The passage from John 6:35-58 has been called “John 3:16 Writ Large!” Who called it that? Well no recognised Bible Scholar has ever called it that to my knowledge. I just made up the term at this moment having preached on this passage in the last few days. In John 3:16, which has been called “the Gospel in a nutshell”, John records Jesus’ words in this verse which make 3 basic points. i). There is God’s loving initiative towards His people, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. ii). There is a response of people towards God’s love, that whoever believes in Him. iii). There is the result of their responding to God’s love, might not perish but have eternal life.
The more involved I got in trying to understand (and then preach on) the difficult passage in John 6:35-58 the more it seemed that John was stating the same basic message of the Gospel seen in John 3:16 in different words. There is the description of God’s loving initiative in several verses. Then there is the response from the people as they respond Him in faith. Then there are the blessings resulting from their response to His love. I tried to represent these truths in the table below to see if it made it easier for folk to understand. Because some kindly said it helped, I share it with you now.
|God’s Loving Initiative Towards Us||Our Human Response To God’s Love And The Results That Follow|
|Jn 6:35) Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;||whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.|
|(37) All that the Father gives me will come to me,||(37) …. whoever comes to me I will never cast out.|
|(39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.||(40) For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”|
|44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.||And I will raise him up on the last day.|
|(45) It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.||(45) … Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me–|
|(47)||He who believes has eternal life|
|(50) This is the bread that comes down from heaven,||so that one may eat of it and not die.|
|(51) I am the living bread that came down from heaven.||If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.|
|(53) unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood||you have no life in you. (Meaning that if you do eat and drink you will not have life)|
|(54) Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.|
|(56) Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.|
|(57) As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father,||so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.|
|(58) This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died.||Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”|
I tried to sum up the passage in a shorter summary. It could be expressed like this.
|Our Human Response To God’s Love||The Results That Follow|
|v.35. Coming to Jesus and believing in Him||= spiritual hunger and thirst satisfied|
|(37) …. whoever comes to me||= God will never cast us out.|
|(40) everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him||= has eternal life (also v 47), and will be raised upon the last day.” (Also v 44)|
|(50) so that one may eat of it (the bread from heaven)||= and not die. (Also v 51)|
|(51) if anyone eats of this bread||= he will live for ever|
|(53) unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood||= you have no life in you. (Meaning that if you do eat and drink you will have life)|
|(54) Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood||= has eternal life and will be raised up on the last day.|
|(56) Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood||= abides in me, and I in him.|
|(57) so whoever feeds on me||= he also will live because of me.|
|(58) Whoever feeds on this bread||= will live forever.”|
It becomes apparent that many of the terms Jesus used are synonymous.
- “Coming” to Jesus is coming to Him in faith and thus believing in Him. He and He alone brings spiritual satisfaction. Not only that but there is an assurance of salvation because Jesus said that God will never cast out those who come to Him.
- To “look on the Son” is obviously to look on Him with the eyes of faith. The word for “look” is (theōreō) which means to look intently, to focus on. It is a similar concept to that in John 3:14, 15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. In the story of the bronze serpent in Numbers 21: 8, the people are told to look at the bronze serpent on the pole if they were bitten by serpents. 21:9 says, So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would” look” at the bronze serpent and live. “Look” in this verse in the Hebrew is (nabat) meaning to gaze upon and the Old Testament Greek word is (epiblepō) which has much the same meaning. The hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” gives the true meaning, There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free. There is the gift of eternal life for the present and the future, and the promise of being raised on the day of Resurrection on the last day.
- The references in these verses to eating of Jesus’ flesh and drinking of His blood are not here referring to receiving the elements at Holy Communion. They refer to coming to Jesus in faith and appropriating into one’s being, all that He is and all He offers in Himself, such as forgiveness, eternal life (see Ephesians 1:7) etc. Of course the best way of having people understand Jesus as the Bread of life is to use the analogy of eating and drinking in appropriating what God offers us in Him. Through this appropriation believers learn to abide in Him and to allow Him to abide in them by His indwelling presence.
- What we do in receiving the elements of bread and wine at Holy Communion is to focus not on the elements themselves but on what the elements point to. The focus is not on the bread and wine but on the living Jesus and on what He accomplished for believers on the cross. At the Last Supper Jesus said as He took the bread, “Take, eat; this is my body.” As He took the cup He added, “Drink of it, all of you.” He explained His actions by saying, Mat 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. He was referring to His death as he shed His blood so that forgiveness might become available for the people of God through Him. His death though would not be the end. As He added, Mat 26:29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” He would rise from the dead.
- St Paul in his discussion of the Lord’s Supper in1Corinthians 11, also showed that the death of Jesus was paramount in every observance of the Lord’s Supper, 1Cor 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. “Proclaim”is (kataggellō). It can also mean to announce, to set forth, to point to Jesus’s death with a view to focussing on its significance. The words and actions of the Lord’s Supper point away from themselves to instead highlight the victory of Christ over evil as He hung on the cross. They also highlight His victorious resurrection from the dead. There is the reminder in this verse that He will be coming again. Death has not conquered Him. He is alive, a Living Saviour..
The passage John 6:35-58 is not an easy passage to understand. It is even harder for a preacher to preach on these verses. How could one shorten the passage to just one sentence? We could pretty well sum up the whole passage in John 6:35-58 by saying, ”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 6:35-58 is John 3:16 writ large!
Blog No.082. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Wednesday 15th August 2012