(A Sermon Series on Jesus’s Identity and Our Response to Him)
Week One: The Bread of Life
John 6:25-59 NIV
Today we are going to begin looking at seven statements found in the Gospel of John beginning with these words: “I AM.” In Greek, the words are “Ego Eimi” (ego amie), which literally means, “I, I AM.”
Exodus 3:14à God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” The oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament translates that word “I AM” as “ego eimi.”
It is NO SMALL MATTER that Jesus used this same declarative statement about Himself throughout the Gospel of John.
1. John 1:1-5 begins the Gospel this wayà 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
2. He goes on to say in verse 14à The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
3. Now, in this passage about bread and life, Jesus makes this astounding statementà”For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
What’s going on here? Well, Jesus has just been drilled by the Jewish leaders for healing a man by the pool at Bethesda (or Bethsaida) because it was the Sabbath. He defended himself by making the claim that He was only doing what he sees His Father doing. Jesus’s authority only comes from this Father, who sent Jesus to give eternal life to whoever hears His word and believes in Him.
Jesus was making enemies with the Jewish establishment not only because He healed on the Sabbath but because He called God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus then fed a crowd 5000 men (and likely at least that many women and children) with a boy’s lunch of 2 fish and 5 barley loaves. This crowd had gathered because of the healings Jesus was offering to the sick. Now it seems they were wanting MORE miraculous signs to help them believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
They brought up the manna their forefathers had eaten in the wilderness, and that established the context for Jesus’s declaration, “I AM the bread of life.” More on that in a minute. Let’s look at this Manna situation from Exodus 16.
After their escape from Egypt, the Israelites were camped in the wilderness without provisions. So, God provided both quail and bread (manna) on a daily basis. But here was the kicker: the manna would not last until the next day. God provided JUST enough for the day SO THAT the people would have to rely/trust God daily. Some gathered more than they could eat in one day and found out the hard way that disobedience was a bad idea. The next day the manna was filled with maggots and stunk to high heaven!
Likewise, God provided twice as much the day before the Sabbath SO THAT the Israelites could rest on the Sabbath and not have to work for their food on that day of rest. Again, some went out on the Sabbath to look for manna, but it wasn’t there BECAUSE God had provided enough for the Sabbath AND the day before the Sabbath.
This is how it is with God. We seem to be ringing our hands trying to scratch out a living even when God says, “I got this.” Rather than trust God with our finances, we work harder to get ahead. Rather than being satisfied with what God gives, we want more. For a follower of Christ, we will find out sooner or later that God’s way is always the right way!
This “crowd” who came for the miracles…for healings and food…quickly learned that Jesus is NOT a circus performer! He is NOT there to satisfy their curiosity any more than He is there to keep handing out filet-o-fish sandwiches on demand.
Instead, Jesus wants to offer so much more! And it goes back to the opening statements by John about who this Jesus is. The Word became flesh and dwelt among them. And to those who receive him, to those who believe in his name, Jesus gives the right to become children of God…children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God! This is the essence of every one of the I AM statements we will look at over the coming weeks.
There’s a book out by two pastors and authors, Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo entitled, “Adventures in Missing the Point.” I don’t recall much of the book, which argues that much of what modern Americans pass off as Christianity may be missing the point, but I love the title. We often do this don’t we? We have firm convictions about politics, money, and especially religion. But how often do we miss the point of it all.
People in Jesus’s day had the same trouble. Take the all-important issue of salvation, for instance. In the Old Testament, salvation did NOT have a connection with heaven and hell. In fact, the word really meant “rescue.” It was God who rescued the Israelites from Pharaoh.
Later, after occupying the Promised Land and breaking covenant with God one too many times, God allowed the Assyrians and then the Babylonians to destroy and/or deport Israel from her country. Even when they returned, they were never the same. Foreign oppressors always prevented them from returning to their previous state of glory. Why?
The pious Pharisees and other religious leaders discovered it was SIN that kept God from rescuing them. If Israel could just root out sin, then God would return and restore them to their former glory. There was a heightened focus on doing religion right…on following all the rules. [The problem was, they still were the same on the inside. That’s why Jesus called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs!”]
But those prostitutes…those tax collectors…those lame, deaf, and blind, and leper people who obviously sinned to be in their condition…those Sabbath breakers…those half-breed Samaritans were messing things up! THOSE people are the reason God hasn’t rescued us from Roman oppression!
Enter Jesus…the Son of God come down from heaven…the healer and teacher…the One who loves sinners and eats with tax collectors…the One who heals on the Sabbath! No wonder religious leaders despised Jesus. They were missing the point about salvation!
Jesus was NOT coming to rescue them from political and economic oppression. Listen to what the Lord tells Joseph in a dream about Mary and her son, Jesus: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:20-21.
Did you catch that shift? The Messiah was NOT coming to reclaim Israel’s place among the nations. No, the Messiah was coming to rescue his people from their sins. Sin leads to separation from God. Sin leads to death, but Jesus leads to life! Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus is offering answers for questions THEY aren’t even asking BECAUSE they were missing the point!
What about the food thing. Back in Exodus 16, Yahweh provided manna and quail in the wilderness as provisions where there were none. He did this not only out of love for his people, but also to show them that He can be trusted for their salvation.
Likewise, Jesus provides a sign that HE is the bread of life by turning two fish and five loaves of bread into a feast for everyone present…over 10,000! Jesus is now the “manna.” He can be trusted to rescue them from their sins. But instead, the crowd asks, “Jesus, where are we eating lunch tomorrow?” An adventure in missing the point!
So, Jesus has this impassioned dialogue, not with religious leaders, but with the crowd. “I AM”… “ego eimi”… I, I AM…the bread of life. He refers to him being that heavenly manna seven times in this discourse. He explains that He has come down from heaven and gives life to the world. To be rescued is to have life! Not JUST everlasting life, but the reality of new life in THIS life! That’s why Jesus can say in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” We’ll talk more about that passage soon.
Here’s a truth claim of Jesus that we can embrace. He says, “I am the living bread that cam 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.” Again, the crowd misses the point. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” This, of course, is not literal, but metaphorical. He’s already made it abundantly clear that it is faith in Jesus that gives us life…life that causes us to never be spiritually hungry again. But WE must EACH believe…eat of his flesh and drink of his blood…accept HIS sacrifice on the cross for the remission of our sins. THEN we are SET FREE from sin and death. Praise God!
I would love to tell you that everybody got it. They ALL cried out, “Yes, Jesus! We believe you are the Son of God who came from the Father to be our Living Bread…our salvation from sin and death through your broken body and spilled blood on the cross.” John goes on to tell us that after Jesus’s passionate and strange discourse, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
That sad truth is this: Many people don’t believe Jesus is who He says He is. They love darkness more than the Light. They don’t want to be free from their sins because they are comfortable in them. They don’t want rescuing because life in Christ is still so elusive to them. They would rather eat day-old, maggot-infested manna than feast on the Bread of Life…abiding in Christ and following Him instead of their own wisdom and way.
How about you? Are you missing the point? Are you eating day-old bread, or are you feasting on the Bread of Life? Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is offering Himself to all who want to turn from their sin, to live in harmony with Him according to his holy Word, and to live in this world a life that causes others to want the Bread of Heaven, too! Will you feast on him today? Will you offer yourselves to Jesus so that he can fill you till you want no more?