Reading: John 6:35-59
Grace to you and peace in Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. Amen.
We’re continuing to follow the life of Jesus as it comes to us in the Gospel of John. Today, we hear Jesus make a peculiar statement: “I am the bread of life.” Ok, what’s that all about? What does Jesus mean by this?
First, we need some context. Jesus is speaking to a big crowd… about five thousand men, plus women and children. Just the previous day, he fed this entire crowd – a whole stadium’s worth of people – with only five barley loaves and two fish. Have you heard that story? I hope so.
Today, the crowd is back for more. More fish and bread that is. They’re thinking, “This is great! This guy feeds us! Let’s track him down to see if he’s got any more tuna sandwiches up his sleeves.
So, they track Jesus down. And Jesus says, “Who! You didn’t follow me here because you want to hear more of my teaching. You can’t fool me. You’re just here for the bread.”
But instead of shooing the crowd away, Jesus sees the opportunity for a teachable moment. He sees that the crowd is hungry – that they’re longing to have more of that bread that Jesus gave them. So, he says to them: “I am the Bread of Life.”
Now I wonder if all this bread language is lost on us today. Is bread as big of a deal for us as it used to be? I mean we’ve got so many different forms of carbohydrates available to us today: rice, corn, couscous, French fries, pasta, bagels, pancakes, waffles, a million different types of sugary breakfast cereals… Many of us are trying to eat low-carb diets: we’re going gluten-free, keto, Whole 30, paleo… Bread certainly isn’t as central to our diets as it once was.
On the other hand, bread in ancient Palestine was the staple food. It was the predominant source of sustenance. Bread fed cities and armies. In the Ancient Judea Food Guide, I wouldn’t be surprised if one-half to three-quarters of the plate would be bread, perhaps with a little fish on the side if you’re lucky. Without bread, the country would go hungry.
Jesus says to the crowd, “I am the bread of life, come down from heaven.” But I don’t think the crowd is catching on to what Jesus is trying to say. They get the bread part. They know bread. They’ve tasted Jesus’ bread. But bread from heaven? What’s that all about? Maybe Jesus is talking about manna, like the people of Israel ate when they were wandering in the desert.
So, Jesus is like, “Ok I can see you’re a bit confused, but you’re on the right track here. You know how your ancestors relied on God to provide manna every day, while they were in the wilderness? That’s how they survived for forty years – trusting daily that God would provide them with manna. In the same way, I’m inviting you to come to me, to place your trust in me, and I will give you the bread of life. Once you eat this bread, you will never be hungry again.”
The crowd knew hunger. They knew what it meant to go without bread. In the ancient world, hunger was an ever-present reality. When Jesus said, “Eat this bread, and you will never be hungry again,” he had their attention.
What do you hunger for?
We don’t just hunger with our stomachs. We hunger with our bodies. We hunger with our souls.
We hunger for love. For human connection, for touch.
We hunger for meaning, for purpose, and for belonging.
We hunger for justice. We hunger for forgiveness.
We hunger for the world to be made right.
And perhaps in those rare moments, when all is quiet, we can become aware of an even deeper hunger, a hunger that groans from the very depths of our souls: a hunger for the living God.
Jesus, the bread of life, promises to satisfy all who hunger.
Now I’ll be honest. I wish I knew how to trust more in Jesus’ promise here. There are moments when I feel filled and content – moments when I am aware of the abundance of blessings that God has poured upon me, and I feel grateful and satisfied.
But for me, those moments are often rare and fleeting. Most of the time, I go through life feeling unsatisfied. So much of my days are filled with a sense of dissatisfaction, of wanting more, of longing for more. I’m still learning to place my trust in Jesus. I’m still learning to look to him to satisfy my every hunger.
And maybe that’s what it’s like to live as “simultaneously sinner and saint,” as Luther said. We know in our brain that Jesus wants to satisfy our every need. But we lose focus. We lose trust. We get distracted, and find ourselves chasing other idols.
Idols who promise us money, fame, happiness, or maybe just pain relief. We go through our days filling up on Doritos and Boston cream donuts and Cap’n Crunch, and we forget to look to the Bread of Life.
We need to hear those words, again and again and again: “Come to me, all you who are hungry. I am the bread of life. Believe in me, place your trust in me, and you will never be hungry again.”
May you be fed with the Bread of Life, today, and every day. Amen.