“I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE…”
Wouldn’t you just love to have a time machine? Can you imagine it? You could just climb in, sit down, strap in, adjust the dials, push the button, and voila!
When we were children it was really easy to pretend and fantasize about such things, but now that we’re older it’s much harder, isn’t it? Besides, we’re not children anymore; we’re adults. We shouldn’t be spending our time and efforts on such childish pursuits. Oh well, maybe just this once.
All right, are you all strapped in? Set the date – 1446 BC. Load in the coordinates – latitude 28o32´N – longitude 33o58´E. Push the button! Where are we? We’re on Mount Sinai and we’re about to hear the LORD, the pre-incarnate Christ, speak to Moses.
2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to (Moses) in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.
3 So Moses said, “I must turn aside now, and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to (Moses) from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
5 Then (God) said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
6 He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Over the next six verses God tells Moses what he is to do. Moses is to go to Pharaoh and tell him to free the Israelites from their four hundred years of captivity and slavery in Egypt. Then he is to lead them to the Promised Land. That Moses is stunned by all of this should be a surprise to no one.
13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel (Jacob), and I shall say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
15 And God, furthermore said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”
Now let’s climb back into our time machine and readjust the dials. Reset the date – 29 AD. Load in new coordinates – latitude 31o46´N – longitude 35o15´E. Push the button again. Where are we now? Now we’re on the temple mount in Jerusalem. We’re among the crowd listening to a heated conversation between the now incarnate Christ and the leaders of the sect of the Pharisees. (turn to John 8)
Jesus has just said that if anyone abides in Him they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free. The Pharisees have taken offense at this and say they’ve never been enslaved to anyone. (Apparently they’ve forgotten Israel’s history and their national enslavements to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, not to mention their current condition under the control of Rome.) But the Pharisees just keep on. They boast that they’re the sons of Abraham, as if that makes them morally superior to everyone else. Then they go after Jesus personally. They accuse Him of being a child of fornication and of being possessed by a demon.
49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.
50 “But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.
51 “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”
52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he shall never taste of death.’
53 Surely you are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The pro-phets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’;
55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word.
56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 The Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
It is right here, as clearly and as forcefully as anywhere else in the NT, Jesus Christ pro-claims His own deity. You can be sure that every Jew knew about Moses’ encounter with “I AM,” the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the burning bush on Mount Sinai.
John’s gospel begins with a powerful and dramatic statement of who Jesus is.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
This is an amazing statement, isn’t it? Here we’re told that Jesus is God’s living Word, that He is Himself eternal God, and that He is the Creator and sustainer of the universe and everything in it. Once these magnificent truths are understood, Jesus’ saying, “I am,” in John 8:58, should not be a surprise. But, of course, it is to the Pharisees. And with it their hatred for Jesus reaches new heights and they try to kill Him on the spot. Yet for those of us who believe in Jesus, those of us who know and love Him, this affirm-ation of His deity thrills our hearts when we hear Him say it.
Jesus is the great “I AM” incarnate, and the Scriptures make it crystal clear in numerous ways. But John’s gospel stands out. Its theme is that Jesus is God. Where Matthew wants the Jews to believe that Jesus is their king and Messiah; and where Mark wants the Romans to understand that Jesus has come as a servant; and where Luke wants the Greeks to realize that Jesus is human, fully man; John focuses on Jesus’ deity, that He always was, is now, and always will be, fully God.
In John’s gospel Jesus describes Himself in seven “I am” statements. Each one is a metaphor that speaks to His role in our salvation.
*John 6:35 (metaphor #1 – to the multitudes)
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
He is saying that unlike the bread (the manna) from heaven that kept the Israelites alive for each day they received it, He Himself is the bread that will keep His people alive forever.
*John 8:12 (metaphor #2 – to the scribes and the Pharisees)
12 …Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Here Jesus is referring back to the OT truth that says Messiah’s coming will be a light, not only to the Jewish people, but to the whole world as well.
*John 10:7, 9 (metaphor #3 – to the religious leaders)
7 Jesus therefore said to them again, “Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
The metaphor of the door tells us that Jesus is the only way to find eternal life in heaven, and the only way to find peace, safety, and blessing in the life we now live on this earth.
*John 10:11, 14 (metaphor #4 – to the religious leaders)
11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me.”
