Unless you eat ... you have no life in you.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 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. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

For centuries religious people have taken things meant to be spiritual and made them something physical. When Jesus speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood he is speaking a profound spiritual truth and not some twisted theological mumbo jumbo. Sadly many miss the point entirely. It was just a few verses back that Jesus spoke of how his food was doing the will of the Father. His declarations here are a mere continuance of that thought. We are challenged here to quench our appetites in similar manner.

When he talks of abiding Jesus speaks deeply to us of our need to find our very life and nourishment in doing his will. In the very same way that he abided in the Father we should abide in the Son. It is an issue of life. Do we get our life from our fleshly pursuits or do we experience life by walking in His Spirit? We cannot have it both ways. Our minds and our hearts must be set on feeding on the bread that came down from heaven. For this is the bread that will produce life today and will nourish us unto eternal life.

I need the Bread of Heaven Lord. I delight to do your will. Come Holy Spirit and fill me anew.

If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”

I do not know how Jesus could make his message any clearer - whoever believes.. if anyone eats.. they will live forever. The gospel message is such a clear and concise proclamation of good news but somehow religious people have made it so hard. I have made it so hard.

Jesus wants us to be like believing children and we turn his message inside out and make believing some sort of work that we take credit for. He has given us all this magnificent ability to simply respond with a simple yes to the Holy Spirit and we have contorted it into theological nonsense. Man has exchanged the good news for something not so good.

Yet the message is there if we can get past our religious biases. Jesus is the bread that has come down from heaven to give us the news that God loves us with an everlasting love. His very own flesh was given in sacrifice so that we would have hope of a better resurrection - and not only that but a better life while we yet live.. and that is good news!

Hallelujah! Praise you Lord that your message is so simple. Help me to have childlike faith.

Do not grumble among yourselves.

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 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’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

How could the Jews have known that Joseph was just the adopted father of our Lord? In truth, the story of the virgin birth is a pretty wild story. I am sure that many who actually had heard the story did not believe it - many do not believe it even today. Yet in this passage Jesus affirms his miraculous entry into human form when he calls God his Father and says that he has come down from heaven. Astounding words for sure but spoken by one who has seen the Father and knows Him, and His heart, intimately.

Jesus speaks directly to the Jews when they grumble - he does not back down but responds speaking to them about how the Father draws believers to them. In his ministry Jesus often used the phrase "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" - he speaks similar words to us today. Throughout history this truth has been true - there are people who close their ears, their eyes and their hearts to God's message and God's Messiah. Yet the contrary is also true.. many have responded with faith.. many will be raised on that last day!

You have the words of life Lord Jesus. Help me to hear those words today.

This is the will of my Father ...

But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Thrice in this passage Jesus speaks of the will of the Father. First he says that his whole mission on earth is to do that will. He then speaks of holding on to all that the Father has given him. Lastly he speaks to us of our part in looking to Jesus and believing in him. What strikes me in this is how intentionally aggressive God's will is. It speaks to me of the way that God's kingdom works on planet earth. He actively initiates his will and requires us to actively, not passively, respond. It is why Jesus tells us to pray for his will to be done.

These three aspects of God's will are in harmony with each other. Without Jesus coming we would not have the message to believe in. Without his power to keep us our believing would be tenuous. And if no one believed in Jesus his coming would have been in vain. But, and this is a huge but, God's will has been, is being, and will be done. Jesus came on a rescue mission for all humanity. Millions, perhaps billions, of people throughout time have believed in Him and he has not lost one of them. This has always been God's will.

All I can say is thank you Lord for the gift of your son and his power to keep me.

I am the bread of life

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 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. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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.

The passage begins with a contrast between the religion of man and true religion. Man's religion focuses on a person, like Moses, and what God will do through them. Moses prayed and manna appeared. Jesus fed five thousand by multiplying fish and bread. The religious focus was on a man and on man's needs. It seems that man's religion has always been focused on the physical and not the invisible. And it seems to continue to this day as religious people still draw the attention to themselves rather than the Lord.

The great problem with this sort of religion is that it satisfies for only a moment.. the proverbial fishes and loaves fill our stomach for an afternoon.. but the hunger and thirst soon returns. Jesus speaks to them about never hungering or thirsting again.. he tells them that the focus must not be on the bread but on The Bread.. he says that the focus should be on The Man and not a man.. not on a priest but on The High Priest. He tells them that eternal satisfaction comes directly from God and not through a man.

