Jesus, the Bread of Life

Tom Groelsema, Speaker

John 6:25-59 | November 5 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
November 5
Jesus, the Bread of Life | John 6:25-59
Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Father, we join with the psalm writer in saying open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things in Your law. Open our eyes, open our hearts so that we might see, that we might take in, that we might believe all that Jesus has to say for us this morning. May we see Christ, may we trust Him. Feed us, Lord, with the bread of life. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let’s turn in our Bibles today to John chapter 6. John 6. We’re going to be reading verses 25 through 59, so some extra verses today, as Jesus presents Himself and makes the claim of Himself as the bread of life. John, chapter 6, verses 25 through 59. Hear now God’s Word.

“When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set His seal.” Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “Then what sign do You do, that we may see and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.””

“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. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.””

“So the Jews grumbled about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him. And I will raise Him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me— not that anyone has seen the Father except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 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.””

“The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus 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 you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as He taught at Capernaum.”

Well, dear people of God, I was talking to a friend in the last couple of weeks about the appetite of teenage boys. This friend had a gathering with some friends. They were eating pizza and he said one of the boys, it was amazing, one of the boys took three or four pieces of pizza and he ate them all and kind of as the part was wrapping up, as I understand it, he came back, took another plate, and stacked up like four more pieces of pizza and ate them all. It’s like his body was hollow or something, right? Just shoving it in, shoving it in. Where’s it all going?

It reminded me that when our son Nathan was growing up that part of our budget, grocery budget, was for things like Doritos and chips and soft drinks and we would buy all of this, particularly for the times when his buddies would come over and they would head down to the basement. They’d be playing video games all evening and then they would pop back up out of the basement and they would hit the cupboard. All the Doritos and the soft drinks and the chips that we would buy, we thought we were buying these for a few weeks, and in one sitting, in one evening, they would clean the entire cupboard out. They devoured it all.

Some people are like that with books. They eat books, they devour them. Sheri used to do that. She doesn’t do that so much anymore, but she would get into this book and she couldn’t put it down and she would stay up late and she’d skip meals. When our kids were young and it was time to put them to bed, isn’t it time to put our kids to bed? She just, buried in the book.

I have a nephew that is like that with movies. Some people are like that with sports. They won’t miss a game. They know the statistics. They follow the recruiting, they read blogs, they listen to podcast. They’re up on all the latest news.

For other people it’s crafts, it’s cars, it’s cooking. You name it. It can be like that for anything.

But a deep hunger for something that is hard to satisfy, not a physical hunger, but a heart hunger. A heart longing for something, craving for something. I want this, I need this, we want more and more of it. Something that your heart cannot get enough of.

I asked you at the very beginning of this message this morning what is it that your heart hungers for. You might remember this famous quote from Augustin. He says, speaking to the Lord here, “Because You have made us for Yourself, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

God, You made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee. Someone commenting on this quote from Augustin said we are like homing pigeons. We need to go home, we need to fly home to be with God. We’re made to be in movement toward God, made for Him.

Because of that, there is a restlessness in our hearts when we are apart from God. That explains the restlessness – we’re looking for God and trying to fill it with so many others. We see that in a lot of people, don’t we? We see that in our own hearts, our own lives, trying to lay hold of something that will satisfy us deep within.

Well, friends, long before Augustin, Jesus talked about the hunger of our hearts. That was at the center of what Jesus was saying when He talked about Himself as the bread of life, that just like bread satisfies and curbs our hunger, so Jesus is the One, the only One that can satisfy the hunger of our hearts and give us life.

What a great backdrop for us this morning as we come in just a few moments to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, because we’re coming to a meal. We’re going to eat. We’re going to drink. But all of it points to Jesus and how we need to take Him in.

There’s three things I think that stand out about Jesus’ words here when He says “I am the bread of life.” There’s something here about His identity, something about His ministry, and something about His mandate.

So the first, Jesus’ identity. He is the Christ of God. He spoke these words to a hungry crowd. They had followed Him to Capernaum. They had been with Him before. In fact, if you have your Bibles, you can see at the very beginning of the chapter, John 6, this crowd had just witnessed and heard about Jesus’ amazing miracle of food. Five loaves, two fish – He fed 5000 people. They followed Jesus. They wanted more from Christ. They wanted Him to perform another miracle.

In fact, Jesus says this as He engages with the crowd, verse 26. He says, “You ate your fill and you want more, that’s why you have come.” It wasn’t so much that they wanted Jesus. They wanted more to satisfy their stomachs. They wanted more bread.

