Bread has been called the “staff of life” for millennia. It comes in a variety of forms: flat like a tortilla, in a loaf sliced for sandwiches, or long baguettes like French bread. It can be made from wheat, barley, rye, millet or other grains, and it is found in practically every culture in the world. When the grain head or kernel is milled or ground, it allows the rich nutrients to be released and absorbed in digestion, sustaining life and satisfying the appetite.
It is not surprising that Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life! In John six, we also find the first of seven “I AM” statements made by Christ in John’s Gospel. This is a lengthy discourse that I will only summarize in this message.
We see first the preparation for the Bread of Life discourse (6:1- 34) as Jesus fed the people (1 – 14). We have already discussed the first 20 verses of this chapter where Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people with five barley loaves and two fish the boy gave to Him. That was the fourth sign or miracle John recorded for his readers that we might believe on Jesus as the Son of God. The purpose of the miracle was to set the stage for the message Jesus would preach! Jesus had a ministry of “grace and truth” (John 1:17). In grace He fed the crowd; with truth He taught them. Frankly, they wanted the food but not the truth.
Jesus also left the people (15-21). Perceiving they were coming to make Him king, He withdrew to a nearby mountain to pray and sent His disciples across the Sea of Galilee in a boat and into a storm. The motives of the Jewish crowd were all wrong: they wanted someone to feed them as Moses did in the wilderness and to lead them in an overthrow of Roman oppression. They weren’t interested in submitting to Jesus’ lordship as the Messiah. Jesus got His disciples away before they were caught up in the hysteria of the mob (16). Then, while the disciples rowed frantically through the storm on Galilee, Jesus walked to them on the water, demonstrating His power over all creation.
Jesus then corrected the people (22-34). The people that followed Jesus to Capernaum realized He had not entered the boat with the disciples so how did He arrive with them at Capernaum (25)? Jesus rebuked them because they only sought miracles and more bread (26). In every age there are many who seek Christ for what He can do for them: healing, provisions, rescue from problems–but not as their Savior from sin. Many want Jesus only for the benefits He provides. Christ told the crowd they were pursuing the wrong things, they should instead pursue and believe on the Son (29). What was their response? Do a miracle like Moses did (he fed the nation for 40 years), then we will believe (31-34)!
We see next the proclamation of the Bread of Life discourse (35-69). Jesus explained the Truth (35-40). He pointed out two kinds of food: food for the body (necessary but not most important), and food for the soul (essential!). Food can sustain physical life, but Jesus provides eternal life. Seven times in this discourse Jesus stated that He came down from Heaven. He clearly identified what the Bread from Heaven was – it was Him (John 1:1, 14)! Notice the Father gives souls to the Son as gifts for His work of redemption (37). All that come to Christ, He will not cast out (38). He will save them and ultimately raise them up (40). What a balanced picture of salvation: God draws souls to Christ (37, 44) yet we must come to Christ and believe in him.
But the Jews rejected the truth (41-59). Five times Jesus said, “I am come down from Heaven,” making Himself equal with God the Father. In addition, He used the phrase “I AM…the bread come down from Heaven.” God revealed Himself to Moses as the “I AM” (Jehovah, Exodus 3:14). By using that name, Jesus directly called Himself God. They grumbled and murmured among themselves (41, 43) over these claims. In addition, Jesus said that we must eat His flesh (52-56). This is another example of people misunderstanding Jesus’ words by interpreting them literally instead of spiritually. Jesus was saying, just as we take food and drink into our body and it becomes a part of us, sustaining our life, so we must receive Jesus in our innermost being so that He can give us eternal life.
So the people departed from the truth (60-69). There were two groups of disciples. Some found Jesus’ words unpalatable and left (60, 66). They went back to their old life, their old religion, their old hopeless situations. Jesus notes their offense (61) – the Word of God can be offensive! But don’t walk away–humble yourself, ask for understanding, submit to the truth. It is the Word of God that brings life, eternal sustenance (63). Peter spoke for himself and the other disciples, stating their resolve that they could not leave Christ for He had the words of eternal life.
Whenever the Word of God is preached there is a sifting of the hearts of the listeners. God draws sinners to the Savior through the Word. Those who reject the Word ultimately reject the Savior. But true faith results in continued commitment to Christ.