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Eating the Bread of Life

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 14:34–36; Mark 6:53–56; John 6:22–71

It is easy to become so consumed with the daily, physical necessities of life that we overlook our greatest needs, which are spiritual. The Lord knows our deepest needs better than we do, and only He can fully satisfy them. He is the true, life-giving Bread of Life.


As we continue our chronological study through the Gospels, we come to one of the most misunderstood passages in the ministry of Jesus.

Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus and His disciples row ashore at the plain of Gennesaret, just south of Capernaum. The crowd comes running, bringing the sick with them, and Jesus heals them.

Then the Gospel of John inserts a conversation that takes place as Jesus rebukes these people. It begins in chapter 6, as Jesus says to this crowd, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (verse 26).

In other words, He’s saying, “You’re not following Me because of who I am—you’re following Me because of what I can do for you. You’re just looking for the next miracle.”   

I have met many people over the years who seemed like they wanted to become Christians and follow the Lord, but they only wanted to follow Him because of what they thought Jesus would do for them—give them a promotion at work, make them feel better, fix the brakes on their car. And then when Jesus did not do any of that, they took off. That is what Jesus is saying to these people here. He miraculously fed them dinner from those barley loaves and fish. Now, they want a miraculous dinner again tonight.

Jesus has some words for them here in verse 27:

“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.”

He is telling them, “Don’t pursue food for physical life but food for eternal life. And I can give you that because of who I am—the one who has been sealed with the Father’s approval.”

Their response is really shocking to me. Having just witnessed and benefited from the miraculous meal the day before, the people offer this reply:

“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.’” (verses 30-31)

I believe they are looking for Jesus to provide literal manna—daily bread straight out of heaven! They are saying, “Do something greater than what You did yesterday. In fact, do something greater than even Moses did: give us bread straight from heaven at Your command.”

Jesus then points them to the truth that He Himself is the fulfillment of that manna from heaven:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst . . . All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (verses 35, 37)

Jesus identifies Himself as the bread sent by the Father from heaven. He was not just born in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread”; He is everlasting bread—the Bread of Life who can satisfy someone spiritually forever.

The Lord goes on in verse 40:

“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.”

Then John’s Gospel records in verse 41, “So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’”

They do not believe it. They do not believe Jesus is anything but a mortal man. They are stuck on Jesus’ family background. They say in verse 42, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” In their minds He’s just an ordinary carpenter. How can He claim to have come down from heaven?

They are also confused by the metaphor Jesus uses when He says in verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” In verse 52, the Jews say in confusion, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Well, they are not alone. That confusion still exists today. The Roman Catholic Church is teaching to this day that you have to eat the flesh of Jesus in order to be saved. They believe that in the hand of the priest, the wine and the bread become the actual body and blood of Jesus. And you must have a priest to do that for you—frankly, that is what I call job security for the priests. But let me assure you that you do not need a priest to have Jesus.

Jesus is using a metaphor, as He often does. Later, He will say He is the “door” and you cannot get in without passing through Him (John 10:9). Well, Jesus is not made of wood, with hinges and a door handle.

Jesus is not talking at all about communion here in John 6! He is talking about salvation, and you only need to be saved once—and that will last for eternity. He says He is the Bread of Life and you have to eat Him. What He means is He must enter your life and become a part of your life, just as much as a piece of bread is assimilated into your body.[1]

In fact, here in verses 50 and 51, the tenses of the Greek verbs for eating indicate action that happened in the past. This is what you did when you accepted Christ as your Savior. It was a one-time—sometime in the past—event, and you will never need to be saved again.

The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). It does not say, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord and goes to mass every Saturday will be saved.” Oh no, salvation is a one-time event. You are born physically once; and you are born spiritually—born again—only one time.

Now in the latter portion of John 6, we find three responses to Christ’s message. First, in verse 64—is the response of unbelief. Jesus says, “There are some of you who do not believe.” The author, John, explains, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.”

A second response we see is abandonment. Verse 66 says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” They had heard enough; they were not about to have Jesus effectively come into—and take over—their lives.

The third response is that some believe:

Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (verses 67-69)

I love that statement! “Where else can we go? Who else can satisfy us? You have the words of eternal life!”

Friend, if you have not eaten the Bread of Life—if you have not accepted the Bread of Life into your life—you are going to remain hungry for meaning, purpose, forgiveness, and hope.

Psalm 107:9 says, “[The Lord] satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” If you are hungry for the Lord, my friend, I can promise you, the meal is free. The Bread of Life is yours for the asking! You don’t need the church; you don’t need a list of good works; you don’t need a priest to give you Jesus. He is yours by simply asking Him to become your Savior today.

If we can help you make that prayer to the Lord, reach out to us here at Wisdom International.

[1] Homer A. Kent Jr., Light in the Darkness: Studies in the Gospel of John (Baker, 1974), 108.

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