Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
What is your favorite food? It could be a main course or even a dessert. I don’t have one but several meals that I refer to as my favorites. One of which is my wife’s homemade spaghetti and meat balls. When I walk into the house as she is cooking, the aroma of the spaghetti sauce (my grandad’s recipe) takes my back to my childhood. What wonderful memories, then and now.
However, as enjoyable as that meal is, and many others, it is not a principle food for life and living. If you want to know what food is absolutely essential in order to sustain life, the answer most probably given would be “bread and water.” Therefore, it should not surprise us that Jesus refers to Himself as not only the “living water” (John 4:7-15; Jeremiah 2:15), but also as the “bread of life” (John 6:35).
Jesus said “I am the bread of life.” The phrase “I Am” is from the Greek ego eimi. This particular phrase is found 23 times in the Gospel of John (John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8). It refers the reader back to Exodus 3:14 and is an explicit statement by Jesus that He is God. It is also here in John 6 that Jesus begins to join His “I Am” statement with a metaphor, or a comparison, which expresses His redeeming relationship to the fallen world.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” The word “bread” comes from the Greek word ἄρτος; artos. It usually refers to baked bread, but could describe food in general (Matthew 4:4; 6:11; Luke 11:1-3). It is very likely that when the New Testament writers used the word “artos” they were thinking in Old Testament terms (Deuteronomy 8:1-3; Proverbs 30:8-9). Jesus used the phrase in this immediate context, following His feeding of the 5,000, to illustrate His ability alone to provide sinners with sustenance and new life.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” The phrase “of life” (ζωή; zoe) means that Jesus is the originator, and only source of physical and, most importantly, spiritual and eternal life.
How may sinners partake of this “bread of life?” Jesus said that “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus defines the way of taking this “bread of life” and “living water.” We receive both, that is to say Jesus, by faith. We are to come personally to Jesus Christ in order to receive this nourishment for our souls. The words “coming” and “believing” are synonymous.
The words “not” and “never” are also synonymous. They refer to the absolute assurance that the sinner who comes to Christ shall not hunger, and they shall never thirst again. Their souls will be eternally satisfied in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
John Calvin writes, “For it is of no avail to unbelievers that Christ is the bread of life, because they remain always empty; but then does Christ become our bread, when we come to Him as hungry persons, that He may fill us. To come to Christ and to believe mean, in this passage, the same thing; but the former word is intended to express the effect of faith, namely, that it is in consequence of being driven by the feeling of our hunger that we fly to Christ to seek life.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul concludes, “We can find eternal life only in Jesus. He alone can feed our souls with the bread of life. This means that no matter how much someone might appear to be dedicated to the Scriptures, they are not saved if they do not believe in Christ. We must pray for those who are not saved and yet may express affection for the Scriptures—Jews, members of Christian cults, Muslims, and so on—that they would have a true love for God’s Word and so turn to Christ.”
But how may a sinner come to Christ and receive the “bread of life?” The answer to this question is forthcoming in our next installment.
Until then, Soli deo Gloria.