I like bread. Those bread sticks at Olive Garden and those at Fazolis in Springfield are so good. I have to be careful or I will fill up on them before I get the rest of my meal.
And those yeast rolls at Bob Evans are so good–add a little butter and a dab of honey and it is heavenly!
In 2008 when I was in the Republic of Dominica for 10 weeks on a Sabbatical I gained a new appreciation for bread. I had only one full day to get a crash course orientation on how to survive in that culture before the missionary left on furlough. The mission house was about 2/3 the way up the Island, about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Roseau. About 20 minutes to the north of the mission house was a little community called Marigot that had a bakery. When I needed bread, it was quicker to make my way to the bakery than it was to drive to the closest grocery store. So when I needed a loaf of bread, I headed to the bakery. I asked for a loaf of bread sliced and they looked at me like I was weird or something, but they said okay. They finally brought me the bread. It was sliced, but it looked like it had been squeezed when it was sliced. Each slice strongly resembled a dog bone! It was obvious to me that this country didn’t know the expression “The greatest thing since sliced bread.” Sliced bread seemed to be a novelty! I could get a large loaf easy enough—but getting it sliced was another story.
I have lots of stories about learning how to shop in Dominica. I certainly didn’t know what I was doing most of the time!
But I wanted my bread. And I have learned that bread comes in many different forms and textures.
In the Bible Bread is considered an all important commodity. When God was ready to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, he told them to not add leaven (Yeast) to their bread because they were to leave in a hurry and there wasn’t time for the leaven to do its work. But unleavened bread was included in their supplies.
In the book of Joshua, the Gibeonites who deceived Joshua had in their worn out saddlebacks bread that was hard and moldy. They claimed that when they had started their journey the bread was fresh, but because of the long distance they had traveled the bread was hard and molded, and their leather water bags were dried and cracked by the hot sun from their journey. But the point is, bread was an essential commodity in their supplies.
When Jeremiah was imprisoned he was given bread and water to eat—bread being the basic stable that they depended on for life.
The name of the town where Jesus was born, Bethlehem, literally means House of Bread. It probably had a community oven for baking bread.
And when the Israelites were calling for food after the Exodus, God gave them bread from heaven called Manna—a stable that God gave them for the entire 40 years of their wilderness wanderings.
So now we read this passage where Jesus identifies Himself as “The Bread of Life.”
Let’s consider the circumstance leading up to this discourse and then think of the implications.
- THE OCCASION FOR THE DISCOURSE
- Just prior to Jesus stating that He was the Bread of Life we read of the Miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 with just 5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish. After everyone was fed, the disciples gather 12 baskets full of leftovers—more leftovers than what they had started with. Immediately following that, Jesus had sent his disciples back across the Sea of Galilee while He stayed behind to pray. Then He has caught up with them by walking on the water while they were struggling against the contrary winds. That was about 3 o’clock in the morning. Early the next day, the crowd that had witnessed the miraculous feeding caught up with Jesus and His disciples. The scriptures tell us that many in that crowd intended to crown Jesus as King.
- Let’s stop and consider our own experiences with Christ. Often I hear someone say, “I could never make it through this if it wasn’t for Christ!” You and I have seen many lives changed for the better because of people coming to Christ. As a matter of fact, our outlook on life and our direction in life has been profoundly affected by the Grace of God working in our own lives. We have seen broken relationships restored. We’ve seen sick people healed. We’ve found a place (the Church) where we can be with other Christians and find support and encouragement. We have sensed His Presence in difficult times in our lives and experienced the Peace that could only come from God. I suppose if we took time this morning, every one of us could share at least one story of God doing something significant in your life.
- With that background of experience and with the promises that we read about in the Word, how could we not continue to seek Christ and desire to make Him our King?
- And so, these Israelites chased after Jesus—after all, look what Jesus had done for them!
- THE FLAW IN THEIR MOTIVATION
- When Jesus realized these people were pursuing Him, he confronted them as to their motive. In John 6: 26 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.”
- The Miracles that Jesus performed were intended to be signs for God as to who Jesus is. God wanted us to know that Jesus is the Messiah, the One who came to save us from our sins and set us free to live as people of God.
- But these that came seeking Jesus weren’t thinking about eternity. They didn’t even understand what the Messiah was really supposed to do. They realized that if Jesus could feed 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple small fish, He could supply their every physical need. Talking about the ultimate welfare state! If they could make Jesus their King, they would not have to work. They would not have to worry about providing for their families. They could just sit back and let Jesus do it all!
- Again, let’s get personal: Why do you want Jesus in your life? I have known many people who came to church just because they thought the church would take care of them. It amazes me how many people never darken the church doors except when they want money or food. And I’m thinking right now of a young man who says he doesn’t believe in God because when he had a problem he asked for Jesus’ help, but he didn’t get the answer he wanted so he doesn’t believe that God is real. What is it you expect Jesus to do for you?
- Too many people view Jesus and God as their own personal Genies. They think if they just said the correct words that God will give them everything they ask. The problem with that is that makes us our own god, and makes God to be our servant. Instead of “Not my will, but Thine,” they really mean, “Not Thy Will, but Mine!”
- Jesus quickly addresses this flaw in their understanding and their motive in John 6: 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.” Yes, God will help you with your daily needs. But that is not to be the primary reason we seek Him. Jesus made that clear in the Sermon on the Mount when he is quoted in Matthew 6:31-33 as saying, “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ for the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
- We must learn to seek Jesus for Who He is, and not for What He can do!
- THE ULITMATE BREAD THAT FILLS
- In John 6: 32 and 33 Jesus reminds them of the Manna from Heaven that their ancestors had partaken during the Exodus and Wilderness Wanderings. Then He said, “…The bread that comes from heaven gives life…”
- It is at this point, when he has their attention that He makes a profound statement: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes n me will never be thirsty.” This is one of the several “I Am” declarations that Jesus made. Scholars quickly catch on to the significance of these declarations when they recall how God answered Moses when Moses asked God for His Name: “I Am!” No doubt the Jewish scholars of that day picked up on these because one of their accusations against Jesus was that He was blasphemous because He claimed to be God.
- Jesus sums up this declaration in John 6: 40 by saying, “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 on the last day.”
- Jesus in this discourse teaches us that just as bread gives life to the physical body, so He as the Bread of Life gives eternal life to those who will accept Him.
- And that Truth is just as real today as it was then. Jesus is our only Hope for Salvation and Eternity. Just as Peter and john declared in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
The response of those listening is amazing and heart-breaking. They had witnessed the “Sign” that He was the Messiah. They had eaten the Bread and Fish at the Feeding of the 5000. But when they realized that Jesus wasn’t about providing Welfare to their physical needs, but instead was about calling them to lives of obedience and commitment, we are told in John 6:41, “At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.” Later, after listening to what Jesus had to say, we read in John 6: 60, “On hearing this, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” And then in verse 66 we read, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Today, I declare to you that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Unless we turn from our sinful ways and follow Him in obedience and trust, we have no hope for eternity. Only those who believe in and wholeheartedly commit to Him can have eternal life. There is no exception and no alternative.
Again, we seek Him for who He is. Our love is to be for Jesus. The gifts of peace and security are merely by-products of a life of Loving God.
What is your response to Jesus? Will you seek Him to give Him your love?