Jesus’ most controversial discourse stuns, shocks, offends, and has lots of other signs of good teaching.
Jesus has often been called a master teacher, and the book of John illustrates the truth of that label. Good teachers do not merely tell their students the material; they show them. John 6 begins with Jesus teaching a multitude of people on a hillside on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee in spring. He taught for hours and when the disciples advised Jesus to let the people go to find food, He miraculously fed all of them, possibly more than 15,000 people. The parallels between Moses giving manna to the Israelites (Exodus 16:1-21), Elisha’s feeding of 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44), the Lord hosting a magnificent banquet (Isaiah 25:6), and Jesus feeding the multitude were striking to the Jews, hungry as they were for a political Messiah to lead them out of bondage to Rome (6:14). As a result, they tried to make Him king (6:15). Jesus escaped and allowed time for the fervor to abate.
The next morning Jesus gave His famous, to some infamous, Bread of Life discourse. With the amazing miracle of the prior day, Jesus had shown the people, and His disciples, that He could provide bread for those who followed Him. Now Jesus intended to teach them about greater bread. The greater bread is not the bread that perishes with the eating, but that which lasts forever. It comes from God, and ultimately the bread, that which nourishes the people of God for eternity, is Jesus Christ Himself. After showing the people His ability to provide physically for those who followed Him, He had then described how He Himself was the ultimate bread. Finally, Jesus finished the lesson telling His listeners that they needed to “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood” to have eternal life (6:53-58).