bread

I Am the Bread of Life

Figurative language is found throughout the Bible. It can be symbolic or illustrate a spiritual truth or prophetic insight, or both. But figurative language is not intended to be mystical and obscure. Figurative language uses familiar imagery to explain what is unfamiliar or unknown.

In the Bible, what is spiritual in nature or other-worldly is related to something or someone known in the natural world. When Jesus called Himself “the Bread of Life,” He wasn’t saying that He was a loaf of bread.

Bread is a staple of life for many people. It helps sustain us in daily life. And bread is connected to spiritual truths in other places in the Bible.

Moses referred to the manna sent from heaven by God when he said—man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut 8:3). Jesus does the same when referring to Himself as sent from heaven by the Father. Jesus also quoted what Moses said when tempted in the wilderness (Matt 4:4).

So, as you read this segment of verses, understand that Jesus speaks of spiritual truth not baked goods when He says—I am the Bread of Life.

Scripture

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert and died. This is the bread that comes from heaven so that whoever eats it won’t die.

I am the living bread that came from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. The bread I will give to bring life to the world is my flesh.”

The Jews began to quarrel with each other. They said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” [vss 48-52]

Jesus told them, “I can guarantee this truth: If you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don’t have the source of life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will bring them back to life on the last day.

My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them.

The Father who has life sent me, and I live because of the Father. So those who feed on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came from heaven. It is not like the bread your ancestors ate. They eventually died. Those who eat this bread will live forever.” [vss 53-58]

(John 6:48-58 GW)

Key phrase—

I am the living bread that came from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the two metaphors (figures of speech) Jesus uses to refer to Himself?

  • What does He compare and contrast in Jewish history to His being the Bread of Life?

  • What promises does Jesus make about eating His flesh and drinking His blood?

  • How do the Jews who hear this react to what He says? Why?

Reflection...

When Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life,” it is one of several “I am” declarations He makes that are only found in the gospel of John. What He’s declaring becomes more clear later in John (John 8:58). It is a declaration of His divine nature as the Son of God.

Jesus speaks of the need to “feed” on Him to receive life beyond our physical life in this world. If we don’t feed on Him as the Bread of Life, we won’t have the source of life in us (Him) and won’t experience resurrection to enjoy eternal life with God.

Jesus explains what He means in verse 56 when He says—Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. He speaks of a life that transcends natural life. Jesus relates this to the relationship He has with the Father in heaven. We are to have a relationship with Him in the same way.

Those who heard Jesus speak these truths did not understand what He meant. As we’ll see later, even His closest followers didn’t grasp all Jesus said here. But it is a simple comparison between those who ate the manna in the wilderness with Moses and died, with those of us who feed on Jesus as the Bread of Life—those who personally trust in Him by faith.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What comes to mind for you when Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life”?

  • Why do you think Jesus uses this figure of speech to describe Himself?

  • Do you understand the difference between those who hate manna in the wilderness and those who feed on Jesus as the Bread of Life?

  • How do you feed on Jesus as your Bread of Life? What are specific ways you do this?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Jesus speaks of a life that transcends natural life and relates it to His relationship with the Father in heaven. When we learn to “feed” on Jesus in a personal way, we can have a similar relationship with Him.

Prayer Focus— If you’re not sure how to feed on Jesus as your Bread of Life, ask for His help. One simple way to begin is to pray as you read the Bible—ask God for insight then ask His help to put what you understand in His Word into action in your daily life.

©2019—Word-Strong

What Does God Want Us to Do?

A question about God asked over and over in one form or another boils down to—What does God want us to do? It may get asked in different ways and with other words but it’s the same question.

This is reflected in the way many people describe what they think God expects of us what asked about their religious beliefs, God, or Christianity in general—be good and do good to others.

When I was a young believer in an introductory theology class, we looked into the meaning of the word religion. It’s generally used to describe the nature of engagement or relationship between people and God.

Different meanings can be found but the origin of the word religion is based on two words—relegere and relegare. The first means—go through again, as in reading or in thought. Relegare means, to bind fast, with the idea of an obligation on or a bond between humans and gods.

I came to realize religion could mean many things to different people but it spoke of humanity’s efforts to engage with God in some way. The emphasis being on humanity’s view of how to relate to God. And this is reflected by how many different religions exist in the world.

Scripture

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into these boats and went to the city of Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus replied to them, “I can guarantee this truth: You’re not looking for me because you saw miracles. You are looking for me because you ate as much of those loaves as you wanted. Don’t work for food that spoils. Instead, work for the food that lasts into eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you. After all, the Father has placed his seal of approval on him.”

The people asked Jesus, “What does God want us to do?” Jesus replied to them, “God wants to do something for you so that you believe in the one whom he has sent.” [vss 24-29]

The people asked him, “What miracle are you going to perform so that we can see it and believe in you? What are you going to do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the desert. Scripture says, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. God’s bread is the man who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.”

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time.”

Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty. [vss 30-35]

(John 6:24-35 GW)

Key phrase—

God wants…you (to) believe in the one whom he has sent

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who goes to find Jesus and His disciples? Where do they go and how do they get there?

  • What do these people ask Jesus and what is His response to them?

  • What does Jesus say they should and should not work for? What do you think He means by this?

  • What kind of bread are the people asking for and how does Jesus answer them?

Reflection...

Stories are observations of a slice of time in life. Something can be learned from any and every incident but it requires good observation skills and an discerning understanding of what’s observed.

