Jesus wants the people to understand that it would have been enough that God provided physical bread to end their hunger pains. But God did more than that. God sent the Bread of Life to the people to satisfy the people’s spiritual hunger.
November 20, 2022
Bread of Life
John 6: 25-35
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
John 6: 25-35
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us, then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Bread of Life John 6: 25-35
I used to love the days when my mom had to clean up communion after church on Sundays. She would send us, my sister and I, out in the pews with our plastic baskets to collect used communion cups. It was always a race between us to see who could finish collecting the cups first. Because whoever finished first won the privilege of collecting the bread trays from the office to take to Mom. Now, you may be thinking, “Well, that’s nice. Two daughters helping their mother out with the cleaning up of communion. How responsible of them. How completely unselfish.” I could let you continue to think that of me but I must tell you the truth.
Really, the race was about who got to eat the bread off the bread trays! We had this wonderful communion bread at my home church. A lady in the church made it, squares of unleavened bread, broken into bite size pieces. I could say that this was the beginning of my love of bread but as long as I can remember bread has always been one of my weaknesses. My meal is just not complete if I don’t have some sort of bread. Doesn’t matter what kind of bread, I just need some sort of bread to make the meal complete, to make the meal whole.
And I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. We all know that bread is the stuff of life. We eat it when we just need a little snack. It is part of the four food groups. We like bread. Bread is a part of our everyday lives. It is a staple in our lives.
It was also a staple in the lives of the crowd which Jesus is addressing in our text for today. This crowd was filled with people who were not much different than you or I. Like us, bread was a part of their everyday lives. Like us, bread played an important role in the rites of their religious institutions. So we can’t blame the crowd for misunderstanding what Jesus was talking about when he says that he is the Bread of Life. They know bread. They know what bread looks like and tastes like. And Jesus, well, he is not a loaf of bread.
For us to understand what is going on in our text today, we need a little context. At this point in the text, the author of John lets us know that the crowd has been with Jesus for a while. Jesus has been teaching and preaching to them on several occasions at this point. We are also told that this crowd experienced Jesus feeding the five thousand by multiplying five loaves of bread.
All of this is background for our text for today. The crowd has seen all that Jesus has done. They have listened to him. They have heard him preach. They have heard him teach. And at this point, the crowd believes that Jesus is the prophet who has come to fulfill the promise of salvation.
This man has satisfied their hunger, their physical hunger. And now the crowd wants him to satisfy their hunger for salvation here on earth.
At this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus wants the crowd to realize that there is a deeper hunger which goes beyond earthly salvation. There is a deeper hunger for a relationship with God, for the Word of God, and eternal life. Nothing on earth can satisfy this hunger. No material items will stop the grumbling in their soul.
He tells them “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus connects this image of Bread of Life with the people’s understanding of the Passover. Jesus reminds the crowd that God provided for their ancestors as they left Egypt. God gave them bread each and every day when they were in the wilderness. It was God who cared for their needs while they made their way to the promised land. And God is doing it again.
Or let me say it this way…lots of times within the Gospel of John, the conversation within the text takes place on two different levels…the literal and the spiritual. In our text for today, Jesus wants the people to understand that it would have been enough that God provided physical bread to end their hunger pains. But God did more than that. God sent the Bread of Life to the people to satisfy the people’s spiritual hunger.
When Jesus says that he is the Bread of Life, he is saying that he is the life-giving Logos. He is the Word of God which will show us how to live in true relationship with God. Through Jesus’ teachings and preaching, we are offered the Bread of life, the very thing which will nourish us, which wills sustain us, which will give us eternal life.
As people of faith, Jesus is letting us know that when we partake of the true Bread of life, we calm the grumbling of our souls, that we enter into a full relationship with God, that we open ourselves up to the possibilities which God holds for us as people of faith.
When Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life, he is letting us know that each time, we open our bibles we are nourished, that each time we recognize God’s grace and God’s goodness in our lives, we catch glimpses of God’s abundance which fills our lives. When Jesus says that he is the Bread of Life, he is extending an invitation to all of us people of faith to become part of something more than us as individuals. We are invited to become a part of the Body of Christ here on Earth. He is inviting us to become part of the promise which sustains us, which strengthens us, which renews us .
When Jesus says that he is the Bread of Life, as people of faith, we are being given the chance to recognize that once again, God is taking care of our needs, physically and spiritually. We do not have to ask for more. God has given us everything to us in and through the Bread of Life. All we have to do is accept the invitation to partake, to embrace the grace and love which is offered. All we have to do is embrace the invitation to become the people of hope which God created and calls us to be..
May we continue to have a love for Bread, especially the Bread of life. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, November 20, 2022 – Bread of Life John 6: 25-35.
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