Help me to look to you alone Lord. Help my focus to not be distracted by what I see.

This is the work of God

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Years ago I heard many tell me that I must believe for a miracle. It made so much sense then because I believed in the idea of seed faith - the idea that a miracle was only a seed away.. all I had to do was plant a seed of faith and I would reap something supernatural. Yet, in this passage, Jesus accurately shares that faith is not believing "for" something but believing "in" someone. The delineation can be a bit subtle but it is so important. The Lord gently rebukes those following him, even us, about working for things that are temporal.

What comes to your mind when Jesus speaks of "the food that endures to eternal life"? For me, this spiritual food is the Lord himself. Prayer is a way that we ingest this kind of food.. worship and the scriptures are too.. things that engage us in relationship with Jesus. These are invisible things.. things done in private.. humble things.. things that will survive our deaths.. things that transcend earth and heaven. When I think of this food I remember how the disciples grew in relationship with Jesus as they shared meals with him.

Lord, I want to share intimate fellowship with you. Fill me with the food that endures.

Do not be afraid.

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!" Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

It interests me how the Lord often withdrew to be by himself. Passages like this gives us a peek into what it must have been like to be Jesus. People were constantly pressing in on him.. every day they wanted more of him.. more signs.. more healings.. more miracles.. more teachings.. and in this passage they wanted to make him king. Small wonder why he needed times of solitude. Yet things change when he discerns that his disciples are in trouble.

Such is the image that Jesus paints of the God who hears the cries of struggling people - deep waters cannot stop him.. strong winds will not delay him.. rough waves do not hinder him as he travels to his friends. Can you imagine struggling in that boat.. feeling the pull of the waves and the spray of the waters? What would it have like to look up and see the image of a man coming towards you? And how welcome would Jesus' words be to you?

Come Lord Jesus and bring peace to the ship of my life.

Have the people sit down.

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii  would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

It is so easy for those of us who have heard this story so many times to gloss over it and not take in the extent of this amazing time in that meadow. I close my eyes and try to imagine the atmosphere in the crowd that day - unlike me these had never heard the story. What would it have been like for the disciples to experience this miracle? It is one thing to read of the miraculous in the scriptures but it is something else entirely to experience it. To taste that fish and bread must have been so surreal. To gather the leftovers would be amazing.

Yet I wonder how many of us read this passage, scratch our heads and discount such happenings in our reality. I wonder what my response would have been when Jesus said "Have the people sit down". Sadly, I have to admit that I do not think faith would arise in me today. Like so many, back then and even now, my experiences in life have hardened me to such miracles - I wish that it was not so. But perhaps one can never be prepared for a miracle? Maybe that is the message - that miracles come when they are not expected.

I will sit down Lord. I will wait on you. I will trust in your provision.

You do not have the love of God within you.

I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

In a very real sense the delineating factor between believers and others is the existence of the love of God in a person's heart. Love is what has always defined the people of God. From the very beginning love for God and for people have framed what it means to be a child of the Almighty. Love frames the ten commandments and yet it goes further because love is not about the negatives but about the positives. Jesus' indictment to the Jews was that, even though they were religious, they did not have God's love in them.

Jesus points to the lawgiver saying that Moses testifies to the coming of the Messiah. It is worthy to note that the writers of the Jewish scriptures looked forward to the coming of the Christ. These learned religious elders were not ignorant of the scriptures but were simply blinded because they sought their own fame rather than the glory and fame of God. It is a lesson for us today - religious pride will blind us.. seeking our own fame and reputation is a dark path.. a sad journey that leads us to fighting Him who we seek to serve.

I need your help Lord. Open my eyes to the ways that I am fighting against you.

His word abiding in you

And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The issue in these verses is life. Jesus knows these to whom he is speaking to. He knows that these are people of the book. These people know the scriptures and perhaps love the word of God. Yet in all of their reading and studying they have come away not knowing God when he appears to them in human form. It is an indictment of all religious folks who claim to know God because they know the scriptures. Sadly, these folks are rebuked by Jesus time after time because they knew the letter but not the spirit of the scriptures.

Jesus tells these religious folks, and many of us today, that it is not enough to intellectually search the scriptures. For if we search them only with our brains we will miss the God who permeates them between the words and between the lines. The scriptures must be embraced and consumed with the heart - his word must be living in us. If not we will miss the very essence of the word of God. This involves meditating, praying and living the words of Holy Writ. These are life giving things that will cause us to come to the author of life.

Teach me Lord how to embrace the scriptures with my heart.