17 February 2021
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” ~ John 6.35
Salted throughout John’s Gospel are seven “I am” statements made by Jesus. Each statement is a bold declaration of His identity and mission. Additionally, each “I am” saying is an invitation/challenge to worship Jesus as the Son of God who is the Lord and Savior of all who trust in Him. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis expressed the dilemma posed by the things Jesus said as follows:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman, or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, 52)
Despite the logical force of Lewis’ argument, many continue to regard Jesus as a great moral teacher; the very thing He claimed not to be. In truth, Jesus claimed to be Lord and God; and God in human flesh at that. And a man who claims to be God in human flesh leaves no room for any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. On the contrary, He dares us to believe in Him according to His word, and if not according to His word, then by examining His work.
Since today is Ash Wednesday, and the traditional start of the Lenten season, we’ll spend the next seven weeks focusing on each of the “I am” sayings uttered by Jesus in the Gospel of John. They are –
“I am the bread of life.”(6.35, 48)
“I am the light of the world.” (8.12)
“I am the door.” (10.7, 9)
“I am the good shepherd.” (10.11, 14)
“I am the resurrection and the life.” (11.25)
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14.6)
“I am the true vine.” (15.1, 5)
In some parts of the world, bread is so highly regarded it is considered a gift from God. In the Middle East, for example, if a man sees a piece of bread lying in the street, he will pick it up and give it to a dog or place it where a bird may eat it. As a gift from God, bread is not something to be wasted.
If bread is a gift from God, then Jesus is God’s gift to the world. Whoever believes Jesus is the bread of life will live forever. He is the Word of God who became flesh and lived among us. He is the Son of Man inviting us to believe in Him as the living bread who gives life to all who trust in Him. The specific text I want us to look at this morning is John 6.51.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.
And the bread that I give for the life of the world is My flesh.
Jesus is living bread who came down from heaven offer his life as the atoning sacrifice for sins. By inviting us to eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus is not inviting us to a cannibalistic feast. He does not intend for us to eat His flesh and drink His blood in the literal sense. We eat and drink by faith. He invites us to trust in Him to be our sole and permanent source of salvation. This is the work of faith to which Jesus refers in 6.27; we are “to labor for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” The labor of which Jesus speaks is the work of faith. It sounds strange to think of faith being a work but as John Calvin explains—
“Faith is called the only work of God, because by means of it we possess
Christ, and thus become the sons of God, so that he governs us by his Spirit.”
The manna Israel ate in the wilderness was not living bread because it only lasted a day. As the Bread of Life, Jesus invites us to feed on Him so we will have everlasting life. The manna Israel ate was inanimate and impersonal. Jesus is God in human flesh. Only manna collected on the day before the Sabbath lasted more than twenty-four hours. The bread Jesus gives lasts forever because Jesus lives forever. He is the Word predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 8.3. There Moses tells the people of Israel how the LORD, despite their wandering in the desert for 40-years due to the disobedience of their fathers,
…fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Jesus is the Bread of life. He is the Word of God come to feed us with His Word. He is the Son of God who dwells within us by the presence and work of God the Holy Spirit. Quoting Deuteronomy 30.14, Paul describes how this is possible when he writes in Romans 10.8-9:
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
When Jesus entered into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, He did so as all seven of the “I am” sayings: the Bread of Life, the Light of the world, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the True Vine.
His fellow Jews yearned for a king who would restore the dignity of Israel.
They hungered for a warrior who would vanquish their enemies starting with Rome.
They thirsted for a Messiah who would reign and rule as David once did.
But Jesus came to fulfill a different yearning.
He came to satisfy a different hunger.
He came to different a thirst.
Even though we are living in the midst of unanticipated times, God has promised and God has given us exactly what we need for the living of these days. He has given us Jesus, the Living Bread who came down from heaven. If we feed on Him by faith, trusting in His word, relying on His promise, we will find that through Him, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, not only in the age of COVID19, but for any time and forever.
In biblical times, whenever people set out on a journey they took bread with them. In the same manner, Jesus invites us on a journey in which He promises to provide with everything we need for the journey. Think of what bread represents to us on that journey.
It means an end of hunger.
It means peace.
It means hope.
It means comfort.
It means assurance.
It means encouragement.
It means Someone who loves us, cares for us, and protects us.
It means life.
It means Jesus.
You think about that.