Our Master’s claim to have descended from heaven met immediate skepticism. Therefore the people were “grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven’” (John 6:41). They knew Yeshua and His parents: “They were saying, ‘Is not this Yeshua, the son of Yosef, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven”?’” (John 6:42).
The difficulty over which the people stumbled was not Yeshua’s discussion about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, but rather they stumbled over His claim to have descended from heaven.
The Galileans knew better. They knew his parents and his family, and they knew that He had grown up locally. “How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” they objected.
His claim to have been with God and to have beamed down to earth from heaven left them frustrated and uncertain: frustrated that He continued to talk like that and uncertain about His sanity. “On hearing that Yeshua regarded Himself as descended from Heaven, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a difficult statement. Who can listen to it?’” (John 6:60), meaning, “Who can believe this stuff?”
They misunderstood what He meant. They thought that He was claiming that He had physically descended from heaven. They knew that He did not. The Master’s physical human body did not descend from heaven, but His essential person and being—the purest, highest emanation of the Almighty, the Divine Word in motion—descended from on high to be clothed in mortal flesh.
That may be easy for Gospel readers today to understand, but the people present that day in the Capernaum synagogue did not have the advantage of having read the prelude to the Gospel of John. They could scarcely be expected to think of Yeshua as an incarnation of the Divine Logos, the “Word” that became “flesh.”
The Master responded to their objection, “Do not grumble among yourselves” (John 6:43). The double reference to the “grumbling” alludes back to the Torah’s stories about how all Israel grumbled against the manna in the wilderness. The Master told the people to set aside their objections. He assured them that if the Father drew them, and they responded by coming to Him, He would raise them from the dead on the last day.
The Master understood that they rejected the notion that He had descended from Heaven. After all, there may have been some present who had known Him since He was a child. They had known only His “flesh,” that is, His “body.” They had not perceived His true spiritual essence. He tried to correct that misapprehension, saying, “The flesh counts for nothing!” (John 6:63), and “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (John 6:62).