“I Am the Bread of Life”
© 2021 C. O. Bishop
John 6:14-64, especially verses 35, 48, 51, 63
Last week we discussed how Jesus was introduced as being the source of life, in John 1:4 “In Him was Life, and the Life was the light of men.” We explored that idea in the context of our communion service, where we shared unleavened bread, as a testimony of His death for us.
But, skipping ahead to John chapter six, we can read the story of the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” where Jesus supernaturally supplied physical food (in the form of bread and fish) to 5,000 men and their families. In verses 14 and 15, we see that they were pretty enthusiastic about that miraculous feeding: they said amongst themselves that Jesus was obviously the promised “prophet,” and they evidently were going to try to grab him and proclaim him to be their king. Jesus knew their intentions, so He went away and hid himself on a hill until His disciples had left by boat for Capernaum (16-21), and then, by night, He caught up with them by walking on the water (which is another story, in itself.) But (22-26) those same people found boats and sought Him out the next day, on the other side of the lake. He knew why they had come, and chided them, saying, effectively, “You only came to get more bread…”
But He went on to say (27) their priorities were wrong, and that they needed to focus on food that would last for eternity, not just the food that would only give temporary satisfaction. He said that they could only get that food from the “Son of man…for Him hath the Father sealed.”
The people asked Jesus, then, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” (It is interesting to me how little we have changed: we still tend to think in terms of “What do I have to do to ‘get in good’ with God?”) Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”
Their response (30) seems incredible, to me: they said, “Why should we believe you?” They actually challenged Him, saying, “What sign do you bring that we should believe you? What work can you do to prove your credentials?” This is the very same group, who, the day before, had been so convinced that Jesus was the promised prophet, and who had intended to take him by force and make him king!
But now they argued, and said, “Our Fathers ate manna in the desert, for it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
I am the Bread of Life
Jesus reminded them that the manna—the “bread” they were referring to—had not been given to them by Moses as they apparently thought, but by God Himself. He went on to say, “The Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life unto the World.” They liked the idea, (though it is clear they did not understand it) and asked that He always give them that bread: so, He finally introduced Himself as “the bread of life,” in John 6:35-40, and throughout the following passage.
This passage has frequently been used to teach the Lord’s Supper. But, except for the picture involved in the Lord’s Table, this passage has little to do with the Communion table. Remember how John the Baptist introduced Jesus, back in John 1:29: He said “behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the World!” What Lamb was John alluding to? The sacrificial Lamb, probably specifically the Passover Lamb, as, later (1st Corinthians 5:7) Jesus is called “Christ our Passover.” What did the people do with the Passover Lamb? They ate him! They struck his blood onto the lintel and the two doorposts (trace the necessary motion and see what you get: I love that picture!) and roasted the lamb, and everyone in the household ate of that lamb! They Partook of his death, they Profited by his death, and by doing so, they Proclaimed that He died for them, personally. They Partook, they Profited, and they Proclaimed!
Jesus already told the people how to “work the works of God,” back in verse 29: He said, “This is the Work of God, that ye believe on Him whom God has sent!” Why would he suddenly change it to the physical partaking of Communion? And yet, there are huge branches of what is called “Christendom” who teach exactly that!
Partaking of the Lamb
We have been called to “Partake of the Lamb,” just as the Jews, the night of the original Passover, were called to partake of the lamb: when they dipped the Hyssop into the blood and struck it onto the lintel and the two doorposts of their home, they were unknowingly looking forward to the Crucifixion. We knowingly look back to the Cross when we take Communion.
But the point of their eating of that Passover Lamb, was that they confessed that He died for their sins. I have occasionally met people who “hated hunters for killing animals,” though they themselves also ate meat. They somehow felt that paying someone else to kill their meat for them and prepare it for the kitchen absolved them from the “guilt” of actually killing the animal. I don’t like killing animals, but I do eat meat, and I have many, many times killed the animals myself, and butchered them in preparation for cooking. I don’t enjoy that, either, but I see it as a necessary part of the process, and I understand that, regardless of where I get animal protein, an animal had to die for me to get that food. The animal died at my hand, whether personally, or many times removed. (KFC chicken was raised, butchered, frozen, processed, seasoned and cooked; all by people I have never met. But I still took part in the death of that bird, by eating it.)
