How Will We Answer John 6’s Loyalty Question?

How Will We Respond to the Challenge of Loyalty Presented in John 6?

I found it hilarious to watch a TV show in which a couple trying new foods from around the world were horrified to learn that the “wonderful” meal they had just eaten was actually octopus. Their expressions changed from white to red.

It’s safe to assume that we’ve all experienced something similar at some point. Times when someone suggests we consume something and our immediate thought is “Ew. No way.”

Such a scene can be seen in John’s gospel, specifically the sixth chapter.

Brief History

If John had used subtitles in his gospel account, he might have titled the sixth chapter “Bread and Water.”

In the first part of this chapter, Jesus performs a miracle near the Galilean coast by feeding 5,000 men, women, and children (according to Luke 9:10, in Bethsaida). Perhaps the large turnout was due to the proximity of the Passover festival (6:4). They may have gotten together in anticipation of making the trip to Jerusalem for the feast.

In their quest to discover Jesus, adhere to His teachings, and be cured of their illnesses, the people had followed many false leads. These occurrences served as miraculous proof.

The Jews had placed a premium on signs and marvels ever since Moses; the first such reference can be found in Exodus (7:2-4). Has any deity tried to take for himself one country out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and terrible deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (Deuteronomy 4:34).

Divine status was often indicated by miraculous occurrences. It’s no surprise that Jesus, out of His compassion for a lost generation and to establish that He was who He claimed to be, performed miracles. In response, many individuals flocked to see Him.

As the day wore on, the Twelve noticed that the audience was beginning to show signs of physical hunger. As the saying goes, “Send them into town,” which is exactly what was proposed. Finally, Jesus turned to Philip and asked, “Where can we get bread for these folks to eat?” (6:5, italics added) If you paid me eight months’ salary, I still wouldn’t have enough to feed this crowd!” Philip answered frankly. (6:6) At that point, Andrew came forward with a destitute young lad carrying five small barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus used these to satisfy the ravenous appetites of the crowd. We ended up with enough food to fill 12 little baskets later.

At this juncture, the “signs and wonders” were insufficient, and the people wanted Jesus to become their political monarch. Not wanting to do this, He left on His own. When night fell, the Twelve, concerned that Jesus was not among them, boarded a boat and set sail towards Capernaum, the city he had come to call home.

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Even though the voyage was short, a strong breeze picked up and tossed the waves around. John estimates that they had traveled between three and three and a half miles before they spotted what they initially believed to be a ghost. In those days, fishermen often went out at night and entertained themselves by telling ghost stories. Naturally, seeing what they took to be a real ghost startled them. But then they understood that Jesus was the “spirit” (another sign and wonder). He joined them in the boat as they continued on to Capernaum.

When many people listen to the same advice, it can be overwhelming.

In the morning, the throng discovered that Jesus and the Twelve had departed Bethsaida, so they set out towards Capernaum. They discovered Him or them in the city’s synagogue, the foundations of which now form the basis of a popular tourist attraction called The White Synagogue in Capernaum (6:59).

Where the going got difficult, the weak got moving. Jesus was questioned about his expected arrival time. (6:25)

Jesus’ reply consisted of a simple statement of the facts and contained no interpretation.

Rather than seeking me out because of the miracles you witnessed, you are on the lookout for me because you were satisfied by the food I provided. Spend your time and energy cultivating that which will last forever, the eternal life that the Son of Man will provide. Because the Father God has personally approved of him (6:26, 27).

Jesus ushered in a new level of comprehension of Himself, His Father, and salvation by shifting the focus from the physical bread they had eaten to the spiritual food that was Himself. The crowd was perplexed, so they inquired as to the specific tasks they needed to complete in order to fulfill God’s will.

The straightforward response Jesus gave was faith (6:29).

Apparently, the miraculous multiplication of five little loaves into enough food for 5,000 men, including women and children, with leftovers, wasn’t impressive enough. They demanded additional evidence. Do you think a larger sign would help? They argue with Jesus about the manna that God gave them when they wandered in the desert about a thousand and five hundred years ago. They told Him, “As it is written, God provided them with bread from heaven to eat” (6:31, emphasis mine).

Did the boy not have enough bread from his lunch? Speculation: Hmm, I wonder…

Jesus then explains to them that the actual bread had come from the Father, not Moses. He told them that the true bread was not only heavenly in origin, but would also sustain all of humanity (6:33). Really, that sounds delicious!

