Readers’ Note: The other day some of those who are currently attending our weekly Bible study asked that I post class notes for our study each week, and where better to post them than here on The Life Project. As of this week, we are beginning chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, and I’ll post the study notes each time from here on out…
The Bread of Life, Part 1
This chapter is divided into four sections which, when considered together paint us a twofold picture of the human condition and God’s response to it. We see the human tendency to put spiritual concepts into physical categories, and we see God’s response to human need as spiritual reality. We also can see the result of the clash between the two: most people will fall away from God.
Section One: John 6:1-15
This is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. This great miracle of Jesus really gets the attention of the people because not only was it amazing to behold, but it also included a free meal. To some in the crowd, Jesus leapt out as a man they should listen to, for He had performed a miracle; He must be in good with God! To others, Jesus brought them hope that they could support their families for free; surely God was at work!
Section 2: John 6:16-24
This section includes another sign that the crowd did not get to see: Jesus walking on the water. He left the place where He fed the crowd and the disciples followed Him by boat. A storm blew up on the Sea and suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them. When He got into the boat, they reached shore. Not bad for a night’s work; two miracles in one. The next day, the crowd realized that Jesus was gone, and they went out to look for Him. Eventually, they got into boats and sailed for Capernaum where He had gone, and we move into the central part of the chapter…
Section 3: John 6:25-59
In the third section, Jesus disappoints the crowd by telling them that He isn’t giving them another free lunch, but that the true bread of life is Jesus Himself. Before getting into the particulars, we must understand that to these people, “bread” symbolizes life. If a person has bread, he will not starve this day. If he has the supplies and the ability to make bread tomorrow, he will not starve then either: where there is bread there is continuation of life. Bread remains the staple aspect of Western cuisine to this day, much in the same way that rice is in the Far East.
25-27: Jesus confronts the notion of free meals right away, pointing the people instead toward the spiritual truth behind the feeding of the five thousand. The people could only see the physical, practical aspect of receiving food from Jesus, while Jesus, on the other hand, was more concerned with the truth behind the miracle: life depends on a life-source that transcends mere biology for the true nature of life is spiritual not physical.
28-29: OK, they seem to say, what must we do? They are looking for a new rule or an activity by which they could obtain a loaf of bread that will be able to automatically replenish itself: they were making a serious category error.
29-31: The answer Jesus gave was classic: The work for you to do is to believe in Jesus. Great, say the people: give us a sign.
It’s hard not to laugh at this…
Wasn’t feeding the five thousand enough of a sign? What will Jesus need to do to convince the people, rise from the dead or something? I’d bet people wouldn’t even believe Him if He did that!
I know, why don’t you start the manna flowing again…
32-33: Here Jesus tells them that if they want manna from God, it isn’t the kind that Moses had, but rather it will be true bread (as opposed to literal bread). This true bread is Jesus Himself. Jesus gives life; it doesn’t come from the grocery store, for life is a much more profound force than the continuation of a biological process in the body.
35-42: Ok fine, give us some of this bread… Jesus tells them that He is the bread of life; all life forces come from Him. If you take within you the bread that is Jesus, you will have eternal life, not just your little lifetime here on earth. This starts not with just eating some whole wheat or rye, but rather when you decide to believe. If you don’t decide to believe then you can go no further down the road of eternal life, but when you make this huge choice, eternal life is within your grasp, through Christ Himself. Quite naturally, the people didn’t want that, for they were only looking for physical things, and they grumbled and complained as people like to do.
To be continued…