I AM the Bread of Life
Please read John 6:35-51 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
SERIES INTRO - “I AM” is the name God used with Moses. Jesus referred Himself in the same way to show He was God and to teach us about God. During Lent we are looking at each of the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus made in John.
CONTEXT - This teaching is part of a chapter that sees the popularity of Jesus rise and fall several times. It can be difficult for us to relate to this, but some people who lived with Jesus and heard these words did not agree with Him. Some did not respect Him. Some opposed Him, even to the point of wanting to kill Him.
What’s sad about the negative reactions in chapter six is that they came from people who, the day before, were part of the 5,000 plus people who had miraculously been fed by Jesus. Their fickleness and ingratitude are a maddening revelation of human nature.
The subject of bread first appears in verse four, where John noted it was NEARLY TIME FOR THE PASSOVER CELEBRATION. The Passover was also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. More to the point, in verse five Jesus asked His disciples, “WHERE CAN WE BUY BREAD TO FEED ALL THESE PEOPLE?” That lead to the miracle.
The next day that crowd followed Jesus, probably hoping for another free lunch (25). Instead, Jesus offered then the TRUE BREAD OF GOD (33). Thinking with their stomachs, they missed the point and said, “SIR, GIVE US THAT BREAD EVERY DAY.” (34) What follows is Jesus’ reply.
Jesus is the Bread of Life, the only way in which we have eternal life.
1. Jesus satisfies our need for a secure future.
Jesus spoke the truth plainly and said it three ways in this passage. He said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.” (35+48). That means Jesus is the sole source of eternal life. He was sent by God the Father to claim all the followers the Father has drawn to Him.
He also said He was “THE BREAD THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN.” (41+50) This statement tells us two things. One, Jesus’ origin. In verse 42 they object to Jesus’ divine claims, citing their knowledge of His parents and that He came from Nazareth. Two, it associates Him with the MANNA God gave the Israelites. Both Jesus and the MANNA came from heaven.
Jesus also said He was “THE LIVING BREAD THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN.” (51) This statement combines the first to and adds a third detail; Jesus is the LIVING BREAD. He has life in Himself; He is able to bestow eternal life.
Jesus mad two important promises as the Bread of Life. Verse 35 states that whoever COMES to Jesus and BELIEVES in Him will never again know HUNGER or THIRST. The CROWD to whom Jesus was speaking was worldly-minded and took Jesus literally. They did not understand this was a figure of speech describing spiritual appetites, not physical ones. What Jesus meant was their need for eternal life - no less real a need than physical hunger or thirst - was met by Him. There was no need to look for salvation in the Law or any other place. Jesus alone supplies LIFE in eternity.
The second promise is found in verses 37-40: Jesus will NEVER REJECT or LOSE the people GIVEN Him by the Father but will RAISE THEM UP on the LAST DAY. In contrast to the people who saw and heard Jesus but still did not believe (36), the people who are saved are secure in the LIFE Jesus offers them.
In verse 37 we see God acted first and decisively to give people to Jesus. This doctrine is called “predestination” and it simply means God knows the future and thereby knows who will receive Jesus as their Savior. These are the ones He has GIVEN to Jesus. People who are predestined will never be rejected by Jesus. This is because He came to do God’s WILL. (38)
Verses 39+40 tell us exactly what God’s WILL is: that Jesus should not LOSE a single one of the people the Father has GIVEN into His care, but should do the opposite, raising them to receive life on Judgment Day, the LAST DAY of this present creation. What they will receive on the LAST DAY is ETERNAL LIFE. They will be RAISED from death to ETERNAL LIFE. Salvation is something we’re given immediately but receive fully at the Second Coming of Jesus.
God’s part in salvation is to offer it and predestine those who will receive it. Our part in salvation is to COME to Jesus (35) and BELIEVE in Him (40). This is two ways of saying essentially the same thing: we must accept God’s offer of salvation by faith in Jesus.
