In the gospel of John, we find recorded seven self-descriptions of Jesus starting with “I am the bread of life”. Seven is regarded as the number of completeness and perfection, through using these ‘I am’ statements Jesus revealed His purpose to his disciples. John who had a close relationship with Jesus, shares with us the true identity of Jesus.
At the end of his book, John states his two-fold purpose in writing down what he knew and had witnessed. Firstly, that we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. And secondly, by believing we might have life in His name.
‘I AM’ statements of Jesus
I AM is God’s personal name in His relationship with Israel. It is the name associated throughout the Old Testament with his redeeming acts. The name that expresses God’s character as dependable, faithful, and trustworthy. By wording His statements this way, Jesus knew that His audience would understand the implication of what He was saying. He was identifying Himself with the most sacred personal name of God.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”John 6:35
Bread sustains life
In the Middle East, in Biblical times, bread was a staple part of the diet, just as it is in many parts of the world today. Eaten routinely and generally available, a food which provides a large part of our daily energy needs.
At the beginning of the 2020 lockdown, I was surprised to find that the shops had sold out of bread flour. Suddenly, with the thought that there might be shortages of staple foods, everyone started making their own bread. We enjoy bread as part of our daily diet and do not want to be without it….
The Bread of Life
Prior to Jesus making this first ‘I am’ statement He had fed a crowd of over five thousand with a miracle. He took the little that they had and multiplied it. Five small barley loaves and two fish had amply fed a crowd of 5,000 men. There was more than enough to satisfy. In fact, there were twelve baskets of pieces left over.
The next day the crowd came looking for Jesus again and found Him in Capernaum. Jesus discerned that their interest in Him was to satisfy their personal gain, rather than their spiritual hunger. I wonder how many times we have been challenged by that same concept. Are we seeking God’s hand or His face? Do we press in and seek God, only, when we want something from Him? Or are we hungry to know Him more? And to spend time seeking His presence, just to sit at His feet?
Jesus challenged the peoples motive and warned them:
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”John 6:27
They misunderstood Jesus’ words and responded with a question as to what they should do to accomplish what God required. They had missed the point completely. Salvation is Jesus Christ’s gift to us – and cannot be earned, but only received by believing in Him. The ‘work’ that leads to eternal life is found in believing and following Jesus.
The Living Bread
Ingrained in the memory of Jesus’ audience was the story of the miracle of the manna that fed the nation of Israel in the wilderness for forty years. The people that Jesus was talking to compared His miracle with what Moses had done previously in the wilderness. Jesus fed over 5,000 people with barley bread for one day. Whereas, Moses in the wilderness fed the nation for forty years with bread from heaven.
But it was God, not Moses, who had provided them with bread from heaven to sustain the nation during the wilderness wanderings. The people did not grasp or understand that it was the same God who was providing the true bread of heaven for them now. Their minds were fixed on materialistic lines. They wanted another, and greater, sign to prove who Jesus was and missed completely God’s power at work for their, and our, eternal salvation.
The Word of Life
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”Deuteronomy 8:3
Moses in this passage of Scripture was reminding the Israelites of the purpose of their time in the wilderness. It was there that God was teaching them to depend on His word. The phrase ‘man shall not live by bread alone’ is a common expression now. We recognise that we need more than materialistic things to truly live. We are spiritual beings and there is a spiritual hunger within each one of us, which can only be satisfied by accepting and believing in Jesus.
The manna was limited, it had to be gathered daily, and only sustained physically for a short time. Jesus would make a one-time sacrifice by giving his life to pay the price for our sin, and all who believe in Him can receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus is the living bread by which we receive the gift of eternal life, through his death and resurrection, sustaining our spirit forever.
“This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”John 6:58
Just as we need our daily staple food to sustain us physically, we also need our spiritual food, the word of God, to sustain us spiritually. All that we need spiritually has been made available to us, through Jesus. He is the full and complete revelation of God’s word, that we can depend on to sustain us every day, in Him we have life, and life everlasting.
Scripture encourages us to look back and remember what Jesus has done by His death on the cross. And as we remember His sacrifice, to examine ourselves with repentance, looking up to our risen Lord and Saviour. Then we draw strength from Him to sustain us for whatever lies ahead, and look forward, with anticipation, to His return.
The Lord’s Supper
“Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,
“This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.”
After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:
“This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.”
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.”1 Corinthians 11:23-26 MSG
To reflect on the second part of Jesus’ statement, “and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” you may like to read The River of Life.