John 6:41-51


Verses 36-40 lie between last Sunday's text and today's text. A few remarks are in place. In these verses Jesus plainly tells His hearers that He has been fully revealed to them but they are rejecting Him. The one who comes to Christ does so only because he is a gift of the Father to Jesus. Such a one will never be driven away by Christ. But His hearers are resisting the Father Who wants to draw them. The will of the Father and the Son are identical. That identical will is that Jesus will not lose anyone whom the Father gives to Jesus. What's more, Jesus will raise that person on the last day. Much of verse 40 is repetition because Jesus is yearning for the people who are listening to Him. Everyone who believes in the Son has life eternal and furthermore, Jesus will raise that person on the last day. Notice how the gift of life eternal and of resurrection on the last day are a constant refrain in this sermon.

John 6:41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." (Buls: At that point the Jews began to grumble about Him because He said: "I am the bread which came down from heaven.")

Some commentators feel that a different audience is introduced at this point. But there is no proof for this.

The Gospel of John uses the term "the Jews" in pejorative sense, meaning Jesus' enemies, those who hated Him.

Though they grumble at Him, He does not abandon them but keeps on offering Himself to them. The cause of their grumbling is stated at the end of verse 41 and explained further in verse 42. Verses 41-51 center in the person of Christ.

John 6:42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" (Buls: And so they went on to say: "Isn't this man Jesus the son of Joseph whose father and mother we know? How then does He say: 'I came down from heaven?'")

The question in the first part of the verse expects an affirmative answer. The second question amounts to doubting what Jesus said of Himself. They are plainly denying His divinity.

Lenski: 'Out of heaven have I come down.' That, indeed, is the vital point in all that Jesus said to them. It has ever been the stumbling block and rock of offense for unbelief.

John 6:43 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. (Buls: Jesus answered and said to them: "Quit grumbling among yourselves.)

Lenski: In external and worldly matters let reason be the judge. But in heavenly matters and in matter of faith, when a question of salvation is involved, bid reason observe silence and hold still. 'No one' is applied here to the entire human race, to the whole world, with no one excepted, inclusive of the mightiest, the holiest, the wisest, and the most learned . . . But you come to Him when the Father shows you His great mercy, when He assures you that He will reveal Himself as having sent His Son into the world out of paternal love, as is written John 3:16.

John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (Buls: No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draw him and I will raise him up on the last day.)

This verse begins with a present general condition to which there are no exceptions. Implicit in this verse is the thought that natural man is spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God. Lenski notes that Luther based the explanation of the third article on this verse.

The verb "draws" denotes the drawing of a dead weight, as for example in the beaching of a ship. God alone can draw. This verse excludes every vestige of synergism, also that of a Christian who is tempted often to think that he has spiritual powers of his own.

In John 12:32 Jesus uses the verb "draw" with reference to His crucifixion. There is no drawing, apart from the crucified Christ.

For the third time Jesus says: "And I will raise him on the last day." Look at verses 39 and 40. In verse 39 it is contrasted with losing a Christian: "I will not lose anyone but I will raise him." In verse 40 Jesus makes clear that where there is faith in life eternal, there the individual has the assurance of resurrection. And in verse 44 we are told that through the monergistic drawing of the Father, Jesus will raise the individual on the last day. Faith does not grumble but rejoices in the Father and the Son.

John 6:45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (Buls: It stands written in the prophets: 'And they shall be taught by God;' everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.)

Jesus correctly quotes Isaiah 54:12 which foretold justification through faith in Christ. His hearers had misquoted Scripture in verse 31 in the interest of work-righteousness.

God is the great teacher. The Father draws the individual by causing the individual to hear and learn of Jesus. That person comes to Christ which is synonymous with believing in Him. Isaiah 54 describes the blessed condition of those who believe in the Savior described in Isaiah 53.

