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How We Taught the New Testament in the Past: Lesson 12: “I Am the Bread of Life”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 06, 2011

The lesson in the current manual is another hodge-podge of bits of the New Testament found in three different Gospels: Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath; Jesus declares himself the son of God; Jesus feeds 5,000 people; Jesus walks on the sea; Jesus declares himself “the bread of life.” The lesson purpose statement – a generic “help class members look to Jesus Christ as “the bread of life,” the source of everlasting life” – offers little help for uniting the disparate chunks of the lesson. No similar lesson has been found in a search of past manuals, not surprisingly. Below, though, are pieces of chapters dealing with the same events, extracted from Obert C. Tanner’s The New Testament Speaks (Salt Lake City: Church Department of Education, 1935), a seminary text.

Jesus Heals a Lame Man on the Sabbath at the Pool of Bethesda. (Read from the Bible: John 5:1-16.)

“There was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem”: this passage changes the place of the Master’s activity from Galilee to Jerusalem. Feasts were of much interest to Jesus. they gave him contact with the people, and an opportunity to teach his message of life.

“Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep market a pool, which is called in Hebrew tongue Bethesda”: The pool was surrounded with five porches, so as to provide shelter for those who waited for the bubbling of the water. “In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water”: It is a saddening glimpse of people who were in need of help. “For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water”: this periodic ruffling of the waters is generally accepted as a natural phenomenon, but to the uninformed mind it was a mystery, and therefore was attributed to a heavenly power. With perhaps good reason, the waters, which were of a mineral nature, were believed to have a curative value.

“And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years”: Here Jesus saw a human, personality bowed low with failure to gain back his strength. In him was recognized the need of a rightful blessing. “Wilt thou be made whole?” A new gleam of health and happiness was immediately created in the man’s breast. Yet to him, healing could come only from the pool of Bethesda, and that was, of course, hopeless to him, for he could not get to the pool soon enough after the waters were troubled. “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool.”

“Rise, take up thy bed, and walk”: A simple command but one vested with power and authority. “Immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked.”

“It is the sabbath day; it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed”: The dispute of proper Sabbath0-day observance was now to be raised by the religious teachers here in Jerusalem. the man’s only reason for breaking the Sabbath was that he felt it right to obey a person who was capable of healing him. the jealous supporters of the Law sought now to find the man who was telling people what to do on the Sabbath. “What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?”

The Feeding of the Five Thousand. (Read from the Bible: Mark 6:30-44.)

The disciples of John had lost no time in announcing to Jesus what had happened to their leader. Another prophet of righteousness had joined the martyred. Jesus now realized, more than ever before, that the path to death was becoming more definite.

The apostles had returned. They “gathered themselves together unto Jesus.” They must see their Master, and report to him. He would be glad to see them, and be interested in their success as messengers of his Gospel. “Come ye yourselves apart … and rest a while … And they departed into a desert place by ship privately”: The Master likely had two good reasons for withdrawing from Capernaum. Both he and his apostles needed a rest, away from the surging crowds. Also, Herod Antipas was rather perplexed about what he had been hearing of Jesus. “Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this of whom I hear such things?” (Luke 9:9) Jesus learned of this, and thus moved out of the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, into the territory of Philip.

“The people saw them departing”: A small boat was often used by the Master in his attempts to gain rest and solitude. But seldom was he allowed to be alone by himself, or with his few chosen friends. No sooner had the boat left the multitude than they began to go around the north end of the lake, so that they could be with the Master as soon as he landed. What a picturesque crowd: some fast and vigorous travelers, some wholly curious; people from different cities and all walks of life, many trudging along with their sick friends or relatives. He “was moved with compassion toward them.” they reached the eastern side of the lake, and then as he went ashore a multitude quickly gathered. He taught them the needs of life, about the Kingdom to come, and he healed many of their sick.

”At even when the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord, around thee lay:
Oh, in what divers pains they met!
Oh, with what joy they went away!

“Once more ‘tis eventide, and we
Oppressed with various ills draw near:
What if thy form we cannot see?
We know and feel that thou art here.

“O Savior Christ, our woes dispel;
for some are sick and some are sad,
And some have never loved thee well,
And some have lost the love they had.

“And none, O Lord, have perfect rest,
for none are wholly free from sin;
And they who fain would serve thee best
Are conscious most of wrong within.

“O Savior Christ, thou too art man;
Thou hast been troubled, tempted, tried;
Thy kind but searching glance can scan
The very wounds that shame would hide.

“thy touch hath still its ancient power;
No word from thee can fruitless fall;
Hear in this solemn evening hour,
And in thy mercy hear us all.”

Henry Twells.

To the Master Teacher, and an interested audience, the time was soon passed by. The western hills were becoming higher as the sun dimmed its light upon their Galilean world. The apostles well realized how tired and hungry these people would be. They must go to the villages and buy themselves something to eat. “Send them away,” they said.

