This is the last of the three Sundays that we look at the Gospel according to John. These three weeks had a definite progression toward a significant event: Near the end of the text (John 6:51-69), some people continued to follow Jesus, and some people did not. That difference is reflected in today’s world.
In last week’s text I pointed out that Jesus, within his words, at first pointed people to believing in him, and then he progressed to pointing people to believe in his words. I should have pointed out last week that, in verse 47, typically the text said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life,” but a few manuscripts added a phrase so that the reference points more in the direction of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes IN ME has eternal life.”
In the text for this Sunday, there is another instance of a few copyists wanting to add something more to point to Jesus. In the text for this Sunday, in a few manuscripts, Peter’s response is no longer simply, “…you are the holy one of God (v. 69).” His confessions from the other accounts have influenced this account, and Peter, in a few manuscripts, also calls Jesus the Christ.
I believe that both these additions take away from the important emphasis on words. The structure of “Truly, truly, I say to you…” is a clear statement that Jesus’ words are important. And with the additional confession of Jesus as the Christ and not just the holy one of God, more importance is placed on those words than Peter’s first, clear, confessional statement: “You have the words of eternal life (v. 68).”
This last gospel account takes into account that, after Jesus ascended into heaven, there were fewer obvious miracles being performed. This makes an emphasis on words to be a critical factor. The purpose of the entire account is given in this way: “…these are WRITTEN so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).”
This important emphasis on words takes the reader or listener back to the beginning of time when God, with his words, brought everything into being. Jesus is called the Word. When words are spoken and then things happen, that is a wonderful thing; and it does not have to look like an obvious miracle.
Jesus “tabernacled” or tented for a while among us. But his words continue. And through his words, his blessings continue. (At the end of this gospel account, Jesus blesses those who have not seen and yet believe.)
You can tell Jesus was in trouble when the people asked the question “HOW can this man give us his flesh to eat (v. 52)?” (The word ‘his’ is not in a few manuscripts either.) Any ‘how’ question is a significant one. And Jesus could have answered it in a significantly powerful way.
He answers it in a significantly ‘worded’ way. He gives them another “Truly, truly, I say to you…” He makes the connection to his Father in heaven (of whom he spoke about earlier, and he will continue to speak about him). Jesus also makes a connection to the fathers or ancestors of the Jews and points out that they died after eating that other bread.
Jesus leaves them with a bunch of his words. That is not a bad gift to have, given the importance of words from Genesis to Revelation—and eternally.