Responding to the Bread of Life is a series of posts on the reaction of the Twelve to Jesus in John 6:60-71.
Jesus’ Bread of Life sermon is one that triggers a crisis that drives away some and proves the commitment of others. So, let us ask a few key questions for this post.
Who is Jesus? Is he just the son of Joseph, a first century carpenter? Or, is he Lord and Savior? What does history say? John tells us Jesus performed many signs (John 2:11).
Jesus also provoked strong opinions just about anywhere he traveled. He fed a hungry mob, healed a nobleman’s son, cleansed the temple, and even walked on water. Thus, many did say of him, “This is the prophet!”
Others hated Jesus. For example, John tells us the Jews were seeking to kill him “because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God” (5:18).
So, who is Jesus? Is he just flesh and bone? Is he a liar? Or, is he truly the Bread of Life?
The title of the Fourth Gospel says that John is the author. Other clues identify this John as (1) an eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly ministry, (2) one of the Twelve (21:20) and, (3) John the son of Zebedee.
John, along with Peter, ministered to the church in Jerusalem following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 3:1) until, as tradition suggests, he left for Ephesus before the destruction of Jerusalem. Irenaeus relays that John published his Gospel “during his residence at Ephesus in Asia” ca. A.D. 80-85 (Against Heresies 3.1.1).
Jesus is the long-expected Messiah and Son of God who has the words of eternal life. John tells us he performed many signs and wonders and “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
The two main sections of the Gospel of John are often called the Book of Signs (1:19-12:50) and the Book of Glory (13:1-20:30).
Interestingly, John does not contain the nativity. Instead he complements the Synoptics with a prologue of the eternal nature of Christ, the Word who became flesh. Jesus is light shining into the world’s darkness.
The text for this series relates the response of Jesus’ disciples to the Bread of Life discourse. Briefly, John has selected a few signs to display the glory of Jesus as the Son of God in the Book of Signs. Up to this pericope, Jesus’ popularity was billowing. Just the day before, Jesus fed a hungry crowd in Galilee.
But they did not get the sign. “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (6:14-15).
The next day, Jesus told the same crowd, “I am the Bread of Life” (6:35). To many, Jesus’ sermon was a hard saying. Such hard sayings sparked the Jews to grumble about Jesus. Of course, their mounting opposition to Jesus was not new. Earlier in Jerusalem many Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because he was “breaking the Sabbath” and “calling God his own Father” (5:18).
To put it another way, John relates the signs of Jesus to his readers that they might have life in his name. Yet it is the Spirit who gives life in Jesus, the flesh is no help at all (6:63). Therfore, to some Jesus has the words of eternal life. To others, Jesus is a stumbling block (6:60).