Lenski: The fact that some, like these Galileans, hear with deaf hearts and ears and refuse to learn is here not considered by Jesus.
Kretzmann: Those that are taught of God, that have learned the lesson of their own inability and lack of strength, and therefore both hear the Father and in all things learn of Him, only they can come to faith in Christ. The Father uses no compulsion, but makes use of teaching only.

True. God uses His ordained servants of the Word so that people may hear and learn what God, the great Teacher, says.

John 6:46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. (Buls: Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One Who is from God, He has seen the Father.)

In John 6:2, 14, 30, 36, and in the first in 46 forms of "to see" are used. In all instances it is mere physical seeing, apart from faith. (In verse 40 Jesus speaks of spiritual seeing, faith, a work of God in man.) In 46b it is said of Jesus that He has seen the Father. But He is the God-Man. Jesus is making reference to both His divinity and to His humanity.

Luther: Do not stray into the belief that one can come to the Father without the Person of Christ. Therefore He binds our ears and our hearts to the Word of this Man . . . Stick to the external Word, and listen to it.

John 6:47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (Buls: In very truth I tell you, the one who believes has life eternal.)

"I tell you the truth" for the third time in this sermon.

In verse 26 He revealed their true character (law). In verse 32 He offers them Himself (Gospel). Here in verse 47 He makes a summary statement: The believer has eternal life already now. Some versions insert the words "in Me" based on textual evidence. No problem, in view of what precedes and follows this verse, "in Me" is implicit here.

John 6:48 I am the bread of life. (Buls: I am the life-giving bread.)

This sentence occurs three times in this sermon, here and in verses 35 and 51. Note the "I" is emphatic -- "I and none other." The word is used this way eleven times in verses 25-71.

Incidentally, Jesus is referred to by various pronouns no less than sixty times in verses 25-71. He is attempting to draw His hearers to Himself because He wants to save them.

What is the point of comparison between "bread" and Jesus? Bread covers all food necessary for man in this life lest he die. Jesus covers all that is necessary for man for the life to come, lest he perish. He differs, of course, from ordinary food. The latter merely sustain life. Jesus gives life, spiritual life, everlasting life. "Bread" is used figuratively here. Jesus is not speaking about the Lord's Supper. More on that later.

John 6:49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. (Buls: Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness and yet they died.)

Jesus is not only telling them that manna could not save their ancestors but also that the kind of food which they were seeking (look at verses 26 and 34) cannot save them eternally. It cannot keep death away. They are not believing. They are not hearing and learning. They are not taught of God. They will not permit the Father to draw them. They can reason only on the unregenerate level. Therefore, they are unhappy and grumble.

John 6:50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. (Buls: This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that anyone may eat of it and so will not die.)

Though Jesus speaks in the third person, He speaks of Himself. Manna was given only to the covenant people. This bread is for all men. The bread is divine.

"Anyone" or "everyone" is an open invitation to all people to come to Jesus. "Eat" means "to believe."

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (Buls: I am the life-giving bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and what's more, the bread which I shall give is My flesh (given) in behalf of the life of the world.")

For the third time Jesus says: "I am the life-giving bread." Here we have a repetition of the thought in verse 50, except that this time He speaks of eternal life.

The last five words denotes the vicarious atonement "in behalf of the life of the world."

Ylvisaker: It is the true human nature of Jesus, the Bearer of eternal life, which faith must appropriate in order to partake of the life . . . . His human nature, or, in other words, Himself, as the One made man, is food, indeed which satisfies the inmost needs of humanity and apart from Him, this food may not be found . . . . It is ever correct to say that Jesus uses the term 'flesh' and 'blood' because He would choose a clear and adequate expression to designate His human nature, as of flesh and blood. . . . To eat is, then, in this passage, to believe. He that believes also eats and drinks Christ . . . If He were merely 'flesh', a human being only, then the eating and drinking of Him would not avail unto eternal life, it would have no beneficial effect whatsoever. But He is also 'spirit', that is, God in essence and in truth, and it is this 'spirit' which permeates and animates His true humanity which makes Him the true Bread from heaven.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B Mark-John, Sundays after Pentecost, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 39-41

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