The Ministry of Messiah, 2:1-12:36

4. Jesus the bread of life, 6:1-71

v] The words of eternal life


The bread of life discourse concludes with a negative reaction from, not just "the Jews" (Israel's religious establishment), but also a large number of Jesus' disciples. The disciples were happy to follow a messianic figure who promised to provide manna from heaven for eternal life, but they are now confronted with the reality of a suffering messiah to whose sacrifice of flesh and blood they must commit. For many of the disciples, this was all a bit too much to swallow, but for the twelve apostles, where else might they find life eternal?


The Word of God draws some closer to Jesus while prompting others to turn away. Eternal life is found in continuing in Jesus' words of life.


i] Context: See 6:22-33.


ii] Structure: The living breads:

The narrative - division in the ranks v60-71:

A word for those disciples abandoning Jesus, v60-66;

A word for those disciples who stay, v67-71.


The interrogation-response structure concludes:

#7. "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?", v60;

"The Spirit gives life .... The words I have spoken ....

are full of the Spirit and life.

Yet there are some ... who do not believe", v61-66.

#8. "Do you want to go away as well?", v67.

"Lord, to whom shall we go?" v68:

"have I not chosen you ..?" v69-71.


iii] Interpretation:

Dodd views this passage as an appendix / epilogue consisting of narrative, dialogue, and commentary. It addresses the response of a number of Jesus' maqhtwon, "disciples" / "Galilean Jews", Carson. Jesus' claim that eternal life is gained by eating the body and drinking the blood of the Son of Man has prompted "grumbling" from the "Jews" (Jewish authorities???), as well as the wider audience, but in particular, "many of his disciples." This reaction may well be driven by the imagery itself, but it seems more likely that it is driven by the idea behind the imagery, namely, that the messiah faces sacrificial death. Jesus goes on to point out that if his death is a worry, then what about the ascension of the Son of Man "to where he was before"! v62.

Just as in the parable of the Sower, it holds true that not all those who hear believe. The words Jesus speaks "are full of Spirit and life", but there will be those who do not believe and thus they are not "granted" (rather than "enabled"; see below) the right to come to the Father and receive the gift of the Spirit and life eternal. So, some "turned back", but Peter, speaking for those who stayed, declared, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life."


"What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!" Westcott notes that for John, Jesus ascends to the Father by ascending, by being lifted up on the cross, cf. Isa.52:13. If Jesus' words have offended the disciples, how much more will they be offended when they see the messiah crucified, which for the messiah, is his way to return to the Father. So, "How much more will your faith be shaken when you see the Son of Man lifted up on the cross?"

This interpretation is followed by many commentators, eg., Carson. Yet, we need to remember that Christ's glorification involves the cross, empty tomb, ascension and enthronement; he is lifted up on the cross to heaven. If, as seems the case, many are reacting to the idea of a messiah who gives his flesh and blood for the life of the world, a crucified messiah, how will they handle a messiah raised from the dead and lifted up "to where he was before." All a bit mind-blowing!


The realignment of the text for eucharistic purposes: See Brown (p299) and others for the realignment of v60-71 to follow v50 and the rather unconvincing eucharistic arguments that seem to drive this desire to tamper with the text. This discourse is not about the Lord's Supper. The imagery of eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood is easily aligned to the eucharistic, but in the text this imagery serves as a metaphor for believing in Jesus' words. If it says anything about the eucharist it supports Zwingli's case that eating and drinking is expressed in believing.


Is a person's coming to the Father "granted", or "enabled"? v65. Is a person's coming to the Father "given" in the sense of "granted" / "approved", NEB; or is their coming "enabled", NIV? The same word "gift" is used in v37, "all that the Father gives me will come to me", although here in v65 it is passive, and therefore, the sense would be "granted". The NIV's translation, "enabled", follows the sense of v44, "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." The second alternative, "granted", seems best.

