JESUS: THE BREAD OF LIFE
Scripture of the Week:
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” John 6:35, ESV
Extended reading: John 6
The first in the Jesus series offered by Laura Ackley, Guest writer exclusively for NavCo
Much of our lives are ordered around satisfying our physical need for food. We plan mealtimes, follow foodies on social media, jump at the sight of snacks, and experience joy as we sit down to eat at our favorite restaurants. If we are only slightly hungry, we will likely hunt down food to satiate our longings. And a craving? What feats we will accomplish to find the perfectly crispy fries of our dreams! When we celebrate, food is present. When we mourn, food is present. Our desire for physical food infiltrates every area of our lives. We are not only sustained by food, but we enjoy food. It is a part of life, and it gives us life.
When bread is referred to in the Bible, it is often used to represent food in general. Even the poorest of society had access to bread as they were legally allowed to glean wheat from the edges of landowner’s fields (Lev. 23:22). A person can live off of bread and water for a very long time; therefore, bread represents a life-giving, life-sustaining material. “Bread” refers to nourishment without which one will surely die. Even today, bread is still commonly associated with mealtimes as families and friends gather to “break bread” together.
In John 6, Jesus makes an astounding statement about bread that He emphasizes three times in a single discourse with a crowd intent on seeking Him. Jesus speaks plainly in Chapter 6: “I am the bread of life” (vs. 35), “I am the bread of life” (vs. 48), and “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven” (vs. 51). Three times He repeats that He is in fact, the Bread of Life. This is one of seven “I am” statements recorded in the book of John in which Jesus reveals an aspect of His nature as it relates to His saving power. In this particular “I am” statement, Jesus wasn’t simply describing Himself as the Bread of Life; He was making a public claim of deity that would have been familiar to His Jewish audience. Years ago, when the Israelites were in slavery, God called Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt and into a new, bountiful land. In Exodus 3:14, God answers Moses’ question: “What is [your] name?” (Ex. 3:13) with “I AM WHO I AM.” I AM and the LORD’S personal name YHWH (translated LORD) are both derived from the same Hebrew root word “hayah” which means “to be.” Both names are used interchangeably as the I AM explained His personal name. So when Jesus spoke to the crowd in John 6, He declared Himself to be the same self-sustaining, eternal God—the One who is outside of creation, who created the world, and led a people to Himself. The Bread of Life doesn’t just sustain life, but He has life in and of Himself. He is the author of all life.
Leading up to Jesus’ proclamation, a crowd gathered due to the fame of His healing miracles, and Jesus determined to meet the crowd’s physical needs. Jesus multiplied five barely loaves and two small fish to the extent in which a crowd of estimated 20,000 souls were fed until full. Jesus, of course, provided in abundance and 12 baskets full of leftovers were gathered. Enthralled, the crowd diligently followed Jesus across the sea to Capernaum as they awaited the next provision of Jesus. They thought, surely He was a prophet and leader like Moses that would lead them out from under Rome’s oppressive rule and provide them with food from Heaven! Jesus, knowing their hearts and intentions, addressed the crowd and revealed that the crowd was only seeking Him due to the physical/material benefits He previously provided. Jesus addressed their heart posture and exhorted them to pursue Himself because they recognized that the signs that He performed revealed His identity as the I AM, God in the flesh standing in their presence. Jesus, ever faithful to draw the hungry to Himself, told the crowd that He is the very Bread of Life.
As the Bread of Life, Jesus revealed that He is necessary for one’s salvation and eternal life. In regard to Salvation, one must recognize that the “bread” Jesus gives is His body as He died on the cross to provide atonement for sins against God for all who believe. Jesus says, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (vs. 51). Jesus allowed Himself to be crumbled on a cross for this goal: the life of the world. It was by His crushing that He purchased peace between God and man. Jesus later instituted the Lord’s Supper which is still shared among Christians today. Jesus broke bread and gave it to His disciples and said, “this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The breaking of bread is a symbol of Jesus giving up His body to torture and death on the cross as a propitiation for sins. Faith in His sacrifice leads us into eternal life. In Christ, those dead in their sins and deserving of the wrath of God are brought into newness of life and completely forgiven. Jesus says, “if anyone eats of this bread” in reference to Himself “he will live forever” (vs. 51). If anyone is in Christ, eternal life is their gift. Because He is the bread that was broken on our behalf, we are all beckoned to feast forever in His presence as His children.
The benefits of the Bread of Life are not just for eternity, but they apply to a Christian’s life today. As Jesus addressed the crowd, He explained that “whoever comes to [Him] shall not hunger, and whoever believes in [Him] shall never thirst” (vs. 35). While the crowd wanted their physical hunger to end, Jesus revealed to them that every person has a spiritual longing deep within their hearts to know God personally. This is a desire that will only be satisfied in Christ because Jesus is the way to the Father. Just as food nourishes and satisfies us, Jesus satisfies the longings of our hearts and leads us to fulfillment. As one hungers for “bread,” we crave and need the Bread of Life. Without Him, we starve spiritually. While a person is hardly content even with plenty, He sustains and nourishes us in our souls in such a way that we long to gather around Him as one gathers around a dinner-table. We enjoy His personhood as one enjoys their favorite food. As food is present in both the good and difficult times, Jesus is ever-present sustaining us as our good portion in life.
His satisfying nature is so complete that He helps us to live content despite circumstances. When we are weary of this life and feel as though we will waste away, it is the Bread of Life that helps us to press on as He nourishes our souls with His presence and promises from His Word. Jesus says, “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). His Word is our daily bread with which Jesus feeds our souls. This is a call to come to and believe in Jesus by regularly studying His Word and diving into the daily bread to find the Bread of Life. He “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9). When we are filled up with worldly food, we will become hungry again. But when He fills us with His bread, the very Word of God, we experience satisfaction beyond description and find enjoyment in knowing Him. The analogy of bread, a food item easily accessible for people from all walks of life, demonstrates that Jesus welcomes all who are willing to come and be satisfied in Him. He is for all who will believe and come to Him.
As we encounter Jesus’ declaration as the Bread of Life, we have options as to how we might respond. We must investigate, what reasons motivate our coming to Jesus? Do we just want Jesus for the physical things or for blessings in the here and now? Things that are but a breath? Or are we focused on the Bread that will never spoil and lasts unto the end of eternity? We either behave as the crowd did when they found that following Jesus wasn’t always going to be filled with the highs of partaking in His miracles of provision and restoration of health. We can be like the ones who see signs of Jesus’ deity, yet refuse to believe and receive the life He gives to the world. At Jesus’ words, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him” (John 6:66). Will we respond with hardness of heart and insist on feasting upon the passing away bread of this world? Instead, let us respond as Peter did after the crowd dispersed from Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6: 68-69).
Come to Jesus, He is the Bread of Life. Come, taste and see that the LORD is good. Fellowship with Him is truly lasting contentment and life abundant.