The Ministry of Messiah, 2:1-12:50
4. Jesus the bread of life, 6:1-71
iv] The flesh and blood of the Son of ManSynopsis
The discourse on the bread of life, which began at 6:25, comes to a pointed climax in these verses as Jesus rounds off his exposition of the text, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat", cf., 6:31.
Jesus is the true bread that comes down from heaven, a life-giving bread made possible through his sacrifice for sin.
i] Context: See 6:22-33.
ii] Structure: The living bread:
The discourse proper:"
He gave them bread from heaven to eat", v25-59:
A food that endures to eternal life, v25-33;
Jesus provides the life-giving food, v34-51;
Jesus' sacrifice is the life-giving food, v52-59.
The interrogation-response structure continues:
#6. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?", v52;
"Your ancestors ate manna and died,
but whoever feeds on this bread (my flesh / my blood)
will live forever", v53-59.
In this final interrogation-response element of the discourse, John establishes that the spring of all life is the self-offering of Jesus in his death. In the wilderness, the children of Israel ate manna and were sustained for their journey to the promised land. Yet, they all inevitably died. Jesus, on the other hand, provides a food that will sustain to eternal life. This food is Jesus' flesh and blood, not his actual flesh and blood, but the sacrificial offering of himself upon the cross. So, the person who eats the body and drinks the blood of Jesus (ie., who believes that Jesus, as the crucified Christ, provides for the salvation of those who believe through the offering of himself on the cross) gains the prize of life eternal.
The people of Israel were sustained by heavenly bread during their wilderness journey, but inevitably they all perished in the wilderness. The Son of Man, on the other hand, provides food that sustains to eternal life, and he is that food, a food we must "eat". These words of Jesus prompt question / statement #6, pwV dunatai outoV hJmin dounai thn sarka autou fagein, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" The answer is simple: the "flesh and blood" is Jesus sacrifice on the cross, and eating is believing. Whoever eats and drinks of this flesh and blood, in the sense of believes in Jesus' sacrifice, lives forever.
Jesus' language is of course figurative (shed blood = "violent death", Dodd). So, when Jesus speaks of eating his body and drinking his blood, he is referring to a belief in the efficacy of his sacrifice, a belief in "the surrender to death of the flesh and blood of the Son of man", Ridderbos, so also Dodd, etc.., contra Kostenberger who argues that the imagery is used of the surrender of self, ie., the reference to flesh and blood is nothing more than Hebrew idiom for the whole person, cf. Matt.16:17, 1Cor.15:50, Gal.1:16, Eph.6:12, Heb.2:14.
As we will note in v60, Jesus' words deepen the offense felt by "the Jews", and even some of the disciples. It may well be that they are offended by the language, but it seems likely that they do finally understand what Jesus is saying, namely that the messiah must suffer and die for the life of the world. A suffering messiah, even unto death, is a difficult teaching and hard to accept.
Note that it is now widely accepted that Jesus' words, although used in shaping the liturgy of the Lord's Supper, do not have sacramental intent within this context, so Carson, etc. See Schnackenburg for a sacramental / eucharistic interpretation of the passage.
iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
The Bread of Life discourse, v25-71: iii] The bread Jesus gives is his flesh, v52-59. #6. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" The "Jews" respond to the stark nature of Jesus' words, prompting an argument among them and ultimately offense. None-the-less, Jesus presses on, expanding the imagery of eating his flesh by adding the image of drinking his blood. Jesus uses sacrificial language to make the point that by identifying with his sacrifice, a person shares his nature and the life he bestows.
oun "then" - therefore [the jews]. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "so", as NIV. Expressing the effect of Jesus' words in v21; "this led to", NEB.
emaconto (macomai) imperf. "[the Jews] began to argue sharply" - were arguing, wrangling, quarreling [toward one another]. A very strong word, "strove". Note the possible allusion to Num.20:3. Probably an inceptive imperfect where the stress is on the beginning of the action, as NIV. The reaction of the Jews to Jesus' words is understandable, see below, v53. "This led to a fierce dispute among the Jews", REB.
