(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
(5) The Galilean Campaign Subsides As Jesus Denies Being A Political Messiah – Only The Bread from Heaven
“I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 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.”
Some of the crowd of people that Jesus had fed on the mountainside the previous day realizing that Jesus and His disciples had left the area, went to Capernaum in search of Jesus, “you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” was Jesus’ response to them – they were still desirous of making Jesus a political king of Israel as their interest was only in their physical needs that were satisfied by Jesus’ miracles . Jesus, attempting to bring them to the reality of His mission, urges them – “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” to which they questioned as to what the works of God required. The only “work”that is required by God is to “believe in the one he has sent” , Jesus responded – still not satisfied, they ask for a miraculous sign “What will you do?” they asked, since Moses gave their forefathers “bread from heaven” in the desert , their thoughts were that Moses had fed the nation for forty years, how could Jesus’ feeding five thousand on one afternoon compare, so they requested a sign.
Jesus again attempting to point them to their spiritual needs responds that it was not Moses that had given the bread from heaven, it was, and is, God who gives the “true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” but their response still indicated that they did not understand what or who was the bread from heaven . Jesus then declares that their real need (spiritual) can only be satisfied by Him – the “I am” using the same words spoken to Moses “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…will never be thirsty” and this was the reason He had been sent to earth by His Father “to do the will of him who sent me”that “will” being “that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life” . The response of the crowd only revealed their unbelief “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” to which Jesus continues to discuss the real reason for His coming stating that His Father draws all those who listens and learns from Him to His Son who will give them eternal life and raise them “up at the last day” because He is the bread of life and those who eat of Him will not die – those who ate the manna that Moses “gave them” died, adding that “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” .
This discussion only led the people to display their unwillingness to believe in who Jesus really was and is – “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” – to which Jesus states that only those who eat his flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life, because His flesh is real food and His blood real drink – pointing to Himself as the true source of eternal life, not physical life which the manna sustained in the people. NOTE: it must be understood here that Jesus’ teaching of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, does not mean that eating the bread and drinking the wine at the Lord’s Supper, (later to be instituted – see Lk. 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) suggests that the bread is changed to His actual flesh, and the wine changed to His actual blood, it is a symbol of His flesh and blood. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood is an indication that we who have eternal life need to sustain the spiritual life within us “the one who feeds on me will live because of me …..he who feeds on this bread will live forever” .
This whole discussion finally led to a turning away of many of the disciples as they responded, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” – it was hard for them to accept Jesus as the bread from heaven, this was not their idea of a Messiah who had come to deliver them from the Roman rule and re-establish the kingdom of Israel. Finally, Jesus reveals to them the real truth of His discussion – “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” – knowing that there were some in the company who did not believe in Him:
- Have no deep affection for God – only sentimentality: Ezek 33:31-32
- Have no deep roots: Mk. 4:16-17
- Have no deep foundation: Lk. 6:49
- Have no deep appreciation of teaching: Jn. 6:60
- Have no deep convictions: Eph. 4:14
Turning to His chosen twelve apostles He asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” to which Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” .
So all mankind must come to the same conclusion and accept Jesus as who He is – the Holy One of God – and recognize that it is only as we feed upon the bread of God that we will partake of eternal life and that He will raise us up on the last day – “Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever” .
(6) Christ Defends The Twelve From An Accusation Of Eating With Unwashed Hands
Opposition to Jesus’ teaching now comes from the Jerusalem Pharisees who journey to the Galilee region (possibly to Capernaum) to scrutinize and find fault with Jesus so as to accuse Him of being a false teacher – “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” was their question put to Jesus.
Mark’s account states that the tradition of the Pharisees and elders was a ceremonial washing of hands before eating food, adding that such washing included utensils as well <“cups, pitchers and kettles” Mk.7:4>, and the Pharisees questioned Jesus as to why His disciples did not follow this tradition of the elders, and Jesus responds to their question by asking a question of His own – “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” directing them to God’s command through Moses , indicating that they taught, contrary to the Law, that a child was allowed to declare something a gift, or dedicated to God, and by this means free himself of the obligation to care for his parents, nullifying the word of God for the sake of their tradition ;Jesus was not accusing the Pharisees of cursing their parents, but that they violated the biblical principle of honouring their parents by their tradition; and Jesus continues by citing Isaiah’s prophecy in regards to their hypocrisy indicating that they honoured God with their lips only, but that their hearts were far from God; their worship was only governed by false teachings of men – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” – this citation should also be observed by Christ’s followers today that our worship should not be influenced by the traditions of other Christians including our church leaders .
In continuing the discussion with the twelve, Jesus reminds them that it is not what enters a person through the mouth that causes uncleanness, rather – “the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’”, listing the sins of the heart and mind of a person and Christ’s followers are instructed to be guarded and controlled by the Spirit of God so as to have clean thoughts and actions .