Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is the longest chapter in this Gospel, and it contains some of the most well known of the many miracles that Jesus performed in His earthly ministry. Certainly most anyone who has heard stories of Jesus has heard that He miraculously fed 5000 people using only a few loaves of bread and some fish; and that He walked on water. Both of those amazing happenings are detailed within this chapter.
Not in any way to diminish those astounding feats, I want us to focus our attention on what I see to be a recurring theme that continues throughout this extended chapter….Bread! In verse 5, Jesus asked Philip “Where are we going to buy bread to feed all these people?” Notice He didn’t ask “Where are going to get the money”, or even “How are we going to feed these people?”. He just wanted to get them thinking about it, Verse 6 even says that He already knew what He was going to do.
We are told that there was a boy who had brought 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish with him, and that Jesus took that small amount and multiplied it and fed all the people that were there that day; over 5000 men, not counting women and children.
Nothing more is said about this young boy who gave up his lunch, but what a tremendous lesson there is his brief story. When we are willing to give Jesus the small gift that we have, He can bless it and use it many times beyond what we would be able to do within our own abilities. As the young boy allowed Jesus to have the loaves and fish, we should allow Him to have control of our lives and watch how He can multiply and use the gifts we give to Him.
We could leave the lesson to be learned there, and it would be sufficient; but this chapter contains an even richer truth that we should try to understand. In chapter 6, the very next day, the crowd was looking for Jesus, and He clearly saw that they were more concerned with their bellies than anything deeper (vs 26-27). They were looking for bread that will temporarily satisfy bodily hunger, but He speaks to them about a Bread that will eternally satisfy their spiritual hunger.
What we see following is a discussion, or even a debate, when Jesus is explaining deep spiritual realities about the Life that comes from God, versus the world’s mindset and understanding that is unable to comprehend spiritual things. They want their bellies full, and their physical needs met, while Jesus wants to give them something infinitely more valuable—Eternal Life!
Jesus is certainly speaking metaphorically when He says things like “I am the Bread of Life”, and “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (v55). But these are extremely radical thoughts, and he repeats it several times. These words were clearly meant to stir the people up and get them (and us!) to really think about what He was saying. Even the disciples were struggling with the thoughts of eating His flesh, and drinking His blood. Verse 61 tells us they were ‘grumbling about this’.
It is at this point that He explains His thoughts in a little more detail: “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all, the words I have spoken are spirit, and life!” In my mind I can see the disciples sitting there, as in a cartoon, and a lightbulb comes on over their heads. “Oh… you’re not talking about really eating flesh, but speaking about spiritual things?!”
First of all, I’m sure they were relieved! And then they begin to understand that what He means is: when you eat physical food, it becomes part of you; Jesus, by the Spirit and as we receive Him, becomes part of us, and we become one with Him.
Verse 65 adds one more layer to the discourse. Some of those around Him did not understand what He was trying to say, and they walked away, unbelieving. Jesus said “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to Him by the Father.” In other words, It really is the Father who gives you the ability to understand what I am saying. And when you really understand, you believe. And when you believe, you are received by the Father. And when you are received, it is for Eternity.
So today, if you understand that Jesus is the Bread of Life — That when we truly believe and trust Him with our whole heart, He becomes part of us and we become part of Him; you didn’t come to that conclusion just because you are intelligent and wise, you came to it because the Father drew you and the Holy Spirit gave you the understanding…“It was granted by the Father”.
“Thank you, Jesus, for being willing to be the Bread of Life, for giving up your own Life, so that we who believe and receive you might forever live with you, and have real life. Amen!”
Is Jesus really the Bread of Life?
Why is that so hard for people to understand?