3. Jesus the bread of life, 6:1-71
iv] The flesh and blood of the Son of ManSynopsis
Jesus' discourse on the bread of life, which began in 6:25, comes to a pointed conclusion in these verses as John concludes his exposition of the text from Isaiah 55, "I gave them bread from heaven to eat", v31. Manna may be bread from heaven, but when eaten a person still dies. The true bread that comes down from heaven, when eaten, gives life eternal, and Jesus is that bread.
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. The person who eats the body and drinks the blood of Jesus is the person who believes in Jesus the crucified Christ. Such a person looks to the one who is lifted up, they trust in Christ's provision for salvation, and for this reason they gain the prize of eternal life.
Interpretation: It is widely accepted that 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 .... as the bread that came down from heaven by which alone a human being can live", Ridderbos, so also Dodd, etc.. Kostenberger is of the view that this idea is secondary and that primarily Jesus is speaking of a surrender to his person. 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. This is certainly an idea worth considering. What is now widely accepted is that Jesus' words, although used in shaping the liturgy of the Lord's Supper, do not, in this context, have sacramental intention, so Carson, etc. See Schnackenburg for a sacramental / eucharistic interpretation of the passage.
So then, this passage proclaims that the spring of all life is the self-offering of Christ in his death.
The bread Jesus gives is his flesh, v51-59. i] "I am the living bread", v51.
egw eimi "I am" - "I myself", Anchor.
oJ zwn (zaw) pres. part. "[the] living [bread]" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, but possibly epexegetic / appositional, ie. specifying / defining = explaining "bread" = "the bread which gives life."
oJ ... katabaV (katabainw) aor. part. "that came down" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "bread". The change in tense from the present in v 50 to the aorist ushers in the fresh thoughts of this verse and indicates that the verse may properly introduce a new paragraph.
ean tiV + subj. "if anyone / whoever" - Relative conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of becoming a reality, "whoever, as the case may be, .... then ....).
eiV ton aiwna "[he will live] forever" - A common phrase for "forever". Possible links with Ezekiel 47:1-12.
kai oJ artoV de ...... hJ sarx mou estin "this bread is my flesh [which I will give]" - the bread [which I will give] the flesh of me is. The de "but/and" serves to introduce a new idea. Up till this point Jesus' "bread of life" and "living bread" terminology is easily understood as symbolic. Jesus is the source of divine truth such that those who believe in him possess eternal life. Jesus now cranks up his imagery as he introduces the sacrificial element of his life, the giving up of his flesh to the cross, which giving expedites the gift of life. Of course, many commentators argue that this move toward literalism is shaped by eucharistic considerations, but this is unlikely. The opposite is the case in that the theology of John 6 properly shapes the eucharist.
oJn egw dwsw "which I give" - Another fresh thought is that instead of the Father giving the bread, Jesus now gives the bread - the giving up of his body to the cross for the life of the world.
ii] The congregation responds to Jesus' words, finding them meaningless, v52.
oun "then" - thus, therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion. Probably expressing the effect of Jesus' words in v21; "therefore", "this led to", NEB.
emaconto (macomai) imperf. "[the Jews] began to argue sharply" - were arguing, wrangling, quarreling. 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, redundant.
ouJtoV pro. "this man" - this one. Probably derogatory. "This fellow", Morris.
dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "give" - to give [us]. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "can" [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, the giving of Christ's body on the cross - Christ gives himself as a sacrifice for sin.
autou "his" - Missing in many manuscripts, but probably original. Obviously Jesus' flesh is intended.
fagein (esqiw) aor. inf. "to eat" - The infinitive here expresses purpose; "in order to eat."
iii] Jesus further clarifies how he fulfills the text "I gave them bread from heaven to eat", v53-58. That which is given is the flesh and blood of Jesus, namely, his sacrifice on the cross. Whoever eats and drinks of this flesh and blood / whoever believes in this sacrifice, lives forever. As we note in v60, Jesus' words at this point cause offence, particularly with some of the disciples. It seems likely that they 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.
autoiV dat. pro. "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.
ean mh + subj. "unless" - Negated conditional clause 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of being realized; "if, as may be the case, you do not .... then you do not have ....."
