Thursday, April 4, 2013

"I AM" The bread of Life


The Bread of Life

 “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.”   
John 6:35-40

Bread is often called the staff of life.  It is considered a staple.  A person can survive on just bread and water for a long time.  Bread is so connected to food that it is synonymous with food in general.   One will " break bread together" meaning to share a meal together.

Much of the bread of the world is made from wheat. Wheat has been cultivated and stored by multiple civilizations for years. There is evidence that bread has been baked and used as a staple food for more than 6,000 years.  Wheat and barley were first  just simply chewed and eaten for its nutritional value.  Later it was eaten as a porridge. The porridge was later baked into loaves of unleavened loaves.  Bread has been a basic food for thousands of years.  It was a food that fed you and kept you alive.  Without bread one would likely starve.  The simple fact is people have eaten bread for thousands of years, and in some cases they have sustained their life with bread. Bread is the staff of life.

In Hebrew "Bethlehem" means House of bread.   this small town is located five miles south of Jerusalem.  Bethlehem is the origin of the house of David and the birthplace of Jesus.  In Exodus we learn that God sent manna from heaven to feed the nation of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness.  Manna was the 'bread from heaven.'  The Israelites were to gather just enough for each day. This was to demonstrate the daily provisions of God. In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet is instructed to take wheat, barley, beans , and lentils and millet to make a bread for nourishment while he was in the desert. Ezekiel 4:9   In the model  prayer of Jesus,  we are told to pray: "give us this day, our daily bread." Luke 11:4   Bread in the Bible functions as a social bond.  The giving of bread to another is a major element of hospitality and serves as a sign of respect and concern .  Genesis 14:18   Ruth 2:14  In the first Passover, the eating of unleavened bread typified the haste of Israel's departure from Egypt.  Exodus 12:8-11  

The above verses contain the first “I AM” (ego eimi) metaphorical statement of Jesus. I am  the bread of life,”  John 6:35  We will look at the context in which these words were spoken.

 The previous day Jesus had just fed the 5,000.  That is 5,000 men, plus the women and children who were also present.  The number of people fed was likely 15,000 or more.   Jesus stayed on that side of the Sea of Galilee, but had sent his disciples ahead to Capernaum.  Jesus had walked across the windblown waves of the sea to meet His disciples. The people that had stayed on the other side of the sea knew that the disciples had only one boat.  They saw that Jesus did not board the boat with His disciples.  The crowd went back to where Jesus had fed them, but Jesus and His disciples were gone.  The crowd, got into their boats to look for Jesus.  When they found Jesus on the other side of the sea, with his Disciples, they asked Jesus, "When did you get here."  John 6:25

Jesus challenged the crowd with these words. I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw  the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled".  John 6:26-27  Although the people saw the miracle of the loaves and fishes, they still did not recognize the miracle as a sign identifying Jesus as the Messiah.  Jesus knew that the primary reason the crowd followed after Him was for food.  Times were hard for the citizens at that time, few people had all they wanted to eat. Jesus had fed the multitude the previous day until they were filled, and there was more food left over to be gathered.  Jesus wanted to physically nourish the people, but He recognized their need for spiritual nourishment was greater.  Jesus told the gathering: "Don’t work for the food that perishes  but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father  has set His seal of approval on Him.” Jesus told them the spiritual purpose of the miracle. The purpose was to show God's approval on His ministry. It was to show the people that He, Jesus, was the the long awaited and promised Messiah.  He told them the Son of Man could give them eternal life. Jesus contrasted physical food, which is the result of work and perishes quickly, with spiritual food, which comes by grace and lasts forever.

The people responded to Jesus with: 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"  John 6:28  ESV  The people who took the boat across the Sea of Galalee to seek Jesus, really missed the boat of His message. They want to know what things they can do so that can earn eternal life.  They misunderstood that they could not earn or work for His bread.  It was given to them.  They perhaps thought that the food of eternal life was given to those who would adhere to the Law.  The people were so overwhelmed by their physical concerns they couldn't understand the Jesus figurative word of Jesus.  Jesus answered again "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. " John 6:28 ESV Telling them again it was not something they could earn. The crowd still did not understand and asked: “What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?” they asked. “What are You going to perform? Our fathers ate the manna  in the wilderness,  just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.  John 6:32  The crowd wants Jesus to perform more and greater miracles.  The previous signs of Jesus were not enough to convince them that He was the Messiah.  Give us something more, something really spectacular they asked.  Have manna fall from the skies right now, just like Moses did for us. Exodus 16:4–36  Many of the Jews at that time believed that when the Messiah appeared, he would duplicate this miracle of Moses.  They thought that Manna would once again fall, and that would be a sign of second exodus.

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.  John 6:32-33   Jesus reminded them that Moses did not perform the miracle.  The miracle was performed by God for His people.  The Manna God provided through Moses was only material and temporary. The bread Jesus provided was spiritual and eternal. The people respond:“Sir, give us this bread always!”  John 6:34   This question is similar to the request of the Samaritan woman at the well. “Sir,” the woman said to Him, “give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and come here to draw water.” John 4:15  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, she later understood the figurative words of Jesus.  The current crowd still is missing the message, hence their addition of the word, always. Spiritual awakening begins with a request for God's gift of grace.

Jesus then answers with the “I AM” (ego eimi) metaphorical statement.

“I am  the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me  will ever be hungry,  and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty  again. But as I told you, you’ve seen Me,  and yet you do not believe. Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven,  not to do My will, but the will of Him  who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise  them up on the last day.  For this is the will of My Father:  that everyone who sees the Son  and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise  him up on the last day.” 

The "I AM," statements are what Jesus says about Himself.  Jesus said, "The bread of Life - it is I".  Jesus is the subject, the bread is the predicate.  He is declaring His deity.  His statement of deity was not missed by the religious contemporaries.  This is why the Pharisees were after Him.  Manna was not provided by Moses, it was provided by God from heaven.  Moses was only the mediator.  Moses announced that the manna was provided by God from heaven.  Jesus is saying that He too came down from heaven. He, Jesus, is the bread that comes down from heaven.  The origin of Jesus is from the beginning. He is the "I AM".  His origin was heaven.  He was sent by the Father. The bread of the I AM is eternal.

Comparison of Manna with the Bread of Life *

Manna                                                        Bread of Life

Provided temporary physical needs         Provides Eternal spiritual needs
Sustained physical need                           Imparts eternal life
For the nation of Israel only                     For the entire world
Lasted for 38 years                                   Lasts from first man Adam to the end of time
Provided at no cost to God                      Provided at great cost - Jesus had to die
Will only delays physical death              Conquered spiritual death forever
“I am the bread of life” John 6:35, John 6:41, John 6:48, John 6:51 who not only meets physical, but also spiritual needs. Jesus contrasted physical food, which is the result of work and perishes quickly, with spiritual food, which comes by grace and lasts forever.  Both are necessary.  They fulfill two important human needs.  Life with end without bread.  Physical life will end without food for nourishment.  Spiritual bread represents the need for the soul to be sustained by their Maker.  Those who are Christians, have partaken of the Bread of Life will live forever with their Savior.

Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me... This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise  them up on the last day.  For this is the will of My Father:  that everyone who sees the Son  and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise  him up on the last day.  We cannot know Christ until we have heard about Him.  We will not be moved to know Him until drawn to Him by the Father.  God changes the heart of His people so that the undesirable becomes the desirable. 

* Jesus in the Present Tense - The I Am statements of Christ - Waren W. Wiersby

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