John 6:32-35 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
Jesus had just finished performing his greatest mass miracle - the feeding of the 5,000. John 6 begins with Jesus followed by the masses and at the end of the same chapter, Jesus is left with his handful of true disciples. In John's Gospel we see a total of seven "I am" statements that give a glimpse into Jesus Christ's Divine identity and saving mission. In today's post we want to walk our way through John 6 to explain Jesus' self identification as the "bread from heaven". This explanation will serve to show how Jesus' self-identification lends meaning to the celebration of the Lord's supper as centering on Jesus Christ - the bread of life.
Jesus alone as the bread of life satisfies
In John 6:32-34 Jesus makes some initial statements that compares the "bread from heaven" to the ancient manna that poured down on the Israelites wandering through the desert in Exodus and Numbers. After doing so, Jesus then says in John 6:35 "....I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." The point of the comparison is to show that Jesus alone can satisfy the famished soul. Just as physical bread (ancient or modern) functions as a staple of physical life, Jesus Christ alone is the basis for salvation and the spiritual life. The crowds following Jesus were looking to the law and Jewish traditions to satisfy them, which is why they kept making recourse to the days of Moses. Yet as Jesus tries to explain, both the law and Jewish traditions were insufficient to meet the spiritual needs of the people. Jesus Christ alone as the bread of life is sufficient. But notice a second truth about Jesus identity as the bread of life....
Jesus alone as the bread of life saves.
After the crowds begin to grumble among themselves about the meaning of Jesus' words, Jesus explains more clearly about how useless their man-made traditions are to save them. In John 6:51 Jesus makes this statement: "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread,he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus' claim as the bread of life pushes the envelope further in the minds of His listeners. Its one thing to say that He is more than enough, however to says He is the source of salvation or "eternal life" is to equate Himself to being God Himself. (compare Isaiah 43:10-11) The phrase "eternal life" is used elsewhere in John to describe salvation from God's wrath on sin. (John 3:16) Positively speaking, the gift of eternal life also refers to the actual knowledge of God the Father that is obtained whenever anyone trusts in Jesus Christ. (John 17:3) As mentioned before, physical bread is the most basic staple of physical life. In times of extreme famine, whenever all other foods are gone or consumed, the one food that is viewed as most fundamental is bread. (compare 1 Kings 17:8-16) Jesus Christ as the bread of life saves every believer from judgment and the penalty of their sins. (John 3:16-21; Romans 5:8-10) So Jesus Christ as the bread of life is sufficient, saves and thirdly sustains.
Jesus alone as the bread of life sustains.
Jesus makes this startling statement in John 6:53-56 "So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." In essence, Jesus is saying that as the bread of life, anyone who takes Him in by faith is sustained and nourished. What happens whenever you and I eat any food? That food becomes part of us. Jesus is speaking of His role in the Christian life following regeneration and conversion in faith and repentance. At salvation Christ is revealed to me as all sufficient and saving. In the remainder of the Christian walk (sanctification), Christ is progressively revealed in me as my sustaining hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
How Jesus' statements about being the bread from Heaven tie into the celebration of the Lord's supper
The living bread is in me, and I am in Him. He sustains. How? By talking to Him in prayer and hearing from Him in the scriptures. Whenever I partake of the Lord's supper, I am enjoying His presence as the Spirit brings to memory all that is said about His accomplished work on the cross and His continuing work in heaven on my behalf. This is one reason why Jesus used bread and fruit of the vine to institute the Lord's supper, to symbolically communicate the fact He is present with and in His people by His Spirit whenever they come together to dine at His table. At the table of the Lord we reaffirm in the partaking of the bread and fruit of the vine that Jesus alone is sufficient, saves and sustains.
So when Jesus identifies Himself as the bread of heaven, what is He meaning? First, that He alone is sufficient. Secondly, that He alone can save from wrath on sin all who by grace take Him in by faith. Then thirdly, Jesus alone sustains the Christian throughout their life and into eternity. We also saw how these meanings aid us greatly in understanding better the Christian celebration of the Lord's table. May you and I feed on Jesus, the Bread of life.