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John 6:41-59 Study Guide: Jesus Addresses the Skeptics

Community Group Study Guide — Jesus Addresses the Skeptics
John 6:41-59

Study Information:

We have been looking at Jesus’ words in John 6 about being the Bread of Life over the last few study guides. Jesus started out with the miracle of feeding the 5,000 having used a physical need they had, like hunger, to point to a spiritual need they had for reconciliation with God. Jesus then addressed the crowd clearly that he is the Bread of Life and all who come to him will not hunger or thirst. Throughout this chapter we’ve also seen overt references to the passover miracle and feast as they had a common meal, Jesus showing his mastery of the waters and then talking about being the true manna from God. In our passage today we see once again that Jesus is the culmination of the passover miracle as he talks about the need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. What?! Let’s explore. 

Jesus addressed the skeptics in the crowd who were grumbling about a few things that Jesus had said. First, they questioned how he could say that he came down from heaven when they knew his mother and father (John 6:42). They were shocked by the exclusivity of Jesus saying that he was the only way to God (John 6:44). Finally, they took his statements about eating his flesh and drinking his blood literally (John 6:52). These things caused them to question his message and we see that the crowds start to walk away from him (John 6:60). They went from passionately following him around because of the signs to being skeptical about what he was all about. It is likely that you’ve been in a similar circumstance and possible shocked about how or why the Bible could teach something that you did not already agree with. Many of us think we’re open minded and willing to be challenged until moments like this crowd experienced where hard words like these come our way. Especially as Jesus challenges some of the culture assumptions we have or our own sense of what is right or wrong. We will address this more in the next study guide, but those who clung to Jesus never deny that these were hard saying, but they stuck around Jesus because they were able to recognize that Jesus had the words of eternal life. We should expect that God’s word will contain many things that will shock and challenge us.

Jesus wants us to know that our eternal life is a gift sent from heaven, from the faithfulness of God through the death of Jesus. Each of these three aspects points addresses the questions and complaints that the crowd had. 

First, salvation is a gift from heaven. Jesus came as the living bread from heaven born at the “fullness of time” to reveal God and his will to us (John 1:18). God provided manna in the wilderness for the Israelites day by day, and he faithful sends a better manna from heaven in Christ. Yes, Jesus had earthly parents, but his identity and origin is in heaven. John’s gospel already told us about Jesus’ heavenly origins and we have two thousand years of solid church teaching and theology to fall back on about how Jesus can be fully human and fully divine, but this crowd apparently knew his mom and dad and questioned how he could be God in the flesh.

Second, God is faithful to provide a way to him. Jesus told us that no one comes to him unless drawn by God. At first glance this can feel exclusive and we can feel powerless, but look at it from the other side for a moment… if your salvation does not depend on what you have done or how faithful you have been that means you cannot lose it. John 6:37 told us this and underscored that those the Father had given to Jesus will never be cast out. For those of us who sin and fail (all of us!) these words provide a lot of comfort. The Jews thought they could be reconciled to God through adherence to the Old Covenant Law, but we can only come to God through Jesus, the one who has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. This would be hard for them to receive because it would have gone against everything they grew up hearing but ultimately it was freeing because life depended on Christ and not on any work one of us could do. 

Finally, eternal life comes through the death of Jesus. Eating human flesh was abhorrent to Jewish culture like it is in many human cultures, but Jesus used this image to shock them as he pointed to his impending death. An agrarian culture like their culture would understand that they only have life because something else died. They would have seen grain fields harvested and wheat cut down; likewise they’d be closer to seeing animal death that would end up as food for their bodies. It would be just understood that they only have life because other things had died. Likewise, Jesus is the passover lamb and the unleavened bread that provides life for us. You can see the communion/Lords Table language in these verses. They point forward to a moment when Jesus will take bread on the passover and break it saying “this is my body given for you.” This passage points backwards to the blood from the unblemished lamb painted on the doorposts during the passover in the book of Exodus. Jesus is the bread and he is the lamb. We can partake in eternal life because someone died so that we could live. 

The reality is that there will always be hard things to understand about God and his word and Jesus addressed the skeptics with truth and grace. God has provided for our physical and spiritual needs and sent his son from heaven because he is faithful and because through the death of Jesus we can have eternal life in his name. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read through John 6:41-59. How many times does Jesus communicate that we have life in him? How is Jesus better than the manna in the wilderness?

How did this crowd change from when we first met them in John 6:1-4 and John 6:22-24 to now? What were they grumbling about and how did they respond in John 6:60?

Why does Jesus communicate about his death to this crowd with the intense passover imagery? 

What are some of the reasons Jesus challenges this group’s view of him? How does God challenge our assumption of him today? How often you feel challenged and convicted by God’s word?