Summary: What did Jesus mean when He said "I am the bread of life" and what difference does that make to us?
A man had just moved into town and stopped at local restaurant for dinner. The waiter did his best to please him but the man complained that he’d only received one piece of bread with his meal, so the waiter promptly brought him four slices. The man said, "That’s good, but not good enough. I love bread!" The customer left a sizable tip and was otherwise a very likeable patron. So, the next night he was given six slices of bread with his supper. He said, "Good! But aren’t you still being a little stingy?" The next night he received a basketful of bread… but he still complained. Finally, the owner had had enough. Being a bit mischievous, he baked one HUGE loaf of bread that was six feet long, three feet wide and it took the manager and two waiters to carry it to the table. Then they just stood back and smiled, waiting for the man’s reaction. The customer looked at the gigantic loaf of bread and said, "So, we’re back to ONE piece again?"
BREAD. (Pause) Every culture on earth loves its bread. Americans alone eat 34 million loaves of bread a day, not to mention rolls, bagels, croissants, pitas, doughnuts and dozens of other kinds of bread that are consumed. And bread is a major staple of food for every nation on earth - from Mexican tortillas to Jewish Matza bread.
Now, just a few facts about bread: A family of 4 can live for 10 years on the bread produced by one acre of wheat in one growing season. In 1941, the US govt passed a law requiring bakeries to add niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and iron to their bread. That’s what you get nowadays… when you buy “enriched bread.” Bread was once so prized that it was used as currency which is why money is sometimes called… "bread." And in 13th century England, bread was a vital source of food for the British and bakeries had total control of the bread supply. In those days, loaves were often sold in baskets of 12. But some bakers would cheat their customers by scrimping on the flour and selling smaller loaves. Eventually King Henry III caught wind of this and instituted a law to punish bakers who cheated people… and these punishments included beatings and jail time. Obviously, this made cheating dangerous, but even honest bakers were concerned they might accidentally make a smaller loaf on occasion. So, just to be safe - and avoid punishment - bakers began selling their customary 12 loaves… and add one extra loaf (13 rather than 12). And that’s where we get the term “BAKER’S DOZEN.”
Back in the days of Jesus, bread was VERY important. Nowadays, if you want to get a loaf of bread you can go down to the grocery store and buy just about any kind of loaf of bread you want. But back in the days of Jesus, it could take the better part of a day to grind the wheat, put enough wood in the fireplace to bake the bread (there were no stoves with temperature settings) and then prepare and cook the bread you’d need for the week. Bread was a very labor-intensive product and took a lot of effort to make.
But then along came Jesus.
Just a couple days prior to our story this morning, we read about a large crowd of people who had gathered to hear Jesus preach. As the day wears on, Jesus notes that the people need to eat and performs the miracle where He fed the 5000 with just 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish. When it was all over – they collected 12 baskets of leftovers.
And the people were VERY impressed.
But then Jesus just up and disappears and they don’t know where He went. The people began to get anxious and began to hunt for Him. When they did find Him, they wanted more bread but Jesus apparently wasn’t going to give them any more. That so upset the crowd that they tried shaming Him into doing His miracle again. In John 6 we read “they said to (Jesus), "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:30-31). Look, they said – Moses supplied manna for the people every day… and you’ve only done it once. Do another miracle!
In answer Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
Now, that seems like an odd thing to say. The crowd wants more bread, and not only is Jesus not going to give them what they ask for, He turns it into a teaching situation. He says “I am the bread of life!” What does He mean by that?