Summary: Jesus is our sufficiency; he is what hungry souls are longing for.
“I AM The Bread of Life”
This morning we begin a new series that will take us into the celebration of Easter. We want to focus our thoughts on the words of Jesus as he set his face towards the cross. To do this we are going to study six of the seven “I AM” statements Jesus made in the gospel of John. These emphatic statements were not just confident assertions or quaint illustrations; Jesus was saying something very important about himself.
John says, “But these were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). And so we begin with Jesus saying, “I AM the bread of life.”
Bread is common to every person throughout the world. Whether you bake bread over a fire in a third World country or in your bread-maker in your well-equipped kitchen, bread is a staple of life. For some of us it is all too common.
Think of your favorite restaurant. I would pick the Keg or Tony Roma’s. Now imagine the steak you plan to order or the rack of ribs with ranch beans and rice (drool). You place your order and wait. The waitress brings you a basket which holds hot bread concealed in a cloth napkin. Whipped butter waits for your expert hands to slather its salty, creamy, yellow essence all over that bread. What do you do? I resist! I resist because I ordered steak or ribs and that is what I am paying for. The bread fills you up too much. You won’t be able to eat your main meal. Bread takes up precious space.
But if you didn’t have meat what would you eat? Bread. If you come home and eat in a hurry, what do you eat? Bread with peanut butter. If you were hungry and starving, really starving, what would be best for satisfying your hunger? Bread. For the hungry person, bread is what satisfies.
Jesus is the bread of life. He is what satisfies the hungry soul. But what do we mean by that? Is it a simple matter of eating when we talk this way? What is Jesus really saying when he says “I am the bread of life”? We are going to look at most of John 6 to find out. Let me share with you what I have found.
1. Chasing after Bread
Let’s go back to the miracle in the beginning of the chapter. Here Jesus feeds the 5000 who were gathered on the shore of Galilee. Often we hear that it was 5000 men plus their women and children making the number more like 15000. Nevertheless, Jesus instructs his disciples to feed all these people.
They can’t. It’s impossible. All the disciples could find was one boy who planned ahead and brought a lunch of five loaves and two fishes. But Jesus sits everybody down, says grace, breaks the bread and gives it to the people.
We have heard this story too many times. The drama and the power are lost on us. Jesus fed all those people from five loaves and two fishes. Do we understand the word “miracle”?
There is more to this event than being amazed. Jesus was presenting a picture of himself. Even as he was feeding the people he was teaching them about who he was. Not that he was a great magician who could conjure up food out of nothing. But that he cared for them, provided for them and could satisfy them in their deepest need. Jesus is all-sufficient. Note in v. 11 that each person took as much as they wanted. Then in vv. 12-13 we read that after everyone had their fill – they were full – there was still an abundance left over. This is who Jesus is.
There are a couple of reactions to this miracle that reveal a misunderstanding among the people. Their focus was on the bread. On the survival scale of life people who are in desperate straights will think first of all of food. So the first thing they think is “Let’s make Jesus our King so he can always feed us” (15). And the second thing was “Let’s find Jesus and see if he has anymore bread.” This brings us to vv. 22-24 where the people get into boats and begin to search for Jesus.
The world is hungry. Many people may or may not know it, but they are spiritually hungry. They are looking for what will satisfy the ache in their souls. There is something missing in each person. It feels like hunger, but food won’t satisfy wealth and success won’t satisfy; all the pleasures of the world last only a moment and do not satisfy. Some search for it in the confines of religion and come close; but ritual and ceremony alone will not satisfy. Some of those people are here today. You are looking for something – that’s why you are here – you may have been looking a long time. That emptiness hurts.