Jesus was not content to lay claim to the title of Bread of Life; he had to add (v 38), I have come down from heaven. NIV While John recorded this event several decades after it happened, I imagine he and the others were greatly troubled by the comment at the time. In the Jewish list of those who resided in Heaven, there was God, angels, and people such as Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. The common belief of the time, as today, was that Elijah would return in the final days.
No one ever heard Jesus claim to be Elijah or any other prophet. Nor did he claim to be an angel. That left God. There was only one punishment for a man claiming to be God: death.
Remember that this discussion took place the day after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. A couple of hundred of those whom Jesus fed followed him and asked for the bread of life. Jesus responded. I am the bread of life. NIV God provided the manna from Heaven, but Jesus claims to be the manna. Notice: he does not claim to be God, he claims to be from God.
The full text of verse 38 is: For I have come down from heaven to do not my own will but the will of the One who sent me. CJB Jesus told them he was sent to earth by God. If we reread the first eighteen verses of chapter 1, we see that John first calls Jesus the Word of God, then in verse 14, he adds: So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth. Phillips
There is a key word in verse 14, monogenous, which has the meaning: of an only one. The Phillips translation comes closest to the Greek meaning. I searched a couple of dozen Bibles on BibleGateway that I don’t generally use before finding this version from the Tree of Life Bible: And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. The Tree is a Messianic Bible.
The interlinear New Testament from the United Bible Societies’ Fourth Revised Edition reads: And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we gazed the glory of him, glory as of an only one from Father, full of grace and truth.
Even though most English translations include Son, John did not. The word monogenous would suggest son, but it is not there. God sent the Word, and the Word became flesh. Because Christians in the Fourth Century formally declared Jesus to be the Son of God, nearly all modern translations of this passage include son. But I repeat: John did not.
This is not a minor point. Jesus claims to be from God, but not God. He does claim to have the power of God. He claims to be doing the work of God using God’s power. He calls God Father, yet he encourages us to do the same.
The most famous statement by Jesus is in John 3:16—For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV
Mostly, Jesus called himself the Son of Man, but he did call himself the Son of God, so what does that mean in the First Century? In the Old Testament, God uses the term (in variations) of angels, Adam, Israel, etc. Jesus even used the term to describe those who believe in him. If Jesus is the Son of God and we join him, we are adopted sons of God.
Son of God is of God, but different from God. I think it is important that we maintain that separation between God and Son. It is equally important to maintain the distinction between the one and only Son of God and we the adopted sons of God.
Every human on earth is a son of God, but not everyone accepts that reality. Too many squander our inheritance and end up feeding pigs. The true sons long to be with the Father and Jesus has made it possible even for those of us still mired in the muck.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.