In John 6, we see a turning point in Jesus’ ministry where He begins focusing on eternal life. The chapter begins with Jesus feeding a great multitude from meager provisions of fish and bread, and, in verse 14, many see Him as the prophet coming in the footsteps of Moses. This conclusion comes out in verses 30-31 where they remind Jesus that Moses brought bread from Heaven to feed God’s people, but Jesus corrects them and reminds them that the bread they reference came from God.
In verse 33, Jesus turns their attention away from physical bread and onto Himself. In this, He begins to call Himself the living bread or the bread of life, and he, numerous times, calls on them to believe on Him and receive eternal life. He invites them to eat and drink of Him, but what is He talking about here? Is this talking about transubstantiation? Is this a reference to the Lord’s Supper? The Jews of the time were likewise confused by His words in this passage, and many turned away.
The language involved in these verses lend themselves to our ideas of the Lord’s Supper, but these words have no more to do with that memorial than does the song “Break Thou the Bread of Life.”
Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!
In verse 63, Jesus focuses on spiritual sustenance, and He states that His words are spirit and life. To be a part of Him, to come to Him, to truly believe in Him, we must obey Him. Then, when many turn away from Jesus in verse 66, Jesus asks His apostles if they too will abandon Him, but Peter shows that he understands when he replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” If Jesus is to be a part of us, His words must be a part of us.
Jesus’ words are that of which we should be partaking. It is not enough to simply observe a physical memorial. We have to be hungry and thirsty enough for eternal life that we will ingest His words. These are what can give us eternal life. While we seek bread from Heaven, while we desire to partake of Jesus, we must take part of His teachings and let them fill our lives.
lesson by Tim Smelser