The setting shifts to the synagogue in Capernaum on the coast of the Sea of Galilee.
The news about Jesus was exciting and confusing:
- Could He be Messiah?
- How could a normal man do the things He did?
His home village of Nazareth was just a few miles west in the Galilean hills—many people in the crowd knew His family. Surely Messiah would not be a carpenter’s son!
Local rabbis joined the leaders from Jerusalem in their refusal to believe in Jesus as anything more than a curiosity, perhaps even a trickster, posing as Messiah. The rabbi at Capernaum gave Jesus the floor. He must explain what he meant by the statement,
“I am the bread which came down from heaven.”
Patiently, Jesus let them speak.
When they were done, He let the silence speak for Him for a few minutes until all eyes were on Him and all ears tuned to His voice. The first thing He wanted to establish was this: to move the discussion from doubt to faith.
“Do not murmur among yourselves.”
To speak of Messiah, one must deal in faith not doubt, in hope not despair. God has always been faithful to the Covenant. This was a time for His people to also be faithful. These are the points in His presentation:
- The Lord was at work among them—He was leading people in their hearts to believe.
- Those who sensed this inner leadership had to realize that it was a call to believe in Jesus.
- To believe in Jesus was to have eternal life!
- He was the bread of Life—living manna from heaven.
- Their fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died.
- To believe in Jesus was to have the Bread of Life which produces eternal life.
A Hard Saying Understood
To illustrate, Jesus employed a vivid pair of metaphors—eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Of course, He intended this as a metaphor, not actual consumption. He had already explained that the “work of God” was to believe in Him. When He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, he was showing us through these common activities how we were to believe in Him:
- Consume His substance—what He said, what He did, what He taught, how He thought, etc.
- Imbibe His life—His health, His strength, He presence, His faith, His confidence and most of all His love.
Thinking in metaphorical terms, these understandable actions from everyday life, we can see the joy of being His follower. The more of Him—His substance and His life—we appropriate in faith, the more of Him will flow into and through our lives.
Synonyms Are Helpful
To understand these “hard sayings” of Jesus, it is helpful to substitute synonyms for “body and blood:” “substance” for “body” and “life” for “blood.” In the Written Word we find the substance of Jesus’ life on earth and in the Living Word, the presence of Jesus, we find the life of Jesus. As we believe in His substance and life, we find food for our souls.
The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven — not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Lord Jesus, I believe in the substance of Your Story as it is recorded in the Word of God. I read these pages in faith, believing every word. It is not my job to explain or even to fully comprehend Your substance; it is my work to believe it. I believe in Your life. You forsook heavenly life for an earthly life. Blood flowed from Your heart to your extremities just as in my body. Your earthly life ended and by the power of the Spirit, another life took its place. I share Your life through the power of Your blood! I believe in Your substance and Your life. Amen.
Break Thou the Bread of Life
Words: Mary A. Lathbury; Music: William F. Sherwin
1. Break now the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
as once you broke the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord;
my spirit waits for you, O living Word.
2. Bless your own word of truth, dear Lord, to me,
as when you blessed the bread by Galilee.
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
and I shall find my peace, my All in all!
3. You are the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
your holy word the truth that rescues me.
Give me to eat and live with you above;
teach me to love your truth, for you are love.
4. O send your Spirit now, dear Lord, to me,
that he may touch my eyes and make me see.
Show me the truth made plain within your Word,
for in your book revealed I see you, Lord.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved