Written Word

Did Jesus Teach That We Must Eat His Flesh and Blood? – Part 2

See John 6:30-52.

The crowd asks Jesus, “What miraculous sign will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” (John 6:30-31) (Apparently the previous day’s miracle of feeding 5,000 had not convinced them!) What they are saying is this: God met the needs of our forefathers; what are you going to do for us? Jesus picks up on their words and says, “It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he is come down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vs 32-33) Jesus, unknown to them, is moving the conversation in a particular direction that will allow him teach about his atoning death. Jesus personalises his comments about the bread of life. “For the bread of heaven is he who gives life to the world.” This bread imparts life. “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread. ‘” (vs 34) Did they really want what Jesus had to offer? No. They were misunderstanding Jesus and thinking he was offering to meet their physical needs, permanently. That’s why they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

Bread of Life

Jesus identifies himself as “the bread of life” (vs 35). He is the giver and sustainer of life. “He who will come to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (vs 36) “Coming” and “believing” in Jesus satisfy one’s spiritual needs. Though they had seen him, Jesus says that they did not believe him and proceeds to develop his teaching by answering, again, a question they had raised earlier: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (vs 28) Jesus says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (vs 40)

They respond negatively. “At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (vs 41) Jesus’ statement didn’t square with the facts they possessed. They knew him, they knew his family and they knew where he came from. “Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven?'” (vs 42) What they expected Jesus to say was, “I’m from Nazareth” not “I came down from heaven.”

Jesus continues, “He who believes in me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.” (vs 47-48) He reinforces the point he has made by showing that the manna God provided their ancestors sustained them physically, but eventually they all died. “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.” (vs 49) In other words, this miracle did nothing for their spiritual life. It was a miracle that met their physical needs only.

Bread from Heaven

In contrast to that, Jesus says that God has provided bread from heaven that will give eternal life. “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” (vs 50-51) Jesus is the bread of life and all who eat this bread will never die. This bread differs from the manna that provided physically nourishment. The bread of heaven provides spiritual nourishment. All who eat the bread that has come down from heaven will (1) “not die” and (2) “will live forever.” What kind of bread can this be? Jesus said that this bread “is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”