“I Am the Bread of Life”
Pt. 2 of the Series: “The ‘I am’ Sayings of Jesus.”
April 7, 2019
John 6:selected verses
Jesus (said), “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 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.”…“Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”… 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty… . 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”… “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 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. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.
This past week, I started the Keto diet. Have any of you been on that diet? It is a no carb, no sugar diet. On this diet, fat is your friend. So, you can have heavy cream—none of this skim milk on this diet. You can have sausage and meat. You can have bacon, lots and lots of bacon. I mean, what could be wrong with a diet in which you get to eat a whole bunch of bacon. Well, let me tell you just what’s wrong with this diet. Do you want to know what you can’t have? You can’t have ice cream. I have been known to go on an ice cream diet in the past. Yes, indeed, there is such a thing. Took care of 15 pounds on that diet. Unfortunately, I gained 15 pounds. I didn’t lose it. But, nooo, I can’t have ice cream on the Keto diet. You’d think that would be a game changer for me. Something else you cannot have on this diet is bread. Now, my second favorite food, a rather distant second, is pizza and what is pizza essentially? It is bread. Or, there is this type of bread that has a lot of sugar and eggs and vanilla in it and after you bake it you whip together butter and more vanilla and powdered sugar and you lather that on top. I think they call that cake. On the Keto diet, you can’t have cake either. On this wonderful diet, I can’t have my favorite foods. Nancy’s sister and brother-in-law lost about 15 pounds in two weeks, so for Deknatel here, I am figured go on this diet for two weeks and I am done. It is 2 and done for me. You didn’t come here today to hear about my weight loss program, although anyone who would like to commiserate with me after the service, I will be here in the front. But, believe it or not, there is a connection between my diet and our topic today.
This is week two of our series, “The ‘I Am’ Sayings of Jesus.” Last week, we learned that “I am” is a technical phrase. It was the name of God given to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus used that phrase again and again to describe Himself. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” and “I am the vine,” and last week we looked at “I am the gate of the sheep pen.” Whenever He said that, He was claiming His divinity. He was saying that He, and the One in the burning bush, that great Yahweh, were one and the same. Later in John’s Gospel, the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. He asked them, “Whom do you seek?” and they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I am He,” and when He said this, the soldiers drew back and fell to the ground. When these enemies came face to face with the majesty of the Almighty, they dropped to their knees. The Greek verb is “ειμι.” That’s all you need in a sentence, “ειμι.” That would be translated, “I am.” But, in all of these “I am” sayings, Jesus says, “εγω ειμι,” (εγω as in our word ego). He is emphasizing here. He is saying, “I, even I am.” It is a clear assertion of His deity.
Here, in our text, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Now, what did He mean by that? In so many places in the Bible, God starts with some common elements and leads to a spiritual meaning. With the woman at the well, Jesus began talking about water which led to Him sharing what living water was, spiritual water. With Nicodemus, Jesus started talking about being born which led Him to talk about being born again. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” we will be able to see he was speaking on various levels.
- Various Levels of Jesus’ saying, “I Am the Bread of Life”
- Level 1: Plain old ordinary bread
When some of the people heard Jesus say, “I am the bread of life,” they figured Jesus was the bread man, that Jesus was going to deliver to them Wonder bread. Oh, He was going to deliver Wonder bread, alright. You see, some people were just interested in getting food for their table and when they heard this saying of Jesus, they thought He was going to provide that.
Just before our Scripture for today, Jesus fed the 5000. He multiplied 2 fishes and 5 loaves of bread so that a multitude was fed with 12 basketfuls left over. Now, if you were the 4000th person on that hillside, you hadn’t seen Jesus do anything with the bread and fishes. You had been out in the hot sun listening to Jesus all day—don’t anybody complain that my sermons are too long—and you would just be happy to get a free lunch. You would just be happy to get your belly full. Jesus alluded to this when He said in verse 26;
“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” John 6:26
They got their full. They were concerned only about getting their bellies full. Or, later in our Scripture, Jesus refers to the incident of the manna in the Old Testament. The Israelites came out of Egypt and went a ways and discovered they had no more food. What were they concerned about? Food. They wanted their bellies full. So, when God sent manna, they were saying, “Okay. Now, we can eat. Now I can feed my family.” They were only concerned with their bellies. Today, so many folks get their bread, they get their stuff, they get their bellies full, never ever thinking about where this all came from. They are like my grandchildren who sit down for supper and expect that their food will appear. People today just want their bellies full. So, when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” many folks thought that He was only talking about getting food. That is level one. Level 2 has to do with
- Level 2: Who provided the bread?
Many folks figure that getting bread is their own doing and, of course, we can expand that concept to include all kinds of “food;” clothing, house, car and money. Many folks think they work hard for their money and everything they have is their own doing. You provide for your own welfare.
