I Am The Bread Of Life

September 14, 1997 / No. 2854

Dear Radio Listeners,

The truth concerning Jesus Christ forms the heart of the gospel of salvation.

In the next seven weeks, the Lord willing, we will be examining together that truth concerning Jesus Christ as He Himself presents it to us in the seven I Am’s which He spoke and recorded in the Gospel According to John.

The first of these we find in John 6:35, 51. We read there, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst…. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

The setting of this first “I Am” statement of Jesus is important. The day before Jesus spoke this He had performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand. The people in Jesus’ audience had been filled with Messianic hope and wanted to make Jesus their king right then and there. Jesus, aware of this, took off by boat that night to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, to Capernaum. But the next day the people sought and found Him there. Immediately Jesus admonished them about their error and called them to seek the right food. He said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” It was this which became the center of the entire discourse of Jesus recorded in John 6. Jesus is explaining to the people the spiritual significance of His miracle. Their hearts were on the earthly, on the physical benefits they could receive if Jesus would be their king. Jesus must, and He does, explain to them who and what He really is. He is the great I AM, the very revelation of Jehovah God come down to save His people.

In these seven “I AM” statements of Jesus, then, we have a beautiful revelation of who Christ is and what He does for sinners.

We notice, then, this first one: “I am the bread of life.”

When Jesus identifies Himself as the bread of life, He has in view not only the miracle He had performed the day before, but also the manna which God gave His people in the wilderness. For that was bread from heaven too. The Jews were actually the ones to bring up the example of this manna. The Jews were challenging Jesus to give a further sign of who He is so that they might see and believe Him. So they said, “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” And they pointed to the example of the manna in the wilderness because that involved Moses. Their implication is, Moses was the great law-giver, and as a sign of his greatness he was able to bring down bread from heaven. You must do the same, Jesus, if you want us to believe you.

Jesus immediately points out to them that Moses did not give them that bread, but His Father did. In fact, that manna was a type of Christ. That is why Jesus says what He does in verses 32 and 33, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” The Jews entirely missed Jesus’ point. But now He has the opportunity to compare and contrast that manna with Himself, the true bread of God from heaven. And that is what He does here in John 6.

It is not hard to grasp the basic meaning of this figure of speech. Jesus, of course, does not mean that He is literally a piece of bread. That would be to think in earthly and carnal terms. He is speaking of the spiritual truth under the figure of bread. Jesus is identifying Himself as the only spiritual food of man’s soul. He is revealing Himself as the Savior of sinners and saying that He is the only One who is able to fill man’s soul with saving grace and, thus, with perfect satisfaction. Christ alone is able to nourish man with forgiveness and friendship with God and eternal life. In that sense, Jesus is bread. Not just any bread, not just another bread, but the bread of life.

Bread, as we know, is a necessary food. It is a basic staple of life. There are many kinds of food that we can do without (many of the luxuries and snacks in our diets). But we cannot do without bread. God has designed us that we depend on bread. It is one of the basic means by which our life is supported here on earth. Without bread we die. That is why God provided manna for His people in the wilderness too.

So it is in the spiritual realm. Jesus is necessary food for sinners’ souls. Jesus is the absolute staple of spiritual life. He is the soul’s basic and only need. There are, of course, all kinds of spiritual foods that are offered to man today. But Christ is the only necessary food. He is the living Bread, able to impart spiritual life as well as to sustain it, able to give it as well as to keep it, able to bestow it as well as to nourish it and make it grow. Our souls, dear listeners, must have Christ or we perish. There is no life, no health, apart from this bread of life. But with Him as our spiritual food, we live, truly live, with God eternally.

The bread that Jesus is, is also a daily food. There are some kinds of food which we eat from time to time and on occasion. But bread is something that we eat every day. We speak, for example, of our daily bread. That is literally true. If we go without it for a time we grow weak and faint. God taught Israel that truth with the manna.