Was it the physical eating of that sacrifice that saved them, that night in Egypt? No, the Blood went on the lintel and two doorposts by faith. God saw the Blood and passed over that house: no one died there. We are called upon to place our trust in the shed Blood of Jesus. Romans 3:25 says that Jesus is set forth as a propitiation (A sacrifice that satisfies the righteousness of God) “…through faith in His Blood.”
When I ask someone, “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sin?” they may reply, “I believe He died for the sins of the whole world!” (That is a reasonable reply, but it does not answer the question.) So, I ask again: “Yes, but did Jesus’s Blood pay for your sin, personally?”
Some of them continue to “hedge” and say, “He died for the sins of the whole world!” At that point I begin to believe that they have never “Partaken of the Lamb!” They apparently don’t see Jesus as their own Savior, but only in the generic sense: “The Savior of the World.” (He is “good in theory,” but not to be taken personally.)
We Partake of the Lamb the moment that we personally place our trust in Jesus’s blood at the Cross, as full payment for our own sins. Our partaking in Communion is just a reminder and a personal testimony of that fact. “We do show the Lord’s death until He comes!” We testify of His death, His burial, His resurrection and His second coming, when we share in the Lord’s table. Also, we are reminding ourselves of our unity in Christ: there is only one source of that living bread. We are all born again into the same “Body of Christ.”
Profiting by the Lamb: A Continuing Feast
We are called to a continual feast, though, not just a one-time meal of a long-ago sacrifice, nor even a once-per-month “nibble” of a single morsel of bread, and a teaspoonful of juice. How do we “feast upon the Living Bread?” There is a chorus, “I’ve been feasting on the Living Bread; I’ve been drinking at the Fountainhead, and ‘Whoso drinketh,’ Jesus said, ‘…shall never, never thirst again!’” Now, that sounds good! So, how do we do it? How do we “feast on the Living Bread?” Where do we drink deep of the fountain of living water promised in John 7:37-39?
There are some “clues” as to the answer to those questions, scattered through the Bible.
Isaiah 55:1-7 “1Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
If we read only the first two verses, here, we can at least see that we are to come to God for both the food and the drink He offers. But read on, and there is something interesting. Verses six and seven tell how to feed on that feast.
“6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Notice that God requires repentance from our old, self-centered thoughts and actions, before the blessing of God can flow. And…there is a time-limit! “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found!” We only get one shot at life! Use your remaining time wisely… profiting by the Lamb!
As a believer in Jesus, you have already received the fountain of the Living Water: you have already begun to feed on the Bread of Life. But we are called to continually turn to Him, and confess our sins, and walk with Him in the light. (1st John 1:7)
1st Peter 2:2 reminds us that, “as newborn babes” we should “desire the sincere milk of the Word” that we may grow thereby!
2nd Peter 1:4 says we are to believe the “exceeding great and precious Promises” of God, so that we may become partakers of the Divine nature.
Jesus said, more than once, that those who thirsted should come to Him and receive the Living Water: and in John 7:37-39, John clearly spells out that the Holy Spirit is that “spring of Living Water” that Jesus was offering. In the Church Age, every single believer has received the Holy Spirit. Every single believer is sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit, and every single believer is called upon to not grieve the Holy Spirit, not quench the Holy Spirit, but to walk in the Spirit.
So, the Written Word of God is where we are to find our food, and that we are to drink of the Holy Spirit, as we read, as we study, as we pray for understanding, and as we seek to obey Jesus, the Living Word. We also find refreshment by the flow of the Holy Spirit between the saints, in fellowship with other believers, as we rejoice together in the Person of Christ.
