Jesus: The Bread of Life


John 6:25-58

Jesus worked lots of miracles. John records just a few of them. In John chapter 4, John tells how Jesus healed a royal official’s son from a distance. And then in John chapter 5, John tells how Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. This last one, the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Because they considered healing on the Sabbath to be breaking the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Jesus. Jesus answered:
My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17 NIV)

The Jews, understanding that Jesus was saying He was equal with God, became zealous to kill Jesus.

All this attention because of His work and His teaching caused huge crowds to follow Jesus.

In our day, Jesus gets even more attention. His name is known around the whole world. Places do exist where the name of Jesus has not been heard, but they are few. In the English-speaking world, His name is used as a swear word. All over the world, information about Jesus has been twisted, lied about and changed. For example, Muhammad changed many of the facts about Jesus’ life in the Quran so that the person represented in that book and in the minds of his followers is not the Jesus of history. While the Jews of Jesus’ day persecuted Jesus by trying to kill Him, His persecutors today try to kill Jesus by teaching lies, discounting His claims and/or denying His existence and deity. Because of the huge crowds Jesus draws and the attention He attracts, many are offended by Jesus.

The fame of Jesus’ name makes it inevitable that large numbers of people gather to see what it is that Jesus has to say. 

John 6:2 says:
...and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. (John 6:2 NIV)

People were drawn to Jesus because they saw the signs he performed. Today, it is no different. Jesus is doing great things in our world and it draws attention. For this reason, it is important for us to consider what Jesus had to say to the crowd that was attracted by His miracles.

John 6 tells the story of how a very large crowd was fed by Jesus with just 2 fish and 5 loaves. They had 12 baskets of leftovers from what had started out as a boy’s lunch.

After the meal, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place to pray, and the disciples got in a boat to cross the lake. The crowd saw that Jesus did not get in the boat with His disciples, but during the night Jesus walked on the water out to the boat where His disciples were fighting a storm.

The next day the crowd searched for Jesus and finally found Him with His disciples on the other side of the lake. They started asking Jesus, “How did you get here?” John tells us:
Jesus answered, Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:26-27 NIV)

In these words, Jesus points out a problem in the reason that many people have for seeking Jesus. This problem was present in the people of His day and it is present in us today. 

Jesus says, “...you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”

With these words, Jesus shows that He knows and understands the human heart. These people were seeking Jesus not because they saw and understood that He was God, but they were seeking Him for what they could get for themselves. James talks about this same attitude existing in the Church when he says:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Dont they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NIV)

Jesus was trying to warn the Jews of His day, and us as well, of this human tendency. 

Jesus pointed out the problem in their hearts and urged them to work for the food that endures to eternal life. He was addressing people who had sought Him out. These were the ones who came to hear what He had to say. And yet they were seeking Him with wrong motives.

They took the bread that Jesus had given them to be a sign that Jesus was going to be like Moses, and establish the nation. They were looking for a Messiah who would restore the fortunes of Israel; they wanted a Savior to make Israel great.

The Messiah will rule on the throne of David, and Jerusalem will be the capital city of the world, but not yet. What they did not and still do not understand is that the prophecies concerning the suffering servant and that the Messiah would give His life as a ransom for many had to be fulfilled first. Because they did not and still do not understand or believe all that the prophets said about Jesus, they were looking and are still looking for the Messiah they want.

They wanted a Messiah who would provide them with a nation, with prosperity and with the things of this world. This is still what the Jews of today are looking for, and it is the kind of Messiah that many invent for their own convenience in our world today.

But Jesus will not be put in our boxes. He has not come to fulfill our dreams. John 6:15 tells us that those in the crowd that had eaten His bread planned on making Him king by force. They wanted a Jesus they could control.

