John 6 ~ Jesus or Who Else?
Our world today perceives religion in many distorted ways including religious relativism and pluralism. According to religious relativism, truths are relative, depending on different individuals. As for religious pluralism, it proposes that all different religions lead to God anyway.
In John 6, miracles were performed by Jesus that people may believe as they were reminded of events in the Old Testament. For instance, the feeding of the five thousand was a reminder of God’s provision of manna while Jesus walking on water could draw its parallel to the setting apart of the Red Sea. Verses 26-27 implied that the crowds were seeking the wrong kind of food. Jesus showed that He can provide food for a day (i.e. food that spoils) but He can also sustain them with food that does not spoil.
The question on our lips will then be, “What do I need to do to gain eternal life?” Sometimes we make the mistake of telling God, “Well, God, I’ll tell you what I’ll do that will make You happy.” Our self-centredness makes us tell God what He should accept as we set the bar that is high enough for us to jump over. Verse 29 tells us instead that God wants us to believe in the Son that He has sent to die for us. The subsequent verses 30-31 described how the crowd wanted to see a sign as they made the mistake of comparing Jesus with Moses. They should instead compare Him with the bread of life (verse 32).
Jesus is the bread of life that has come down from heaven (verses 33, 38, 46, and 51). John 6 also records seven occurrences of the phrase “I am”, a metaphor of the identity of Jesus and what He has been sent to do. And the purpose He was sent was to give life (verses 40, 44, 47, and 51). Jesus Christ gives eternal life by raising the dead. He offers us the resurrection of life.
What follows next in this passage can be perceived as an offensive imagery, especially to the Jews. Verses 53-54 paint the confronting idea of cannibalism and drinking of blood, which are forbidden in the Old Testament. But if one carefully reads the passage, verse 40 should hint that this imagery is a metaphor for believing in Jesus, as the idea of “eating” and “drinking” can mean to fully take something on board (e.g. “an opinion that is hard to swallow”, “thirst for knowledge”).
Christians also need to beware that John 6 is not describing the Lord’s Supper as it has not yet been instituted till a later time in this chronology of events. Also, thinking this way may potentially pose the dangerous idea that the way to gain eternal life is by partaking in the Lord’s Supper. John 6 is not about the Lord’s Supper but the Lord Supper is to remind us about John 6 that we may come and believe.
Our Saviour may appear offensive and it is easy to see how followers may be lost, as exemplified in verse 66 where many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. It is tempting for us to lose the bits that are hard to accept and lower the bar to lure people into Christianity. But as verses 67-69 pointed out, where else have we to go if Jesus has the words of eternal life? The offensive thing to people today is that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life (i.e. exclusivity of Jesus) and not any other religion or guru.
Will we love people enough to tell them the hard truth, to say that this is the truth and everything else is a lie?