As I was skimming through John chapter 6 looking for instances of prayer, I slowed down and read the reply of Jesus to the multitude who had followed him after he miraculously fed them bread and fish. They wanted more of that tangible food for which they had to do no work, but was provided by the Son of God. At least four times in this chapter Jesus uses the phrase “verliy, verily” to begin his reply to the people. This does not happen often. It means literaly “truely, truely” and signifies that what he is about to say is of utmost importance (as is everything he says).
So, we have a bunch of people that want physical, temporal, natural sustenance. They want free food. The people had made a great effort to follow and find Jesus (despite his having walked on water that evening, so his tracks weren’t easy to follow). When they ask where he went and how he got to where he was, Jesus, in verse 26, astutely answered them, in essence, “you are looking for me because of the food I gave you, not because of the miracles I did. You put forth a lot of effort to find me just to get more food to eat, but I say, put forth that much effort to find the food that lasts forever and provides eternal life.”
Physical food (the kind from the grocery store) sustains and edifies and makes possible our physical life. It helps our physical bodies grow. It keeps us alive. Jesus makes reference to a different kind of food that sustains a different kind of life, that keeps us alive in a different way, an eternal way. An important verse to help us understand the three remaining “verily, verily” statements comes in verse 63, when Jesus is speaking privately with his chosen apostles. He explains to them that it is the spirit (small ‘s’ meaning our own spirit, not the big ‘S’ meaning the Spirit of God or the Holy Ghost) that is everlasting, it “quickeneth”. The New Oxford American Dictionary (the one that comes with Macintosh’s Dictionary application) explains the mainy meanings of the word quicken. “While all of these verbs mean to make alive or lively, quicken suggests the rousing or renewal of life, especially life that has been inert or suspended.” This is a need explination when we consider that our lives have been spiritually intert or suspended until we believe on Jesus Christ and accept his Gospel. Not until then do we experience a spiritual rousing or renewal of life. Indeed, this is what Jesus then explains. He goes on to say, in verse 63, that “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The words that Jesus had been using were to express a spiritual truth and principle, couched in physical and temporal explinations (an instance of parables available for those with ears to hear and eyes to see).
So, after knowing that what Jesus is speaking is to be understood spiritually, lets look back at the four “verily, verily” instances.
1. verse 26. We should use our energy and “labour” for things that feed our spiritual bodies. We should provide food for our spiritual growth. This comes in the form of reading the words of God from the scriptures and his living prophets, in testifying of the Gospel to others, and accepting and doing the things Jesus asks of us.
2. verse 32. The people begged, Moses gave the people manna, can’t you give us your bread forever (temporaly speaking)? Jesus replied, testifing of his Father, it was not Moses who gave you anything, nor is it every the work of man or prophet, but always and only the Father that gives the food for spiritual growth. We see here the people speaking in temporal terms, but Jesus answering in spiritual terms. Our Father in Heaven is the one and only one who provides the “true bread from heaven.”
3. verse 47. Jesus had said that he was the bread of life, that he had come down from heaven. This smacked of blasphemy to the Jews, and the started to disbelieve his greatness, saying “isn’t he just Joseph’s son? Don’t we know his parents?” Jesus responded to their unbelief, the way to eternal life (again spiritually speaking) is to believe that he is the Son of God, their Redeemer.
4. verse 53. And why should we believe on Jesus, how is he the way to eternal life? He states in verse 48, “I am the bread of life.” Again a spiritual statement. Then in verse 53, he exhorts us to “eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood” and unless we do so we have no life in us. The peolpe have thoughts of cannibalism, again not understanding the spiritual aspects in which Christ is speaking. We have to injest or internalize the teachings and essense of Jesus Christ so that we may have eternal life. When we eat food, we use that food for energy to make our bodies function, grow and live. We must use the Gospel of Christ in the same way. We must internalize his teachings, make his way of living our way of living. We must become so much like him that our flesh and blood mimics and has become like his. When we do that, we become spiritually born again. Reborn, or quickened, into a life like Jesus’.
Concluding this verse is a wonderful testament of Peter. All of the people left because Jesus would give them no more bread and fish. Jesus asked his apostles, his chosen twelve, “Will ye also go away?” Peter replies, “to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” A powerful testimony and statement of knowledge and believe about the divinity and truth of Jesus Christ. The apostles understood the spiritual message, and employed it in their physical lives, that they might gain an eternal life with Christ.