pihte (pinw) aor. subj. "drink" - The aorist indicating a once only action of drinking. Restating the necessity of eating his flesh, which statement has already caused problems with the Jews, Jesus adds that it is necessary to drink his blood. The statement is clearly intended to confront his audience, in like manner to the kingdom parables, and so draw out the true seeker from the crowd. In this discourse so far, Jesus has made the point that for the people of Israel in the wilderness manna was certainly a miraculous bread, but once eaten, hunger returned, and inevitably death. The heavenly bread that God gives in Jesus, once eaten, results in eternal life. Therefore, a person must eat this bread, that is, "come" to Jesus, "look on" Jesus, "believe" in Jesus the heavenly Word of God. The next step in this imagery came in v51 where Jesus aligned the bread with his flesh. The Jews naturally balk at the image, even though obviously figurative, v52. Now Jesus restates the idea and reinforces it with "drink his blood." Although numerous interpretations have been suggested, especially in relating this verse to the eucharist, "blood" most likely represents "shed blood, and therefore, violent death", Dodd. So, Jesus is making the point that belief in him entails belief in a crucified messiah, but see above.
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.
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]" - Expressing space/sphere, here "within"; "you have no inner life", Berkeley.
oJ trwgwn (trwgw) pres. part. "whoever eats" - the one feeding on, nibbling, munching, gnawing. The participle, as with pinwn, "drinking", serves as a substantive. Now the eating is present tense, rather than aorist. 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. Again, this seems unlikely. 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.
anasthsw (anisthmi) fut. "I will raise [them]" - 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" - The dative is temporal, "at/on the last day", ie., the day of judgment.
gar "for" - for, because. Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause eexplaining why eating of the flesh and blood gives life eternal, namely, because "my flesh is real food."
alhqhV adj. "real" - true, honest, genuine. 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.
oJ trwgwn (trwgw) pres. part. "whoever eats" - the one eating. The participle serves as a substantive.
menei (menw) pres. "remains" - abides, remains in. Present tense indicating a continuing 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]" - Expressing space/sphere, incorporative union. Often regarded as a eucharistic editorial note; not found in some texts.
kaqwV "just as" - as. Comparative; "in the same way that ....."
oJ zwn pathr "the living Father" - The Father possesses life in himself and it is he who has granted the Son to possess life in himself. "The Father who is life", Brown, probably better than "source of life."
dia + acc. "because of [the Father]" - because of, on account of. With the genitive this preposition takes the meaning "through / by means of", ie. instrumental, and is suggested by some commentators in that Christ's life is mediated through/by means of the Father. "On account of", ie. causal, is best and is correct grammar, ie. i] Jesus' life is one with the Father's life; the Father is Jesus' life-source, and ii] 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."
me "[the one who eats] me" - Note the move from eating the body and drinking the blood to eating "me".
kakeinoV "-" - even that one [will live because of me]. Emphatic.
ouJtoV "this" - The antecedent is obviously Jesus, "me".
oJ .... katabaV (katabainw) aor. part. "that came down" - the having come down. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "bread".
ex + gen. "from [heaven]" - out of [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.
oiJ patereV "your forefathers" - the fathers. They ate and died; "those ancestors", Brown.
ou kaqwV "but" - not as. The comparison is unclear. Is the comparison between the ancestors and those who eat the bread Christ supplies, so NAB, or is the comparison between the bread the ancestors ate and the bread that Jesus gives, so NEB, JB, etc.?
oJ trwgwn "he who feeds" - the one feeding. The participle serves as a substantive. Again, a singular person is used of personal faith in Christ, although the individual is part of a community of believers. The one who believes lives.
v] Conclusion of the discourse, v59.
tauta "this" - these things. Presumably referring to the discourse, v27-58.
didaskwn (didaskwn) pres. part. "while teaching [in the synagogue]" - teaching. The participle is adverbial, probably forming a temporal clause, as NIV; "while he engaged in teaching", Cassirer.
en sunagwgh/ (h) "in the synagogue" - Although there is no definite article before "synagogue", it is still likely that Jesus was actually in the synagogue when he gave the "synagogue instruction". It is possible that the lack of an article indicates that an assembly for worship is in mind rather than a building. 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".