Jesus was trying to change their focus and wake them up when He said:
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” (John 6:27 NIV)

Jesus is pointing to the kingdom of God. He taught much on this, telling us to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and telling us to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. When the crowd heard Jesus telling them not to work for food that spoils, they asked:
What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28 NIV)

Jesus responded:
The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29 NIV)

This is a simple statement and yet the crowd challenged it. They understood that Jesus was talking about Himself so they said:
What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:30-31 NIV)

With this statement, they show that their hearts are fixed on this world. They were drawn to Jesus because of the miracles He had performed. The day before they had seen Him feed a large crowd with a boy’s lunch. They had been planning on making Him king, and now they were saying, “What sign will you give?”

In response to this, Jesus gives a lecture. As lectures go, it is short. You will notice that from John 6:35 through John 6:58 they do not ask Jesus any more questions. They grumble about Him and argue among themselves, but they do not address Jesus directly.

In this lecture, Jesus teaches that He is the bread of life. He is the true bread given by God for the life of the world. Jesus teaches several facts about this bread.

The first fact that He teaches is found in John 6:35:
Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 NIV)

The fact is that Jesus is the true bread of life.

Jesus is not talking about physical bread or drink as we can see by the verbs He uses. He says, “Whoever comes” and “whoever believes.” In these words, we learn how we are to “eat” this bread. We are to come and we are to believe.

Jesus points out something about this fact. He points out that even though the crowd had seen Him, they did not believe.

In verses 38 and 39, Jesus makes it clear that He will never turn anyone away who comes to Him. He also makes it clear that it is the Father’s will that none of those who come will be lost. However, even though the crowd had followed Him because of His miracles, even though they had heard His teaching, they still did not believe.

The truth of the matter is that, left to themselves, no one will ever believe. Jesus has demonstrated that even living in the very presence of the Son of God was not enough for people to believe. He also says in verse 37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” and then in verse 44, He says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

In the Bible, in the book of Lamentations, it says:
Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lamentations 3:22 NIV)

God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17) This is why Jesus also taught.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32 NIV)

Jesus is the bread of life, and it is only by lifting Him up, showing Him to people, that people are saved. No other miracle, presentation or argument has the power to save. As the hymn writer said:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Many have come claiming to teach in God’s name and claiming to have been sent by God, but anyone who does not lift up Jesus and teaches others to discount or change the truth that is revealed about Jesus in the Bible, the only historically verifiable record we have, is not from God.

In John chapter 6, especially in verse 45, Jesus teaches that a person knows Jesus by listening to God and being taught by Him. And then in verse 46, He teaches that the only way to know the Father is through Jesus. 

Jesus is the bread of life because He is our only connection to God. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is our high priest. He is the only mediator between God and man. Without Him, there is no life.

Physically without food we die, and spiritually there is no life apart from Jesus. Jesus states this a number of times in John chapter 6. To look at this fact, I want to focus on John 6:53.
Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 NIV)

Because of this statement, many of the people who had been drawn to Jesus stopped following Him. They questioned how Jesus could give His flesh for people to eat. And they said they could not accept it (John 6:60).

In answering their objections, Jesus made this statement:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 ESV)

They were viewing eating and drinking as a physical act. Jesus had shown earlier that He was not speaking of physical bread when He had said that what is required is that one comes and believes. 

People still make the mistake of thinking that we must physically eat and drink. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper to teach us our absolute dependence on Him for spiritual life. He said, “This bread is my body broken for you,” and “This cup is my blood shed for you.” Some teach that if one does not eat and drink the communion, they cannot be saved. They attach saving value to receiving or taking communion. However, look again at John 6:63.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 ESV)

We eat of the bread of life by believing in Jesus. We drink His blood by faith. Physically there is nothing we can do for our salvation. Our spiritual life comes only by coming to Jesus and believing in Him. Jesus described Himself as the bread of life to help us to understand that there is no spiritual life, there is no connection to the Father, there is no knowledge of God apart from Jesus.

I want to close by reminding us of the words of Jesus:

"This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." (John 6:29 ESV)

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