This sparked an interaction between Christ and the crowds. Jesus said, “You need more than bread. You need food that endures to eternal life, that the Son of Man will give you. You need to believe.” They reacted to Christ, and they said, “Well, what sign will You do that we may see and believe? Moses fed God’s people for 40 years with manna in the wilderness. He gave them bread. Jesus, what are you going to do? This is what Moses did. Jesus, what are You going to do for us?”

Friends, this question was a direct challenge to Jesus’ identity, to Jesus’ messianic claims. The rabbis of Jesus’ day taught that when the Messiah came that He would duplicate the miracle of manna that Moses had done. They had been telling the people over and over, “When Messiah comes, He will do the same thing that Moses did for Old Testament Israel.” One rabbi put it like this. He asked the question, “What did the first Redeemer do?” and the answer, “He brought down manna.” Then he responded, “The last Redeemer will also bring down manna.”

So you see the question that is facing Christ here? Can you duplicate Moses? Will you do what Moses has done? Jesus, if You are the Messiah, will You bring manna just like Moses brought manna? Are you the Redeemer?

This was not a challenge to what Jesus would do, this was really a challenge to who Jesus is. Jesus, are You the Messiah? Do You claim to be the Messiah? Can You do what Moses has done?

It’s a question of Jesus’ identity.

Jesus gives in response His own self-disclosure. These words are at the center of our text, verse 35. Here’s what Jesus said: “I am the bread of life and whoever comes to Me shall not hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”

People of God, this was His self-disclosure that He is God. This was the first of seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John. I’m sure most of you are familiar with them.

But here’s Jesus’ words: I am. These words “I am” echo the words of God Himself in Exodus 3. There the question was similar. Moses is coming to God, he’s going to go to speak to God’s people who are in Egypt. He comes to God and in a sense says, “God, who are You?” He actually puts it like this. He says, “When I go to Your people and they ask me the question who is it who has sent you, what am I supposed to say? What is Your name? Who are You?”

And you remember God says to him, “You tell them I am who I am has sent you. That’s who I am. Tell them that the I am has sent you.” This wonderful statement of God’s independence, God’s self-existence, that God is not dependent or contingent on anything around Him at all.

Here comes Jesus. Who am I? I am the bread of life.

Jesus’ listeners had to understand that echo from Exodus 3. This crowd that lived in the hotbed of Judaism, that knew the Old Testament Scriptures. Here Jesus is saying “I am is among you. I am God Himself, One with the Father.”

But His own self-disclosure also is an indication that He was sent by God. So He is God and sent by God. Six times the words “come down” or “came down” are used to describe Jesus in this text. He’s come down, He came down. The manna had been sent by God. Manna, right? It came down, it fell from the sky, from the heavens. Jesus says, “I’ve come down, I have been sent by the Father.”

He says in verse 32, “It was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread.” What Jesus is saying there is wasn’t Moses that brought the manna, God sent the manna down. Now God has sent His Son to be the true bread from heaven. God has sent Him to be the bread that we need. Jesus is God’s answer for the Father’s plan to save. Jesus will go on to say, “I’ve not come to do My own will, but I have come to do the will of Him who sent Me. I’m on the Father’s mission.”

So, friends, I think there’s two things I think that stand out here about Jesus’ identity, this first point. First of all, Jesus is better than the manna that was given by Moses. Jesus is greater than that bread. The manna in the wilderness was a miracle, but it was a miracle that pointed to the true bread that the Father would give when He sent us Christ. So don’t long for manna, long for Jesus. Don’t long for all the other things that you think will satisfy your heart. We need to long for Christ.

Second. Jesus is also greater than Moses, not just greater than the manna. Moses may have walked through water. In fact, just before this in John 6, Jesus walks on water. Moses may have led God’s people out of Egypt as a first redeemer, but Jesus is the ultimate redeemer who brings us everlasting life.

So not only do we have Jesus’ identity here, but we have secondly Jesus’ ministry. His ministry was this – to satisfy and to save.

First of all, He’s the one that satisfies our hunger. We are hungry people, aren’t we? We hunger for all kinds of things, feeling the need to be satisfied all the time. We live in a world that tries to feed our hungers, tries to satisfy them. There’s a hunger for things.

I think sometimes about going out and getting a new cellphone, or you buy a new car, and how at times like that in my life when that’s happened to me, there’s kind of a certain enthusiasm. Right? Yeah, I got this new thing, like it’s going to satisfy me or something.

