"The Bread of Life"
Lesson Text: John 6:22-35
Background Scripture: John 6:1-71
Devotional Reading:Psalm 107:1-9
22The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;
23(Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)
24When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
25And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
26Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
27Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
28Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
30They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
31Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
32Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
33For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
To explain how Jesus satisfies our spiritual hunger, for He is the Bread of Life.
To show that the things of God are more important that physical food and the things of this world.
To believe and trust in Jesus for abundant spiritual and eternal life.
Bread: the Staff of Life
Bread was the primary part of the diet in Bible times. Making it was a simple but time-consuming task. Barley, or occasionally wheat, was ground into flour between two stones. The flour was kneaded with water and salt into dough, which was then leavened with a piece of old dough. After the dough raised, it was baked in an outdoor oven. When severe drought caused the supply of grain to fail, people perished.
The lack of bread can change the course of history. For example, bread riots in Paris in 1789 helped incite the French Revolution. There have been other bread riots since that time. How might the world be different if people clamored for the bread of life – Jesus - as much as they desired physical bread!
Near the beginning of Jesus’ third year of ministry, He received distressing news of the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-13). Jesus took His disciples to an isolated location across the Sea of Galilee, somewhere near the northeast shore (Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:31, 32; Luke 9:10; John 6:1) for a time of rest and solitude.
But the eager multitudes would not leave them alone. Thousands of people came out of the cities and ran by foot around the north end of the lake (Mark 6:33, 34; John 6:2). Jesus took compassion on the crowds, teaching them God’s Word and healing their sicknesses.
At the end of the day there was nowhere for the people to get food. So Jesus took five small barley loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 men in addition to women and children (Matthew 14:21). Other than the resurrection, this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels.
The people were so excited about a leader who could supply food miraculously that they wanted to force Him to be their king. But Jesus refused to be a bread-king, so He withdrew to a mountain by himself (John 6:15). (This opportunity to take a shortcut to kingly power bears a similarity to the temptation by the devil in Matthew 4:8,9).
Jesus compelled the disciples to get into the boat and to go to the other side to Bethsaida (Matt. 14:22; Mark 6:45) because He knew they were in danger. The crowd was now aroused and there was a movement to make Him King. When Jesus then sent the people away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
Later that night Jesus walked across the lake to join His terrified disciples in the storm-tossed boat (John 6:16-21). That is the immediate backdrop to this week’s lesson.
SEEKING JESUS (John 6:22-24)
1. Why was the lingering multitude puzzled by Jesus’ absence? (John 6:22)
The “day following” the feeding of the 5000, some apparently remained in the area on the other side of the sea where the miracle had taken place. These people are puzzled by Jesus’ absence since they knew that (1) Jesus had not left in a boat with His disciples (Mark 6:45), (2) none other boat was there for Jesus to have used, and (3) Jesus would not have walked around the north end of the lake in the dark of night. Therefore they do not comprehend Jesus’ absence. Where has Jesus gone, and how did He get there?
A storm had arisen on the Sea of Galilee the night before (John 6:18), with the wind blowing against the disciples’ boat (Mark 6:48). This had kept them from making much progress toward their destination. This situation changed when Jesus walked on the water during the night and caught up with the disciples (John 6:19); they arrived “immediately” at their destination (6:21). This is what the crowd does not know.
2. Why did the people search so intently for Jesus, and why did the search take them to Capernaum? (vs. 23,24)
“Boats from Tiberias” travel the other direction, since Tiberias is a city on the western edge of the Sea of Galilee. Those who are arriving in these boats to join the search for Jesus can confirm that they have not passed Jesus traveling in the opposite direction during the daylight hours of this new day. This place where they did eat bread refers to the location of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in John 6:11.
The boats from Tiberias are put to good use: when the people realize that Jesus and His disciples are gone, they use those boats to head for Capernaum.
We are used to thinking of Nazareth as Jesus’ hometown (John 1:45; Acts 2:22; etc.). But Capernaum becomes the home base for Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry (Matthew 4:13). Scripture even calls Capernaum “his own city” (Matthew 9:1; compare Mark 2:1). Thus this little fishing village, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, seems the most logical spot for the crowds to begin their search for Jesus.
What Do You Think?
What motives do people have for seeking Jesus in the twenty-first century? How are these similar to and different from the motives of those in the first century?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
SEEKING ANSWERS (John 6:25-30)
3. What did Jesus say was the real motive for the people seeking Him? (v. 26)
When the people found Jesus on the other side of the sea, they had many questions about how He had gotten to Capernaum. The question “when camest thou hither?” reveals puzzlement. When—and how—did Jesus arrive? At least some people had seen Him withdraw to a mountain (John 6:15), and the next day He simply was gone. He did not have a boat (6:22, above), and traveling by foot at night is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Yet here He is the next day in Capernaum! What is going on?