The first option implies that only those who are reliant on the enabling of the Father can persist in faith. Obviously, we are then faced with a difficult question, namely, if no one can come to the Father without a divine enabling, how does the Father enable? Some argue that divine choice is enacted through a preliminary work of the Holy Spirit which enables the elect to believe. Yet, it seems more appropriate to argue that a person's coming to the Father is granted / gifted, as a gift of grace, when they respond in faith / belief to the gospel / Christ.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 6:60

Rejection and confession, v60-71: i] Division among the disciples, v60-66. #7. "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Jesus has already offended "the Jews" with his teachings and now many of his disciples are offended (it is "hard" teaching) when he claims that his body and blood (ie., his sacrificial death) is the source of life. For many who follow Jesus, the messiah cannot make such a claim and for this reason they reject it.

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection; "So, in response to Jesus words, many disciples said ...."

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "on hearing it" .... [many from the disciples of him] having heard - The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal (with a touch of cause, "because"); "so, many of the disciples, when they understood what he was saying, said .."

ek + gen. "[many] of" - from. The preposition is being used instead of a partitive genitive; "many of his disciples."

twn maqhtwn (nV ou) "[his] disciples" - the disciples, followers [of him said]. This group should not be confused with the apostles. They are those who have accepted Jesus and his words and so have followed him, but now they do not accept his words and so abandon him. Salvation is for those who continue in Jesus' words, cf., 8:31.

sklhroV (oV) "hard" - harsh, offensive [is this word]. Predicate adjective. Jesus' teaching at this point is intolerable. The obvious question is, what has Jesus said that is so offensive? It is likely that Jesus' disciples now understand that he is a suffering messiah and that they must commit (eat and drink) to this idea. Of course, it may be that they don't understand that the image is only a metaphor. Possibly there are those who are so crass that Jesus' failure to produce more free food is grounds for disassociation. It is even possible that their offense stems from Jesus' claim of status over and above Moses, even over and above the Spirit.

akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "[who can] accept?" - [who is able] to hear, heed. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able."

autou gen. pro. "it" - Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear." With a genitive indicates a hearing with understanding; with an accusative indicates a hearing without understanding. So, "we don't accept this teaching, and who would?"


As usual, Jesus reads his audience, notes their reaction and points out that if his claim to be the source of life through death offends them, what are they going to think when they see him ascend to where he was before! v61-62.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue.

eidwV (oida) perf. part. "aware" - [jesus] having known [in = within himself]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, but possibly causal, "because Jesus was aware that ..." Jesus is conscious that some of his followers are antagonistic to his teaching. No miraculous understanding is being implied since any sensitive teacher can pick up on the reaction of an audience. "Inwardly conscious", Moffatt.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus is aware of. As usual, the tense reflects the action as it occurred, ie., present tense.

peri + gen. "about [this]" - [the disciples of him are grumbling] about [this]. Expressing reference / respect; "concerning this", (toutou, "this" - referring back, ie., Jesus' self-revelation in the image of flesh and blood.)."

autoiV dat. pro. "[Jesus said] to them" - [he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

skandalizei (skandalizw) pres. ind. "[does this] offend [you]?" - [does this] cause you offense / to sin, stumble? "To cause to stumble" seems more likely; "Does it shake your faith?", NAB.


oun "then" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "Does this offend you? So what if you see the Son of Man ascending .....?

ean + subj. "what if" - if. Introducing an incomplete conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true. The apodosis must be supplied; "So, if, as may be the case, you see the Son of man ascending to where he was previously, then would this also offend you?" An elliptical conditional clause in the form of a question is used to express "strong emotion or modesty", BDF #482, see Novakovic. "[But what] if you should see the son of man ascend to where he was before?", Ridderbos.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[Son] of Man" - [you see the son] of man. The genitive is adjectival, relational. John uses Jesus' favored messianic title some dozen times. The Son of Man title is drawn from Daniel 7:13, the mysterious messianic son who comes to the Ancient of Days and receives power, authority and rule; See 1:51.

anabainonta (anabainw) pres. part. "ascend" - going up, ascending. The participle serves as an object complement standing in a double accusative construction, asserting a fact about the direct object "Son". When it comes to this classification, it should be noted that some grammarians would classify the participle here as adjectival, predicative. Given that both classifications predicate / assert a fact about the substantive, distinguishing between the two is somewhat pedantic (unless, of course, you are sitting for a Greek exam!!!). to "[before]" - [where he was] the first, formerly. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb "first, former" into a substantive. The accusative case is adverbial, temporal, expressing extent of time, as NIV; "where he was previously", Berkeley. Obviously with the sense of being reunited to the Father through the cross.


