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It is easy for us to look back and see the meaning of Jesus’ metaphor, “I Am the bread of life”
We have 2000 years of Christian tradition that helps us to see the significance of what Jesus was on about.
But many of the people that Jesus said these words to completely missed his point.
Their context was different, they had different expectations.
In their mind the miraculous provision of bread echoed the time of Moses.
Moses had provided them with bread from heaven, the mana that was the staple food of Israel in the wilderness.
In their minds Moses had saved them from the oppression of the Egyptians.
He was in effect a type of Messiah, one who freed the people.
And for the people in Jesus’ day they saw many similarities.
They were not in captivity under the Egyptians; they were occupied by the Romans.
They yearned for freedom and just as Moses had come to free them, so a new Messiah was coming who would liberate them from the Romans.
This is why they ask Jesus to give them a sign that he is in effect the Messiah
That is why earlier on when Jesus had miraculously fed them they wanted to make him King in verses 14-15.
They had a picture, it was the wrong one.
How often do we have the wrong picture of something?
It might be that we look at a situation and we just can’t see what the other person is getting at.
It often happens in marriages.
You are discussing some issue, often a plan for the day or how you will go about something and it just goes downhill from there.
One of you thinks that you should approach the problem this way.
The other disagrees.
You are talking about the same thing, but you are not.
Toni & I had such a situation when we were talking about her wedding dress, many years ago.
I use this illustration because it is safer for me than using a more recent one.
I insisted that her wedding dress must be white.
Men & women apparently have a different perspective on what is white and what is some other colour.
When your bride to be tells you that the dress is a colour, any colour; as a male you see that it something other than white.
And as a young man who hasn’t yet learnt how things work in such situations you get upset and tell your bride to be that she has to wear white.
Now I might have learnt some things since then but....
Toni went and took the material back and totally changed the plans for the wedding dress.
Sometime later she walks me past the wedding shop window and points out a dress and asks what colour it is.
My response, “it is white”.
Apparently that was the wrong answer.
What I saw as white is apparently some other colour, the one she originally chose.
For men white is this wide..... , for women apparently there are 100 different colours in that range.
Now while this difference of perspective had some cost to me at the time.
The difference of perspective that the people had with Jesus was of eternal significance.
Not only did they have an expectation of a Messiah who would free them.
They only perceived the entire situation from that physical perspective.
A miracle worker who would feed them and free them.
But Jesus was talking about something completely different.
Look at John 6 verses 22 to 29.
They were wondering how Jesus got to where he was, he didn’t get in the boat so did he walk around the northern shore of the lake in the dark?
Notice Jesus’ non reply to their question in verse 26.
Notice the completely opposite perspective in verses 28-29.
For them, doing God’s will simply required a physical action.
For Jesus it was about belief and relationship in the one God sent.
We make the same mistake today.
Following Christ so often becomes about keeping the rules, “being a good person”
But again and again Jesus points out that what we do is simply an outworking of who we are in relationship with.
Being a fine upstanding middle class member of the community is nothing more than keeping the rules unless it results from relationship with Christ.
Christianity without Christ is actually empty religiosity.
Belief in Christ as the bread from heaven is to look to Christ for nourishment on both a physical and a spiritual level.
Without that relationship we are spiritually malnourished, in fact we are in famine.
Sadly many amongst the crowd didn’t or wouldn’t get it.
They were locked into a perspective that kept them blind to the truth.
They couldn’t see the metaphor of bread representing fellowship with Jesus.
They couldn’t see the extension of that metaphor to Jesus being the nourishment of their spirit.
They couldn’t see that Jesus was drawing a line between the mana which God provided through Moses and the bread which is Christ himself.
And as we continue to read through the encounter of Jesus and this crowd we see his words getting more and more pointed.
Again Jesus speaks of relationship and dependence, of trust and security.
Again the people see only the physical.
And in verses 41 & 42 we see opposition forming.
In the original language verse 41 speaks of “the Jews” murmuring.
This is the first time that this term is used in John’s Gospel to represent a particular group of people.
Almost all those following Jesus were Jewish, so this distinction is important.
John is not speaking of “the people” but those amongst the people who are enslaved to a religious view of things instead of a spiritual view of things.
Those who refuse to see the metaphor that Jesus is using as true teaching because they will not look beyond the physical to the spiritual truth.
These were the ones who saw Jesus’ claim to being the bread that came down from heaven as a claim to being more than just a prophet, more than just a representative of God as Moses was.
They saw the claim as a form of blasphemy.
A claim to being more than Moses, a claim to being God.
They had chosen to forget that the people opposed Moses much of the time as well.
Now they would also oppose the one who came down from heaven.
Just to make sure that his claim was clear Jesus repeats himself in verses 43 to 58.
We see this stated in verse 53 where it states, “So Jesus said again”
Unless we take spiritual nourishment from relationship with Christ we have nothing.
In Jewish life bread spoke of fellowship.
God’s nourishment and sustaining of his people.
During the celebration of Pentecost, two loaves of leavened bread were offered as sacrifices (Lev.
In the tabernacle, and later in the temple, the Levites placed twelve loaves of unleavened bread, or bread without yeast, before the Lord each week to symbolize God’s presence with the twelve tribes (Ex.
When Jesus had this encounter with the crowd it was near the time of Passover.
A powerful reminder in Israel’s’ history of God’s provision.
A time when bread baked without yeast reminded people of deliverance.
But these people missed what they needed to be delivered from.
They needed to be delivered from spiritual starvation and all they wanted to do was fill their stomachs and get rid of the Romans.
This concept of Jesus as the bread of heaven applies equally to us today.
We also are in need of spiritual nourishment.
We also are in need of eternal life.
And we too can only find this life in Jesus, the true bread from heaven.
Are you open to all that Jesus meant when he used this metaphor?
Or is Jesus the one you follow when you want to be blessed but ignore when he asks for complete dependence?
[1] Kruse, C. G. (2003).
John: an introduction and commentary (Vol.
4, pp.
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[2] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999).
Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Jn 6:46–47).
Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
Bread, is a staple food for large parts of the world.
It has symbolic significance in religion and culture.
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