“I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world. … Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” – John 6:48-51,54
(Note: This is a part of a much longer discourse. If you are able, pause here, grab a Bible, and read John 6 in its entirety. This will give you a lot more context as you read.)
In the first part of this series, I set the groundwork for the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus. Really there are only two options when it comes to the bold claims that Jesus made. Either he is a pathological liar, or he is who he claimed to be. One who claims to be God and is not God is no moral teacher, but a person who perverts the truth. But if one claims to be God, as Jesus does, and he actually is God, he also has the power to back the other bold claims that he makes.
Here in John 6, Jesus claims a number of things, but they all tie into this concept of being “The Bread of Life.” Really there are four main points that Jesus makes again and again so that no confusion can possibly exist (yet it somehow still does) for the people listening to him.
· Jesus is the bread of life.
· Jesus came down from heaven and was sent by the Father.
· The one who eats the bread—that is, believes in Jesus—has eternal life.
· Jesus will raise that person up from death to life on Judgment Day.
Bold enough claims here?
Now why did Jesus call himself the “bread of life”? There are two main items of context to keep in mind here. The first is that this takes place on what seems like the very next day after Jesus fed five-thousand or more people. This well-known miracle of Jesus astounded everyone present. With only five small loaves of bread, Jesus fed all the people who had gathered to hear him preach. In fact, there was so much bread that when everyone was done eating, they were able to fill twelve baskets with leftovers!
If I could do something like that, I don’t think I would ever have any trouble filling the chairs in church.
The other contextual note is this: the people, who had just seen this miracle, were now asking for a sign so that they could believe Jesus. That’s absolute absurdity! Such is the heart, though, of the one who despises God’s truth. These people wanted Jesus to feed them miraculously with free bread every day. They thought that Jesus would provide them with their own type of manna, which was the food that God had provided for the nation of Israel when they were traveling from Egypt back to the Promised Land of Canaan.
When Jesus called himself the bread of life, he was, in fact, comparing himself to the manna that God gave to the Israelites. That’s where the people were mistaken. They thought that the bread Jesus had given everybody the day before was the real manna, the real food. Jesus abolishes that notion, though, by calling himself the bread that came down from heaven and was sent by the Father.
Next is where Jesus really offends the unbelieving minds and calloused hearts of most of his hearers. After comparing his own body to bread, he then suggests that these people eat his flesh and drink his blood.
To quote Jimmy Fallon: “Ew.”
At least that’s what the people hearing him thought. All of sudden, this guy was advocating not only cannibalism—eating the flesh of a human being—but advocating that they would eat his flesh? That’s an odd wish for someone to make—sort of a suicidal cannibalism provider!
Again, the people were not on point. They had not been listening to Jesus. He had already made clear that the bread—his body—was “eaten” when people believed in him. But because they were looking for an earthly king who would provide them with earthly food, and not a heavenly king who would provide them with eternal food, they despised him for it.
The final bold claim that Jesus makes is that he would raise believers up from temporal death—the death of the body—to everlasting life on the last day. That’s a lot of power, folks. People of all civilizations of all times have struggled to learn the secret of life and how to live forever. Defeating death is the goal of medical researchers all over the globe. Yet despite the united effort on their part to turn death into a thing of the past, they meet with failure 100% of the time. And they will continue to do so, because death is inevitable, and because humans cannot ever defeat it.
Lots of bold claims from such an unassuming individual. Jesus looked like nothing special. He had no great political status. So how does Jesus authenticate his claim?
His feeding of the five-thousand the day before should have given some a clue. But perhaps the skeptics thought back to their school-days, when they had heard the story of Elijah and the widow in the town of Zarephath. That prophet in Israel’s history came to the widow’s house during a time of famine. She only had a little flour and a little oil left when he arrived—only enough for one last loaf of bread before she and her son would starve to death. Elijah—by the power of God—had made those ingredients last until the time that the famine ended! (See 1 Kings 17 for this account.)
Well, how about a time later, when Jesus raised his buddy Lazarus from the dead? Actually, Elijah had done that, too, with the same widow’s son.
There is one big difference, and one gigantic difference between Jesus and Elijah. First, Elijah never ever claimed to be God. If he had gone about on a campaign of blasphemy, I’m guessing he would have been instrumental in zero miracles. Elijah claimed to serve God and did serve God.
But Jesus claimed to be God and is God.
The gigantic difference, though, is this: Jesus claimed that he himself would rise from the dead. And then he went and did it. None of the prophets, none of the forefathers, and not even Moses had accomplished such a thing! Jesus predicted that he would die at the hands of the leaders of the Jewish priests. He knew that as the bread of life, he would give up his body and his blood to feed all the world his life. By giving up himself, he paid for all of our sins. But after his death, on the third day, he broke forth from his tomb. Jesus defeated his own death! And in doing so, he promised that the power of death and its permanent nature over us were destroyed!
Jesus claimed boldly. But even more bold than his claims are the proofs that he gives in his resurrection from the dead.
And so we do eat his flesh and drink his blood. It’s only by his flesh and blood that we have life. Those who believe in Jesus, and who rest upon him for their eternal salvation, will indeed be raised on the Last Day when Jesus comes again to judge the world. And they will live forever.
Jesus is the “I AM” who he claims to be. He is God Almighty.
Your homework before the next installment is this: Read John 8:12-30 to prepare for Jesus’ next “I AM” statement.
Until then, may you find peace in Jesus’ resurrection comfort, that because he lives, you also will live with him.