The dialog between the people who searched for Jesus and His responses to them reveal a lot about humanity in general. In general, we are more concerned with the immediate than what’s eternal. And, we’re more focused on the physical than the spiritual.

Perhaps this seems obvious in this story but I’ve found it to be true for myself as well—even though most of my life has been centered around ministry and spiritual things. It’s easier to see spiritual dullness and ignorance in others than ourselves.

I’ve met thousands of Christian believers in many places and cultures. I’ve realized the majority of them—even those with much Bible knowledge—still tend to wonder—What does God expect of or want of me?

The answer isn’t difficult nor deeply spiritual. This is what God wants—

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29 NLT)

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Does it seem like the people and Jesus are talking about two different things? If so, why do you think this is?

  • How does Jesus try to explain the difference between the bread people are seeking and what they should seek?

  • How does Jesus describe Himself? In what way does He answer the people’s questions?

  • Do you understand what Jesus means about coming to Him and never hungering again? How is this true in a spiritual sense?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— If you still wonder what God wants from you, try seeing it from His point of view. Consider what Jesus says in response to questions people ask Him. The Lord desires for us to have a personal relationship with Him not gain anything from us.

Prayer Focus— When you find yourself desiring or hungering more of what this world has to offer, ask the Lord to help you see things from His perspective. Ask Him to give you His gracious and merciful vision to see you as He sees you and to see others with His eyes.

©2019—Word-Strong

More Than Enough

Jesus did many miraculous signs while on earth—healing people, bringing back the dead, and a few unusual things. Only one of His miraculous signs is recorded in all four gospels—the feeding of 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

As with all the miraculous signs in John (John 20:30-31), this one has a lesson and illustrates an important aspect of the Lord’s ministry. Each sign is temporary and situational. They’re not eternal and their purposes are specific not an end in themselves.

John helps us see this miracle as a teaching opportunity with the dialog between Jesus and Philip. Jesus wanted His closest followers to learn something about Himself and the Kingdom of God. It was a lesson for His disciples not for the 5,000 people who were fed.

The miraculous sign was not about food. Everyone, including Jesus and His disciples—especially the crowd of 5,000—needed to eat again the next day. Several lessons can be gleaned from this event. One thing is certain—the crowd missed the point completely—as many people still do now.

Scripture

Jesus later crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias). A large crowd followed him because they saw the miracles that he performed for the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat with his disciples. The time for the Jewish Passover festival was near. [vss 1-4]

As Jesus saw a large crowd coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” Jesus asked this question to test him. He already knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered, “We would need about a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.” One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, who was Simon Peter’s brother, told him, “A boy who has five loaves of barley bread and two small fish is here. But they won’t go very far for so many people.” [vss 5-9]

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” The people had plenty of grass to sit on. (There were about 5,000 men in the crowd.) Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to the people who were sitting there. He did the same thing with the fish. All the people ate as much as they wanted.

When the people were full, Jesus told his disciples, “Gather the leftover pieces so that nothing will be wasted.” The disciples gathered the leftover pieces of bread and filled twelve baskets. [vss 10-13]

When the people saw the miracle Jesus performed, they said, “This man is certainly the prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus realized that the people intended to take him by force and make him king. So he returned to the mountain by himself. [vss 14-15]

(John 6:1-15 GW)

Key phrase—

Gather the leftover pieces so that nothing will be wasted

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Where does Jesus go with His disciples and what time of the year does this happen?

  • Who follows Jesus and the disciples and what is their reason for following?

  • What does Jesus ask Philip and what is Philip’s response? Who else tries to help with the situation?

  • What does Jesus do with the available food and what happens as a result?

Reflection...

The feeding of the 5,000 is an amazing miracle but what is even more amazing is what’s gathered up after all the people ate and were full—12 baskets full of leftover bread and fish!

Jesus used this situation as an opportunity to train His disciples. Here are just a few of the lessons He wanted them to learn—

  • Have compassion and care for the needs of the people

  • Utilize what you have rather than focus on what you don’t have

  • Look to God as a first option rather than a last resort

  • Practical guidance on delegation, organization, distribution, and follow-up

There’s much more to be learned from this miraculous sign but this list is a good start. Later in this chapter (Chap 6), Jesus will explain how this sign relates to Him in a metaphorical sense and His purpose for coming to earth.

So, why would Jesus have the disciples gather up what is leftover? Yes, so nothing will be wasted. But why would this be important? Two quick thoughts. First, it reinforced the miraculous nature of this feeding of 5,000 people. It also showed the Lord’s concern for what we might call follow up or follow through.

He’s always our example of faith and trust in God. Jesus saw beyond the immediate to what was next—the two events and teaching following this story.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think Jesus tested Philip when He knew what He would do?

  • What did the crowd of people say among themselves and what did they want to do after this miracle?

  • How do you think Jesus knew what the people wanted to do and what was His response?

  • What are the many specific and practical things Jesus does in feeding the people and what specific insight or lesson did you gain from this story?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Understanding why Jesus did what He did requires discernment and guidance from God’s Spirit. We also need to carefully observe what is said and done, and dig deeper by imagining ourselves in the story and asking ourselves relevant questions.

Prayer Focus— When you are faced with what seem to be impossible or overwhelming situations, look to the Lord first for wisdom and guidance. Trust Him to help you see beyond the circumstances, to see people with His eyes, and to know how to move forward by faith.

©2019—Word-Strong