This is part five of a series of posts that is endeavoring to look at the statements made in the book of John in light of the Jewish Passover. The rationale for this approach arises because so many of the incidents recorded in this book take place at Passover. Do we come away with a different understanding of this book if we take this approach? I say yes.
John 6 builds on the events that take place in chapter 5, so we are starting from the understanding laid down there and continuing through this post.
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee…And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up into the hills, and there sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him Jesus said to Philip, “how are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:1-6)
The opening narrative introduces the the subject of bread, which is the theme of this chapter. How are you going to feed 5,000 men plus the accompanying women and children with a boy’s snack of five loaves of bread and two fish?
The bread required at Passover is unleavened bread, dead bread, because there are no organisms in the dough to produce gas bubbles and cause the bread to rise. A loaf of bread that rises, live bread, produces perhaps twice the volume of bread as compared to the same amount of yeastless dough. But Jesus did something that not even yeast could have done. He took these five loaves, intended for one boy, and fed some number of thousands of people with 12 baskets of food left over. This is the contrast he makes later on in the chapter when he declares, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall never hunger…” The people have gotten this idea for they go looking for Jesus the next day. Jesus tells them:
Do not labor for the food which perishes. but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal. Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the work of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?’ (vv 27-30)
Now comes one of the most profound portions of the whole Bible. The sign, the authenticating work, that we must see in order to believe Jesus, is that he alone can produce the life of God within. This is the Passover as defined in chapter 5. Jesus picks up the theme from Ezekiel:
And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves…I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live,…then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:13-14)
You will know when you are brought up out of your grave a living being! So, this is what is going to happen at the end of the world, right?
No, this is what happens when we hear the voice of the Son, the Pascal Lamb that takes away the death of the world.
Jesus told the Jews:
[T]he bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. (vv 33-35)
Remember Moses’ statement, I quoted at the end of part four: “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” In this portion of John 6, The Word made flesh is stating that he is that “word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD” by which man shall live. Keep in mind as you read through this chapter that it is this Word that is speaking, it is the word that, if we will hear it, raises us up from our graves and then we know that the LORD has spoken.
Look again at chapter 5, verses 39-40, “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” If you have been around Christendom very much at all, you will have run into people who earnestly contend that the Bible is the Word of God. Many even go so far as to call it “The Word.” The implication of those words, “The Word,” is that you are identifying the source of life. “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life…”
Lets look at some of the key passages in this chapter:
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. (v 33)
I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. (v. 35)
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me, and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. (vv 38-40)
It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. (v. 45)
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bead which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. (vv. 47-51)
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. (vv. 53-56)
It is the spirit [breath] that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken (am speaking) to you are spirit and life. (v. 63)
Now we come to the Deut. 18 passage I promised would be covered in this section.
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deut 18:15-19)
“If you do not believe Moses,” said Jesus in chapter 5, “how will you believe my words?” Moses spoke of one whom God would raise up to be his spokesman, A prophet, not prophets, plural, but prophet, singular. In John 6, Jesus is stating that he is that prophet whom all are to hear.
Do you believe Moses? Is it your primary occupation to hear the voice of this prophet? “The words I am speaking to you, these are breath, these are life.” The time of the Passover is at hand. Are you ready to feast on life? Are you listening to the words that are breath and are life? or Do you take offense and wish to withdraw from following Jesus? When Jesus asked these questions of the 12 disciples, Peter answered, “Lord to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Moses stated, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” There is a lot at stake here, everything is at stake here. Those who hear the Word, the spokesman God has raised up, are raised to life because the Word has the words of life. Those who will not hear are not raised from their grave, which is an abomination. The call, the command of the living God, is to come to life. Those who refuse, “I will require it of him.”
The message of the book of John, and very eloquently stated in chapter 6, is that Jesus is the Word, the source of life. Jesus is the Pascal Lamb who causes us to pass over from death to life by the word he speaks within us. This prescription for life precedes Jesus’ death on the cross, the event most theologies credit with bringing mankind to life.