What Does It Mean That Jesus is the Bread of Life? #355
Happy Wednesday to you, friends! Welcome aboard and shout out to new listeners from Greater Accra, Ghana, The United Arab Emirates, the Karachi area, Pakistan, Odisha and West Bengal, India, Alberta, Canada, Indianapolis, Seattle, Chicago, Orlando, Yuma, Wichita, Kansas and Greensboro, NC. Thanks for joining us!
Today we are reading 2nd Chronicles 18, Zechariah 3, John 6 and Revelation 7. Today our focus is on Jesus’ teaching in John 6, which contains one of Jesus’ most controversial teachings – that He is the bread of life. The way He taught this message, and the way He explained it, caused His popularity among the people to plummet, so to speak. Witness this amazing scene:
66 From that moment many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I find it interesting that John 6:66, the only verse 6:66 in the Bible, is about people turning away from Jesus. Does this have something to do with the antichrist’s number 666? I sincerely doubt it, but it is interesting nonetheless. I prefer to focus on 6:68 – Peter’s confession that Jesus has “the words of eternal life.” Let’s read the chapter and then discuss Jesus the Bread of Life.
The word ‘bread’ appears 245 times in the Bible, and 18 times in this one chapter alone. Bread was a staple food for the first century Jewish people, a fact that is quite significant here. A full THREE times in this one chapter, Jesus tells the Jews that He is the bread of life. If Jesus had a campaign manager, this chapter would have probably been His undoing. By the time we get to John 6, Jesus has performed multiple signs and miracles, and the people are hanging on His every word. They have seen the dead raised, they have seen miraculous food happen, and they have seen how great of a teacher Jesus is…and they are following Him hoping to get more and see more, sort of like first century rubberneckers and those looking for a handout. We know this from vs. 26:
26 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
They weren’t following Jesus for salvation, or because He was the Messiah – they wanted more bread, and they wanted to see more miracles. Jesus, not content to merely have great popularity and large numbers of followers, wants these people to see who He really is, and why He has come. He has not come to provide people with merely miracles, healings and signs, but He has come to give Himself as a ransom for many – to save the world and to pay the price – to defeat death and usher in everlasting life to all who would look to Him in believing faith. So Jesus teaches truth in such a way that many – maybe even most – of the people who were following Him turned away.
It begins in a somewhat non-controversial way. Jesus tells the Jews that their Heavenly Father has bread that will last for eternity. Upon hearing this, the people ask for such bread, and then Jesus drops a bombshell on them:
35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.36 But as I told you, you’ve seen me, and yet you do not believe.
I want to say that Jesus is speaking metaphorically here, but that word isn’t strong enough. Yes, it is a metaphor, but it goes far beyond a mere metaphor. We can tell that Jesus isn’t talking about the kind of bread that is made with flour, which you eat with your mouth, because of what Jesus says in vs. 33 (and other places too.) “33 For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”” The bread of God is not a what, but a who…but the Jews don’t immediately pick up on this – and I am quite sure that Jesus is aware that they are missing it. So, He tells them more clearly in vs. 35 that HE is the bread of Heaven. At this point, they begin to get it, and they don’t like what Jesus is saying at all! They grumble about this teaching, because they consider Jesus a mere man – the son of the carpenter, not somebody who has come from God as some sort of Heavenly bread. They also know Jesus isn’t talking about literal bread here, but they are still somewhat perplexed by what Jesus is really saying. So Jesus continues, pressing the people even harder about what He is teaching them:
50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die.51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Jesus is saying that He is bread from Heaven, and that eternal life is given for those who eat the bread of Heaven. Then He doubles down again and says, “the bread I give is my flesh.” And the Jews respond much like many of us would….wait a minute, is He telling us to eat Him? “At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”” (John 6:52)
And at this point, you expect Jesus to explain the metaphor, teach the deep truth – clear the air. AND HE DOESN’T, astonishingly enough. He keeps pressing them:
55 because my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.
It is almost bewildering, even to somebody looking back on this passage almost 2000 years later who believes wholeheartedly in Jesus. WHY does He keep saying that He is true food and true bread?? Why doesn’t He correct their misunderstanding? And then, just when you think something has to give, Jesus says this:
56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.58 This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your ancestors ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
WHY does Jesus speak this way? Even His disciples are struggling with it, and some of them left! (The Twelve did not, but Jesus had many other disciples than just the 12 main guys, and He lost many of those disciples on this day.)
Jesus was neither foolish, nor naive – we know that. Jesus knew what He was teaching was blowing the minds of His followers and the other Jews, and He didn’t dial it down, He turned it up to 11. Why? I think part of the reason is because:
37 Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out….44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:37 and 44
Jesus knew that those who were to truly be His disciples, not mere bandwagon jumpers, would be drawn by the Father, and never cast out. EVERYONE the Father gives to Jesus will come to Him. Not a single one given will fail to come. ALL. So Jesus doesn’t seem concerned about those who fall away because of this teaching, because He knows that “all who are appointed for eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
As well, I believe that Jesus was teaching an incredibly important truth here. He is not merely looking for human followers and servants, He is looking for a people that He will wash in His blood, utterly save and live in and among in a far deeper way than is possible with any human relationship. It is the same thing He said to the Samaritan woman:
14 But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.” John 4:14
Jesus isn’t talking about literal water and bread here…but TRUE water and bread.
55 because my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.
And knowing that is the key to understanding this teaching of Jesus, and what He means that He is the bread of life. Jesus’ body and blood isn’t literal bread and literal water, but TRUE bread and TRUE drink. What happens when you eat a pringle? You immediately want another, right? How long will a cracker tide over a hungry person? Not long at all, right? If you are dying of thirst, will a half-cup of cold water help you survive a week? Not even close…but TRUE drink and TRUE food will. How? It won’t keep your body alive….but it will keep the eternal part of you – your soul/spirit – alive forevermore. No bread or juice or water can do that. You can drink the best water in the world everyday and eat the best food in the world every day – the best and the healthiest. Will this make you immortal? Of course not – even those that eat the absolute best and healthiest literal food available will die, and that food will do NOTHING for their soul/spirit. However, if they eat the bread of life in Jesus and are washed in the drink of life, His blood, then their soul/spirit will live FOREVER. This is what Jesus means by being the bread of life and the drink of life. He is talking about TRUE bread and TRUE drink that is something so far beyond literal bread and literal drink that we can barely comprehend it. He is talking about Himself.
19 And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
We ‘eat’ this true bread and true “drink” by faith – taking Jesus into our lives consuming His Words, consuming the good news and by faithful believing.