Some Christians think that way, too. Some Christians believe that they worked for what they have and that they are responsible for their well being. They work X number of hours and for that they get Y number of dollars and with those dollars they can buy Z amounts of bread, toys, house etc. It is pretty easy to sit back, look at your pile of “bread” and say, “I did that.” It is a challenge even for Christians sometimes to sit down at a meal and say, “God is great, God is good and we thank Him for our food.” Or, they can rattle off that children’s prayer out of obligation without really meaning what it says. Or, Christians can pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and, again, not really mean what it says. “God didn’t give me my bread. I earned it.” And, yes, they did earn it but who gave them the abilities and the smarts to do that?
Maybe a very few of those 5000 who were fed on that mount got that concept. Maybe it was just a few who received their portion of bread and fish who said, “God gave this to me.” They might have figured, “Hey, I didn’t work for that food and these followers of Jesus, His disciples, they don’t look wealthy enough to buy all of that food. It had to have come from somewhere.” Maybe there were a precious few who attributed it to God.
Or, with the manna incident, there were probably a few who put two and two together. Maybe there were a few who realized that God was the one who sent the manna. They were hungry, went to Moses and complained, Moses went to God and the next morning manna appeared. You remember, the people could gather just one day’s worth of manna, except on the day before the Sabbath when they gathered two day’s worth. They could gather only one day’s worth of manna, every day, and that went on 40 years. What God was teaching them was to be dependent on Him. Still, only a few made the connection and realized that it was God who gave them this manna. Jesus speaks about this in our lesson when He says;
“Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” John 6:32
Maybe in our day and age, farmers get this easier than us city slickers or suburbanites. Farmers are dependent upon sun and rain and the seeds sprouting in the ground. It is easier for them to make a direct cause and effect connection between their seeds growing to maturity and God’s hand in doing that. And, when the sun and rain doesn’t come, it is easier for farmers to pray. It is easier for them to identify God as the One who holds sway over those things, that God is the ultimate source of that daily bread.
That is level two for interpreting Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life.” He was asserting that it is God who gives us all good things. Now, before I move on to level 3, let me ask you, “Do you truly believe that it is God who ultimately has given you all of your daily bread, everything you have? Do you give anything more than a passing nod to God as the provider of what you have at your table? Do you really believe that God is great, God is good and we thank Him for our food? If not, how would your view of life change if you made a very real connection between God’s actions and what is your daily bread? On to level 3.
- Level 3: It’s a miracle
This level flows from the last one but makes an even more direct connection between God and the bread we have. Listen to verse 33;
“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33
Did you catch that? The bread of God is a He. In the wilderness, it was not just that God gave the people of Israel this manna. It wasn’t just that God was their Sugar Daddy. Some of those Israelites got to the level where they could recognize that God is good. Some of them got to the place where they realized that no matter what would happen, God is good to me, that God loves me, that God cares for me and for the other 3 million people who are a part of this trek to the Promised Land. God giving us what we need, God giving us manna every morning is just an expression of God’s incredible care. Did you get the difference there? Getting to that place, beyond the Sugar Daddy complex, getting to that place would sustain those people even when all seemed lost, even when enemies attacked.
Or, take the feeding of the 5000. There were a very precious few that realized that what Jesus did was way beyond just providing a lunch buffet for thousands, “Hey, He gave us bread and fish. Pass the tartar sauce, will ya.” This was even beyond simply admitting that God had a hand in it. This feeding of the 5000 was centered in who Jesus was. The bread of life is centered in a person, Jesus. The disciples may have gotten it. They may have put two and two together and when their baskets with the small portions of fish and loaves came back full to the brim after feeding those thousands, maybe the disciples got the message that this Jesus just performed a miracle, that this Jesus was really special and their relationship with Him grew really strong.