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to argue", "were arguing and said", redundant.
ouJtoV pro. "this man" - [how is able] this one. The use of the demonstrative pronoun here is probably derogatory. "This fellow", Morris.
dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "give" - to give. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "is able". Note, the problem is not expressed in the terms "how are we meant to eat his flesh?", but "how can he give us his flesh?" The giving of Christ's flesh and blood serves to cue us to the sense behind the image, namely, a sacrificial giving - Christ gives himself as a sacrifice for sin.
hJmin dat. pro. "us" - [the flesh of him] to us. Dative of indirect object.
autou "his [flesh]" - of him. Missing in many manuscripts, but probably original. Obviously Jesus' flesh is intended.
fagein (esqiw) aor. inf. "to eat" - The infinitive here is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "in order to eat."
Jesus goes on to explain the point he is making. We must eat and drink Christ's sacrifice for sin - believe in Christ the crucified messiah. Without this belief we have no life within us; we do not possess eternal life.
oun "-" - therefore. As above; "So, ....."
autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [jesus said] to them. Dative of indirect object.
amhn amhn "[I tell you] the truth" - truly truly [i say to you]. Used to reinforce the importance of a statement. The 4th time the phrase is used in this chapter; See 5:24.
ean mh + subj. "unless" - if not = unless, as the case may be, [you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink the blood of him] then [you do not have life in yourselves]. Negated conditional clause 3rd. class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true.
pihte (pinw) aor. subj. "drink" - The aorist possibly indicating a once only action of drinking.
tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, of relationship. This messianic title, drawn from Ezekiel and referring to the one who receives heavenly authority and rule from the Ancient of Days, is favored by Jesus because of its illusive nature. The term can be understood to mean nothing more than "a man." Note the shift to a third person self identification by Jesus, a common messianic ploy used by Jesus. See 1:51.
ouk ecete (ecw) pres. "you have no" - you do not have. If we fail to believe in the crucified Christ then we fail to possess eternal life. Possibly, having life has an intended future sense, so NEB, although eternal life is also possessed now, as NIV.
en "in [you]" - Local, expressing space, here "within"; "you have no inner life", Berkeley.
Believing, putting our trust in the crucified Christ (eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus), brings life eternal, and this life will be experienced in all its wonder and majesty on the day of resurrection.
oJ trwgwn (trwgw) pres. part. "whoever eats" - the one feeding on [the flesh of me and drinking the blood of me has life eternal]. The participle, as with pinwn, "drinking", serves as a substantive. The presence of the single article associates them, cf., Granville Sharp's rule. For this eating, John uses the present tense, rather than aorist of v53. The verb was originally used of animals eating, later of humans, but of eating in a rough manner. Brown sees this literalism as an evidence that the eating and drinking is a reference to the Lord's Supper, although is probably just stylistic. The present tense may indicate continued action. "Our Lord meant the habit of continually feeding on him all day long by faith. He did not mean the occasional eating of material food in an ordinance", Ryle.
kagw pro. "and I" - The crasis kai egw is emphatic by position and use.
anasthsw (anisthmi) fut. "I will raise [them]" - i will raise up [him]. Commentators who are focused on the realized eschatology of John's gospel are inclined to see references to the resurrection in the day of judgment as later additions, but of course, NT eschatology is always now and not-yet.
thn escath/ hJmera/ dat. "the last day" - in the last day. The dative is temporal, "at/on the last day", ie., the day of judgment.
Manna was amazing food, but it was not the real thing, it was not life-giving. Christ's sacrifice is the real thing; it is the life-giving food.
gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why eating of the flesh and blood gives life eternal, namely, because "my flesh is real food."
alhqhV adj. "real" - [the flesh of me is] true, honest, genuine [eating = food and the blood of me is] true [drink]. The adjective serves as the predicate nominative of the verb to-be, attributive, limiting food and drink. A variant adverb exists, but is probably not original. The spiritual sustenance for eternal life is not manna etc., but rather the genuine item supplied by Christ, namely, his sacrifice. Jesus sacrifice is "the only genuine/real" spiritual food for eternal life.
A person who believes in Jesus is one with Christ, united to Christ - indwells Christ and is indwelt by Christ.
oJ trwgwn (trwgw) pres. part. "whoever eats" - the one eating, feeding on [the flesh of me and drinking the blood of me]. As for "drinking", the participle serves as a substantive; See v54.
menei (menw) pres. "remains" - abides, remains, continues. Present tense indicating a continuous state. The one who eats and drinks of Christ, that is, believes in Christ the crucified messiah, is united to Christ, becomes one with Christ, and thus being identified with Christ, shares the reward of his faithfulness.
en + dat. "in [him / them]" - in [me and i] in [him]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical - incorporative union. Often regarded as a eucharistic editorial note; not found in some texts.
