I Am the Bread of Life

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

– John 6:35, 41-51

Today’s gospel is a continuation of last week’s. It is the day after the feeding of the 5000. The 5000 have followed Jesus to a new location. Additionally, a new crowd has shown up and today we hear that the Jews have shown up. It is important to remember that when John speaks of “the Jews” he is referring to the religious authorities. He is not referring to the Jewish people, either individually or collectively. He is referring more to a status. He is describing the religious insiders of the day.

It is to this bunch of people – the 5000, the new crowd, and the Jews – that Jesus begins to explain the loaves and fish. The 5000 ate their fill of five loaves and two fish. What they did not realize is that Jesus was giving them himself in that bread and fish. The fullness of God’s life was contained in those five loaves and two fish.  God’s life was placed in their hands and taken into their bodies. The very life of God satisfied, sustained, and nourished them. And yet they failed to make the connection between God’s presence and the loaves and fish.

So Jesus gets pretty direct with them. “I am the bread of life.” “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” And this makes the Jews – the religious insiders – angry. They do not go to Jesus with their questions, or to seek an explanation or understanding. Instead they go to one another and begin complaining, grumbling, and murmuring about Jesus. “Can you believe what he said? Who does he think he is? Where does he come up with that stuff – claiming some heavenly connection? We know him – that is Jesus, Joseph’s boy. We know his mom and dad. He is not from heaven. He is from Nazareth.”

They are right. They do know him. Bu they know him through his parents and his hometown. They only know him through historical facts. Now there is nothing wrong with history. We need to know the facts but too often historical facts – about Jesus, another person, even our self – are used to control, narrow, and limit possibilities. The past is idealized and then projected as an ideal future.

You can almost hear the Jews saying, “We’ve never done it like this before. We have never seen or heard anything like this before. We have never tasted the bread of life. This just can’t be. You cannot say these things Jesus – we know you.” It is both amazing and sad that it is the Jews, the religious insiders, who do this. They go to synagogue, say their prayers, follow the law, and try to live faithfully. And yet they are the ones most resistant to free bread – the bread of grace, love, mercy; the bread of union, reconciliation, forgiveness; the bread of intimacy with God through Jesus Christ. Their historical knowledge has limited not just their understanding but also narrowed their world and life.

I wonder how often that happens to us. How often have we used the facts of history to limit or control Jesus, the life of another, or our own life?

Maybe it is a history of the things we have done and left undone or said and left unsaid that prevents us or another from eating the bread of life. Or perhaps we have a history of a particular way of thinking, believing, seeing the world, each other or ourselves. We live that pattern over and over. After a while that history says to us there is no other bread. Just keep eating the same old manna your ancestors ate in the wilderness. Sometimes the history of our fears, anxieties, guilt, regrets, pain, and losses become so established we are deceived into believing that we are not even hungry.

All of those histories are grounded in our separation from God, each other, and our selves – grounded in our sinfulness. That is not, however, the end of the story. St Gregory of Nyssa says

“The bread of life is the antidote for having eaten the forbidden fruit.”

The bread of life releases us from our history and frees us from the past. To eat the bread of life is to seek a knowledge of and relationship with Christ that is bigger than the historical facts. It is a knowledge that does not simply inform (a knowledge the Jews had) but one that transforms. It is based not on past facts but on love. The bread of life nourishes us with new life, new hope, and new possibilities.

Every time we take Christ’s life into us. Every time we see as he sees, think as he thinks, act as he acts, relate as he relates, love as he loves – every time this happens we have feasted on the bread of life; we have tasted eternal life.

“Do not complain among yourselves,” Jesus tells us. “A feast of life has been prepared for you. The table is full, ready and waiting. Your history neither brings you to this table nor can it keep you away. My Father is drawing, pulling, wooing, and loving you to the table. So hurry; come eat, before it gets cold.”

7 thoughts on “I Am the Bread of Life

  1. Thank you so much for specifying what John means by “the Jews” in this context. My wife is Jewish and I tend to pick up on stuff like this. Oh yeah, and the rest of the sermon was fine, too!

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    • Joe, I think it is important to be clear that John is not marginalizing or otherwise condemning “the Jews.” Too often this gospel has been a basis for antisemitism. We need to hear the text as being about us. We are “the Jews” – the religious insiders. It is less about heritage and culture and more about an attitude and a way of acting.

      As always I appreciate your comments and insights. Peace be with you, Mike

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  2. Author,
    I surely aapreciate your insight on the subject. You know God’s timing is impeccable. I was doing research for a term paper on the I am’s, I chose The Bread of life. i came upon your article/devo. Again thank you for allowing God to use you, your crown awaits you in Heaven!
    God Bless,
    Kevin

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  3. What is required in order to have Jesus ABIDE in us and we in Him?

    Can we do it:

    1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior ?
    No. Where does the Bible say that?

    2. By the grace of GOD only? Sola Gracias?
    No. Where does the Bible say that?

    3. By faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?
    No. Where does the Bible say that?

    It is simple common sense that since He commanded that we must do something, then doesn’t it stand to reason that He would also tell us how to do it?

    Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

    Jesus left this command for us in John 6:53-57:

    53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

    54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

    56 HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD ABIDES IN ME, AND I IN HIM.

    57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

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  4. Your comment is well intended but I hope you can see a few more things in it. John 3:1-7, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus and tells him one must be “born again” before he can enter the kingdom of heaven, He then declares, one must be born of the water and spirit. Without these things, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. How does one then do these things? Mark 16:15-16, Jesus then commands us, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation, He who has believed and been baptized shall be saved”. So a person must believe and be baptized…unfortunately, infants and children to young to understand the process cannot be baptized or born again without the understanding of the gospel. Next, Acts 2:38, says for us to Repent (from our old ways of life) be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ (without his name, you are not a Christian and you will not see the kingdom of heaven) for the forgiveness of your sins (those with sin cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven) and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.(Thus a new spirit). So being born again is turning from the old ways of life..making you new, becoming one of Christs chosen by holding his name….receiving forgiveness for your old and new sins you commit…..and receiving the gift of the inward dwelling of the Holy Spirit….born of the water and the spirit. The word baptism is translated to the Greek as baptizo, which means to be drawn under or immersed, meaning sprinkling does not count unfortunately. Act 8:26-38, shows the importance of once you understand the gospel, that you should follow immediately as the Eunich, as soon as he “understood” Jesus being taught to him and what baptism represents…(Philip had to explain to him baptism, or the Eunich would have not known what it was). 1 Peter 3:18-22 shows us the final conclusion, that baptism is the final process in salvation.
    Communion is what we partake in to remember what Christ did for us on the cross and is meant to keep it in the forefront of our mind.
    May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

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  5. Great , encouraging post. I found it by searching on “The Bread of Life and the Knowledge of God”) ..it feeds the long lost soul. Proverbs 1:23 Repent at my rebuke! THEN I will pour out My Thoughts to you, I will make Known to you My Teachings (You do not receive because you do not ask); where there is no repentance before God there is no forgiveness, where there is no forgiveness from GOD there is no Life; No one comes to me unless the Father enables them (is drawn to me) “John 1:33 And I myself did not know him, but The One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The Man on whom you See the Spirit come down and remain is The One who will Baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (with water and with Fire) Jesus: “I and the Father are One”. Isaiah 4:3 It will come about that he who is left in Zion and REMAINS IN Jerusalem will be called Holy– everyone who is recorded for Life in Jerusalem. 4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the Spirit of Judgment and the Spirit of Burning, 5 then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy.…

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