“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”—John 6:35
Okay, so Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” and we immediately get excited and start thinking about spiritual fulfillment and contentment in Christ, which are not necessarily wrong, but let’s take a step back and ask, “Why?”– Why does Jesus even say at all that he is the bread of life? Look to the context for clues. Where is Jesus? Who is he is talking to? The closest antecedent is somebody identified as “them.” Who are “they?” Read back a few verses. “They,” “them,” “they” again; these are the pronouns until you get back to verse 22 and what do you find? “The crowd that remained on the other side of the sea.” Okay, now you’re getting somewhere, but what’s the big deal with this crowd, and why mention the detail about their having remained on the other side of the sea?
Keep reading back in the chapter. We’re looking for mention of a crowd. We find the disciples in a boat and Jesus walking on the water. Very cool and worth some time for investigation, but not what we’re looking for at the moment. Keep going. Ah, there it is. The crowd that remained on the other side of the Sea of Galilee to whom Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” is the same crowd Jesus fed the day before with the five loaves and two fish.
They were the recipients of a blessing delivered via miracle. They were the recipients of divine favor and divine provision. They were the ones who wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king. They were the ones who were letting their full stomachs direct their empty hearts. Finding Jesus absent, they got into boats and went seeking him.
And they found him. And they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” What? What kind of question is that? It’s a deference question. It’s one of those, I-really-want-to-ask-you-something-else-but-that-would-be-impolite questions. Jesus gets right to the point, “You are not seeking me because of the power I displayed but because you are hungry again.” Jesus always points us not to the satisfaction we receive from him but to himself as the One who satisfies our need.
The dialogue continues as Jesus persistently points them to himself as the One who provides what they need, but this crowd is not that willing to give up their own understanding of their need. He tells them, “Do not labor for food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” He gives them the key to receiving this food, “Believe in him whom God has sent.”
Then they demand proof that Jesus is the One God sent: “What sign do you give? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert.” Consider what they are doing. They are referencing Moses and claiming that Moses proved he was sent from God by providing manna (bread) for the people. Their idea is that if Moses proved himself by providing bread every day, Jesus should prove himself by providing bread every day.
Then Jesus tells them, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” I think they missed the pronoun. They respond, “Sir, give us this bread always.” And then Jesus says it: “I am the bread of life.” The proof is not the bread they ate yesterday on the hillside. The satisfaction of their heart’s desire is the Man standing right in front of them.
Everything they need and desire for eternal life is not merely in Christ but is Christ Himself.
Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He does not invite them to the results of his power, he invites them to himself.
As you spend time memorizing these words of Jesus, ask yourself, in reality, do I pursue Jesus because of what I think he can do for me (e.g., forgiving my sin, saving me from wrath, changing my life, healing, giving direction or wisdom) or do I pursue him for himself, for who he is and the relationship I can have with him?
Do my prayers and praise focus on what he does or who he is?
Am I in love with his handiwork or with him?
*This blog post first appeared on the Children Desiring God Fighter Verse blog. It appears here with their permission, blessing, and prayer for your encouragement and instruction in the faith.
Children Desiring God (CDG) publishes Fighter Verses and offers products to support you in your Bible memorization efforts. CDG also publishes God-centered Sunday School curriculum for children and youth, parenting booklets to equip parents to spiritually shepherd their children, the My Church Notebook to help children participate in the worship service, and the Making Him Known series of books for family devotions.