Proclaiming His Death until He Comes
There are people, still today, who attempt to turn this into a pattern of works: a “sacrament” to be physically followed, in taking communion. This is folly, as Jesus was definitely not “teaching cannibalism,” but laying out a commemoration for us to follow. He was still living in His body, so that bread was not, nor did it somehow become human flesh. His blood was still flowing in His veins, so the cup was not literally His blood: He said, “this cup is the New Testament in My Blood.” So, the real “New Testament” could not begin until that Blood was shed at the Cross. In 1st Corinthians 11:26 we clearly see that we are to “show,” or demonstrate…testify of… the Lord’s death until He comes. It is a commemoration…a memorial…and a proclamation.
The original Passover on the night before the Israelites left Egypt, was literal: had they not done exactly what they were told, then the judgment of God would have fallen on them just as surely as it did upon the Egyptians. But every Passover feast since then has been a commemoration of the original. There was no continuing threat that “their firstborn would be dead in the morning” if they failed to obey. It was still required of the Israelites, year by year, but it was strictly commemorative. Faith and obedience have been required, in all ages, for all believers.
In John 6:63, Jesus said that “It is the Spirit that gives life: the Flesh profiteth nothing.” This is a matter of the Spirit, not the physical flesh. It is intriguing to read in 1st Corinthians 5:8 that we are to “keep the feast…with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Physical bread cannot have “sincerity and truth” baked into it. But as we study God’s Word and teach God’s Word and attempt to apply His Word to our lives, we can either do so in sincerity and truth, or for any one of a host of other motives. There are those who deliberately twist God’s Word, to their own advantage…sometimes even among evangelical believers, as they attempt to “prove themselves right” about some obscure point of doctrine. There are also those who “peddle” God’s Word as a commercial product (2nd Corinthians 2:17 NIV, NASB) King James Version simply calls this “corrupting” the Word of God. When we attempt to “peddle God’s Word for profit,” as the NIV renders the passage, I suspect that we are very likely “corrupting” it in the process. The Word of God is supposed to be a free source of food and drink for all who come to it in faith. When we turn it into a “business,” we have already contaminated it by our wrong motives.
The Bread of Life is Free to the Hungry Soul
The invitation of God in Isaiah 55:1, was to “come and eat, without money and without price!” The final invitation in the Bible, in Revelation 22:17 is: “Whosoever will, let him come…and take of the Water of Life freely!” This is not supposed to become a “commercial product” of Man: it is a free gift of God to all who thirst. It is not religion: it is a relationship with Jesus!
Incidentally, Jeremiah 2:13 tells us how God feels about our attempts to be self-sufficient in our self-made wisdom and philosophies: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
God considers it to be a horrible, unbelievably bad error, when we believers trade God’s Word for any other source of wisdom or nourishment. It is bad enough that we are trading that which is alive, fresh, and flowing for what is stagnant and contaminated: but the “cisterns” we choose can’t even hold water, so the “wisdom and nourishment” we thought we gained in the exchange turn out to be nothing but dust and ashes. We need the fresh flow of God’s Word and His Spirit!
Jesus, the Living Word, is our only source of wisdom and nourishment: we need to fix our hopes on Him alone for all things. And Jesus is the Living Bread that we are to offer to those around us, in personal evangelism! We cannot feed those who are not hungry, but we are commanded to offer Jesus to the whole world (not offering “our church”—offering Jesus!)
Evangelism is nothing more complicated than one beggar telling another beggar where to find free food. We enthusiastically tell our friends where we got our new shoes, or about a book we have read, or a song we like. Why not be that enthusiastic about Jesus, the living Bread, when the World around us is literally starving to death without Him? You know how to Partake of the Living Bread: you have already done so! You know how to Profit by that feast and you are learning to do so more consistently. We need to learn how to consistently Proclaim His death and burial and resurrection, and to offer the resulting feast to all who will listen. It is too easy to simply “keep the food to ourselves,” and not share it.
Lord Jesus, open our hearts to the World, and let us share the Living Bread and the Living water in compassion for the Lost souls who are all around us. Make us reflections of your light in this dark World, and a source of Life by your Word and by your Spirit. Give us Grace to Live for You!