Summary: And exposition and application of Jesus’ declaration that He is the Bread of Life.
“I Am the Bread of Life”
September 29, 2002
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Fort Worth, Texas
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst (John 6:32-35).
In his book entitled God’s Psychiatry, Charles Allen tells this story:
As World War II was drawing to a close, the Allied armies gathered up many hungry orphans. They were placed in camps where they were well-fed. Despite excellent care, they slept poorly. They seemed nervous and afraid. Finally, a psychologist came up with the solution. Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed. This particular piece of bread was just to be held—not eaten. The piece of bread produced wonderful results. The children went to bed knowing instinctively they would have food to eat the next day. That guarantee gave the children a restful and contented sleep.
It seems that regardless of the socio-economic group to which we belong, or how sophisticated our palette becomes, every one of us recognizes the significance of bread as a staple of our basic human existence.
We are continuing this morning with the 2nd of a series of 7 messages on the 7 “I Am” sayings of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation entitled: Meeting Your Maker: The 7 I Am Sayings of Jesus. Last week, you will recall, we examined the revelation that Jesus is the Light of the World from John 8:12. From that we saw that Jesus Christ uniquely triumphs over and scatters the darkness of human wickedness and its consequences, and death and hell; that He gives direction for this life and the life to come; and that Jesus is our solace and comfort in turbulent times.
Today, in John 6:35, Jesus proclaims Himself to be the Bread of Life. As always, proper interpretation and application require context.
John chapter 6 opens with Jesus crossing over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee. John the evangelist tells us that a large crowd of people followed the Lord because they had seen His miraculous healings of the sick. Jesus, seeing the great crowd, asked His disciples where they might find enough bread to feed all these hungry people. Philip volunteers that 8 months worth of wages would not be enough money to buy enough bread for everyone to have even a bite, much less a satisfying meal. Then Andrew chimes in: “Well, there is a boy here with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” This little bit of faith on Andrew’s part was enough; Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Jesus took the bread and fish, gave thanks, distributed them among the crowd, and in excess of 5,000 people were fed. John adds that everyone ate their fill, and yet there remained 12 baskets of leftovers which the disciples gathered. That night, fearing that the misplaced zeal of the crowd would now compel them to come and make Him king of Israel by force, Jesus walked on the water to reach the city of Capernaum on the other side of the lake. Undeterred, the crowds next morning all pile in boats, cross the Sea of Galilee in search of Jesus, and when they find Him begin interrogating Him about how He crossed the lake without a boat and if He will perform another miraculous sign to prove He is the Messiah. What becomes sadly clear in the ensuing discussion is that the crowd following Jesus completely misses the point of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, as well as its Old Testament antecedent the miraculous feeding of the children of Israel by God in manna—bread from heaven—during their 40-year wilderness wandering.
Notice first the people’s misunderstanding. Verses 32 and 33:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
This crowd is under the misapprehension that Moses and not God was ultimately responsible for the manna; and this crowd is following Jesus now not because they want to hear the words of eternal life, but because they think they’ve found in Him a never-ending supply of bread. The same phenomenon occurs, you recall, when Jesus reveals Himself to be living water to the woman at the well in chapter 4. She replies, “Great! Give me some of this water so I don’t have to keep coming to Jacob’s Well for water.” This crowd following Jesus in John 6 are looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. They want literal bread to satisfy their physical hunger; and they want a political deliverer, like Moses, to satisfy this need. But Jesus is spiritual bread, to give and sustain spiritual life; He is that bread, in His person and work. He doesn’t give it. And this spiritual bread came down from heaven by God, and by the way, is God Himself.