“Who teaches them to do that?!?!”
In an exasperating, rhetorical question, I asked my wife about the behavior of our children when they were little. While parents have often noted: children do not come with an instruction manual. Yet, they certainly know the playbook on disobedience.
Whoever believes humans are good and moral creatures has never had children. And the Lord uses our own understanding of our marked imperfection to teach us about the life He offers.
After the feeding of the 5,000 men (plus women and children) (John 6:1-15), Jesus sent the disciples across the Sea of Galilee and He came to them walking on water (John 6:16-21). When Jesus and the disciples got to the other side of the lake (John 6:22-42), Jesus kept addressing the people. We continue that story today in John 6:43-49:
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “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. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.John 6:43-59
New International Version
If left to our own devices, we don’t become better and better. Quite the contrary, we move further and further from goodness. We grow increasingly self-centered.
We start it when we’re children and it continues right into adulthood. This is why Jesus can so plainly say, “No one can come…unless the Father…draws them” (John 6:44). It is not by our will we are called by the Father. Jesus is teaching that it is impossible to come to Jesus without being called by the Father.
Salvation is never achieved apart from the drawing power of the Father, and it is never consummated apart from the willingness of humans to hear and respond to the Lord’s call.
Since Jesus has seen God the Father face-to-face, He knows the will and plan of the Father. This makes Jesus the only mediator between humanity and the Father. And He tells these people—and us—that He offers them life based on their belief. If we accept this offer, eternal life is ours—not on this earth in this fashion—but with Him forever.
Thus, He tells them, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48). He explains this by reminding them of their own history. When the children of Israel were wandering in the desert after being set free by the Lord from Egypt, they were fed by this mysterious food called “manna.” Nevertheless, the manna didn’t give them eternal life. Jesus tells them, “I am the ultimate manna from heaven. If you eat this bread, you will never die.”
Instead of simply offering a temporary solution, the Living Bread of Jesus has provided a permanent solution for our sins. In our marked imperfection, we could not get to God so God came to us.
Using a startling extended metaphor, Jesus tells us we are dead unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:55-56). Jesus’ offer of life is based on becoming one with Him (John 6:57).
Jesus voluntarily chose to lay down His life for you and me and feeds us with the ultimate soul food: Living Bread from Heaven’s throne! And as we take of His body and blood, we join with Him and enjoy the life He died to bring us. Jesus is the “bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:58).
In a great irony of our relationship with Christ, we must die to ourselves to live for Him. As St. Francis of Assisi wrote so eloquently, “For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”
Have you feasted on the Living Bread of the Lord?