Jesus provides an answer, but not to the question the people ask. Instead of discussing His method of travel, He tells them what they really need to know. He tells them the uncomfortable truth about their real motives. They seek Him not because they have seen miracles that prove His identity and message. Rather, what motivates the people is the fact they did eat of the loaves and their stomachs were filled. They were motivated by superficial desires of food rather than any understanding of Jesus and His mission.
As you read the Gospel records, note that our Lord was never impressed by the great crowds. He knew that their motives were not pure and that most of them followed Him in order to watch His miracles of healing. "Bread and circuses" was Rome's formula for keeping the people happy, and people today are satisfied with that kind of diet. Give them food and entertainment and they are happy. Rome set aside ninety-three days each year for public games at government expense. It was cheaper to entertain the crowds than to fight them or jail them.
We must never be deceived by the "popularity" of Jesus Christ among certain kinds of people today. Very few want Him as Saviour and Lord. Many want Him only as Healer or Provider, or the One who rescues them from problems they have made for themselves. "And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40).
What Do You Think?
What do Jesus’ words tell us, if anything, about how to respond to someone who seeks physical help but is not interested in spiritual nourishment?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
-Occasions to give the physical help anyway, without confrontation regarding spiritual need.
-Occasions to give the physical help anyway, with confrontation regarding spiritual need.
-Occasions to refuse the physical help, offering only spiritual help.
4. What did Jesus tell the people they should be looking for? (v. 27)
Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of food: food for the body, which is necessary but not the most important; and food for the inner man, the spirit, which is essential.
It is natural to labor for food in order to stay alive. Indeed, the Bible commands that we do so (2 Thessalonians 3:12). But working for food is not to be our top priority. People are not to fill their barns just so they can take their ease—eat, drink, and be merry (see Luke 12:19). Jesus knows that the life of this present world can be snatched away at any moment. Why should people focus on what will not last?
Thus Jesus challenges His would-be followers to focus on securing the food that enduresunto everlasting life (compare Matthew 4:3,4). This means submitting to the Son of man, who can give it to them. Jesus is the one whom God the Father has sealed in this regard. Thus, He is the one who carries Heaven’s own seal of approval.
Jesus explained that spiritual nourishment, as opposed to physical, will endure forever. This kind of nourishment comes only from the Son of God, who is authorized to give it to those who believe in Him.
5. What question did the people ask that demonstrated that they missed the point that Jesus was trying to make? What was Jesus’ response? (vs. 28,29)
The crowd seems to sense that there is something available that is even better than yesterday’s miracle of bread. Jesus has just said to focus on “meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” So how should they do that?
The crowd’s question What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? shows that the people have missed the point. The people picked up the word labor and misinterpreted it to mean they had to work for salvation. They completely missed the word give. Steeped in legalistic religion, they thought they had to "do something" to merit eternal life.
In response to the crowd’s somewhat confused question, Jesus answers clearly: the “work” God wants them to do is to believe on him whom he hath sent. The basis of salvation is faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8), not works of law (Romans 3:28). It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). This faith is a working faith, to be sure (James 2:14-26), but it is not the works that earn salvation. Christ calls on His hearers to believe in Him with total confidence and loyalty, and He will give them the life they seek.
What Do You Think?
How can your church configure her helping ministries in ways that meet immediate needs while encouraging recipients to seek Jesus?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
-Ministries of direct assistance
-Ministries of referral
-Ministries of presence
6. Why did the people ask Jesus for a sign? (v. 30)
The people were not prepared to put their trust in Jesus. Rather than submitting in humble faith, they doubt Him. The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 is not enough for them, so they request an additional sign. No longer are they seeking answers; now they are issuing demands. Jesus had miraculously fed thousands of people just the day before, but that was not enough for the people, they sought an additional sign from Jesus to prove that He was the Messiah.
Jesus has just told the crowd to do God’s work by believing in Him. The people, however, throw Jesus’ words back at Him. Caring nothing for what they themselves should do, they insist What dost thou work? They have no interest in satisfying God; the Son of God must satisfy them!
They wanted to "see and believe." But faith that is based on signs alone, and not on the truth of the Word, can lead a person astray; for even Satan is able to perform "lying wonders" (2 Thes. 2:8-10). Note also John 2:18-25; 4:48.
SEEKING BREAD (John 6:31-35)
7. Why did the multitude refer to the manna from heaven that God provided for Israel during their wilderness wandering? (v. 31)
Israel’s birth as a nation came when Moses led them out of Egypt. One of the miracles of that exodus involved manna in the desert. It happened just as God had promised: “I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4). For 40 years the people of Israel could go out each morning (except the Sabbath) and gather manna to eat. Now, centuries later, the Jews are awaiting a Messiah who can do the same thing.
After all, Moses had promised that God would raise up a prophet in their midst, and that person would be like Moses himself (Deuteronomy 18:15). God had provided manna for six days every week, year after year, for hundreds of thousands of people during the time of Moses. Jesus has just provided a single meal for 5,000 men (plus women and children). Thus Jesus has not yet proven himself greater than Moses in the eyes (and stomachs) of the people. If Jesus really is the long-awaited prophet—even the Messiah—then He had better produce lots more bread for them!
