Last week we said that Jesus’ popularity was going to diminish quite a bit in northern Israel due to the events in chapter six. Some of the crowd left him after he refused to be their king and departed and went up on a mountain. Nonetheless, some of the crowd still tried to find him; though they seem to be in a bad mood at this point. Jesus would get rid of almost all of them as well by the end of this chapter, alienating himself from all but his most devoted followers.
Jesus condemns the people seeking him as soon as they find him. He accuses them of being interested only in receiving a free lunch, not in having eternal life in him. Their inability to understand spiritual things is made evident by their first question, “What must we do?” They were unable to understand that eternal life is a gift (John 6:27), not something men earn by doing good things.
Jesus says that feasting on the “bread of life” that he gives is nothing less than delighting oneself in him. He is the one that satisfies spiritual hunger. He will surely satisfy the hunger of those whom the Father has given to him. These people will never slip out of his hand, and he will surely save them and resurrect them from the dead. Their gaze will always be fixed on him.
The Jews grumble all the more, because Jesus claims to have come from heaven. Jesus redirects them from their grumbling to the truth of God he is giving to them. Their desire to “do” things to merit God’s favor is entirely wrong. Salvation can only come from God, as a gift, since the Father draws men to Jesus. People do not come by their own volition. Furthermore, he is the only pathway to get to the Father. It is only by belief in him and his crucifixion in the “flesh” that people may have eternal life.
Jesus’ words about his “flesh” cause the Jews to grumble all the more. Jesus keeps going, telling the crowd that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they are to have eternal life. That is to say, his body will soon be nailed to a cross and he will shed his blood on behalf of sinners. Just as bread is fundamental to physical life, so is Jesus’ death fundamental to spiritual life. Those who depend on the “bread of life” that he offers will never die.