“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48-51)
Like a good Jewish expositor, Jesus contrasts the new manna of the New Covenant with the old manna of the Old Covenant. He begins by stating that He is bread of life by reusing the phrase “I am the bread of life.” Jesus’ use of the phrase I Am (ego eimi) is a specific statement claiming that He is God. In doing so, He gives us three characteristics of the new bread of life.
First, we see that the bread of life comes down from heaven. As such, it provides eternal nourishment and life whereas the physical manna the Jews ate in the wilderness did not utterly sustain them and many physically died.
Second, Jesus identifies Himself personally as the living bread come down from heaven. This is not an impersonal food but rather a personal God who has come into time and space in order to provide eternal salvation for sinners. Jesus promises that anyone who eats of this bread, or comes to Him (John 6:35, 44), will live forever. That is to say, those who come to Christ by faith in His person and work will receive eternal life.
Thirdly, Jesus teaches that this is a sacrificial bread come down from heaven. “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus is referring to His death on the cross as the source of eternal life. The word “world” is a reference to fallen humanity who hates and loathes Jesus Christ. Yet it is for these that Jesus came, died and rose again.
Dr. John Walvoord explains, “Manna met only a limited need. It provided temporary physical life. The Israelites came to loathe it, and ultimately they died. Jesus is a Bread of a different kind. He is from heaven and gives life. A person who eats of that Bread will not die. Since Jesus is the Bread of Life, what does “eating” this Bread mean? Many commentators assume that Jesus was talking about the Lord’s Supper. This passage may well illuminate the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, in relation to Christ’s death. But since the Last Supper occurred one year later than the incidents recorded in this chapter, eating His flesh and drinking His blood should not be thought of as sacramentalism. “Eating” the living Bread is a figure of speech meaning to believe on Him, like the figures of coming to Him (v. 35), listening to Him, (v. 45), and seeing Him (v. 40). To eat of this Bread is to live forever (cf. vv. 40, 47, 50, 54, 58). Jesus’ revelation about the Bread was then advanced in that not only is the Father giving the Bread (Jesus), but also Jesus is giving Himself: This Bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Salvation is by the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God (1:29). By His death, life came to the world.”
Living in a land of plenty, we often fail to thank God and be truly grateful for the abundance of food and nourishment we have. We may also fail to truly thank Him for the bread of life we have in Jesus Christ. Take time today to express your gratitude to God in words and actions.
Soli deo Gloria!