We hunger for relationships, for community. We hunger for all kinds of things and we have so much, even in a place like south Charlotte, and yet realize, don’t we? It’s not just us, it’s the people that we live around, realizing there has to be something more than we have.

Our heart tells us the truth. You can have all these things and yet our heart aches. There’s got to be something more. There has to be something that will take care of this hunger that I feel.

The prophet Jeremiah said, “My people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can’t hold water.”

That’s us. You forsake God and then you dig a cistern to find water and you realize that the cistern is broken. It actually can’t hold the water that you’re looking for.

It’s been said of college students, I don’t know if this is true or not, but it’s been said some are reporting that depression and anxiety rates are at an all-time high among college and university students today. So appreciative of the testimonies that we were able to hear last Sunday night from some of our CO staff about the pressures of college life, grades, acceptance, success, relationships. You think about how all of those pressures, you’re trying to get a hold of these things, struggle to achieve these things, and they keep slipping through your fingers, the resultant anxiety or depression that some college students may feel.

A young man in my last congregation, talking to him one time about how he became a Christian and he was describing how he had grown up in southern California, good-looking guy, star baseball player in high school, good student. He said to me, “But there was something inside of me that told me there had to be more. There was a deep emptiness. I had all these going for me, kind of a path to a good life, probably what any high school student would want, and yet an emptiness inside of me,” he said, “that only was satisfied. I attended this Christian club at my school, I started to read the Bible, and I came to know Jesus. I found the answer for my life.”

Jack Higgins, a British author, authored over 90 books, was asked one time what did he wish people had told him when he was young. His answer was, “I wished somebody had told me that when you get to the top, there’s nothing there.” You get to the top and what is there? It’s empty.

You’ve probably heard this famous quote from Lewis, just kind of give you a summary of it. C.S. Lewis said we don’t hunger too much, we hunger too little, we are too easily satisfied. C.S. Lewis was saying our problem is not that we hunger too much for things. We hunger too little for the right thing. We are way too easily satisfied with so many other things than the One, not another thing but a person, the one person who can satisfy us, who can take our hunger away. We settle for manna when we could have Christ.

The manna itself was meant to say that to the people of God. You remember how they had to go about collecting the manna in the wilderness. Six days you collect enough for Monday. Then you have to go back and collect for Tuesday, then collect for Wednesday. You can’t get enough. You’ve got to go back day after day after day after day. Jesus said, “Your fathers,” He’s talking to the crowd, “your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness.” Then what does He say? “And they died.” They ate the manna in the wilderness but they died. It could not keep them going, you see.

Then He followed it up and He said, “But here is bread that one may eat of it and not die.” Oh, to have something that you take in and you will not die and you will not hunger any longer, and that is Jesus. The bread of life who alone can fill us.

If you’re hungering for intimacy, you come to Christ. He says, “I’ll be your bridegroom.” Or you may be hungering for love and you go to His Word and the Bible reminds us that He is the One who delights over us with singing. Or you’re hungering for significance and He brings you into a kingdom that will never pass away. He’s the One that satisfies our hunger.

He is also the One who gives us life. Don’t you think that’s why Jesus chose the image of bread when He wanted to describe Himself? That He took this image of bread because it is a staple of life.

When I’ve been able to travel internationally a few times, one of the things I’m always concerned about is what am I going to eat? What kind of food am I going to have? What kind of food am I going to eat? I’m not worried about finding a good restaurant or something like that. It’s been like when I’ve to house churches in China or places like that, what am I going to eat? The one thing I’m always looking for on the table, is there any bread? Sometimes it’s rolls, sometimes it’s slices of bread, sometimes it’s been paper-thin bread. But if I have bread, I’m going to make it another day. Just give me some bread.

Well, as basic as bread is to life, so basic is Jesus to eternal life. We don’t need gourmet food. We don’t need to be an expert in theology. Don’t need to have the Westminster Shorter Catechism memorized. We just need bread. We need Jesus, the, bread of life. He gives life, eternal life, with Christ. He said it, “I give life to the world,” verse 33.

Verse 51 – He’s the living bread from heaven, and if anyone eats of Him, he will live forever.

Friends, how is it that Jesus can be the bread of life? How is that He’s the One that can satisfy us but He’s the One that also can cause us to live eternally, to know the blessings of that?

