John 6:35-51. Bread.

6:35    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. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 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.”

41    At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43   “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 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. 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.”

Like Moses in the exodus, Jesus has just miraculously fed the 5000 in the wilderness with fish and bread. Now he offers the first of his great ‘I am’ sayings, along with an expanded commentary following on from it.

When God first revealed his personal  Name to Moses at the burning bush (see Exodus 3:14) it opened up a new stage of God’s relationship with Israel. Although already in Covenant Relationship with the offspring of Abraham, God was now revealing more of his character and his purpose. He was inviting Israel to engage with him personally, on the basis of his faithfulness and his commitment to save them. He declared “I am whom I am,” which, in Hebrew, is the source of the divine Name “Yahweh”. In declaring his Name in this way, God also infers that, ‘you will know me by the way that I relate to you in this great exodus-salvation project’– I will be whom I will be. And so God’s name declares his character and his purpose. “I am” (Yahweh) is therefore a highly charged reference, which Jesus seems to quite deliberately draw upon himself.

Other examples of Jesus using this reference appear in John 8:12; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15.

So Jesus is the ‘bread of life’; that which is basic, that which sustains, that which is a necessity. Jesus is that bread. As a consequence of having such bread, the believer will never go hungry (v36). Instead of ‘hunger’, there is absolute assurance that the believer has eternal life and that they will be raised up on the last day. Indeed, it is the Father himself who makes this promise and who draws all whom he will to Jesus as this ‘bread of life’.

Belief in Jesus Christ means never lacking ‘life’— not that the believer will never experience physical hunger or thirst. Throughout chapter 6 Jesus has been trying to move the conversation from physical bread to spiritual sustenance which gives eternal life (v50-51). His point is that a relating to him by faith is basic, is a necessity, for life that is substantial, spiritual and eternal. This relationship stands in continuity with the covenant relationship based on faith that God established with Israel through the Patriarchs and Moses.

Lord Jesus Christ, I am learning that I am utterly dependent upon you for life in every sense of the word. Please nurture and nourish me that I might walk in that life; enjoying it, exploring it, truly living it. Grant that in so doing, I become all that you intend for me and that you are glorified for all that you are. Amen.