Summary: This is a short communion talk centered around the statement by Christ that he is the bread of life.
I am the Bread of Life
(Short Communion Talk)
In John 6:1-14, we have the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with just 2 fish and 5 barley loaves. As a result of this miracle, the people were pursuing him so that they might have more of Jesus’ miracle bread. Jesus scolded them in John 6:26, “you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.” He then reminded them in vs. 27, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but (work) for the food which endures to eternal life.”
The people then asked, “what is the Work of God?” Jesus’ replied in vs. 29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.” When the people asked for a sign, Jesus reminded them of the manna in the wilderness and that it was a life sustaining gift out of heaven from God and that it is bread out heaven that gives life to the world. The people then asked Jesus in very much the same train of thought as the woman at the well in John chapter 4, “Lord, give us this bread.”
Jesus then makes a startling statement in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger...” Again in John 6:48, “I am the bread of life.” And again in John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven...”
What is all this about bread? In the ancient world as it still is in many parts of the world today, bread was the “essential” food. Indeed, the very word “bread” was often used generically for any kind of food. Meat was eaten by peasants only at festival occasions, and other foods were used to supplement bread. As the mainstay of life, bread came to be a primary metaphor for life and sustenance.
Bread was in a very real sense “sacred.” In the ancient world, all life was seen to be dependent upon the grain harvest. This in turn depended upon rain in its season, and so bread, the product of these perceived Divine processes, was regarded as a “gift of God,” a daily reminder of God’s continual and often undeserved care.
Thus Jesus, in his discussion was talking about a subject that was sacred to the people; bread, the basis for all physical life. Jesus is making two points.
1. As physical bread is essential for physical life, spiritual bread is essential for spiritual life.
2. As you must eat physical bread to sustain physical life, so also, you must eat spiritual bread to sustain spiritual life.
Jesus said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Then in vs.53- 54 he adds, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...” In vs 56, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” This statement stirred up grumbling and arguing among his listeners who asked, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Just what does it mean? Many of the people listening to Jesus thought he was talking about literally eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Indeed, in the first century many accused the Christians of being cannibals because of Jesus’ teaching here. I don’t think anyone here would see this as teaching that we must literally eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood. But then, just what does it mean?
Some people associate this passage only with the Lord’s Supper. If that were true, then we would have to accept the idea that if we do not partake of the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s day, we will not go to heaven. While I agree that the Lord’s Supper may be a part of the picture, it is not the primary subject of Jesus’ discussion here.
I think the key to understanding is found in verses that are interspersed with the verses about bread. In vs. 27 when Jesus told the people to work for spiritual food and they asked about what he meant by the “work of God.” Jesus responded in vs. 29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” In vs. 47, Jesus said, “He who believes has eternal life. That is immediately followed in vs. 48 with “I am the bread of life.” Jesus then is the bread which gives us eternal life. We partake of that bread through faith. When do we partake of that food? We begin “eating” the body of Christ when we become Christians. We continue “eating” the body of Christ each day that we live the life of faith in Christ Jesus.