What we need to do to receive these promises is so important it is repeated in verses 44-51. First, we must be drawn to Jesus by the Father. (44-46) Anyone who has true faith has first been drawn to Jesus by God the Father. (44) This is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, convince us we cannot fix the problem of sin on our own, and assure us God took care of our sin by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This does not mean that salvation is effortless - those who are DRAWN by the Father must do their part - they must LISTEN to what the Father reveals to them about Jesus and LEARN the truth. In v. 46 Jesus explained that He alone has revealed what they are to LISTEN and LEARN. No one except Jesus has had a personal experience of the Father. Jesus alone has been SENT by Him.
Second, we must believe Jesus is who He says He is. (47) This is the TRUTH that must be heard and obeyed to be saved. Jesus gave two aspects of the belief necessary for salvation.
The first example: when Jesus spoke of Himself as the BREAD FROM HEAVEN, He is different from the MANNA their Jewish forefathers ate while they wandered for forty years. (49) The key difference is, while that bread was a gift from God, it only sustained the body, not the soul. Everyone who ate that bread still died. The second example: Jesus is the only BREAD FROM HEAVEN that gives a person eternal life; though they experience physical death, they will NEVER DIE spiritually. (50-51)
Jesus offered Himself - His FLESH - on the cross to provide eternal life for those who believe in Him (51). He is the LIVING BREAD to provide the offer of salvation to THE WORLD, though most will refuse His offer. He will describe the BREAD as His FLESH, which will become the subject of the remainder of the chapter. It is also the New Covenant in the Last Supper.
2. Some of Jesus’ hearers disagreed with His teaching.
Jesus explained to the crowd the reason for their disagreeable reactions: it was a result of their failure to believe in Him. (36) Even though they had seen Him - including the miracles He performed - they still refused to believe He was God. Their reaction was similar to that of the religious leaders when they plotted to kill Jesus because He declared Himself to be equal with God in 5:17-18.
Some of them wondered how He could say He came from HEAVEN when they knew He came from Nazareth. (41-42) This objection to Jesus’ claims also shows up in Mark 6:3 and Luke 4:22. People thought they had Jesus “figured out,” so what He told them couldn’t be true.
Jesus called them on their COMPLAINING. (43) He said they shouldn’t complain about the way He was leading them to God because He was the only way they could get to God the Father. (44) He implied they should not repeat the sin of their forefathers who bellyached about the MANNA God fed them (49), even though it was the food of angels (Psalm 78:21-25)!
Jesus is the Bread of Life, the only way in which we have eternal life.
Anyone who’s learned to cook has a story about an epic failure in attempting to make bread. I read one recently that comes out of the Australian Outback. A new bride who grew up in the city wanted to impress her husband with her self-reliance in the wilderness of the Outback. One day, while he was out for the day repairing distant fences, she attempted her first loaf of bread.
She read and re-read the directions and followed them all to the letter. However, temperatures are hard to estimate using an old-fashioned wood stove, so all her efforts to get the dough to rise met with failure. She tried kneading the dough, which of course made it harder and denser.
Finally, in frustration, she gave up. However, she attempted to conceal her failure by getting a shovel and burying the uncooperative loaf in the back yard! They ate a breadless supper and she forgot about it.
It rained that night.
Her husband got up the next morning and stepped outside to behold the new day. After a moment, he called to her to join him outside to see something miraculous. He pointed to a spot in the yard where a giant white orb had grown out of the dirt.
“Ain’t that the biggest mushroom you ever seen?” he exclaimed.
The wife had to admit that was the spot where she’d buried the unrisen loaf. Between the warm soil and the light rain that had fallen, the yeast finally did its thing and expanded the dough into the biggest “mushroom” ever seen!
In our Christian life there are times when we are frustrated and discouraged. We don’t feel as there’s any life in us. We should not listen to pride or give in to the temptation to bury our faith. Instead, we put our time and trust in the Bread of Life and see the miracles He produces!
Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 13, The Gospel of John, Grant R. Osborne
https://www.australian-information-stories.com/funny-family-story.html, retrieved on 25mar22