Bread of Life
Updated: Jul 19, 2022
Have you ever eaten a meal that seemed to fill you for only an hour, or even less?
Perhaps it was a Big Mac and fries or a plate of white rice. Such food can be disappointing. This is what people mean when they refer to ‘empty calories,’ food and drink composed primarily of sugar, or certain fats and oils.
In John 6, Jesus’s message isn’t about proper nutrition. Yet He does warn against the emptiness of earthly bread. He has just fed the multitude in an amazing display of his power and compassion. But it’s not long before the people are asking him for another meal. To the hungry crowd, Jesus gives this warning in verse 27:
Do not labour for the food which perishes.
They want enough sustenance to keep going another day. When Jesus warns here against “food that spoils,” He’s not just talking about filling up your pantry and freezer with non-perishables. For over time, almost any kind of food will spoil: growing moldy, or stale, or freezer burnt.
This isn’t mainly about food, but about all things that decay, every earthly good that will not last. He is thinking about the house you live in right now. He’s imagining the car you drive. He means all the other treasures that you treasure, the opportunities and privileges you desire. For like the crowds trailing Jesus in John 6, we can become fixated on what is physical.
Earthly bread is hollow, and worldly satisfaction is like so many empty calories. Yet we sometimes let ourselves be motivated by such things.
For instance, we might let our incentive for daily work become little more than material gains. You can earn a lot of money today: the longer hours you put in, the better clients you have, the more jobs you sell, the more money you can take home.
Is that what our life is for, the endless pursuit of earthly bread? To what end do we go to work tomorrow and the next day?
It’s a question which should make us reflect on our reasons for everything we love to do. Why do we serve in the church? Why are we busy developing our talents? Why do we sing? Why do we build things? As we said, maybe we do it merely for material gains. Or, less tangibly, we do it for the praise of others, for recognition, or simply for our own feeling of satisfaction. Even then, we labour for the food which perishes.
The reality is that sinners will always have a hunger and a thirst. There will be a deep and unrelenting need within us, an emptiness that refuses to go away. For within us there is a soul-hunger, a spirit-craving. The longing to fill our emptiness is a search for peace, security, comfort—for something that truly satisfies.
Christ has compassion on thirsting and hungering sinners, and He knows exactly what we need. And what we need primarily is not things. It is him! So Jesus gives us himself, saying in John 6:35,
I am the bread of life.
He shares himself out as the food which endures to everlasting life. He is the bread which alone can give true fullness.
Jesus explains to the crowds in John 6 that He is much more than the manna which once fell from heaven for the Israelites. He is also much more than the pieces of bread and fish that He handed out yesterday. These things can sustain a life, just as we eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and several snacks every day in order to maintain our bodies. This is our daily bread, and we need it. But Jesus is uniquely the bread that gives life to all who believe in him.
Believing in Christ means that we believe in him as the all-sufficient and never-failing Saviour. We trust that He is able to save us entirely, fill us completely, restore us wholly. We come to Christ alone, not needing to go anywhere else.
And having tasted the real food of Christ, we realize that we need him every hour. If we have come to Christ and believed in him, then we’ll keep coming to him, day after day. Jesus won’t merely be our Sunday companion, but our daily Saviour, daily Lord and constant Helper. Then we will love to eat the food of his Word, chewing on it and digesting it. We will love to pray to the Father in his name.
The amazing thing is that the more we eat the Bread of Life, the hungrier for him we become. Once we have started to experience Jesus’s grace and power, we want more of him. Your appetite for Christ doesn’t decrease the more you get to know him, or the more you read his Word. Your appetite for Christ will only increase when you taste and see that the Lord is good. Such a hunger isn’t oppressive, but there’s a great joy in it. For the hungry are being filled with the Bread of Life.
Now we know where to go with our need and weakness, with our guilt and emptiness. We are coming to understand that no other food will satisfy, but Christ alone gives the food that endures to everlasting life, for He gives us himself.
So will you take and eat? And will you stay hungry for Christ, even if you have known him for a long time?
[The Seven “I Am” sayings in John - Part 1]