In the Gospel of John, the book itself is split into two “books:” the book of signs and the book of glory. Chapter Six finds us smack dab in the midst of this book of signs, and after most signs follows a discourse, an unravelling and revealing of what was just seen, because like our audience, we see and do not understand. The signs before this passage involve the multiplication of food, or the feeding of the five thousand, causing the Jewish peoples to think that this is the Messiah, the better Moses, rousing up a coronation ceremony which leads Jesus to take a quick walk across stormy seas, finding his disciples in the midst of the chaos, and calming the storm. The confused peoples ask more questions, ask for more signs, lingering in their unbelief. Yet, not only is this audience within this passage Jewish, the broader audience to which John writes to is both Jew and Gentile alike, otherwise, the more detailed mentions of the Passover in verse four and the Roman place name to the common Jewish area of the Sea of Galilee in verse one would be unnecessary; both audiences need to hear this same message.
Christ, reveals himself with the first “I AM” statement of seven in this gospel, as the bread of life.
As we have seen through the signs, Jesus is showing himself as the provision, the sustainer, the keeper of life. The Jewish people miss what the sign is pointing to, fixated upon this seeming manna, ready to have Jesus come and fix what they think he is here to do, which in fact, is not the will of the Father, something repeated over and over again in our passage. It’s also not the first or the last time Jesus is misunderstood, misperceived.
Our gluten lovers miss the invitation, come to me, the One who has come. This is an invitation, and an invitation that God the Father through His Son and with His Spirit is beckoning us into. This is an invitation to receive Him as more than satisfactory for all of our needs. He loved us first. He’s the better and best manna, not having to show up every six days, but filling enough to satisfy, never again hunger, with us. We are beggars no longer in this new Kingdom, not that we aren’t hungry for more of Him, but that He provides. He is the one that makes the signs happen, providing food for the hungry, providing peace in the midst of chaos, but it is ultimately the work and person of Jesus that is our provision.
We want him to fix our hunger, while never recognizing that there is a deeper hunger beneath it all, we want him to simply make it our best life now, without recognizing that there is a call to a different way of life, a new Kingdom that operates with a whole new set of eyes that is gazing on this bread of life, on Jesus.
And yet, they grumble. In Exodus 16 we see them do the same thing to God, directed at Moses, and now we hear these echoes of their forefathers in the wilderness grumbling before and after the manna was provided, missing the sign that “they should know that He is the Lord (Exodus 16:6-7)”, Jesus revealing himself on the pages of the Old Testament, manna as a type shown clearly here in our passage.
We become what we behold is how the saying goes as coined by so many before us, our worship shaping us for better or for worse, and unfortunately, much like the Jews here, we have missed the sight of the bread, the flesh given up for us so that we might be raised, so that we might have new life—gone is the old, and we instead behold on the old, saying to ourselves, at least we ate what we wanted there (Exodus 16:3), at least we felt that quick fix although we have chains around our neck.
Beholding moves beyond the gifts in your hands, or even the lack of visible ones, to gaze upright at the giver. Beholding Jesus changes our obsession with privilege, power, material, to an obsession with who He is, and as that moves and changes, we move and change into more of His likeness.
They ask in the context, what work they can do to do the works of God (v.28), only to find that it’s belief in the one who was sent, belief in this man in front of them that is doing wonderful things, but not what they would have hoped. The Jews wanted a king, a king who will come and help them to regain control politically, to get back their land. Jesus came to give life for the world. Jesus, as was shown even through the Jews forefathers, through Moses, through the prophets, was going to be King for sure, He was Messiah, He was coming to fix what was broken, to inaugurate a new Kingdom, but it would mean something different than what they thought, something much more subversive and beautiful, resurrection life to all who come, who behold, who believe.
They focus in on coming down from heaven, thinking they’ve debunked it, thinking they’ve trapped him. Their grumbling turns into stubborn unbelief, “We know you are from here, not heaven. We know your father (v.42).” Even that statement is ironic, Jesus continuing with, “but do you know my Father? I don’t think you know my Father (v.45-46).”
Yet, everything Jesus has done has showed us that our motives, our pretenses, our agendas are meaningless in the wake of what He offers. To both audiences, the Gentile, the Jew, and ourselves alike, we need to hear that the life we are living is not working. There’s nothing to congratulate or pat ourselves on the back for, as all of this is a stripping, a repentance, rebirth. We cannot do any of this on our own accord. We can’t come, behold, or believe without the Father, without Jesus, without the Spirit.
I am sure that there are many ways that I see and do not believe, that I want Jesus on my own terms, that I want Him to do what I want him to do. Although I say I believe, and that is true, and I am kept, there are many spots in my life where I come to the bread that dries up, where I do not look for him, where I behold the old, where I believe in myself instead, independent. Yet, I know that it doesn’t satisfy, it is not beautiful, it is not worthy of my life.
Often times we want that miracle, that big moment, rather than recognizing the provision of sustaining grace, a miracle as well, that He offers in our lives. We miss it, we don’t see. He promises to give Himself. Isn’t He worthy of our worship? Believe, and when we easily and readily find those parts in your life where we haven’t, we get to come to the source, behold Him, repent, and believe. He is more than enough.