What does John 6:63 mean?
ESV: It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
NIV: The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life.
NASB: It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh provides no benefit; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life.
CSB: The Spirit is the one who gives life. The flesh doesn't help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
NLT: The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
KJV: It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Much of the angst over Jesus' teaching has come from the physical symbolism He used. After referring to Himself as the Bread of Life, Jesus insists that only those who eat His flesh and drink His blood can find eternal life. Of course, earlier in the conversation, Jesus pointed out that the "bread from heaven" was a person in whom God expected people to believe (John 6:27–29). The idea of His flesh being the bread of life was meant to extend the analogy of bread, in order to include His upcoming sacrificial death on the cross. Here, Jesus makes a direct statement that His prior words are not meant to be taken literally.
In other words, Christ is not actually saying that people need to consume His material flesh or drink His liquid blood. Rather, the point Jesus is making is spiritual. True belief in Christ requires a person to take the truth of who Christ is deep inside them—they must "receive it" fully and absolutely. This is where the analogy of food comes in, which has to be taken inside a person in order to have any effect. Simply seeing, holding, or touching food is not enough. It must be consumed. In the same way, faith in Christ is not the same as intellectual knowledge. Saving faith means receiving Christ in the deepest parts of ourselves.
John 6:60–71 shows the drastic impact of Jesus' teaching on the crowd: most walk away. When confronted with spiritual needs and a spiritual message, most people will turn it down. What society wants is spectacle, material things, and a political savior. The more Jesus insists on being the means to eternal life, the angrier the crowd becomes, until the vast majority simply abandon Him. The twelve disciples, on the other hand, seem willing to follow Jesus, though they are also struggling to accept His recent claims. Peter's declaration will be the third of John's seven witnesses to Jesus' divinity.
In chapter 6, Jesus feeds thousands of people who had been following Him. He does this by miraculously dividing the contents of a small lunch, leaving more left over than He had to begin with. At first, the crowd is amazed and they enthusiastically praise Jesus. After sending the disciples across the Sea of Galilee, and rescuing them from a storm by walking on the water, Jesus once again addresses the crowd. This time, He emphasizes the spiritual lesson behind His prior miracle. In response, most of those who had been praising Jesus turn away from Him in disappointment.
John chapter 6 occurs some months after the events of chapter 5, bringing the narrative to about one year prior to Jesus' crucifixion. As with the rest of the Gospel of John, the purpose is not to repeat information from the other three Gospels, but to focus on Jesus' status as God incarnate. This chapter continues to expand the list of Jesus' miraculous signs and the witnesses to His divine nature. Here, Jesus also gives the first of seven ''I AM'' statements found in this Gospel. Chapter 7 will once again skip ahead to a major public step in Jesus' path to the cross.
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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