“This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:58
It’s one of Jesus’ most famous miracles. A huge crowd gathered on a remote shore of the
Sea of Galilee to
hear Jesus teach. And as their tummies began to rumble, Jesus prayed over a
small boy’s lunch (five rolls and two small fish), multiplying it to feed 5,000
men along with the women and children who were with them. All four gospel writers
(Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) document this eye-popping miracle, but only John
records Jesus’ sermon to the crowd the following day.
According to John 6:24-25, the people who had experienced Jesus’ fish and bread buffet a day earlier tracked Jesus down and tried to subtly convince him to produce another meal. But Jesus recognized their duplicity and told them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Well, the prospect of never being hungry again sounded great to the crowd, so they blurted out, “Sir, from now on give us this bread.” Clearly, they were so fixated on feeding their physical bodies that it didn’t cross their minds that Jesus was speaking of spiritual bread to nourish their souls.
So Jesus told the people plainly in verse 35 and reiterated it in verses 41, 51 and 58: “I am the bread of life.” Jesus emphasized to his listeners that the true bread from heaven is not a “what” but a “who.” The living bread is not a thing; it’s a person. Jesus claims to be the Bread of Life, but what does that mean? Well, it boils down to this: In order to ingest physical bread we use our mouths, and that bread temporarily nourishes our bodies. But when we ingest Jesus—the Living Bread—we use our hearts, and he eternally nourishes our souls. Every one of us desperately needs this Living Bread. And there are two vital truths that we must understand and embrace if we hope to possess it.
Truth #1: God provides the bread. Just as God provided manna in the wilderness to nourish the Israelites’ bodies, God provided Jesus Christ to nourish our spirits. God the Father is the Great Provider of the Bread of Life. In John 6, Jesus makes it clear that the Father draws us to Christ—the Bread of Life. Christ receives us, keeps us and raises us up to heaven. And no one, absolutely no one, can snatch us out of Christ’s hands once we’re there.
Truth #2: We must consume the bread. As Jesus revealed himself to the crowd as “the Bread of Life,” he said bluntly in verse 56: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” Now, over the centuries many Bible readers have been baffled by Jesus’ words. Just as the crowd in front of Jesus 2,000 years ago was fixated on physical bread, we tend to fixate on the physical as well. But Jesus clarifies his harsh-sounding teaching in verse 63: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
In other words, Jesus is not advocating cannibalism. He is not telling the crowd to take a bite out of his arm or to start gnawing on his leg. He is asking them to—in faith—consume his teaching, ingest his offer of salvation and receive a vibrant, life-changing relationship with him that will never grow old or fade away.
But when push came to shove, most of the people in the crowd were not interested in spiritual food. They were hungry for breakfast, but they weren’t hungry for Jesus. John 6:66 is one of the saddest verses in the New Testament: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Ironically, the Scripture reference of this verse is John “666.” Over the years Satan has tempted Christ’s followers to perpetrate all kinds of evil (e.g., adultery, rape, kidnapping and murder). But all of these heinous sins can be forgiven by Christ. His grace is greater than our disgrace. But if we reject his grace by rejecting him, there is no other means to salvation. We either choose Christ (the Bread of Life) or we choose spiritual starvation. Sadly, the majority of the crowd in John 6 chose spiritual starvation.
I hope that you don’t make the same tragic mistake. Even if you gorge yourself at John’s Incredible Pizza for lunch and at the Golden Corral for dinner, you will still be hungry tomorrow. It’s a fact of life: Physical food only fills our stomachs temporarily. But the Bread of Life fills our souls permanently. Jesus’ word nourishes us today, tomorrow and throughout eternity. Jesus’ salvation never expires, and our relationship with Jesus Christ will never fail to satisfy our deepest hungers and needs. Yes, Jesus is the Bread of Life. So, let me ask you: Are you hungry for Christ? If so, dig in!
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.