1. The feeding of the 5000 is found in all four Gospels (Mt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:32-44; Lk. 9:10-17; Jn. 6:1-13). But the bread of life discourse (Jn. 6:26-58) is found only in Jn.'s Gospel.
2. This large group of people did not believe in Jesus. See vs. 36. They wanted only physical bread, not the Bread of Life. Vss. 26-27. At the end of the discourse they left Jesus, still in unbelief. Vss. 60 and 66. They grumbled. Vs. 41. They fought with each other. Vs. 52. They remained spiritually dead. Jesus did not satisfy them.
3. Natural man cannot become a Christian by his own powers. Only God can do such a miracle. See vss. 44, 29, 37, 39. Faith and conversion is a work of God, not of natural man. These people were still unconverted.
4. Moses gave Israel manna which can only sustain life. But the Father gave Jesus, the Bread of Life. This Bread gives life. Four times Jesus says: "I will raise him up on the last day." Vss. 39, 40, 44, 54. Who is "him"? The one whom the Father gives to Jesus, the one who believes in Jesus, the one whom the Father has drawn to Jesus, the one who eats Jesus' flesh and drinks His blood. In this chapter Jesus is earnestly inviting these unbelievers to believe in Him. He is not celebrating the Lord's Supper.
5. Vss. 29, 35, 40 and 64 show clearly that this discourse is only about believing, not eating and drinking the Lord's Supper.
6. Jesus says "I am the bread of life." He does not say: "I am the bread and wine of life." He is not talking about the Lord's Supper. That was instituted one year later.
7. In vs. 54 Jesus says: "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." He is talking about how a person becomes a Christian, not the eating and drinking in the Lord's Supper. St. Augustine rightly said: "Here eating and drinking simply means to believe."
8. In vs. 53 Jesus says: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you do not have life in yourselves." This cannot be speaking of the Lord's Supper. If Jesus were speaking of the Lord's Supper it would mean: "Unless you go to the Lord's Supper you don't have God's life in you." That would automatically eliminate all the O.T. saints.
9. Jesus speaks here about "flesh and blood" not "body and blood" as He does when speaking about the Lord's Supper.
10. In vs. 51 Jesus says: "The bread which I give is my flesh (given) in behalf of the life of the world." He is talking about what He has done for the whole world, not the Lord's Supper which is only for Christians.
11. In vs. 51 Jesus says: "If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever." That is not what He said about the Lord's Supper. Read I Cor. 11:27-32. If anyone eats and drinks the Lord's Supper unworthily, that is, in unbelief, he eats and drinks condemnation to himself. The bread of life is for all. The Lord's Supper is only for those who repent of their sins and believe Jesus' Words.
12. At. Mt. 4:4 Jesus quoted Deut. 8:3: "Man will not live on bread alone but on every Word which comes out of the mouth of God". The 5000 wanted bread alone, not the Word of God. At the end of this chapter (Jn. 6:67) when Jesus asked the disciples: "You don't wish to go away too, do you?" Peter answered: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that You are the Holy One of God." That's what Jn. 6 is all about. It is talking about spiritual eating. The Formula of Concord, Art. VII says: "This spiritual eating, however, is precisely faith--namely that we hear, accept with faith, and appropriate to ourselves the Word of God, in which Christ, true God and man, together with all the benefits that he has acquired for us by giving his body for us into death and by shedding his blood for us (that is to say, the grace of God, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life), is presented."
THEME: The Bread From Heaven
After Jesus fed the 5000 they came back because they wanted more bread for their stomachs. But Jesus wanted to give them not only physical bread but also the Bread from heaven, Himself. To eat Him, to believe in Him gives eternal life. The first vs. of our text guides us at all times: "I tell you the absolute truth, the one who believes in Me has life eternal."
I. THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The main passages are: Ex. 16:14-36; Num. 11:7-9; Deut. 8:3.16; Josh. 5:12; Ps. 78:24.25. It is mentioned at Heb. 9:4 and Rev. 2:17.
A. It was miraculous. It was not Moses who gave the children of Israel bread from heaven but rather the heavenly Father. It did not grow from the ground. It rained daily, except on the Sabbath Day, from heaven. This lasted for forty years while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. When they arrived in the promised land the heavenly bread ceased to fall.
B. It was only temporal. The fathers ate the manna in the wilderness but they died. Manna only sustained life. It did not give life. It was the kind of bread we pray for in the Lord's Prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread." Daily bread keeps the body alive and active. It is necessary. But more than that is necessary. When Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread Jesus repeated what Deut. 8:3 says: "Man will not live on bread alone but on every Word which comes from the mouth of God." Even the O.T. children of God knew this. Deut. 8:3 reads: "God humbled you, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord." The miraculous manna served the purpose of reminding God's children that they needed spiritual bread from the Word of God.
II. THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
A. It is miraculous. Jesus says: "I am the bread of life." That means: "I am the bread which gives life, eternal life." Manna could not do that. Our bread today cannot do that. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the life." He also said: "I am the resurrection and the life." That is why He says in our text: "I tell you the absolute truth, he who believes in Me has life eternal."
B. It is eternal. Four times in this chapter Jesus promises: "I will raise him up on the last day." Vss. 39, 40, 44, 54. Think of how bodies grow old, waste away and die. Think of how they decay in their graves and are forgotten. But, Jesus will raise the believer on the last day and give him a spiritual body (I Cor. 15). That is why He says in our text: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread which I will give is my flesh (given) in behalf of the life of the world." He is speaking of the atonement for all people.
C. It gives life now already. Jesus says in vs. 53: "I tell you the absolute truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves." He is not speaking about the Lord's Supper. He is talking about faith in the Lifegiver. What makes people spiritually alive now already? Faith in Jesus. What makes new creatures out of sinners? Faith in Jesus. What makes people joyful over the prospect of being raised on judgment day to be with their Lord forever? Faith in the Lifegiver.
Most of these people left Jesus. Vss. 60 and 66. But Peter said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words which give eternal life. And we have come to believe and know that you [are] the Holy One of God." Lord, make us like the disciples!