There’s nothing mysterious about this metaphor, is there? Jesus, shortly after He said this, did lay down His life for His sheep.
*John 11:25 (metaphor #5 – to Martha)
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.”
Because Jesus has laid down His life for the sheep, and because God raised Him from the dead, we know that all who believe in Him will be raised to eternal life.
*John 14:6 (metaphor #6 – to Thomas)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
Is this not one of the greatest truths to be found anywhere in Scripture? And could there be a more “black and white” statement than this? On the one hand, people love “gray areas” where there is always room for compromise. People love to have “wiggle-room” where all the rules have endless exceptions.
On the other hand, most people don’t like absolutes. If you say Jesus is the only way, they’ll say, “Oh, you’re too narrow. Don’t be so rigid. What about all those good Jews, good Muslims, good Hindus, good Buddhists, good Mormons, good agnostics, etc.?” Or they might say, “Well, that may be your interpretation, but I have my own. Who’s to say which one is right or wrong as long as we’re all sincere?”
Most people don’t mind if you love Jesus. Many of them say they do too. Just don’t try to tell them that Jesus is the only way to heaven. But Jesus taught clearly, categorically, and uncompromisingly, that there is no other way to heaven, there is no other truth out-side of what He tells us, and there is no one else who can give us eternal life – no one. With that single statement – that one narrow, rigid, exclusive, and even “insensitive” statement – Jesus renders all of the other religions of the world null and void and useless.
*John 15:1, 5 (to the twelve – and by extension, to us)
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser.”
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he
bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
This final metaphor speaks to something every true Christian already knows. Unless you stay connected to Jesus, you will shrivel and waste away. However, when you do stay connected to Him, you will be nourished, strengthened, and productive. It will become obvious to yourself and to others and you will bear “much fruit.”
One of the ways we stay connected to Jesus is through true God-honoring worship. And one of the ways we worship God and honor Him is in our communion service. In it we acknowledge Him, we recognize Him for who He is, and we remember the reason for His coming to earth. We think of His life, His death, His resurrection, and His promise to take us to be with Him where He is. We’re reminded of His Second Coming in power and glory. Then with all of that in view we confess our sin and humble ourselves before Him and before each other. When our hearts are right, our communion service can become as pure a form of God-honoring worship as exists anywhere this side of heaven.
So today we’ve come together to worship the great “I AM.” When Moses asked God to tell him His name, God answered and said, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14) He is the One, who in human flesh said to the Pharisees, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abra-ham was born, I am.” (John 8:58) We’ve taken a brief look at Jesus’ seven “I AM” state-ments in John’s gospel. But since we’re celebrating the Lord’s Supper this morning we will take a closer look at just one. We will consider Jesus’ first “I AM” statement where He said, “I am the bread of life.” (turn to John 6)
In John 6:1-14 Jesus feeds the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish. The next day the crowds following Him are even larger. But do they want Jesus? No, most of them just want another free meal!
26 “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs (mira-cles), but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.
27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him, the Father, even God, has set His seal.”
28 They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
Look again at v. 28. What they’re asking is, “Which religious duties, rituals, or works do we need to do to get this food that gives eternal life?” Jesus’ answer is as straightfor-ward as it is simple. He tells them in v. 29 – “Believe in Me!” This is the only “work” that will ever be acceptable to God for the salvation of anyone.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of your-selves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast…
Works are connected to salvation only to the extent that true saving faith cannot help but produce works that are acceptable to God. A so-called faith in Christ that fails to pro-duce any good works is not saving faith at all.
14 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works (to demonstrate it)? Can that (kind of so-called) faith save him?
James takes the next twelve verses to answer that question with a resounding, “No!” He explains by both example and logic that such a faith saves no one. In v. 30 the crowd questions Jesus.
30 They said therefore to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?
31 “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’”
Even unbelievers can quote Scripture, can’t they? (That’s worth remembering!) But even though they can quote it, they don’t have a clue as to what it actually means. These Jews are exhibiting incredible spiritual blindness, deafness, and hardness of heart. It was just the day before that Jesus had miraculously fed them all. Now they respond to His call for them to believe in Him by saying, in so many words, “If You want us to listen to You, You’re gonna have to do another miracle. Y’know, like if You’re really from God, feed us again. Bring down some of that manna from heaven like Moses did.”
