Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
Several people have told me they like the new pattern of these reflections where I give people something solid to chew on, instead of giving them pre-masticated food. This question is especially for them: Does God decide which of us are saved, or is the decision to be saved ours? Read this passage again to understand why I am asking the question. I’ll answer it tomorrow. Today, let’s answer an easier question: Why does Jesus call himself the “bread of life”?
Well, let’s consider what bread is, first. It’s an integral part of any meal. Although there are variations of bread, we invariably have it with our food. In many cultures, bread is often brought out in a basket along with the first course, what some might call “starters” or “appetizers”. So, you could say it was indispensable. However, in ancient times, bread sustained life. That, with water, was how many people survived from day to day. Which is why Scripture has a lot of references to both bread and water.
An important reference can be found in the book of Exodus, which detailed the Israelites journey to the Promised Land. Chapter 16 narrates how they ran out of the food on the way. True to form they start grumbling. They ask Moses if he had brought them out to the desert to die. Moses took it up with God, who said, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4). And every day after that they had bread called “manna” to eat.
So, now that we have context, let’s return to today’s story. It’s mind-boggling, really. Jesus multiplies bread miraculously to feed thousands of people. The people are very impressed and go looking for him the following day for another miracle. But they don’t want just another miracle; they want a better one! It’s like they think he is a magician. He did one trick, now they want one more, better than the first. So they tell him how another “magician”, Moses, gave them bread from heaven. Could Jesus do a trick better than that?
Like I told you: mind-boggling. So Jesus sets them right. He first tells them that it was his Father, not Moses, who gave them the bread from heaven. And that bread was TEMPORARY and didn’t last; in fact it totally spoiled in the morning. Besides, it filled only their BODIES. What he was gonna give them was LASTING food that would satisfy their SOULS. And that’s why Jesus said he was the “bread of life”.