A person who identifies with Jesus and his cross, dies with Jesus, rises with Jesus, and reigns with Jesus. Just as the Father possesses life in himself so the Son possesses life in himself. Those who believe in the Son become one with him, and so similarly possess life in themselves.
kaqwV .... kai "just as .... so" - as ..... and. Here the comparative conjunction kaqwV with the coordinate conjunction kai forms a comparative construction, "just as [the living Father sent me ........] so also [whoever feeds on me .........]"
zwn (zaw) pres. part. "[the] living [Father]" - [the] living [father sent me]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting by describing "the Father." The Father possesses life in himself and in union with the Father the Son also possess life in himself. "The Father who is life", Brown, probably better than "source of life."
kagw "and I" - and i [i live]. The crasis kai egw, "I also", possibly takes on a consecutive sense, "and as a result I ....." Just as Jesus lives in relation to the Father, so also the believer lives in relation to the Son.
dia + acc. "because of [the Father]" - because of [the father]. Possibly instrumental, agency, "through / by means of", ie., it is suggested by some commentators that Christ's life is mediated through / by means of the Father. Probably better taken as causal, "on account of, because of": a) Jesus' life is one with the Father's life; the Father is Jesus' life-source, and b) Jesus lives to do the will of the Father; Jesus lives for the Father, cf., Morris. Possibly, "I live for the sake of the Father."
kai "so" - and = so also. Adjunctive; introducing the apodosis of the comparative construction.
me "me" - [the one feeding on] me. Note the move from eating the body and drinking the blood to eating "me".
kakeinoV "-" - that one also [will live]. The crasis ekeinoV kai, "that one also", probably like kagw takes on a consecutive sense, "and as a result that one ........."
di (dia) + acc. "because of [me]" - Causal; see dia above.
Jesus' sacrifice is the true heavenly bread, the life-giving bread. The people of Israel ate manna from heaven in the wilderness, but it only sustained them in their journey to the promised land. Those who eat the heavenly bread that Jesus gives, who believe in the lifted-up one, will be sustained to life eternal.
ouJtoV "this" - this one [is the bread]. This demonstrative pronoun serves as the nominative subject of the verb to-be. The antecedent is obviously Jesus.
oJ .... katabaV (katabainw) aor. part. "that came down" - having come down. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "bread", as NIV.
ex + gen. "from [heaven]" - out of, from [heaven]. Expressing source / origin. The manna came down from heaven and this action is compared with Jesus' coming from heaven. This is the tenth reference to such a coming in this chapter.
ou kaqwV "-" - not as. The comparative introduces a negated comparative clause. The comparison is a little unclear; is it between the different people who ate, or the different bread - presumably the different bread is in mind? So, the comparison is between the bread that comes down from heaven ( a bread which when eaten gives life everlasting), and the bread the fathers ate in the wilderness; "This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died", ESV, so NEB, JB, ...
oiJ patereV "your forefathers / ancestors" - the fathers [ate and died]. The Exodus generation ate manna and died; "those ancestors", Brown.
oJ trwgwn "but whoever feeds" - the one feeding on [this bread will live into the age]. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to live." Again, a singular person is used of personal faith in Jesus, although the individual is part of a community of believers. The one who believes lives.
In concluding this discourse on the bread from heaven, John notes that it was delivered to the congregation at the synagogue in Capernaum.
tauta "this" - [he said] these things. Accusative direct object of the verb "to say."Presumably referring to the discourse, v27-58.
didaskwn (didaskwn) pres. part. "while teaching" - teaching. The participle is adverbial, best taken to introduce a temporal clause, as NIV; "while he engaged in teaching", Cassirer.
en sunagwgh/ (h) "in the synagogue" - in a synagogue. Although there is no article with "synagogue", it is still likely that Jesus was actually in the synagogue at Capernaum when he gave the "instruction". It is possible that the lack of an article indicates that an assembly for worship is in mind rather than a building, although articles are often not found after a preposition. Guilding argues that it is possible the set synagogue readings for this particular Sabbath were Exodus 16 and Isaiah 54.
en + dat. "in [Capernaum]" - Local. Some manuscripts add that the instruction was given "on a Sabbath".