Responding to the Bread of Life is a series of posts on the reaction of the Twelve to Jesus in John 6:60-71.
- Introduction and Background
- The Bread of Life Discourse is a Hard Saying (6:60-61)
- The Spirit Gives Life (6:62-65)
- Many Stop Following Jesus (6:66)
Jesus has the Words of Eternal Life
As many were walking away, Jesus tests the commitment of the Twelve. “You do not want to go away also, so you?” (6:67 NASB). As Beasely-Murray puts it, “the context for Peter’s confession is more dramatic than that in the Synoptics.”1 Jesus was grief-stricken as the crowds were leaving him, refusing to partake of the Bread of Life.
His question to the Twelve, however, as Don Carson observes, “is asked more for their sake than his. They need to articulate a response more than he needs to hear it.”2 Indeed Jesus knows what their response will be (6:64). He knows their hearts–including the one who would betray him. As Peter’s confession in 6:68-69 makes will make clear, not all of Jesus’ disciples had made a superficial commitment.
Simon Peter passionately responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (6:68a). Peter is not going anywhere. He had given up his job, and in reality, his life to follow Jesus.
“You have the words of eternal life” (6:68b) Peter knows who Jesus is. Such a response of faith by Peter starkly contrasts the response of those who deserted Jesus at the synagogue. Peter is saying, “We believe your words! Lord, they are not sklēros!” As far as he is speaking for the for the Twelve, they know that Jesus is indeed the Bread of Life.
“We have believed [hēmeis pepisteukamen], and have come to know [egnōkamen]” (6:69a). Colin Kruse comments, “The words ‘believe’ and ‘know’ here are virtual synonymns and together they provide emphasis.”3 Peter is zealously declaring, in the perfect tense, “Lord, we have come to know who you are, and we believe!” To be sure, Peter has come to know that Jesus is one who is greater than Moses (cf. 6:32-33). One the other hand, one may also observe that the Twelve did not get it all yet. That would come later.
“You are the Holy One of God” (6:69b). Jesus is one who is set apart for service to God. He is one who is consecrated to give the gospel and lead many to eternal life. One should note Peter’s words elsewhere as Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Peter’s confession similarly. Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Mark and Luke basically say the same thing. Interestingly, a few variants try to align the reading here with what Peter confesses in Matthew.4
Such variants are not original here. John, being led by the Spirit, is saying the Son of God is God’s Holy One, the Messiah who is given authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all who the Father gives to the Son (John 17:2). Nothing could be better than to believe upon Jesus, and nothing could be worse than to deny Jesus.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him” (6:70-71). Jesus knew Judas would not go away. Peter was missing something.
So Jesus says to the Twelve, “Did I not choose you?” Jesus snuffs out any hint of arrogance in Peter’s confession.5 One is standing with the Twelve, a traitor, who will betray the Holy One of God. Matthew (10:4), Mark (3:19), and Luke (6:16) also say this about Judas at his first appearance.
Jesus’ response is startling. Peter just confessed, “We believe!” but one is a devil, and Jesus does not say who!
“Did I not choose you, the Twelve?” Indeed Jesus “knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him” (6:64). But he also knew from the beginning who those were who did believe.
So who is Jesus? Jesus is the Holy One of God (6:69) set apart to do the will of the Father (6:38) to give eternal life to all who look on the Son, who will offer his body and his blood (6:51) on behalf of sinners (3:16) for their salvation! For the Spirit gives life, not the flesh, to all who the Father gives to the Son (6:37), and the Son will keep all who believe, and “will raise them up on the last day” (6:40).
1 Beasley-Murray, 97.
2 Carson, 303 (see also 6:63-65). Thus, he says, “The question is not moody, glum, but . . . challenging.” I agree, in a sense. Still, it is likely Jesus was grieving as many left him having refused the ‘Bread of Life’. Cf. Kruse, 178. “Jesus’ question expects a negative answer.”
3 Kruse, 179.
4 See Köstenberger, 223, and Carson, 303.
5 Ibid, 221.