It is that way spiritually with Jesus, the bread of life. He is daily food for men’s souls. You do not just eat Jesus once and then be done with Him. We must have Jesus daily, or we grow weak and wither spiritually. We must have the daily supply of grace that is in Him, or we perish. He is our constant, on-going need.

So too, bread is a satisfying food. Bread fulfills man’s need. It takes care of his bodily needs and leaves him nourished and strong. Other foods may satisfy our palates and fill our bellies, but bread alone satisfies our basic needs and leaves us well.

So it is with Jesus, the bread of life. He alone satisfies our souls spiritually. Other things may tantalize and tease our spiritual tastes, but they only leave us empty in the end. Other saviors may promise us satisfaction. But only Christ fills the soul with real food, with meat, with grace that saves from sin and death, with grace that fills us with peace and life with God and the hope of eternal life.

Now we may ask, How is it that Jesus is this bread of life? How is it that He alone is this true, spiritual food for sinners’ souls? How can He be grace to sinners? How can He Himself be forgiveness and righteousness and peace? How can He give life, even eternal life? How can He say, “I am the bread of life”?

Pay attention, listener, to that “I am” in Jesus’ words. That points us to the truth that this Jesus is eternal God. He is not a mere man, a mere mortal. Nor is He a mere temporal savior. This Jesus of the gospel is divine, fully divine. He is God. He is of heaven, as He says in the context of John 6. This is why He is the living Bread, because He is the living God, the very source of life. He has life in Himself, even everlasting life.

But that is not all. Jesus is also the bread of life because He came down from heaven to earth. He speaks of that plainly here. Jesus is referring to His incarnation, to the fact that, as the eternal Son of God, He came down into our world and clothed Himself with humanity. God became man. And that is how He became the bread of life, the only food for our souls. For it is God that we sinners need. God must fill our souls or we die forever.

And let us not forget either that God must come to us, not just to reveal Himself to us as the bread of life, but also to impart Himself to us as the bread of life. The fact that the Son of God came down to us points us to the utter inability of man to save himself. Man does not climb up to God to get the food he needs. God comes down to us and gives Himself to us. That Jesus is the bread of life come down from heaven speaks of sovereign grace. God alone saves.

But notice, still more, in verse 51 of our text, that when Jesus says that He is the living bread come down from heaven, He adds that He is the one who will give His flesh for the life of the world. Jesus is referring to nothing less than the atoning sacrifice He will make on the cross. He will give Himself to the death of the cross for the life of the world of His people. His flesh, that is, His body and soul, He will offer up as payment for sin. This is another essential piece of this truth of our text. In order for Jesus to be our bread of life, He must pay for the sins of His people. How else could He satisfy our need? He must be the sacrifice by which we are reconciled to God. He must be our peace who makes peace by blotting out our sins. He must merit eternal life for us by laying down His own life as the God-man.

Then He must be raised up from the dead to become the living bread, powerful to impart His salvation and life to us. Jesus is our living bread, not only by the cross, but also by the resurrection from the dead. This is what it means when Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”

Do you know Him, dear listener? Do you know Him as the bread of life, personally? You understand that this bread of life must be eaten. Jesus makes this plain in verses 50 and 51 of our text: “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die… if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.”

Earthly bread, too, of course, is meant to be eaten. It does not do you any good if you simply know that bread is good for you. It does not do you any good to see a loaf of bread in the cupboard and look at it and smell it. You have to eat it, you have to take it in and swallow it and digest it. Only then can it nourish and strengthen you.

So it is with Christ, the bread of life, only now in a spiritual sense. You must not simply know, objectively, that Jesus is the living bread. You must not just have that bread in front of you in the gospel and be able to say how good it looks and how sweet it smells to your spiritual sight and taste. You must eat it. You must appropriate Christ and assimilate Him in your heart and soul. You must take Him in and digest Him as the very food for your soul. Without that the bread of life will do you no good. You will die in your sin.

How does this eating take place? What is involved in partaking of Christ, the living bread?

You understand, it is not the partaking with the physical mouth or any mere external act. That is what some of those in Jesus’ audience thought. But we must know that spiritual bread can only be eaten in a spiritual manner. It is not by the sinner’s works. Your works will not save you. My works will not save me.