But the Master had compassion on them. they were not to be sent away hungry. The responsibility was placed upon his disciples. “Give ye them to eat,” he said. Must they go and buy bread sufficient to supply this great crowd? “Two hundred pennyworth of bread” would be a sum that would take two hundred laborers a whole day to earn. The only supplies available were “five (loaves), and two fishes.”

“And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass”? this tells us that the incident happened in the spring of the year. In the Master’s dealing with these needful beings, he showed his love and sympathy for struggling human kind, and also, that material needs have a definite place in his plan of life.

Jesus Prevents a Revolutionary movement Which Would Have Proclaimed Him a Political Messiah.

THE STORY:

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. (John 6;14, 15.)

Now that the urge for food was not upon their minds, the multitude began to realize what the Master had done. their Jewish ideal of a Messiah was blinding their view of the M aster. Could not they take him by force and make him king? Was he not one who would oppose the Roman power, and carry out their Messianic ideal and hope?

Jesus realized the danger of their enthusiasm. They must be sent to their many separate homes, else their disillusionment would be disastrous to his cause and their own welfare.

Mark 6:44-46 adds the final touch to the scene. Likely some of the apostles shared the enthusiasm of the multitude. He sent them away in the boat while he quietly but firmly dealt with the multitude, sending them to their various homes. Then, for a welcomed period of refreshment and spiritual contact with his Heavenly father, “he departed again into a mountain himself alone.”

A Minute for Meditation:

Thou who didst multiply, by Galilee,
Scant loaves and fishes for humanity,
Teach us to multiply our love and care,
Till no least life goes hungering anywhere.
– Frances Crosby Hamlet.

Questions for the Chapter Review

1. Why did Jesus depart privately by ship with his apostles? Describe the scene of the multitude following Jesus around the shore of the lake. Why did they seek him?>
2. Why did Jesus feed the five thousand?
3. What kind of a Messiah would the multitude have made of Jesus? Why? Why did Jesus refuse?

Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:

1. Shortly after feeding the five thousand, the crowds surged about Jesus, urging him to declare himself the Messiah. They desired that he set up his Kingdom in Jerusalem, overthrow the rule of Rome, and subject all surrounding nations to his new Kingdom. it was the long-awaited day for them. How does this crisis compare with the temptation which Jesus faced at the beginning of his ministry? What do you think would have happened if Jesus had yielded to the will of the crowd? What was the answer of Jesus this time? What did he do immediately after dispersing the multitude? give a case of someone today who has sacrificed money and wide popularity, for a higher calling of service and truth.
2. Do you find any difference in principle between helping people in their material needs, and helping them with their spiritual needs? What does this lesson reveal of Christ’s practical nature?
3. Read the account in Matt. 14:22-23. What are the dangers of one’s life becoming so crowded with people and events, that there is no room for solitude and unselfish prayer? How may one guard against this danger? What inspiration do the above verses offer?

Jesus Walks to the Twelve on the Waters of Galilee.

THE STORY:

But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me1
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God.
And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.
And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased:
And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole. (Matt. 14:24-36.)

After feeding the five thousand on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus urged his disciples to enter a boat and return to the region of Gennesaret. “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray; and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” (Matt. 14:23)

While he was upon the nearby mount, the wind became contrary on the sea, and the waves were boisterous. between sunset and sunrise the night was divided into four watches of about three hours each. Hence this “fourth watch of the night” would be between 3:00 and 6:00 o’clock in the morning. The disciples had toiled long and hard during much of the night, yet they had made little headway. Disaster awaited their little craft, should they be driven back against the shore. Their safety was their master’s direct responsibility. Jesus saved their perilous situation, and like the brother of men he was, “went unto them, walking on the sea.”

“When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled”: They could not conceive of any mortal doing what they now beheld, and so they attempted to explain what they saw in terms best suited to their reasoning. “It is a spirit.”

Fear, with its cold and paralyzing horror, began to grip them. “Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer”: The stormy darkness of night, lack of understanding, the destructive influences of life, had engulfed them. They seemed hopelessly lost. Tot heir rescue came a Savior to encourage and bless them. “It is I; be not afraid.” Greatly relieved by these words, the impetuous Peter still had an inkling of doubt. Was the form upon the water a spirit, or was it really Jesus?

“Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” the Master’s identity is proved to Peter when the reply to his request is given: “Come.” In a brief moment peter was over the ship’s board, and “he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”

Jesus, deliverer,
Come Thou to me:
Soothe Thou my voyaging’
Over life’s sea;
Thou, when the storm of death
Roars, sweeping by,
Whisper, Thou Truth of Truth,
“Peace! It is I!”
– Anatolius 458. Translation by John Mason Neale.

