Summary: Since Jesus is the Bread of Life as we believe in Jesus he fills/quenches our spiritual hunger and thirst now and forever.
Television show where three people would come out and try to convince the celebrity panel who the real person was. At the end they would say, “Would the real so and so stand up.”
What did Jesus claim about himself? Who did Jesus say that he was? Over the season of Lent (with the exception of next week) we are going to look at John’s gospel to see what Jesus had to say about himself, his “I am” statements. Seven times Jesus declared “I am.” He said, “I am the bread of Life (6:35,41,48,51),” “I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5),” “I am the gate (10:7,9),” “I am the good shepherd (10:11,14),” “I am the vine (15:1,5),” “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6),” and “I am the resurrection and the life (11:25).”
This Sunday we are looking at Jesus’ first declaration, “I am the Bread of Life.”
The day before Jesus said these words he had spoken to a crowd of possibly 10-15,000 people (the Bible says there were 5,000 men not counting women and children) who had come to hear him, but no one had brought any food, except one little boy who had two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus took the fish and bread gave God thanks, and began handing out basket after basket until every single person there had eaten their fill, and there were even 12 baskets of bread leftover. In a truly miraculous way Jesus had provided for their physical need for food that day.
Because the people wanted to forcibly make Jesus their king, he went up into the hills away from the people. That night the disciples waited around for Jesus at the shore but since he didn’t come they took off across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum, and in the middle of the night Jesus walked on the water and joined them. The next morning, the crowd went searching for Jesus but they couldn’t find him, and so they set sail to Capernaum to find Jesus, and so the crowd once again mobbed around Jesus.
You would think Jesus would happy about the determination of these people to go searching for Jesus. You would think Jesus would be happy that people were coming to him, right? But listen again to what Jesus said to the crowd, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill (John 6:26).”
Jesus was not impressed with their pursuit of him because the crowd had followed him because he fed them, they had eaten until their bellies were full, and now they were looking for more. Their pursuit of Jesus had nothing to do with his miracles, with his being the Messiah, or even his teachings. They followed Jesus because of their stomachs not their hearts. Of course if you believe the old adage, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’ Jesus might have had something going here.
1. Full Bellies and Empty Souls
A. (v. 26) The inadequacy of searching after physical/material desires
Jesus continued, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval (6:27)."
The people had invested their time and effort for something which was perishable, it wouldn’t last very long. Jesus’ response was essentially saying, “don’t waste all of this effort in seeking things which are here today and gone tomorrow (food that spoils), what you really need is to focus your efforts on getting that which satisfies your deepest hunger, your spiritual hunger for God is what he is referring to, this “food” you can only receive from God’s Son. It will never spoil but will last forever.
Unfortunately the people misunderstood Jesus again, and assumed he meant he would provide food for them eternally, perhaps this food would even allow them to live eternally. An early Jewish Midrash (like a commentary on the Bible) showed that Jews believed when the Messiah would come he would provide eternal manna, just as Moses had provided the manna when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert for 40 years. The manna was a mysterious substance which would show up like the dew day after day (except on the Sabbath). And it provided for the nutritional needs of the people. Even though God provided in such a supernatural way, it was still plain old food. The next day they would be hungry again, and God would have to provide manna once more.
Of course we need food and drink to keep our physical bodies alive, but Jesus was critical of the crowds because the only reason they followed Jesus was because of their immediate physical need without any concern for their spiritual need, for their soul, for their relationship with God. The reality that one day food, even their own bodies will no longer be alive, they are all perishable. It reminds me of Jesus’ words in Mark 8:36 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?