We’re disgusted by their attitude, aren’t we? But we shouldn’t be surprised by it. It’s just unbelief. These people aren’t a bit different than you and I were a moment before God saved us, opened our eyes, and gave us a new heart.
32 Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.
33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
The manna in the wilderness, while it was real in the sense that it fed people, was merely a temporary solution to a problem. You might say it had no “staying power” because it only nourished the physical body for one day at a time. It was only a shadow of the Sub-stance to come. Now Jesus tells them that the “real” bread, the “true” bread, the bread that gives eternal life has come and is here among them. Do you think they “get it” yet? No, they don’t. The next verse confirms it.
34 They said therefore to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.”
The Greek word for “Lord” here is “kuriŏs.” In this context it is better understood to mean “Sir.” The point is that they still do not recognize Jesus for who He is. They only want their physical needs met.
They’re following Jesus because they think they can get something out of it. The Apostle Paul spoke of that sort of unbelief in his first letter to the church at Corinth.
1 Corinthians 2:14
14 …a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Churches today are filled with people like that, blindly seeking to have their own desires and perceived needs met. “What can you do for me?” The tragedy is that countless churches are ready, and willing to accommodate them, to meet their “felt needs.” But Jesus didn’t take on human flesh and die for our felt needs. He became a man and died for our real need – forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. Listen, if you’re hungry, anyone can feed you. But if you’re lost, only Jesus can save you.
Remember that the people said they wanted a meal of the bread that gave eternal life. But of course, there is no such bread. So Jesus tells them plainly.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
36 “But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
37 “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
39 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Jesus is saying that He is the bread that has come down out of heaven to give eternal life. But He says much more.
• Look again at v. 37. “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me…” That speaks of God’s sovereignty and the Christian’s predestination.
• Look again at v. 39. “…of all that He has given Me I lose nothing…” That speaks of the Christian’s eternal security. You cannot lose your salvation because He can-not lose your salvation.
• Look again at v. 40. “For this is the will of My Father…” And you can be assured that Jesus will carry it out.
What is the people’s reaction to all of this? How do they respond to the truth?
41 The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”
42 And they were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?”
Still they do not believe. Jesus tells them that they don’t believe because they can’t believe. No one can believe if God does not prepare their heart. They are helpless. He is saying that if God doesn’t draw sinners to Himself, no one can ever be saved.
44 “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
These are sobering words. “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who has sent Me draws him…” What a statement of the sinner’s inability to come to Christ unless God calls him! God elects, predestines, calls, and saves. He does it all. Furthermore, none of the saved can ever be lost, and all of the saved will be resurrected to eternal life. If v. 37 didn’t make it plain enough, now v. 44 most certainly does.
47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
48 “I am the bread of life.
49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 “This is (I am) the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”
In one respect the bread we eat this morning is like the manna in the desert. It is capable of sustaining physical life, but it has no supernatural ability to save our souls. The ele-ments are merely symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood. So when we eat and drink we are symbolically taking Jesus into ourselves. But the symbolism is rich.
51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Jesus is speaking metaphorically about His death on the cross, about giving His life for the whole world. His body is going to be killed. With the aid of the Romans, the Jews are the ones who are going to do it. But again, they don’t understand Him.
52 The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.
58 “This is the bread which came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.”
In these verses the basic truths of Christianity are clearly taught. In v. 53 it says that without Christ you do not have eternal life. Conversely, in v. 54 it says that, with Christ, you do have eternal life. Then in v. 54 it also says that you will be resurrected, and in
v. 56 it says that, as a Christian, Christ lives in you. (symbolism of the elements)
Finally, in v. 57, Jesus declares that He has the authority to say these things because He has come down from the Father.
There’s kind of an epilogue here. Those who would not believe said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (v. 60) Notice that they did not say, “Who can hear it?” They all had the physical ears to hear it. They said, “Who can listen to it?” What they were really saying is, “Who could believe such a thing?” Look at John 6:65 with me.
65 And (Jesus) was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
And with that many of those who had been following Him turned and walked away.
67 Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”
68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” You have (the) words of eternal life.
69 “And we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
That is Peter’s testimony. Is it yours as well? If it is, then these elements are for you. If it is not, it can be. Ask Jesus to save your soul. Then, in simple childlike faith, receive Him as Lord of your life. Remember that He said…
37 “…the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
Will you join me at the table?