Peter was doing something that once had appeared impossible. A strong faith in Christ has led many to do what before had seemed impossible. Peter’s faith was weakened by his perilous situation; the furious waves, the blackness beneath and above, caused him to be afraid; he began to sink. His faith wavered but not to utter uselessness. To Peter, the Master would yet help those in distress. Courage would be instilled into the doubting heart, and Christ would restore peace and contentment. with these beliefs deep in his soul, he cried out to his Savior: “Lord, save me!” The Master did save. But no teaching of words could have so well taught the lesson, that lack of faith and of courage results in one’s downfall. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Jesus and Peter boarded the boat. And the sea became calm and “the wind ceased.” No wonder the men in the boat fell down before him and said: ‘You are certainly God’s Son!”

The Discourse on the Bread of Life. (Read from the Bible: John 6:22-71.)

To many followers, Jesus meant one who could miraculously feed multitudes and restore health to the physical body. They wanted to crown him king. After feeding the five thousand, they thought they saw in the Master one who would satisfy their Jewish hopes of the Messiah, one who would restore to them a kingdom of bread and meat, a kingdom of power and glory over the hated Romans. They were naturally disappointed in him for not assuming a kingship. Others still followed him, and it was their motive in doing so, that brought forth a severe rebuke from the Master. “I tell you, it is not because of the signs you have seen that you have come in search of me, but because you ate that bread and had all you wanted of it.”

In his discourse, Jesus taught the people in terms with which they were familiar. They had come to him in their desire for food. He took them as he found them, and then tried to lead them to higher realms of thought and action. “You must not work for the food that perishes, but that which lasts for eternal life.” Work for spiritual food that your souls might live. Do the works that are pleasing to God, and do not become over-anxious for the luxuries of the body.

His message had not been understood. “Many of his disciples on hearing it said, ‘This is a harsh teaching! Who can listen to it?’” Only a few of the stout-hearted remained. Many had already deserted him in disappointment. Their hopes in Jesus as a Messiah had ended.

To those that remained, the words of Christ were, in substance: “It is the spirit that gives life. When I leave you, you will understand that I do not mean that you will literally eat my flesh and blood. I have not spoken of any physical process, but of a spiritual application and devotion that comes from following my teachings.”

The results of the discourse on the bread of life caused many of Christ’s followers to desert him. In the beginning there had been a large multitude, but “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. then said Jesus unto the twelve, will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” this answer of Peter is as true today as it was then. If we cannot find eternal life in Jesus Christ, to whom shall we go?

A Minute for Meditation:

The Steeps

The easy roads are crowded
And the level roads are jammed;
The pleasant little rivers
With drifting folks are crammed;
But off yonder where it’s rocky
Where you get a better view,
You will find the ranks are thinning
And the travelers are few.

Where the goin’s smooth and pleasant’
You will always find the throng:
For the many, more’s the pity,
Seem to like to drift along;
But the steeps that call for courage
And the task that’s hard to do
In the end result in glory
For the never-wavering few.

Unknown

Questions for the Chapter Review:

1. Tell the incident of Jesus’ walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. What lesson of life does it teach?
2. Locate the land of Gennasaret on the map.
3. Describe the return of Jesus to Capernaum after the feeding of the five thousand. What did Jesus do upon his return?
4. What is the meaning of the discourse on the bread of life? Why did Jesus use the words and phrases he did, such as “bread,” “food,” etc., in this sermon?
5. What were the results of the discourse on the bread of life? Why?
6. What was Peter’s answer to his Lord’s question: “Do you mean to go away, too?”

Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:

1. In Mark 6:52 of this lesson we read of the apostles, “for their heart was hardened.” In Mark 3:5 the account of the Pharisees is given: “And when he had looked round about on them (the Pharisees0 with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” The word “heart,” as used in scripture, frequently denotes the mind as the place where spiritual truth dwells. Therefore, the phrase “their heart was hardened” means their spiritual insight was dulled. In the above two quotations, would there be any difference in the degree of the hardened hearts of Christ’s apostles and those of the Pharisees? Explain your answer. Is there a danger that sincere followers of Christ today may become hard of heart? Illustrate your answer>

2. Consider the results of the discourse on the bread of life. It cost Jesus much of his fame and popularity in Galilee. Many of his own disciples said: “this is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60) “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:66) The religious leaders strengthened their opposition against him. Of his own twelve apostles he had cause to say: “Will ye also go away?’ What quality of character does it take to tell the truth, when the success of one’s life-work is at stake? Had Jesus remained silent at this time, he might have saved himself and his cause from the serious consequences that followed. Would you have advised his silence? If one knows that other people will receive incorrect impressions if nothing is said, is there a duty to speak? Explain your answer.

3. In John 6:27-29, Jesus said: “You must not work for food that perishes, but for that which lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, for God the Father has authorized him to do so.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to carry out God’s work?” Jesus answered them, “The work God has for you is to believe in the messenger that He has sent to you.” (Goodspeed) What does your belief in Jesus as God’s messenger mean to you individually?

4. Of what value or significance in your life are the words of Peter as he tried to walk to his Master, and failing, cried: “Lord, save me”?



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