41The people started grumbling because Jesus had said he was the bread that had come down from heaven. 42They were asking each other, “Isn't he Jesus, the son of Joseph? Don't we know his father and mother? How can he say that he has come down from heaven?”
43Jesus told them:
Stop grumbling! 44No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me makes them want to come. But if they do come, I will raise them to life on the last day. 45 One of the prophets wrote, “God will teach all of them.” And so everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him will come to me.
46The only one who has seen the Father is the one who has come from him. No one else has ever seen the Father. 47I tell you for certain that everyone who has faith in me has eternal life.
48I am the bread that gives life! 49Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, and later they died. 50But the bread from heaven has come down, so that no one who eats it will ever die. 51I am that bread from heaven! Everyone who eats it will live forever. My flesh is the life-giving bread I give to the people of this world.
52They started arguing with each other and asked, “How can he give us his flesh to eat?”
I tell you for certain that you won't live unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man. 54But if you do eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have eternal life, and I will raise you to life on the last day. 55My flesh is the true food, and my blood is the true drink. 56If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me, and I am one with you.
57The living Father sent me, and I have life because of him. Now everyone who eats my flesh will live because of me. 58The bread that comes down from heaven isn't like what your ancestors ate. They died, but whoever eats this bread will live forever.
59Jesus was teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum when he said these things.
The Words of Eternal Life
60Many of Jesus' disciples heard him and said, “This is too hard for anyone to understand.”
61Jesus knew that his disciples were grumbling. So he asked, “Does this bother you? 62What if you should see the Son of Man go up to heaven where he came from? 63 The Spirit is the one who gives life! Human strength can do nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are from that life-giving Spirit. 64But some of you refuse to have faith in me.” Jesus said this, because from the beginning he knew who would have faith in him. He also knew which one would betray him.
65Then Jesus said, “You cannot come to me, unless the Father makes you want to come. That is why I have told these things to all of you.”
66Because of what Jesus said, many of his disciples turned their backs on him and stopped following him. 67Jesus then asked his twelve disciples if they also were going to leave him. 68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life. 69We have faith in you, and we are sure that you are God's Holy One.”
70Jesus told his disciples, “I chose all twelve of you, but one of you is a demon!” 71Jesus was talking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. He would later betray Jesus, even though he was one of the twelve disciples.
At times Jesus buries truth in a familiar metaphor or situation, relying on the Holy Spirit to interpret for those who have ears to hear. Bread is a handy metaphor with an audience thoroughly familiar with the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:17), the tabernacle showbread (Exodus 25:30) and manna in the desert. Here Jesus appropriates the symbol of manna by claiming to be “the bread that had come down from heaven.”
Jesus claims that if they want eternal life, he’s the one to give it. He’ll provide for their needs because he’s God. But partaking of eternal life requires total “communion” with him. As Jesus concludes, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me, and I am one with you” (v 56).
We love to find our identity in who we are or what we do. These won’t bring us eternal life but we fear nakedness without them. If identifying with Christ was merely the act of shedding our old identity, we truly would be naked and shivering. Instead, we are clothed with Christ, actively taking on his identity as sons and daughters of God. Galatians 3:27-28 says, “And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.”
Jesus extends an attractive offer. He alone can provide eternal sustenance, life that will satisfy completely and forever. But we have to give up our very identity. These are difficult words. The bar Jesus sets makes even his disciples uncomfortable. Many leave him after this teaching (v 66). Now he turns to you. How will you respond?
Bread from heaven, you alone hold the words of eternal life. Give me courage to set aside my own identity and accept my identity in you, even if it leads me to identify with you in your sufferings. I turn to you alone, Lord Jesus. Amen.