We beg you, please distribute this bread. people questioned Him, and He answered, “I am the bread” (6:35).

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What? Hold on a Second… Hold on a Second…

Must have been thinking, “Wait, wait, wait,” because they followed up with, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” And yet, here He is, making these assertions. (6:42)

When Jesus overheard their complaints, he responded by saying, “No one can come to me except the Father who sent me pulls them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” ‘They will all be taught by God,’ the Prophets promise. Those who have heard the Father and have been taught by him are the ones who come to me. Only the divinely-sent one has seen the Father. As certain as the sun rises each morning, so shall he who believes in me have eternal life. To paraphrase Jesus Christ, I am the daily bread that gives life. Even though they ate the manna in the desert, your forefathers still perished. But look, I bring you the bread from heaven; eat it and you will live forever. I am the divinely provided live bread. If you eat this bread, you’ll never die. This loaf of bread, which I shall break for the life of the world, is my flesh (6:44-51, emphasis mine).

Remember what I’ve highlighted. Jesus is making a Messianic proclamation. The Bible says no one can look at God’s face and live, yet he claims he has. Then, it appears that He commands us to consume His flesh in order to attain eternal life.

Be patient; you’ll be waiting a while. As a Jewish person, you should know that eating flesh is a major no-no.

However, Jesus did not mean for them to consume His flesh the way one would consume a piece of bread. On the contrary, he was clarifying that He would give up His bodily life for the sake of mankind’s spiritual salvation. People “in the flesh” just didn’t get it. And the complaining kept on going.

Jesus added to this tough teaching by adding, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. In the end day, I will resurrect those who have eaten my flesh and drank my blood. Why? Because my flesh is actual food, and my blood is actual liquid. Those who partake of my flesh and blood will never be separated from me, and vice versa. In the same way that the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so too does the one who feeds on me live because of me. Like manna from heaven, this loaf of bread has arrived. People who ate manna before you perished, but anyone who eats this bread will never perish (6:53-58). It bears repeating: focus on the highlighted text.

It was too much for the people who had seen miracles and eaten the miraculous bread out of a lunch pail and then followed Jesus from Bethsaida. This was so disgusting that it defies description (like eating octopus for the TV couple). This was a monstrosity. And in violation of their regulations. Cannibalism!

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And off they go…

Many of those present commented, “This teaching is too difficult. As in, “Who can take it?” (6:60)

Jesus heard their complaints and asked two of the most heartbreaking questions I’ve ever read in the Bible. These lines are some of my absolute favorites.

Do you find this offensive? (6:61)

Many people in the throng began to leave, and Jesus went to His trusted Twelve and asked:

You aren’t planning on leaving, are you? (6:67)

Simon Peter provided the response, and every time I read it, my spirit is lifted. Lord, where shall we go from here? You are in possession of the words that guarantee a place in heaven. The Holy One of God, we believe and know you to be (6:68, 69, emphasis mine).

Perhaps all the “signs and miracles” that Simon Peter had witnessed had become too much for him. It’s fascinating that he used the words “believe” and “know” interchangeably.

The Greek word for “believe” is “pisteuo,” and it means “to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to lay confidence in.”

The Greek word for “know” is ginosko, and it implies “to learn to know,” “to grow to know,” “to understand,” and so on. Intimacy between a man and a woman in a sexual sense is also described using this word. A personal understanding of this.

Yes, But What About Us?

In my opinion, it is not sufficient for us to merely believe or be convinced of the truth of a proposition. Since I was a tiny child, I have put my faith in Jesus. As a child, I regularly attended church and Sunday school with my family. During the summers, I went to Vacation Bible School and Christian youth camps. I participated in the services by singing the songs and reciting the creeds, liturgies, and poetry. When I was in my late twenties, I had my own “come to Jesus” experience and realized that everything I had thought all along was true. The Truth, if you will (John 14:6). For me, Jesus is the one God who matters. I don’t need any more “signs and wonders” in my life, especially after my “come to Jesus” experience.

It’s not always a smooth road ahead. In fact, there are moments when it is quite challenging, and leaving would be the easier option. To have faith and confidence when things are going smoothly is one thing, but to have the same when difficulties arise is something else different.

But who could we turn to for help? He alone possesses the words that provide life everlasting.

It’s only He…

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