James Montgomery Boice said, “Have you ever thought about all that grain must pass through before it becomes bread?” So just think about this. It must first be planted and then grow. When it is ripe, it must be cut down, winnowed, ground into flour. Finally it must be subjected to the fiery heat of the oven, and only by this process is it able to sustain life. He says this is what happened to the Lord Jesus in order that He may become your bread. He was born into this world, He was bruised, He was cut down by sinful men, and He passed through the fires of God’s holy wrath as He took your place in judgment.

This is how Jesus is our bread of life. Through His suffering and death for our sins He becomes the way to having the hunger of hearts satisfied, and life in Him, life forever supplied.

There’s a fourth thing I want to look at with you here and that’s Jesus’ mandate. His mandate is this, that we must believe.

There’s so much in this text that emphasizes the sovereignty of God in our salvation. In fact, it would be a great study sometime to look how Jesus lays this out, all the glory due to Christ, due to God and our salvation. It says, for example, verse 37, “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” Or verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I would lose none of all that He has given Me.” There’s a real treasure trove of the doctrines of grace in this text.

Friends, what I want us to see this morning is that this text is also full of calls to believe. Our responsibility.

So verse 35, Jesus says, “He who comes to Me will never go hungry and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Or verse 40, “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.”

You see there in those descriptions of Christ that coming to Jesus, or looking to the Son, or believing in Him, are all saying the same thing, kind of equivalents of one another.

It’s true even in this tough language that we see at the end of our text. Verses 52 and following, this language of eating and drinking. Jesus says in verse 53, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Or verses 55 and 56, “For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.”

We scratch our heads and say, “Jesus, what are you saying there? Eating flesh, drinking blood? What’s this all about?”

Well, people of God, just like coming and looking to Him are other words for believing in Christ, so eating and drinking are other words for faith and trusting in Him. How do we know that? Let’s just make one quick comparison. Look at verse 40 and then look at verse 54.

Verse 40 – This is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.

Just compare that to verse 54 and how similar they sound – Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day, Jesus says.

Notice how closely they parallel one another. Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him, everyone who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood, in both cases, has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.

You see what Jesus was doing? Jesus was simply saying this – don’t get tripped up on the language of eating and drinking, flesh and blood. Eating and drinking, it’s just like coming to Christ. It’s just like believing in Him.

Friends, isn’t that what faith is like? To trust in Christ? It’s like eating and drinking. You eat and drink. When you do that, you consume. You take something in. It becomes part of you. The same thing happens when we believe. By faith we embrace Christ. We take Him in, as it were. We become united to Christ, we become one with Him.

This is why the psalm writer, Psalm 34, can say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” You taste and see and when you taste and see, what do you find out? You find out the Lord, not just bread, not just juice, not hamburgers. Taste and see and you find that the Lord is good and blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.

Back to Augustin. Augustin said this – Believe and you have eaten. Believe and you have eaten.

Or Calvin, John Calvin. He said faith is the soul’s taste. Faith is the soul’s taste.

There’s a fictional story of a man who took a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. He bought his ticket but he decided he would save some money, so he’d take along his own food. So he’s called to dinner the first night, turned down the invitation. Invited back to dinner the following day, he turned down that invitation. By the end of the week his food was getting old, it was stale, it wasn’t edible, so he decided he’d gather up a bunch of his money and he would go to dinner. As he walked up to pay for his meal, someone said, “You don’t need to pay. The meals are all included in the price of the ticket.”

People of God, that is true of coming to Christ. You don’t need to pay to receive Him as the bread of life. You can’t pay. Life in Him is a gift and all you need to do, I think about this from growing up with the Heidelberg Catechism, the line out of that confession, “All you need to do is receive Him with a believing heart.” That’s it. Just receive Him. It’s free. Receive Him with a believing heart.

Friends, that also is how we’re to come to this supper this morning. With a believing heart, because as you see, it’s faith that unites us to Christ. It is faith that makes you a partaker of Christ at the supper. Not just partaking of bread or juice, it’s by faith you partake of Jesus Himself. Just little pieces of bread, just little cups of juice. They couldn’t satisfy a bird, right?

Of course, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not being satisfied with bread or juice, it’s about being satisfied with Jesus.

So what’s your heart hungry for? It’s only Jesus that can satisfy. His body is broken for you, His blood was shed for you. To give you life.

Let’s pray now together before we come to the table of the Lord. As we sang a few minutes ago, Lord, our heart’s desire is to taste of You, O living bread. We turn our souls to thee again. We’re unfilled, we’re empty. We need You. We desperately need You, Jesus. So we pray now that You would feed us at this table just as You fed us with Your Word. May we taste and see that You are good and may we seek our refuge in You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.