Title: Instruction concerning the Bread of Life part 1
Scriptures to Read: Mark 6:53–56; Matthew 14:34–36; John 6:22–46
Now he is back on the Jewish side of the lake, at Gennesaret. There are those who believe in Him there, and their faith is shown by their response to His presence. Just as it was for the haemorrhaging woman, touching the hem of His garment was the outworking of their faith. We see again here that they were coming to Him with personal needs for healing, and they were coming in faith. This section is the third of John’s seven discourses, the discourse on the Bread of Life. It is also the first of the seven I AM’s. In verse 35 he says “I am the bread of life”. Let’s look at how the conversation unfolds.
The crowd seeking Jesus
John begins by setting the scene for the discourse. John tells us that it is the next day. The next day after what? It is the day after Jesus fed the five thousand and sent the disciples away in a boat to return to Galilee. And John tells us that the same crowd that had been miraculously fed the loaves and fishes come looking for Jesus. And when they find Him they can’t understand how He got there so soon so they ask Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
Jesus’ response: “truly, truly, I say to you.”
He begins with the words, “truly, truly, I say to you.” These words serve to focus their attention on what He is about to say. He will use them four times in the course of this discourse, and each time they highlight something that is pivotal in the development of His argument. Think of them as a spotlight shining on the words that follow to make sure you notice them.
Their motive – His starting point
Jesus ignores the words of their question and He begins His lengthy discourse by telling them about their motive for seeking Him. This is His starting point. Notice that Jesus tells them two things about their motive for seeking Him. What are they? First, He tells them they are not seeking Him because they saw signs. Which signs is Jesus referring to? The signs He did to verify His Messiahship. So they are not seeking Him because they saw His signs and believed. Secondly, He tells them that they are seeking Him because He provided bread for them and they were satisfied.
Two kinds of bread
Now He has their attention focused on what really matters to them, He introduces the idea that there are actually two kinds of food. The food they are seeking is food that they have to work for, and it perishes. But the food He tells them to seek is freely given to them by the Son of Man, and it endures to eternal life. Instead of focusing on the food, what are they focusing on? Work! So Jesus tells them, this is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent. This, in fact, is the subject and purpose of the whole discourse. And notice here a salvation by work! What kind of work saves and results in eternal life? Only faith! Believing in the Messiah Whom God has sent is the only work that will result in eternal life.
Request for a sign
In reply they ask for a sign! He began the discourse pointing out to them that they did not come seeking Him because of the signs by which He authenticated His Messiahship. In spite of these many signs, they now ask for a sign so that they can believe in Him! Moreover, they ask to be fed miraculously, just as their fathers were fed manna in the wilderness.
The Bread of God
Again Jesus focuses their attention on the answer He is about to give with His words, “truly, truly, I say to you.” Then He contrasts what Moses has given and what God, the Father, gives. Then He gives the reason for the contrast: “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Of course, He is describing Himself. He is the One who came down from heaven and gives life to the world.
The Bread of Life
Now they want this life giving bread that He is talking about, and they want it, not only now, but always. So He declares to them: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. The bread of life satisfies both hunger and thirst.”
Unbelief vs. Belief
In verse 36 He points out their unbelief. Although they have seen Him, they do not believe. Then in verse 37 He declares that there will be those who come to Him. And those who come to Him are those who believe in Him. And those who come to Him are all those that the Father gives Him. None of those will be left out, or cast out. They will all come and they are secure in Him. In verses 38-40 He gives the reason why He is so confident that there will be those who believe and come to Him. This is the very will of God! This is the very purpose for which God sent Him and for which He came! The point of these verses is this: In spite of their unbelief, and in contrast with it, He will accomplish the mission for which He was sent, and there will be those who believe, and He will not lose one of them, and He Himself will raise them up on the last day.
Now verse 41 begins, therefore. How did they respond? They were murmuring, muttering, complaining, or grumbling. Where have we seen this before? In spite of the manna that God provided in the wilderness the Israelites murmured. And now God has provided heavenly bread, the bread of life, and still they murmur. The correlation should not be missed. Instead of believing, they are murmuring.
Taught of God
Then Jesus comes to the key idea in His response to their grumbling, in verse 45, where He quotes from Isaiah 54:13, speaking of Israel in the Messianic Kingdom: “All your sons will be taught of the Lord.” Jeremiah also expresses the same idea in different words in Jeremiah 31:34 and Jeremiah 38:34. And then He applies the words of the prophets to the present situation by saying: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” And the main point here is this: The very fact that they do not believe indicates that they have not been taught of God. They have not heard and learned from the God the Father. And the unstated question implied here is: if it is not the Father they have heard from, then who are they following? Then He reminds them that He is the only one who has seen the Father. He is the one who has come down from heaven, who has seen the Father, who has been sent by the Father. And He is the one who will receive those the Father gives Him and will raise them up on the last day.