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::Devotional:: ‘I am the bread of life’

August 17, 2009

Jesus said “I am the bread of life” to a crowd of people standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee just outside Capernaum some 2,000 years ago.  What does that mean?  Why did he choose of all things bread?  How does any of that relate to me as a Christian?  Let’s take a look at the text and see what the Lord reveals to us through His Word by the Holy Spirit.


Many of you are familiar with the story of the feeding of the five thousand where Jesus multiplied a boys simple lunch to feed an overwhelming crowd on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee.  That is the background for what we are going to look at today.  The next day, the crowd found Jesus and the disciples on the opposite shore and came to them hungry again.

Jesus told the crowd that though they were seeking him to feed them again like he had the day before, they were really missing the point of why he was here.  See, they were coming to him seeking to fill their stomachs again, not to fill their souls.  Jesus wanted to fill their souls and save them for eternity rather than fill their stomachs and satisfy them temporarily.  The crowd was unsure of what Jesus was talking about and requested that he give them a sign in order for them to believe him.  They referred back to a time when their ancestors received bread from heaven, mana, in the desert as a miraculous sign.  Still they were missing the point.  But Jesus drew their experience the day before, the history of their ancestors, and the key to eternal life together in one simple statement.

I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.  John 6:35

What does that mean?

Sometimes it is easy to get lost in our understanding of the word, but I’ve learned that if we will take things literally unless the text gives us a reason otherwise, things tend to make a lot more sense.  The crowd understood two very important things about their current situation.

  1. They were hungry and they had been hungry before
  2. Jesus provided food to satisfy their hunger before and they figured he would do it again

Unfortunately, they were too distracted by their immediate circumstances to realize what Jesus was actually telling them.  When Jesus said, he who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty, He was not letting the crowd know that he was a traveling soup kitchen.  Pardon the humor, but that’s how they saw him.  Surely they didn’t row miles across the seas from the previous days feast because they wanted to discuss spiritual truths, they were wanting more food handouts.

Jesus was a master communicator.  However, many people he encountered were not master listeners.  John 6:35 is an eternal Truth from the creator of the universe.  It means that those who come to Jesus and believe in him will be satisfied and sustained for eternity.  But what’s the deal with the bread of life?  

Why did he choose of all things, bread?

It seems to me that part of being master communicator is the ability to use word pictures to explain a point.  Let’s step back and recap for just a moment.

  • 24 hours before Jesus’ statement, over 5,000 men, women, and children came to Jesus and his disciples and took a few loaves of bread and a couple fish from a boys lunch and fed them all
  • After everyone finished eating, there were 12 baskets of left over bread and fish that were picked up
  • The crowd rowed across miles of the sea of Galilee to find Jesus and ask him for more bread
  • The crowd had asked Jesus to perform a miracle like their starving ancestors had experienced where bread literally fell from heaven for them to eat

After that little recap, it seems that “bread” is quite the appropriate word to use.  Had Jesus made the statement “I am the vine and you are the branches”, it would have been totally unrelated to the situation at hand don’t you think?  There’s depth in Jesus’ simplicity.  In fact if we look just a little deeper, there is a mystery that is revealed that the crowd completely missed.

One thing about the stories of the old testament, like the story of the bread that fell from heaven in Exodus 16, is that many of them not only teach a lesson about God in the context of the immediate circumstances but they are also symbolic of some aspect of the life of Jesus.  God did provide the bread from heaven to the Israelites in the desert to feed them, but it was also a symbolic representation of something else God would send to them from heaven, Jesus.  And here, in John 6:35, Jesus unlocks that mystery, but the crowd misses such a wonderful revelation.

How does any of this relate to me as a Christian?

We can sometimes be just like the crowd standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee that day.  Totally focused on the situation at hand and missing the answer that is right before us.  We have been given the bread of life in Jesus Christ to sustain us and satisfy us for eternity, but we have to take an active part in the relationship.  See, bread sitting on the table or on the counter will not sustain or satisfy any of us physically.  Simply buying it at the grocery and having it stored in the freezer is not going to do our bodies any good.  Bread only becomes beneficial to us when we digest it.  When our bodies begin to breakdown the nutrients of the bread and convert them over to precious fuel we need to survive, that’s when bread becomes beneficial to us.

In the same way, the bread of life – Jesus, is something we must digest in our daily lives.  Our souls have to convert the spiritual nutrients of the bread of life over to the fuel we need to survive eternally.  We must take an active role each day to come to Jesus and believe in Him.

When was the last time you ate of the bread of life?  Have you been focused on the immediate needs of the growling in your stomach that you have lost site of what matters eternally?  Take some time today and reflect on what the Holy Spirit has shown you through the text this morning.

-Stay Rooted Col. 2:7-


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