“I am the bread of life” – John 6.25-40
The crowds around Jesus have seen Jesus and the miraculous signs he has done before their very eyes, but still they don’t believe in him (6.36). In other passages Jesus rejects the sort of faith which is dependent on seeing Jesus’ miracles, but now he castigates the crowds that they are seeking him “not because you see signs, but because you ate the loaves and were satisfied” (6.26). Jesus’ words raise serious questions for us too. What is the basis of our faith in Jesus? Why do we believe in him? What motivates our Christian faith? There is always a danger that we believe in Jesus for what we can get from him – new life with a purpose, fellowship which satisfies our loneliness, healing from sickness, the forgiveness of our sin and his gift of eternal life. ‘Bread’, even spiritual ‘bread’, can underlie our faith in Jesus the Messiah rather than a loving wonder at his glory, holy perfection and faithful love. Our faith can therefore be selfish rather than being based on an overwhelming admiration of him.
How well I remember the evening when I put my faith in the Lord. He had given me 24 hours of peace from being badly bullied at school. But my new faith was not in any way expecting further miracles of loving grace; he had proved himself to be alive and true. It was on the basis of his reality, truth and loving kindness that I set out on the path of faith (for further details see my life story “Life’s Tapestry”). And over the last 69 years he has graciously revealed so much more of his glory which I failed totally to appreciate when I was young.
a) True manna
Jesus tells the crowds to work for what “endures to eternal life” (6.27), not just for food that perishes. In the desert Israel had been given manna to eat, but that didn’t last. Once Israel had left the desert and entered into the promised land, God withdrew his gift of daily manna. And the manna couldn’t be saved up and kept for another time; it went wormy if it was not eaten on the day it was given. In contrast with the manna, God is now giving the the true bread from heaven. As Jesus declares in 6.33, this bread gives life to the world (not just Israel). 6.33 is slightly ambivalent in meaning. It could be saying that ‘the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’. It could also mean, as in NIV and other translations, that the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Assuming the first possible meaning, the crowds beg Jesus, “Always give us this bread” – not just a temporary gift of bread as with the manna in the desert. Jesus however builds on the second meaning and declares that he is the bread of life, the one who comes down from heaven to bring life to the world.
b) God’s work
Jesus commands the people to work for food that endures eternally. In response the people ask him, “What should we do to work the works of God” (6.28). Defining what it means to do God’s works, Jesus assures them that the work of God means that they should believe in Jesus, the one sent from heaven by the Father (6.29). That is the work to which God in Jesus calls us. The one condition for all Jesus’ gracious life-giving generosity is that we should believe in him, entrusting our whole life to him and following him in committed, holy obedience.
c) The gift of Life
As so often in our expositions of John’s Gospel, we note again the strong emphasis on Life. In and through Jesus the fullness of life comes to us. He so satisfies those who come to him and believe in him that we need never feel hungry or thirsty again (6.35). As we believe in Jesus and belong to him, we have full confidence that Jesus will never ‘drive us away’ (6.37). This assurance strengthens us through all the trials of life. Jesus assures us, “I shall lose none of all that he (= the Father in heaven) has given me” (6.39). Indeed Jesus’ gift to us is not just life, but also actually eternal life(6.27 and 40). He will resurrect us “on the last day” (6.39). So we live with the eager and sure anticipation that the ultimate climax of history includes our resurrection and ascension with Jesus unto eternal life. What glory! We shall feast with him in his immediate presence and revel in the fullness of his glory.
My wife and I are now in our mid-80s. We are constantly bombarded with news of people of our age dying. Knowing that death will probably come to us too in the next few years, it is wonderful to rest in the assurance of God’s promises. Through Jesus’ resurrection we have begun on his gift of new life and through his ascension we have the assurance that this life continues eternally. As believers in Jesus, our Messiah and Lord, we have eternal life. Hallelujah! What a Saviour! The totally undeserved grace of God is so amazing!
Have a good look at Jesus – 6.36, 40! Come to him! Believe in him! Receive his gift of life, even eternal life!