SPECIAL TOPIC: THE LORD'S SUPPER IN JOHN 6

A. The Gospel of John does not record the Lord's Supper itself, although chapters 13-17 record the dialogue and prayer in the Upper Room. This omission may be intentional. The church of the late first century began to view the ordinances in a sacramental sense. They saw them as channels of grace. John may have been reacting to this developing sacramental view by not recording Jesus' baptism or the Lord's Supper.

B. John 6 is in the context of the feeding of the five thousand. However, many use it to teach a sacramental view of the Eucharist. This is the source of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (John 6:53-56).

The question over how chapter 6 relates to the Eucharist shows the dual nature of the Gospels. Obviously, the Gospels relate to Jesus' words and life, yet they were written decades later and expressed the individual authors' community of faith. So there are three levels of authorial intent:

1. the Spirit

2. Jesus and the original hearers

3. the Gospel writers and their readers

How is one to interpret?  The only verifiable method must be a contextual, grammatical, lexical approach, informed by a historical setting.

C. We must remember that the audience was Jewish and the cultural background was the rabbinical expectation of the Messiah being a super-Moses (cf. John 6:30-31), especially in regard to the Exodus experiences like "manna."  The rabbis would use Ps. 72:16 as a proof text.  Jesus' unusual statements (cf. John 6:60-62, 66) were meant to counteract the crowd's false Messianic expectations (cf. John 6:14-15).

D. The early church fathers did not all agree that this passage refers to the Lord's Supper. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius never mention the Lord's Supper in their discussions on this passage.

E. The metaphors of this passage are very similar to Jesus' words used with the "woman at the well" in John 4.  Earthly water and bread are used as metaphors of eternal life and spiritual realities.

F. This multiplying of bread is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels!

 

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