After his lesson about the bread of life (John 6:22-59), many of Jesus’ disciples “went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66), probably due to a misunderstanding of what he meant by eating his flesh and drinking his blood in order to have eternal life. From a physical standpoint, what Jesus said made absolutely no sense. It was only from a spiritual perspective that his teaching was understandable. Jesus’ concluding statement more than likely left the crowd of people gathered around him perplexed and dismayed by the possibility that they could receive eternal life through an act of cannibalism. Jesus said, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by my Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” (John 6:56-58).
Jesus’ reference to the manna that was eaten while the Israelites wandered in the desert was probably a clue to the type of spiritual food he was prepared to give his followers. Manna was an unknown substance that appeared out of nowhere every morning except on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:15). The Hebrew word translated manna, man (mawn) literally means “a whatness” (4478). In other words, there was no name for it. The terms flesh and blood are what we typically use to refer to a real or live person. Someone might say of a movie star, “I saw him in the flesh,” meaning, I saw him offscreen or as he is in his normal day to day existence. The expression “flesh and blood” is also used to refer to someone in your family, especially someone who is related by blood rather than marriage. Therefore, Jesus’ portrayal of himself as the bread of life must have had something to do with having a spiritual connection or relationship with God while living on earth.
In order to further illustrate his point, Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not” (John 6:63-64). The Greek word translated quickeneth, zoopoieo (dzo-op-oy-eh’-o) means to revitalize or to make alive again (2227). Later, Jesus asked his twelve apostles privately if they wanted to go away, or in essence, distance themselves from his unorthodox teaching. “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69). Peter’s response showed that he was willing to believe what Jesus said, even if there was still some misunderstanding about it. In other words, like the manna the Israelites ate in the desert, Peter didn’t need to know what “the bread of life” was in order to benefit from it. He believed Jesus was who he said he was and was able to do what he said he could, give Peter eternal life.