Bread & Life – Part 2
“The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea knew there had been only one boat. They also knew that Jesus had not boarded the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone off alone. Some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you perceived the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”– John 6:22-26
Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd of 5,000 late in the night. They journeyed to the other side of the sea to continue their ministry. The crowd decided to continue to follow Jesus. But as He pointed out, it was because He met the people’s needs, not that they understood the deeper context of what He had done for them.
Jesus instructed them to look beyond the physical bread they ate with Him.
“Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” – John 6:27
The people trying to make sense of this asked Jesus:
“What can we do to perform the works of God? … Jesus replied, ‘This is the work of God – that you believe in the One He has sent.’” – John 6:28-29
That sounded simple enough, almost too simple.
The people questioned Jesus about His signs and “performances”. Even though they witnessed a miracle when He fed the multitude, they wanted more – more confirmation, more signs, more performances. But Jesus had told them all that they needed to know. They needed to work for things with eternal purpose and value. They needed to believe in Jesus. But that’s hard to comprehend, especially when these people grew up with the Law, which was completely works based.
The people went on to talk to Him about the manna that came from heaven. Again, Jesus replied, “’I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
Then they said, ‘Sir, give us this bread always!’
‘I am the bread of life’, Jesus told them. ‘No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.’” – John 6:32-35
Jesus continued to talk to the people about the explanation. He assured them that anyone who chose to follow Jesus would never be cast away from Him. Jesus’ purpose from the Father on earth is that He would not lose a single person the Father led to Him. But that He should “raise them up on the last day” (John 6:39). Jesus reiterated that statement four times! Normally if Jesus said something twice, it was important. Four times is very profound.
The Father’s will for all mankind is, “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and [Jesus] will raise him up on the last day”. – John 6:40.
Jesus continued to explain that He is the bread of life; that those who choose Him will have eternal life also. He explained to the people that those who ate the manna all died. But this “bread” Jesus was offering gave eternal life. No one would die that ate it.
The real struggle came when He told them that His body was the bread. The way He explained it was that the people needed to partake of His flesh and “drink His blood” (John 6:53) in order to have eternal life within them. If they did that, they would dwell within Him and Him within them. Then they would be raised up with Him and live eternally.
The people found this teaching extremely difficult to understand. Many people turned away that day and stopped following Him.
As I was reading through it, I was confused myself. He kept bouncing back and forth about being the Bread of Life, raising people up, about the Father’s will, and being Life.
I gave myself time to read the passage over and over again, and asked the Lord to help me understand. I know that God isn’t cannibalistic, so there must have been another meaning.
He asked me who He was talking to. I went to the beginning of the chapter and realized it was the 5,000 people that ate the bread. Jesus had taken a few loaves and divided it into thousands of pieces for the people.
Then He instructed me to read His teaching to them again.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. He died and was resurrected. Then it hit me. Jesus was giving these people a visual image of what He was about to do spiritually for them! He was going to take His one body and break it, so that His Spirit could be imparted to anyone in the world that chose to follow Him. The only way He could raise people “on the last day” is if He did so Himself.
The other aspect is that physical bread is nourishing to our bodies. Jesus’ spiritual bread is also our nourishment. If we “eat” of Him, then we are nourished by Him and our spiritual selves don’t hunger. That means getting into the Bible. That means allowing His Spirit to nourish you by the words that you read and by gaining understanding of it.
The people couldn’t understand this thought at the time because many of them didn’t know or understand that Jesus was going to die and be resurrected. They were only looking at the physical world and what they could see in the present, rather than seeking things that were eternal. That is why we need to work for the “food that lasts for eternal life” (John 6:27). That is where we find the true nourishment that sustains and strengthens us in this life.
“The Spirit is the One that gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” – John 6:63
Our spirits are what live forever, not our bodies. Our bodies are just the suits or coverings that carry us through this physical life. But as we’ve all experienced, they are breaking down and will eventually fail. But our spirits are the real treasures to be nourishing. We need to take care of our bodies and minds. We need to respect what the Lord has given us. But the greatest thing to invest in is our spirits. That is where real eternal life resides.
Since Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is given to all that choose to have a relationship with Him. This is the One that gives us that eternal life. What is Life? Jesus. The Spirit gives us life in Him so that we can be a part of Him. Everything that Jesus speaks and does is Life and nourishment to us.
So, don’t focus on the things that don’t really matter. We have our responsibilities and vocational work to do. But these are not to be separate from Him either. Everything we do should be for the cause of Christ and for His glory. Be a witness in your work place. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
If you are a follower of Jesus, nourish yourself in Him. You cannot sustain yourself on your own. You will be weak and burn out. The only way to continue to grow in Him and be strengthened by Him is to be nourished by Him. By this you will have greater understanding of your purpose. He’ll help to turn your eyes from the physical image to the spiritual understanding that He desires for you. Your spiritual eyesight, hearing, and organs will continue to get healthier and you will thrive in the vitality of the Life He desires for you.