Week 7 Part 4 John 6:22-71: Focus–Concrete (Concrete Literal) vs Spiritual (Spiritual Reality)
John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
In chapter 6 John continues the steady development of his presentation of the great salvation theme of his letter, and he continues to contrast the concrete-only understanding of the religious pundits of his day with the spiritual realities of eternal life.
I. John 3: Nicodemus and the necessity of being born again of the Spirit
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
II. John 4: The Woman at the Well and Christ the giver of living water that springs up in believers to a fountain of eternal life
John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
III. John 6: Christ the bread of life and the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood
John 6:31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?“
John 6:48 I am the bread of life.
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
- To Nicodemus Jesus said, You must be born again. Nicodemus responded concretely–asking whether he needed to crawl back into his mother’s womb as an old man.
- To the Woman at the Well Jesus said, I will give you Living Water. The woman initially responded concretely by asking for the water so as not to have to go to the well to fill her bucket every day.
- To all the listeners in John 6 (the religious pundits, his larger circle of disciples, and his own group of 12 disciples) Jesus reveals that he himself is the living water, and that those who want the fountain of water springing up to eternal life must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He was not speaking of cannibalism, but of the spiritual necessity of fully embracing himself in deepest communion–also known as believing in him. Many who heard him interpreted his words as though he were speaking of cannibalism, and they were repulsed.
This one verse sums up Jesus’ teaching well–
John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
- Can you find other verses in which a teaching of Jesus is interpreted concretely rather than as the spiritual truth he intends?
- Given the strength and clarity of Jesus’ teaching concerning Spirit and flesh (see John 6:63 above), why do you suppose there are some today whose minds still focus on concrete fulfillment of spiritual words rather than on the spiritual realities to which the concrete symbols point?