Responding to the Bread of Life is a series of posts on the reaction of the Twelve to Jesus in John 6:60-71.
The Spirit Gives Life (6:62-65)
“Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (6:62) Another hard saying. Sklēros. What does Jesus mean? Does he mean “If you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before, will you not then be even more offended?”1 Both Andrew Lincoln and Don Carson say that “the Greek preserves the condition but no conclusion.”2 So it might also mean, “Will you not be convinced?”
Either way one could offer two answers.
1. Jesus, the son of Joseph, who has descended from heaven, will ascend to where he was before.
The final sign of Jesus’ identity will come in his ascent to where he was before. Thus Lincoln explains, “The notion of the Son of Man ascending to where he was before involces the full-blown Johannine belief in Jesus as the Son of Man who returns via death and exaltation to the pre-existent state of glory he shared with the Father.”3 The Jews grumbled about Jesus when he said “I have come down from heaven.” What will the Twelve do?
2. Jesus will be lifted up by the cross.
Morris observes, “The crucifixion and resurrection and ascension are linked in an unbreakable sequence. The one implies the others.”4 Carson helpfully comments:
“However offensive the linguistic expression ‘eating flesh and drinking blood’ may be, how much more offensive is the crucifixion of an alleged Messiah! The very idea is outrageous, bordering on blasphemous obscenity, ‘a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Cor. 1:23).5
Jesus’ Bread of Life sayings cause many to stumble because they confront his opponents with the truth of the cross. “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Here George Beasley-Murray inserts, “The lifting up of the Son of Man also entails the judgment of the godless world that refuses the light of God’s revelation.”6 In part, that is why Jesus says to the disciples of John the Baptist, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matt. 11:16, Luke 7:23).
Interestingly, Jesus has now referred to his incarnation (”I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 6:41), death (whoever “drinks my blood,” 6:54), and ascension (6:62, thereby his resurrection) in this one section!
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (6:63). All who are in the flesh are helpless in sin apart from the Spirit who gives life. Jesus’ saying harks back to what he said to Nicodemus. “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:5-6).7
In the preceding section, Jesus’ focus was on the Bread of Life (6:27, 32-33, 35, 48-51, 53-58) and what must happen in order for one to live forever (6:27, 29, 33, 40, 51, 54). Here Jesus refers to the role of the Holy Spirit. How can one labor for the food that endures to eternal life if it is the Spirit who gives life? Jesus’ answer is faith. “The flesh is no help at all.”8 To put it another way, “it is the Spirit” who shines light into darkness unto life (2 Cor. 4:5-6). To those who hear the words of Jesus and believe, the Spirit gives life.
“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Köstenberger comments that “this is in keeping with God’s nature as spirit.”9 It also agrees with Paul: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
“It is the Spirit who gives life” is speaking of regeneration, which was what those who were offended truly needed. Here Jesus explains what the Spirit uses to give life, namely Jesus’ words. Thus, Jesus is the Bread of Life “who has the words of eternal life” (6:68) and those who have life receive it by the life-giving Spirit through faith.
“But there are some of you who do not believe” (6:64). The reality is that some will hear the Bread of Life speak and not accept his words.10 As the following verse shows, those who stumble (re: skandalidzei, 6:61) and do not accept the Bread of Life because they do not believe, are not among those “it is granted” by the Father.
“For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.” Jesus “knew who did not believe.” However, J.H. Bernard is hesitant to say that Jesus “chose Judas as one of the Twelve, being conscious at the time that he would be a traitor” because it would be “difficult to explain, in connection with the true humanity of Christ.”11 I disagree. John does not seem to give that impression. Ho paradōsōn auton, as Carson puts it, “depicts the speaker’s firm expectation” that Judas would betray him.12 Jesus knew “who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.” Neither does v. 66 take Jesus by surprise!
“This is why I told you no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (6:65). Jesus, in response to “there are some of you who do not believe” (cf. 6:36), repeats what he said to the Jewish disputers in 6:44. Dia touto eirnka huminrefers both to “the phenomenon of unbelief–i.e. Jesus knew in advance that he would be rejected by many”13 and to how the Father “draws” those who gives to the Son (6:37) to look on the Son and believe (6:40) to eternal life.
God draws sinners! Augustine thus exhorts, “Do not regard this violence as harsh or irksome; on the contrary, it is sweet and pleasant.”14 At this point, and in the context of this section, there should be a fairly obvious correlation between God’s sovereign grace, the Spirit, and one’s joyful belief in Jesus.