2.9 John -- Bread of Life
Jn 6:25-59. John has portrayed Jesus as light and life, source of living water, as lamb and shepherd. In this passage of Scripture, Jesus describes himself as:
"the bread of God...who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.... He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty....I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever" (Jn 6:33-35).
As in the prior sections, though there is no mention of Gentiles, there is also no restriction to Jews:
"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (Jn 6:37).
See also: "everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him...", everyone who listens to the Father...", "if anyone eats of this bread..."
The most important phrase in this passage, in terms of racial teaching, is:
"This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (Jn 6:51).
He did not say "for the life of Israel." The impact of his life and death is international, universal. This means that all the other references in this chapter about "everyone" and "anyone" must also extend to the Gentiles. It is a fitting supplement to Jn 3:16: "For God so loved the world" that He sent "the bread that comes down from heaven" "for the life of the world."
We note that, in contrast to Judaism and to most other religious systems of the time, there were not a lot of hurdles for the outsider to jump. "Come to me, believe in me." Not exactly the "mitzvot" (positive and negative commands) in the Torah. Jesus offered direct and personal communion, without prerequisites, regardless of past upbringing, without a novitiate or initiation into "mysteries." It is true that the specifics are very "fuzzy" in John -- what does the life of a believer look like, how does he or she act? But it is clear that this indefiniteness was as much a problem for his Jewish hearers as for Gentiles:
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him (Jn 6:66).
But again, we must realize that Jesus was only laying a foundation here, and that foundation was a community of those who were born "from above." Some recruits had a background of religious legalism, others were lawless pagans. Jesus was saying that neither of these was the way to God. He was offering an alternative -- a direct relationship to himself under the direction of the Spirit.