Many folks today see God as their Sugar Daddy. They can acknowledge that God gave them their “food” that He gave them all of their stuff. That’s the “Great” part of “God is great…” But, what happens when the “bread” stops. What happens when they are hungry or they lose their job or their health goes bad? When the “bread” stops, these people don’t get to the “good” part of “God is great, God is good.” They don’t get it that God is good and He is good all of the time. But when someone makes that transition, when they know that even when the “bread” stops, God is still good, that is a game changer. Even if they don’t get the “bread” they see that God is still good. Indeed, when you know that God is good and that He is good all the time, then you can rejoice with Paul when he says
“…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
God is good. He works for the good. When you make that your own, it won’t matter what happens in life because it will be good. This personalizes Jesus’ saying, “I am the bread of life.” This makes this bread thing really spiritual and really practical. Which leads to the 4th level I want to address;
- Level 4: Jesus is the bread of life
Remember, verse 33 tells us that the bread that came down from heaven is a He. It is not just physical bread and it is not just that God is the giver of the bread. This bread is a person. It is a He. So, Jesus says;
“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
There are two ways to translate this. This can be translated, “I am the bread that is living,” or, “I am the bread that gives life.” This life Jesus spoke about is the Greek word zoe, not bios (like biology). It is not just about being animated or even conscious. It is about, as one pastor put it; “…a quality of life, an experience of life that is sourced in and finds its goal in God.”  This is John, in the first chapter of this Gospel saying,
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” John 1:4
The life he is referring to is spiritual life. It is well beyond physical life, physical bread. He says that those who come to Him will never go hungry and will never be thirsty. This is not just feeding my belly. This is way beyond what the 5000 received for lunch or what many of the Israelites received when they got the manna. This is a spiritual hunger and a spiritual thirst. Some people go through life and may not even know that they are spiritually hungry or thirsty. They may be as happy as a flea on an old dog. But, when something bad happens to them, when they are confronted with their sinfulness, their own mortality, it is then that they recognize that they need something more in their lives. They are spiritually hungry and thirsty. But, when someone gets grace, when someone gets it that Jesus, this living bread, came into this world to take on the sins of all people, when they realize that Jesus suffered and died on the cross, when they realize that the terrible death He endured was in payment for their sins so that no more debt is owed, people realize that when Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” that all of their sins were paid for, that their guilt is gone, when someone gets grace, that their sins were placed on Jesus’ shoulders, that He’s done it all, then the hunger and the thirst for love and acceptance and forgiveness, that hunger and thirst are gone. Jesus did that. Jesus, the bread of life did that.
- Jesus, the bread of life, gives eternal life
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
As you know Him, as you accept His love, as you believe on His name, you don’t have to fear death. Those gnawing questions have been solved, “What is going to happen to me when I die? Am I good enough to get into heaven? What do I need to do to make up for my sins?” You have eternal life. Jesus, the bread of life, gives eternal life. That is a level way beyond all of the others. Here, listen;
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:40
“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.” John 6:47-50
Jesus, the bread of life, gives you eternal life. How is your life different that you know that this life is far more than what we eat or drink, it is far more than all of your daily bread, your money and house and car. It is even far more than just acknowledging that God is the giver of your stuff, although that is a good thing. This life is even far more than just seeing Jesus as a miracle worker for when the miracles don’t come, where are we then. It is even far more than knowing that God is good, although, again, this is super, super important. This is about an even deeper level than that. This bread of life is about eternal life and that impacts every area of our lives. How is your life different when you approach it from that eternal perspective?
There is one more piece that we need to get to before we close. Listen to these strange words of Jesus;
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 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. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:53-58
What in the world is Jesus talking about here? There are some, even Lutheran commentators, who think that Jesus is just referring to having an ever-deepening relationship with Him, that eating His flesh and drinking His blood is just a reference to growing deeper in a relationship with Jesus. As one pastor said it; “To eat the bread of life and to drink His blood is to believe in Jesus. It means to take Jesus into our soul and spirit the same way we take food and drink into our body.”  There are others who think this is a reference to communion that when we partake of communion, in a spiritual sense, we are eating His body and drinking His blood. In a spiritual sense, we are ingesting Jesus, this bread of life. We are becoming one with Him, communing with Him and on Him. Paul made this connection when he said;
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16
We participate with the bread of life. The Greek word is koinonia. We have community with the bread of life. In a few minutes, we will receive Holy Communion. In Holy Communion, we receive Christ’s Body and Blood, in, with and under the bread and the wine. We receive forgiveness of sins—your sins—as you repent of them, confess them and believe on His name. In communion, we receive nothing less than Jesus, this bread of life. Take that in as you come forward today.
Jesus is the bread of life. As World War II was drawing to a close, the Allied Armies gathered up many hungry orphans. These orphans were placed in camps where they were well fed. Despite the great care they received, they couldn’t sleep at night because they were nervous and afraid. Finally they came up with a solution. Each child was given a piece of bread to hold in bed. They were told to hold on to it, but not to eat it. An amazing thing happened. These orphans slept soundly because they knew instinctively that they would have food to eat the next day.
Jesus is the bread of life. He is the living bread. He is the bread that gives life. He is the bread of life for you. Come to Jesus. Come to this great “I am.” Come to the One who promises a life beyond anything we can imagine. Come to the One who gives you eternal life. One pastor said; “If we settle for material things, we’ll hunger again. If we partake of the Bread of Life, our hunger will be taken care of and all of our needs will be met.”  Come to Him, this bread of life and let Him be your nourishment, your spiritual nourishment into eternity.
In Jesus’ name.