Bultman goes out on a limb with this verse and suggests an assumed adversative comparative construction: "You say, 'it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless'; but I say, 'the words that I have spoken to you are both Spirit and life.'" The disciples may be offended by Jesus' teaching up to this point - his claim that eternal life is found through eating his body and drinking his blood, ie., by faith in Jesus' life-giving, his being lifting-up (the cross). The disciples assert that the Spirit is the source of life, not words, not flesh and blood. "Not so", says Jesus; "the words I have spoken to you are both Spirit and life."

to pneuma (a atoV) "the Spirit" - the spirit. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Either "the Spirit", meaning "the Holy Spirit", "God's Spirit", or "the human spirit", cf., NAB. Usually without an attributive modifier. The word "spirit" in the NT means "God's Spirit", but the context may imply that the human spirit is intended. The human spirit, our being, infused with the words of Jesus, produces life. On balance, "the Holy Spirit" is most likely intended.

zwopoioun (zwopoiew) pres. part. "gives life" - [is] the thing making alive. The participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative of the verb to-be. In the Nicodemus discourse, chapter 3, Jesus reworked the Old Testament life-giving role of the Spirit. In this discourse, the words of Jesus, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, give life, cf., 1Cor.15:45. Such an assertion would indeed offend many of Jesus' disciples.

ouk ... ouden "[flesh counts for] nothing" - [the flesh does] not [benefit] nothing. Emphatic double negative. Jesus is possibly agreeing with his wayward disciples; how foolish to think that flesh will give spiritual life. The Spirit gives spiritual life, and believing in Jesus' words, words inspired by the Spirit, produces that life.

ta rJhmata (a atoV) "the words" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be. It is the Spirit inspired words, spoken by Jesus, that give life. Note that those wanting to impose a eucharistic interpretation on chapter 6 translate "words" as "things", ie., the eucharistic (Mass, Communion) elements. C.H. Dodd regards this interpretation as "desperate".

egw pro. "I [have spoken]" - [which] i [i have spoken to you]. Emphatic "I". God through Moses gave life-giving Manna; Jesus ("I") gives life-giving words.

estin (eimi) "are [spirit]" - is [spirit and] is [life]. An example of how a neuter plural subject will usually take a singular verb, as here. "The words I have spoken to you are activated through the agency of the life-giving Spirit."


The sad reality is that there are many disciples who do not believe Jesus' life-giving words and therefore cannot possess life. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus knew that some would not believe; he even knew that he would be given up (betrayed) by one of his own.

alla "but" - Strong adversative. Even though Jesus' words give life, some do not believe that he is the source of spiritual / eternal life.

ex + gen. "[some] of [you]" - [there are some] from [you]. This preposition stands in the place of a partitive genitive.

ou pisteuousin (pisteuw) pres. "believe" - [who] do not believe. Absolute use of the verb - no object etc. Jesus identifies the problem of the doubting disciples; they do not believe and therefore do not receive the gift of life.

gar "for" - More reason than cause; serving to introduce an editorial note explaining that Jesus knew from early in his ministry ("the beginning" ???) that some disciples would turn away from him, even betray him.

h/dei (oida) pluperf. "had known" - [jesus] had known. Here usually rendered as an imperfect; "Jesus knew from the beginning", ESV. Probably in the sense of Jesus' ability to read people, rather than in the sense of Jesus exercising divine omniscience.

ex + gen. "from [the beginning]" - from [beginning]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal. Possibly from the beginning of creation, although more naturally from the early days of Jesus association with his disciples.

oi mh pisteuonteV (pisteuw) pres. part. "[which of them] did not believe" - [who are] the ones not believing. The participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative.

oJ paradwswn (paradidwmi) fut. part. "who would betray" - [and who is] the one delivering over = betraying [him]. The articular participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be - future referencing. Future participles are rare in the NT. The word is often used of Jesus being "delivered up" to the cross for our sins by his own people, or of Pilate doing the delivering up, or the Father doing it, or even Jesus himself doing it. Here, obviously referring to Judas and again indicating Jesus' ability to read people.