8. What did Jesus say about the bread that they said Moses gave? (vs. 32,33)
Jesus needs His audience to understand two vital truths. First, it was the Father—not Moses—who gave them the bread from heaven in the wilderness. The people do not need another Moses; they need to turn to God. Second, God has a new kind of bread that is far better than the ancient manna.
Jesus has come to be more than just another Moses. Moses was the servant of God; Jesus is the Son of God (see Hebrews 3:3-6). Moses delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; Jesus can lead them from the slavery of sin and death. Moses led the people to the entrance of the Promised Land; Jesus will lead believers to Heaven.
Jesus himself is the bread of God (also John 6:41,51). The ancient manna came down like rain from the sky (Psalm 78:24), but Jesus comes down from Heaven itself. The manna was for the body, but this bread from Heaven is for the soul. The ancient manna could keep people alive from day to day, but Jesus can keep people alive for all eternity.
Jesus comes to sustain life in ways far beyond what mere bread can do. But to accept His teaching requires faith. Later in Jesus’ sermon, He will instruct the crowds about eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:51-57), demands that are repugnant to them. Their forefathers had stumbled when they needed to put their faith in God; how far will this crowd go in trusting Jesus?
9. How is Jesus the “bread of life” and the answer to all their problems? (vs. 34,35)
Like the woman at the well who was eager to get an endless supply of water (John 4:15), these people are eager for the Heaven-sent bread. They wanted the bread so they would not have to toil to maintain life. But the people do not understand what Jesus is really saying.
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never thirst....Iam the bread that came down from heaven” (vs. 35,41) This the first of the seven great I AM statements recorded by John, statements that are found nowhere else in the Gospels. (For the other six, see John 8:12; 10:7-9, 11-14; 11:25,26; 14:6; 15:1, 5.) God revealed Himself to Moses by the name I AM (Jehovah) (Ex. 3:14). God is the self-existent One who "is, and ... was, and... is to come" (Rev. 1:8). When Jesus used the name I AM, He was definitely claiming to be God.
Jesus also used two key words (v. 35 of today’s lesson) that often appear in this sermon: come and believe. To come to Jesus means to believe on Him, and to believe on Him means to come to Him. Believing is not merely an intellectual thing, giving mental assent to some doctrine. It means to come to Christ and yield yourself to Him.
Jesus is offering Himself to the people as the solution to all their problems. As more than a mere mortal, Jesus does not come just to provide the bread of life, but to be that bread. Anyone who comes to Jesus in trusting faith will find satisfaction for his or her deepest hunger and thirst. This is an echo of Isaiah 55:1.
As long as the people think Jesus is talking about physical bread, they are quite ready to accept it. However, when it becomes clear that Jesus is talking about something else, they back away. By the end of this story, many reject Him and leave, unable to trust Him and accept on faith what He is saying (John 6:60-66).
POINTS TO PONDER
1.It is worth it to seek Jesus and wait patiently for Him to meet our needs (John 6:22-25).
2.God will meet our physical needs, but we should put our eternal needs before physical food and the things of this world (vs. 26,27).
3.There is no activity on our part that can merit salvation and eternal life. Jesus death has provided all the payment needed to inherit eternal life (vs. 28-31).
4. Jesus is the true Bread from heaven that satisfies spiritually and eternally (vs. 32,33).
5.Our spiritual longings can be satisfied only through a personal relationship with Jesus, our Savior (vs. 34,35).
No More Hunger; No More Thirst
Deep in the soul of every person is a hunger that is more than just physical hunger. Just as our bodies have an instinct for survival, so do our souls. Only when we finally feed on the true bread from Heaven will we ever escape the gnawing dissatisfaction of spiritual emptiness.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). These words, of course, are about the physical food that we need to live from one day to the next. But are we as eager to pray each day for the bread from Heaven—the spiritual bread—that enables us to live forever? It is only when we take Jesus into our souls that the soul’s deep hunger can ever be satisfied.
Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of food: food for the body, which is necessary but not the most important, and food for the inner man, the spirit, which is essential. What the people needed was not food but life, and life is a gift. Food only sustains life, but Jesus gives eternal life. (Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: John, David Cook).
Jesus also said that with the true bread from Heaven we will never thirst (compare John 6:53-58). Therefore as we accept and embrace His atoning death on the cross following the plan of salvation in its entirety, we are consuming the bread that gives life. This is how we do “the work of God” as we “believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). We remember and proclaim that atoning death every time that we participate in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:26). As we digest the teachings of Jesus and incorporate them into our lives, we are consuming the bread that gives life (John 6:63).
Jesus is the Bread of life. He is the source of life, the giver of life, the sustainer of life. His words, His atoning death, His very presence in our hearts - these make up the true bread that gives our spirit life.
Father, give us this day the bread from Heaven. Help us to embrace Jesus and His teachings completely. Give us faith to follow, even when our understanding is weak, in Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Food only sustains life, but Jesus gives eternal life.