In verse 35 of our text Jesus teaches us how a man partakes of Him. “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” So we eat of Christ, this living bread, by coming to Him and believing on Him. That coming to Him does not mean walking up to Jesus. It means coming to Him in your heart spiritually. It means coming to Him with hunger in your soul because you know your sin and wretchedness. You realize that you are a dead and dying person because you have eaten of poison and it is working in you, the poison of sin. Coming to Jesus means that you are repentant for your sins. You are sorry for them. You have confessed them and turned from them. Then, too, coming to Jesus as the bread of life means believing on Him with a true faith. It means that you are hungry for Him as the only food for your soul. You know that only He can satisfy the hunger-pains of your soul. Only He can fill you with the blessings of salvation, with the riches of forgiveness and peace and life with God.

And for that reason, to eat Christ means that you cast yourself upon Him with a believing heart, you rest upon Him, embrace Him, receive Him, and feed upon Him.

But now you and I have to face a harsh reality about ourselves and about all men. That is that we have no ability to come to Christ, and no ability to believe on Him of ourselves. Oh, it is true, as our text says, that whoever comes shall never hunger, and whoever believes on Him shall never thirst. But the fact is that there is no one by nature who comes and believes and eats. There is no sinner who has hunger for Christ and who will take the bread that He is and eat Him-not of himself! The Jews showed that very plainly by their reaction to Jesus’ words here in the context. Jesus makes that very plain in verse 44: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Man cannot come on his own. He will not. He is like a man with cancer of the stomach and mouth who has no appetite to eat. And even if he did he could not do it. What then? Is the situation hopeless, dear listener? Is there no way then that any sinner can eat of this bread of life? Is there no one who partakes and is saved in Christ? No, this partaking is a gracious partaking. By that we mean that sinners eat this bread of life that Jesus is only by God’s grace. As Jesus Himself tells us here, the Father does draw some sinners to Himself, enabling them to come to Christ and believe on Him. He does that by working irresistibly in their hearts by the power of His Spirit; not pulling them against their will; not working apart from their activity; but by working in them the willing and the doing of His good pleasure. It is God, by His Spirit, who works in sinners the grace of hunger and repentance and faith, causing them to see their sin, to see Christ, and to come to Him.

Those sinners in whom the Father works this grace are those whom He has given to Jesus to be saved. These are the elect, the ones whom the Father gave Jesus eternally in His decree of sovereign, unconditional election. Not all men, then, come to this bread. The bread is not even for all men, according to the Father’s eternal purpose. But because of this unchangeable election, and because of the Father’s effectual drawing in the heart, these sinners invariably come. As Jesus says in verse 37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Are you among those who have come to Jesus as the bread of life? Have you believed on Him, listener? This is how you manifest your election of God: you hunger for His Son and you come to Him to feed on Him.

Then you also know the rich, spiritual profit of coming to the bread of life. Jesus speaks of that here too. You will never hunger or thirst. You will be fully satisfied with the riches of salvation in Christ.

And you will never die. That is, you will have the victory over death in all its forms. Yes, you will still die physically, but not spiritually and not eternally. You will know life with God after death. And in the resurrection you will be raised up to newness of life with God, body and soul. The essence of that life is fellowship with God. That believers have now who have come to the bread of life. And that believers will have in glory without end.

What a profit there is in coming to this bread of life. May God lead us by His grace to Him so that we feed on Him and never hunger or die.

Let us pray together.

Heavenly Father, we thank Thee again for giving us Thy Word and giving us the truth concerning Thy Son, Jesus Christ, Thy only begotten One, who is the Word become flesh. We thank Thee that He is the bread of life in Himself. And we thank Thee that He is the bread of life for those who come to Him and believe on Him. Strengthen our faith, Lord, that we may daily feed upon Christ as the only fountain of our salvation. And then find that we will never hunger or thirst and never die through Him. In Jesus’ name, Amen.