The Jews ask questions which Jesus declines to answer, but directs their attention to the subject of their own personal interest in the things of salvation. Thereupon ensues a conversation and a discussion, the leading points of which shall be the topics of the present discourse.
We will consider (1) The demand made by God of everybody to whom the message of salvation comes—‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent” (Joh_6:29). (2) The result of compliance with the demand—Christ becomes to us ‘the bread of life’ (Joh_6:51). (3) The world’s rejection of the demand—‘This is an hard saying; who can hear it?’ (Joh_6:60).
I. The demand.—The hearers eagerly expect the Saviour’s reply, for they had asked Him what they were to do in order to ‘work the works of God’—i.e., in order to obtain the Divine favour and approval. They probably thought that He would speak of some religious duties which they had neglected, or that He would exhort them generally to more earnestness and diligence in spiritual things than they had hitherto manifested. But He explains that what is required of them is belief in Him Whom God hath sent. And why is belief mentioned first? Because it lies at the foundation of the spiritual life; and Jesus always begins at the beginning.
II. The result of compliance with the demand.—To those who accept Him thus—on the testimony of the Spirit—Jesus becomes the Bread of Life. Let us pause on these words. They imply that Jesus must be taken by us with a personal appropriation—‘He is mine, and I am His.’ It is of no profit to a starving man to be able to speak wisely or eloquently about the loaf that is put into his hands—he must use it, make it his own. Nor is it enough for us to hear about Christ, or read about Christ, or sing about Christ, or be interested about Christ, or preach about Christ—we must take Him as a man takes bread and eats it.
They imply, that as the natural bread has to be broken and crushed before it can serve the purposes of nutrition, so the Jesus Who is profitable to us is the Jesus whose Body was broken on the Cross: Jesus the crucified. More than this, they imply that there is a mysterious assimilation of Jesus Christ—the Bread of Life—with the very being of the believer. It is not enough to say, ‘Jesus gives me life.’ We must rather say, ‘Jesus is my life.’
III. The world’s rejection of the Divine demand.—The Divine demand is rejected because it involves mystery. But let us look at the matter a little more closely. The statement made by our Lord about Himself is, of course, not a little startling—‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood ye have no life in you.’ But the form of the words is not, though many persons think it is, the real offence to the Jewish hearers. What they stumble at, is the thought that underlies the words. Amongst the most annoyed were some disciples of Jesus. They said that they could not stand such outrageous opinions, and that it was high time for them to leave Him; and they did leave Him. ‘They went back, and walked no more with Him’ (Joh_6:66). So it is nowadays. Some persons demand a religion without mystery—a religion in which everything shall be as plain and simple and as capable of demonstration as a rule of three sum or a problem in geometry. And some people are unhappily persuaded to leave Christ, to cease to be His disciples, for this reason—because there are profound things in His teaching—things which cannot be understood—which may be apprehended, but not comprehended.
Our last thought shall be this—I will put it in the form of a question—granted that there are, as indeed there must be, difficulties in the Christian religion—things hard to be understood—problems for which we shall find no solution, at least not in this world—what shall we gain by leaving Christ? Christ can do for us what no one else can.
Rev. Prebendary Gordon Calthrop.
‘This incident, our Lord’s interpretation shows, as plainly as can be shown, that the ordinance of the Sacrament is not commemorative merely. An actual feeding upon Christ, is spoken of throughout His discourse here. And when Christ said, “This do in remembrance of Me,” it is plain that the remembrance is to be understood as bringing with it and involving not merely the revelation of an event past, or of a dear departed friend and benefactor, but the participation also ill a present benefit, grounded on the realising of that past event and the union with that Divine benefactor and source of life, in an actual and present manner. The discourse of which the text is part is thus of immense value to the Christian, as assuring him of a real living and feeding upon his Saviour, in that Sacrament.’