Jesus has stated that only some believe and so he concludes by repeating the point. Only those who are reliant on the gift of the Father's grace are enabled to persist in faith. When we rely on Jesus' words we are enabled by them to stay the course. Those who refuse to rest on Jesus' words are lost, and the sad fact is, there will always be some who refuse to rest on God's grace.

elegen (legw) imperf. "he went on to say" - [and] he was saying. The imperfect here is possibly iterative, expressing repeated action, "he has said repeatedly." "So that was why he often said", Barclay.

dia touto "this is why" - because of this. This causal construction is usually inferential, serving to introduce an important proposition, "therefore, for this reason." Referring to the lack of faith noted in v64a. Jesus, knowing that some of the disciples would not believe the unfolding revelation in his person and work, had already made the point in v37 and v44 that only those given and attracted by the Father would continue in faith.

eirhka (eipon) perf. "I told" - i have said. Another example of Jesus saying that he has already made this point, although again he has not made it using exactly the same words.

uJmin "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus had told them.

elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "can come" - [no one is able] to come [toward me]. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of "[no one] is able". "It is impossible for anyone to come to me", Barclay.

ean mh + subj. "unless" - if not = unless. Introducing a negated conditional clause 3rd class where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true; "if not / unless, as the case may be, it has been given to him from/by the Father, then no one is able to come to me." "No one can come to me without a warrant from the Father."

h/ dedomenon (didwmi) perf. pas. part. "has enabled" - it has been given [to him from the father]. The subjunctive of the verb to-be with the perfect passive participle forms a periphrastic perfect construction.


Sadly, some disciples break away from Jesus.

ek toutou "from this time" - from this. Possibly causal, "for this reason", although what is the reason? The reason may be that some disciples "turned back" because they were not "enabled", cf. v65, or they turned back because "what they wanted, Jesus would not give; what he offered, they would not receive", Bruce (ie., the disciples are reacting to the totality of Jesus' discourse). Yet a temporal sense is more likely; "from this time", Barrett.

ek + gen. "of [his disciples]" - [many] from [the disciples of him]. This variant preposition serves in the place of a partitive genitive.

eiV ta opisw "[turned] back" - [departed, went back] into the back (lit. "into what lies behind", cf., Zerwick = "fell away", Rieu). Note allusion to turning away from God, cf., Isa.1:5. Possibly, "broke away", but better, "they went away to the things they had left behind", Stott. They had followed (lit. walked with = accompanied) Jesus, but now they returned to their former life.

ouketi ... periepatoun (peripatew) imperf. "no longer followed [him]" - [and] were no longer walking around [with him]. "They no longer continued as his disciples (met autou, "with him" = accompaniment)."


ii] A word for those disciples who stay with Jesus, v67-71. #8. "Do you want to go away as well"? "Lord, to whom shall we go?" Peter again takes up the role of spokesperson for the disciples. He makes two points: a) the disciples have not been able to discover life, in a spiritual sense, apart from Jesus, so why abandon him; b) from the evidence before them, Jesus is actually the long-promised messiah - God's consecrated one. There is little point abandoning someone who is most probably Israel's messiah.

oun "-" - therefore [jesus said to the twelve]. Used here as a transitional conjunction introducing new subject matter, but possibly inferential, establishing a logical connection "So Jesus said", ESV.

uJmeiV "you" - [not and = also] you. Emphatic use of the personal pronoun.

mh "not" - The negation here implies a question expecting a negative answer, but it is sometimes used in a question that is very tentative. So, Jesus may be drawing the apostles out with a challenge, but at the same time he could be somewhat deflated by the walk-out of so many disciples.

uJagein (uJagw) pres. inf. "[want] to leave" - [will] to go away? The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "will / want."

toiV dwdeka dat. "the twelve" - Dative of indirect object. The first mention of the twelve in John; there are four such references is John.


autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [simon peter answered, replied] to him - Dative of indirect object.

kurie (oV) voc. "Lord" - lord. Vocative used to introduce direct speech.

apeleusomeqa (apercomai) fut. ind. "[to whom] shall we go?" - [toward whom] will we go. A deliberative rhetorical phrase where the question expects no verbal reply. The verb in such a construction is often an aorist subjunctive, but here a future indicative. Peter, faced with such a radical choice, namely life, or death, states clearly that for him there is no other way to live out his life other than to follow Jesus, and this because Jesus is the source of eternal life.

