Summary: Jesus proclaims that his is both God, and that he moves in our lives to sustain us and fulfill us.
There are many ways to obtain information about a person. We can interview family and friends. If the person is famous enough, we can read the books that have been printed about him or her. Perhaps the best way is to listen to what the person has to say about himself. This is how we are going to proceed on our discovery of Jesus. We are going to learn about Jesus by what he says about himself.
In the gospel of John, Jesus is recorded making several statements about himself that both proclaim his divinity and describe his relationship with us. Jesus used a key phrase, in these statements, “Ego emi,” or “I am,” to announce that he is God. The phrase “I am,” is the name God gives to Moses, when Moses asks, “Whom shall I say sent me?” Jesus then attaches a specific, concrete concept to reveal the shape and dynamics of his relationship with us.
MORE THAN JUST THE PHYSICAL
This conversation between Jesus and the Jews comes shortly after he fed 5,000 or more people. The crowd has dispersed. Jesus and his disciples have traveled to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Several people follow him. They think they have discovered a good thing—the key to a life of comfort and ease.
Jesus confronts the Jews about their selfish reasons for following him. He remarks that they did not come after him because of the miracles, which were clear signs of his divinity, because who else but God can feed 5,000 people with only two fish and five loaves of bread. Instead, these people are following Jesus because their stomachs were filled. They thought that if they could convince Jesus to become king, they could live lives free from worry and hard work.
Jesus admonishes the people who have sought him to broaden their perspective and to focus more than simply the physical aspects of life. Jesus then declares that he is the bread of life; he is that which gives true life and moves us beyond mere existence.
Jesus wants so much more than to be the person to whom we turn in times of trouble. Jesus seeks a vital and dynamic relationship with us that is parent/child, master/servant, and teacher/disciple.
THE GIFT THAT NOURISHES
Jesus makes reference to the Exodus experience of the Israelites and God’s provision of manna for them. Manna, which means, “What is it?” was the bread of life for the people of Israel at this time. It literally saved their lives.
During their exodus from Egypt and slavery to the Promised Land and freedom, the people of Israel were unable to plant and harvest crops. They were not in one place long enough to do this. Neither were they able to hunt enough food for the entire nation. The Sinai Desert does not contain abundant quantities of wildlife that would make this possible. In order for the Israelites to avoid starvation, God provided manna for the people.
The manna was a gift to the people from God. The people of Israel had done nothing to deserve or warrant the manna—unless one counts constant complaining. God gave the manna to the people of Israel because God is a God of love, who provides graciously and abundantly for God’s people.