22 April 2010

John 6:44-51

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven." (v.51)


In this passage, John is drawing together the threads of continuity between the Jewish people and the developing Christian Church of the early 2nd century AD (when the Gospel of John is widely thought to have been written). He does this by developing the contrast of manna being God's provision for a hungry people (Exodus 16) and Jesus being the bread of life, God's provision for spiritual food and spiritual development.

As the continuity between the Jewish faith and Christianity is developed, the obvious question - why bother with something new if it is just a development of the past? - needs to be addressed. John answers this by arguing that those who ate manna needed to eat again and again while those who have faith in Jesus have no further need as Jesus is living bread.

John is not talking about physical need and physical hunger; he is talking of spiritual need and hunger. Specifically, he is talking about the quality of the relationship we have with God. He is saying that the history of the Jewish people is one where the relationship with God is repeatedly broken and needs to be restored, which is why there is the need to eat and eat again. John is saying that faith in Jesus makes a good relationship with God, which lasts for eternity and does not get broken.

The end of this passage talks about Jesus giving of himself to make the relationship with God a reality. The giving of his flesh is most naturally understood in that his death on the Cross was not accidental but a deliberate loving sacrifice, a gift to all people, to make something new possible.

To Ponder

How can we show the relevance of a relationship with God when we live in a materialistic and scientific world?

How do we know when we have a relationship with God?

We all make mistakes. How can we have a relationship with God that doesn't get broken?

Bible notes author

The Revd Malcolm Peacock

Revd Malcolm Peacock is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Isle of Man District and superintendent of the Isle of Man Circuit. He has a deep and abiding interest in Celtic Spirituality and how the early Church in Britain interacted with local communities.