Complaining about Bread from Heaven (John 6:22-71)

What do you do when someone doesn’t do what you want them to do? One common, sinful response is to complain. Complaining, grumbling, moaning, groaning, bleating, whining, and bellyaching (whatever you wish to call it) are sins. Complaining is sin because it is unloving. You cannot criticize someone and love them at the same time. A critical spirit is one sign of a selfish, hardened heart. We must reject a critical spirit that is looking for faults in others. 

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What do you do when Jesus doesn’t do what you want Him to do? Many times we set expectations for Jesus and struggle with disappointment when Jesus doesn’t meet them. This is at the heart of what is going on in John 6. The crowd who received the blessing of Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000 are looking for Him. They were not looking for Him to worship Him, but because they hoped He would give them more food. Jesus doesn’t give them the food they want, but the food they need. They complain and then leave.

1st Complaint: Why Did You Leave?

The crowd was looking for Jesus. When they found Him they asked “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (6:25). They were looking for Jesus but Jesus knew they were only looking for Him because they wanted something from Him. Jesus is not a means to an end. Jesus tells them “You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (6:26). Jesus encourages them, “Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life” (6:27). The crowd asked how they may do the works of God and Jesus replied, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the One He has sent” (6:29).

2nd Complaint: Why Should We Believe You?

The hungry crowd is getting frustrated. They want bread but Jesus speaks of belief. They ask what sign Jesus will do so that they will see and believe. They–being hungry–remind Jesus that the Lord gave their forefathers “bread from heaven to eat” (6:31) in the wilderness. Jesus told them that the “real bread from heaven…is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (6:33). The crowd said, “Sir, give us this bread always!” (6:34). In other words, we’ll take any bread you give us. Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life” (6:35) and “you have seen Me, and yet you do not believe. Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out” (6:36-37). Jesus told them that He has “come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (6:38).

3rd Complaint: How Can You Say That!?

When Jesus said He came down from heaven the people really got confused and frustrated. The people scoff, saying: “Isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’” (6:42). Jesus rebuked them for their hardness of heart. It is at this time that we see that the grumbling of the crowd and their hardness of heart does not surprise Jesus. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:44). The complaints reveal that they are not being drawn by the Father to the Son. Jesus continues: “Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me” (6:45). The grumbling and complaining about Jesus is a sign that they are not seeking Jesus to worship Him as the Messiah. The people have physical needs (bread) and Jesus speaks to them of spiritual needs (bread from heaven).

4th Complaint: You Want Us to do What?

This section is very important and we must be careful not to draw false conclusions from Jesus’ words. Let’s look at what Jesus said and why He said it. In verse 47 Jesus makes his main point: “Anyone who believes has eternal life.” To illustrate this, Jesus once again speaks about bread from heaven and calls Himself “the bread of life”. Building on this illustration,  Jesus uses graphic language in order to intentionally offend those in the crowd who are not truly seeking Him. Jesus drew a clear dividing line between those who are drawn to Him by the Father and those who are not. It is in this context that Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (6:51). Jesus is speaking of giving His life on the cross in order to save all those who believe so that those who believe will have eternal life. 

5th Complaint: This Teaching is Hard!

The crowd immediately gets offended. They reply, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (6:52). Jesus presses the illustration further: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves” (6:53). Jesus doesn’t stop there. He adds, “Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink” (6:54-55). Jesus is saying this hard teaching in order to drive away those who are not being drawn by the Father.

Why is Jesus speaking in such graphic language about eating His flesh and drinking His blood? Jesus is not establishing the Roman Catholic Eucharist, but is using this graphic language of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” as a metaphor for believing in Jesus (see 6:47). John 6:63-64 makes this clear: “The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” 

The disciples complain that this teaching is hard to understand. Jesus says to them, “Does this offend you?” (6:61). After many of His disciples turned back, Jesus said to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” (6:67). Peter responded as one who is being drawn by the Father, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” (6:68-69). 

Complaining About the Bread of Life

The crowd had a desire for Jesus to be their king and take care of all their needs, but they became offended when Jesus didn’t meet their expectations. They wanted bread, but Jesus kept talking about belief. They didn’t want to worship Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus knew they were not serious disciples so He did the most loving thing possible: drove them away! 

Why do you follow Jesus? Is it because He gives you whatever you wish? Is it because you believe it is a respectable thing to do? Are you hoping that He will help you out of a difficult situation? Do you follow Jesus because He is your greatest delight? Have you surrendered all to follow Him? Is He a means to an end or is He the end goal? Are you willing to obey Jesus no matter the cost? He is the Christ, the Son of God and through Him we have eternal life!

Published by First Baptist Church of Scott City, MO

Bringing the love of Christ to a hurting world.

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