaven'?" 43 Jesus answered them, "Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, "And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
6:35 Those who the respond to the Father drawing them to me will have their need for being reconnected to God the Father met…
6:41 What were they saying? What did John mean when he related that the Jews complained because Jesus called himself the bread that came down from heaven… what did John believe they understood?
~ they were resistant to Jesus.
~ their complaining, grumbling again links this with the Exodus story where the Israelites were
consistent in their complaints against Moses/God for bringing them out with apparently no plan and no provisions… we have no food, we have no water, we tired of the same thing everyday.
It illustrates a lack of faith and trust in God’s desire and ability to provide for his people.
Belief or trust = life… lack of faith/not seeing=death. We see the same truth in other Biblical accounts like Numbers 21:9 the account of the serpents… that too is linked to
John’s gospel in 3:14-15 where Jesus speaks about his descending from heaven to bring .
~ The crowd (now the “Jews” or those who stand in opposition to Jesus) stumbles at the mystery of Jesus… they question his assertion that he has descended from heaven (again the imagery from the manna or bread from heaven and Jesus revelation that he is the true bread from heaven) because they know of his human parents.
The gospel of John does not share the birth stories of Jesus but it is surely implied here. The incarnation, like our understanding of the Lord’s Table, is a Holy mystery that we really cannot explain. We can share our ideas about what it is, what it represents, what it means. But on this side of eternity we cannot begin to really fathom or understand it. What is more important is, that when we encounter, meet, see Jesus we believe (John 6:36-40).
6:43-47 Jesus’ statement to the crowd (the Jews) highlights that faith… the ability to discern God’s leading and place trust in God… to believe; is God’s work in us… opening our hearts and minds to himself and in the gospel of John God is revealing himself in the person of Jesus (in my understanding this is the work of the Person of God the Holy Spirit). In other words it is a gift to be celebrated more than explained… it is a gift of eternal life (resurrection… I will raise that person up on the last day).
God’s initiative is held in tension with human response. God teaches, God reveals, God enlightens, God leads us to Jesus (for no one has seen the Father except the one who is from God)… but we are left to believe or not to believe (whoever believes has eternal life).
6:48 life is more than physical… more than the body. Physical bread (food) nourishes our bodies… Jesus, the bread of life, nourishes our spirits, our souls which unlike our physical bodies continue on after physical death… but life, even spiritual life, is only existence unless we are reconnected in our right relationship with the Father… it is in this way that Christ Jesus is the bread of life.
6:49 Jesus illustrates that after eating the manna the Israelites in the Exodus still died without receiving the promise of God…. They did not because of what? Their unbelief and lack of trust in God to be faithful…
In the same way our lack of faith in Jesus will result in our not receiving the promise of eternal life… we will never hunger or thirst again for God
6:50-51 Jesus is the mystery of life… living bread from heaven. In this verse—drawing on themes introduced earlier in the gospel that are realized more fully later—Jesus links the gift of life in the giving of the bread from heaven with his body or “my flesh.” I believe this is referring to both the incarnation… the Word becoming flesh (John 1:1-4, 14) and the crucifixion (John 3:16)…
We can also apply a Eucharistic understanding… once more Jesus talking about his incarnation, life, death and resurrection in our celebration of our Lord’s Table… this is my body given for you… he came from heaven as the incarnate Word… the bread from heaven…. And that bread gives life as Jesus gives his body/flesh/life for the world on the cross… Jesus gives us access to eternal life by giving us his life on the cross…