Oh the delicious treasures we find in this teaching by Jesus! It is the first of his “I Am” proclamations in the book of John by which he describes to the Jews his mission as the true Messiah, the Savior sent from God.
But first, he must help them understand their own need. Jesus was speaking to people who had witnessed his feeding of the five thousand and then had followed him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They were clamoring to see him perform another miracle, but he knew that in their hearts they did not believe in him (v. 36).
Wisely, Jesus contrasted the futility of seeking physical bread which spoils (as the bread on the mountain and even the manna in the desert did) to the wisdom of seeking the true bread from heaven that gives spiritual life that lasts forever (vv. 27-33). Then he declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NIV). He was the one who could satisfy the deep spiritual longings of people’s souls, as nothing on this earth could ever do.
We who have come to Jesus in repentance and faith know this to be true! He gave us new, spiritual life and nourishes our souls with his comforting presence and his Word. Let’s look further into this passage to encourage our hearts with reasons why we find soul satisfaction in Jesus, the bread of life.
First, let’s marvel at the Father’s mercy and love for us, for he drew us to Jesus (vv. 37, 44). He did this by breaking our hearts over our sin and emptiness. He showed us our need for a Savior. His Spirit called us to a hunger and thirst that only Jesus could satisfy (v. 35).
Second, Jesus taught that salvation is a free gift. We could not ever deserve it, no matter how many works we tried to do. We simply have to believe and receive him by faith, into our hearts (vv. 27-29). And when we come this way to Jesus, he takes us as his own and keeps and guards us until the end. Our eternal life is assured (vv. 38-40). We bow down in tearful gratitude over such grace upon grace!
Third, we remember that the bread Jesus said he would give is his flesh (v. 51). He would willingly lay down his life as an atoning sacrifice on the cross for us. His death became life for us. We are humbled by His sacrificial love, yet we savor Jesus as the source of all true, meaningful life.
Fourth, just as we need to eat physical bread daily (the staple of life) to give nourishment and health to our bodies, so we need to feed upon Jesus daily for spiritual nourishment and health. Bread does not do us any good if we stand around and analyze it, philosophize about it, or nibble around its edges. You must consume it, digest it. The same is true about Jesus. You must personally take all that he is into your heart by faith. Then not only is a new spiritual life born in you, but Jesus also becomes one with you, his Spirit indwells you. You are in vital, living union with him and find spiritual health from dependence upon and intimacy with him (vv. 56-57).
This intimacy comes through daily prayer and engaging with his Word. I keep an appointment every morning with him, to feed on him through the Scriptures. But all through the day I also practice Jesus’ sustaining presence, conversing with him in my heart and shooting arrow prayers to him in time of need.
As I do, he fills me with himself, and what appears impossible for me to accomplish becomes real. He gives me his strength to meet obstacles and heartaches, his peace for enduring trials, and his courage to move forward in the Father’s will. Above all, he gives me his perspective on the “momentary troubles” of the world and the eternal glory God intends to bring forth in my life through them (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
Dear believer, if satisfaction is not your experience with Jesus Christ and he seems far away, may I suggest that he is not the one who has moved? Consider the words of A.W. Pink, “If we do hunger and thirst after coming in faith, it is not because He is unable, and not because He is unwilling to satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst, but because we are of ‘little faith’ and fail to draw daily on His fullness.”
Jesus wants you to fully experience the spiritual nourishment and peace of soul that comes from feeding on him, the bread of life.