rJhmata (a atoV) "the words" - [you have] words. The article is not present in most manuscripts. "You have words of eternal life."

zwhV (h) gen. "of [eternal] life" - of life [eternal]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic, possibly producer, "the words that produce life." Of course, other idiomatic ideas present themselves; words which "give eternal life", CEV, or "lead to eternal life", or "have the ring of eternal life", Phillips, or possibly "living words" or just words that "concern life", or words "which reveal the secret to eternal life" = "you have the secret of eternal life", Rieu. Cf., v63.


hJmeiV pro. "we" - [and] we. Emphatic use of the pronoun.

pepisteukamen (pisteuw) perf. "believe [and know]" - have believed [and have known]. The use of the perfect tense here serves to define the action of the disciples whereby they have arrived at their present state of faith and knowledge and continue in it. Of course, the use of the perfect tense may just serve to emphasize the action, "We truly believe and know for sure that ......" Note that in John, "believe" and "know" are synonyms, used here to form a hendiadys; "we have believed / have become certain, that ..." The only exception is when "know" is used of Jesus; it is said of him that he knows the Father, but never said of him that he believes in the Father. "We are in a state of faith and knowledge; we have recognized the truth and hold it", Barrett.

oJti "that" - Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they have believed.

su "you [are]" - you [are]. Again, the emphatic use of the pronoun.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[The holy one] of God" - The genitive is adjectival, relational / possessive, "God's Holy One." Clearly a messianic title, cf., Mk.1:24. Given its Old Testament background, the phrase refers to a person set apart for a special purpose; "God's consecrated one."


Peter's reply is a touch self-confident, so Jesus reminds the twelve that it is he who has actually selected them as disciples, which may account, at least in part, for their loyalty, and even then one of their number will desert him. John notes that Jesus was speaking of Judas, the son of Simon from the village of Kerioth.

ouk "not" - [jesus answered to them] not [i choose you the twelve]. This negation is used in a question expecting an affirmative answer.

exelexamhn (eklegomai) aor. "chosen" - choose. This verse and the next seems to counter Peter's natural bluster. The apostles were specially selected by Jesus and so should not be overly self confident, especially as one of their number is a nasty piece of work.

ek + gen. "[one] of [you]" - [and one] from [you]. Here the preposition stands in for a partitive genitive.

diaboloV "[is] a devil" - Predicate nominative. "Devil" is a monadic noun; there is only one devil, therefore "the devil" is better than "a devil." This aligns with Colwell's rule where a definite predicate nominative placed before the verb to-be lacks the article. We may have expected "one of you is a demon", since there are many demons, but John has "devil". The term is obviously figurative, a metaphor; Jesus can't be saying that Judas is actually the devil, cf., "get behind me Satan." So, the sense probably is "one of you has the devil in his heart", Phillips.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, here indicating a move to an editorial note.

SimwnoV (wn onoV) gen. "[Judas], the son of Simon]" - [he was saying (concerning) judas of simon]. The genitive is adjectival, relational, as NIV; "Judas the son of Simon." The accusative ton Ioudan, "Judas", is adverbial, reference / respect; "He was saying this with respect to Judas."

Iskariwtou (Iskariwq) gen. "Iscariot" - of iscariot. Following Aramaic form, the genitive "Iscariot" would function as an adjective modifying Judas by chaicterizing him, so adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / local, limiting Judas; "Judas whose home is in the village of Kerioth in southern Judea."

ek + gen. "[though one] of [the twelve]" - from. The preposition serves in the place of a partitive genitive. May mean "first of the twelve", but this is unlikely. The NIV, as with many other translations, create a concessive clause at this point; "although one of the twelve", Berkeley. John adds "one of the twelve" to clarify the Judas he is talking about; "He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for this was the man - one of the Twelve - who was to betray him", Cassirer.

gar "-" - for [this one]. Introducing a causal clause why Jesus calls him a devil, because he was the man who would later betray him..

paradidonai (paradidwmi) pres. inf. "[was later] to betray [him]" - [was about] to hand over = betray [him, one of the twelve]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "was about". Brown suggests that the phrase carries an "air of inevitability". Surely John is simply labeling him as the betrayer of Jesus rather than expressing divine inevitability. "Was afterwards to betray him", Weymouth.


John Introduction



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