I Am the Bread of Life
It is a fabulous mystery that Jesus is all-knowing. Even during His life on earth, every second He served in His ministry, He was carefully calculating each word and action. All of it leading towards the Father’s will.
As the crowd of thousands gathered around Jesus and His disciples, He had compassion on them. These people had heard of the miracles, signs, and wonders Jesus had performed until then. They were curious, hungry for a change in their life from what they had all known. They were tired of the religious leaders dictating their spiritual lives. Tired of the Roman government controlling their political agendas. They wanted freedom. Many of the cultures surrounding them believed in spirits and gods. None seemed satisfying to the Jewish people. So, they kept looking. Then Jesus showed up and amazed them all.
Mark 6:34 describes that, “…They were like sheep without a shepherd.” The religious leaders clearly weren’t doing the jobs the Lord originally assigned them to. Hebrews 5:1-4 gives a glimpse of the heart posture the leaders were supposed to have,
“For every high priest taken from men is appointed in service to God for the people, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also subject to weakness. Because of this, he must make a sin offering for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor on himself; instead, a person is called by God, just as Aaron was.”
Do you hear how the priests were supposed to be? As humble servants, dealing gently with people who are ignorant of God’s ways and going astray from Him. The priests were to give sacrifices for themselves first before others, in order to serve in humility and grace. They didn’t earn this role. It was given to them.
How were the religious leaders and priests of Jesus’ day acting? As prideful, self-righteous dictators, lording their positions over others. They were making themselves like gods before the people, forcing them to do things beyond the Lord’s commands. Therefore, the people eventually didn’t know what was from God and what was from man to follow. They were lost.
John 6:4 mentioned that the Passover was soon approaching. This huge crowd gathered around Jesus to catch a glimpse of what He might say and do. He spoke with authority and yet as Mark 6:34a points out, He had, “Compassion on them…” He led these people with humility, grace, and compassion, because, “Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.” Hebrews 5:8. He understood their suffering and therefore could serve them with great love. Something the people had never experienced before.
Seeing that the end of the day was drawing near and the people were hungry, and also knowing their need for God’s truth, He had the disciples seat the crowd in groups. “So they sat down in ranks of hundreds and fifties.” Mark 6:40. Do you think Jesus did this just so the disciples could number how many people He was about to feed, to add to the impact?
“The men numbered 5,000. Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks He distributed them to those who were seated – so also with the fish, as much as they wanted.
When they were full, He told His disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” So they collected them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten.” John 6:12-13
Jesus didn’t just give them enough to curb the hunger. Notice the people ate, “As much as they wanted.” They were full. So much so, that there were 12 baskets of leftovers; one basket for every disciple.
This miracle is awesome in itself, but it wasn’t the main point. Why do you think Jesus performed this miracle for the people? Why do you think He gave them all enough so that they would be full? And so, the disciples would each have a basket of their own?
Let’s look at a few points.
The Bread of Life
Jesus withdrew from the crowd into solitude after this because He knew they wanted to capture Him and make Him king in Jerusalem. This wasn’t what He was sent to do, so He disappeared. The disciples went into the boat to cross back over to Capernaum. When the crowd saw they had all left, they crossed over by land in search of Jesus. But they didn’t do it because they wanted to love and understand Him. They did it because they wanted to continue to be amazed by what He could do.
They asked Jesus to perform more signs to prove Himself, as if the feeding of the crowd and all of the other previous signs weren’t enough.
This is where the reason for feeding them all came to spiritual light. The crowd said to Jesus,
“’What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?’ they asked. ‘What are You going to perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
Jesus said to them, ‘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. But as I have told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe.’” John 6:30-36
I Am. There’s that name again. “I Am the Bread of Life.” Jesus was using His personal name to address the crowd, and they missed it.
The sheep were missing the Shepherd. They couldn’t tell truth from the lies they had grown up hearing. They couldn’t perceive that this Jesus was the Son of God – God Himself. They enjoyed being physically full, while starving spiritually.
How true is this of your life? How often do you fill yourself with food, entertainment, and other pleasures, while still feeling lost and unsatisfied? Who’s giving you instruction and counsel? Is it coming more from the Bible or secular education?
Jesus was telling the crowd, that if they first went to Him to satisfy their hunger and thirst, then they would have everything else they needed. How is that possible? Because being saturated in Jesus, means you’re also filled with His Spirit. “The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63. With this gifting, He will give you love, wisdom, understanding, and provision, therefore, satisfying your every need in this life and the one to come.
Training the Disciples
Jesus always utilizes a good lesson in many ways. While teaching and providing for this crowd, He was doing this exponentially for His disciples. Notice that there were 12 baskets of bread left over, equaling one for every disciple. He provided for them, “Above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20.
Why would He do that?
Read John 6:16-21,
“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 A high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. 19 After they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid. 20 But he said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading.
Do you see verse 20 where it says, “It is I?” This literally means, “I Am.” Jesus gave the disciples the 12 baskets of bread. Then He tested them by sending them out ahead of Him on the water, knowing the storm was coming. Something you’d miss from John’s text is found in Luke 9. The feeding of the 5,000 and this storm in the boat occurred just after Jesus summoned the twelve disciples, giving them, “Power and authority over the demons, and power to heal diseases. Then He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
The 12 disciples had experienced God’s work through them by the authority and power Jesus had given them, by the Holy Spirit. They had a taste of what was coming. They taught and performed signs and miracles like Jesus. Then He gave them an abundance of bread, overly providing for their needs. Then what happened? They were tested with the storm on the water. How did they react? They were terrified. And how did Jesus respond? He came to them on the water and said, “I Am.”
Jesus was teaching valuable lessons to the disciples through this whole situation. He is the Bread of Life. The Great I Am. He would equip them with the spiritual gifts and authority to fulfill their mission for Jesus, spreading His good news into all the world. He would provide for their every need, like the baskets of bread. And, as He said to them in Matthew 28:20, He would be, “With [them] always, to the end of the age.” He would be over every storm coming their way. He was their personal, intimate God, aware of every need, every doubt and worry, every inadequacy. And would take care of it all.
He does and will for you too.
Lastly, as mentioned in John 6:4, the Passover was approaching. I wondered why John mentioned that in this text. As I continued to read, a few verses connected this brief, yet profound mention.
John 6:35 – “’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.’”
47 “Truly I tell you, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, 55 because my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your ancestors ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
At Passover, the Jews would eat a lamb, unleavened bread, and wine. They ate the lamb because of the blood of the lamb they put on the doorposts in Egypt so that the angel of death would pass over their houses. They ate the lamb meat in a hurried way, ready to run for their lives. The unleavened bread because they didn’t have time to bake it in the quick exodus they took from Egypt. Though it isn’t mentioned until the New Testament, perhaps the wine represented the blood of the lamb from the doorpost as well.
Jesus mentioned that His flesh would become the bread and His blood would become the wine. This greatly confused the crowd, and yet was fitting with the Passover in mind. Notice that He doesn’t mention anything about the lamb? Perhaps because their hearts didn’t understand who He was, so they couldn’t understand what He was about to do. Jesus would fulfill the Passover very soon to these people by becoming the sacrificial Lamb, shedding His blood (representative by the wine), and tearing His flesh (as shown by the bread).
Jesus said four different times in John 6 that He would raise up any who believes in Him, on the last day. This includes you. He died for you, atoning for your sin by becoming the Lamb sacrifice. He shed His blood on the cross so that you may never thirst again. He became the bread of life, so that you may never hunger again. He is all-sufficient. He is with you always because He is, “I Am.”