The Bread of Life

John Chapter 6

“For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the
world” (John 6:33).

by Benjamin and Gabriella Stein

John Chapter six provides a beautiful illustration of man’s restitution. Here, Jesus describes how he is the bread of life. As such, he provides both a ransom for all of mankind and the mechanism for restoring them back into harmony with God via his earthly kingdom. Then, each individual will be able to “eat” the bread of life and come to Jesus on their walk up the highway of holiness.

Paying the Price for the Bread of Life

John 6 begins with the feeding the 5,000. The basic lesson is that we can depend on Jesus for everything (see also Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:33). A deeper look reveals the lesson of restitution woven into the events that transpired. The account begins with a great crowd on a mountain where Jesus asked his disciples, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (verse 5). Since bread in this chapter is used to represent Jesus’ body, sacrificed to bring life to all mankind, his question becomes: “How can we get life?” “How can we conquer death?” “How can we save our race?” The answer is we cannot. No man can pay the price; no one has what it takes (Psalms 49:7).

This concept is expressed in Philip’s response, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them” (verse 7). Two hundred pennyworth was more than half a year’s wages.

The disciples did not have enough to pay for this bread. Likewise, we do not have enough to pay the price for another man’s life. No imperfect human is capable. However, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, we do not need to. He already paid that price and is offering life free of charge.

Feeding the Crowds

Among those gathered, there was a boy who offered up what he did have — five loaves and two fish. Similarly, the church members give up their little all, though we cannot pay the price that brings life to the multitudes. Still, the boy gave all that he had. In turn, Jesus multiplied it into more than enough for the crowd — with 12 baskets left over.

If the boy had not given the bread and fish, Jesus through God’s power could have created a feast from nothing. Similarly, God, in love, has granted us the opportunity to participate with our Lord, through our sacrifice, that we may take part in blessing the world of mankind in Christ’s kingdom. Then, all will come to Jesus and eat the bread of life.1


(1) A common view is that the two feedings of a multitude, 5000 and 4000, refer to the spiritual feeding of the church at the opening and closing of the Gospel Age — reminding us of the 5 and 4 pillars at the beginning and end of the holy in the Tabernacle. In which case the 12 baskets after the first feeding may represent the residue vested in the 12 apostles, and the 7 baskets after the second feeding may represent the additional help of the 7 messengers, now available after the work of the early harvest. — Editor

Like the disciples, we can fear when Jesus approaches. How often have we prayed only to find that we did not recognize God’s response when it came? Often, when Jesus comes near, circumstances can feel most frightening. But verse 20 assures us, “It is I; be not afraid.” He is always in control. Once we believe that and accept him into our boat, our journey can resume.

A parallel account links the two miracles together. “The wind ceased: and they were sore amazed … beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves” (Mark 6:51-52). The reason they were amazed was because they made no connection back to the miracle of the loaves.

Thus the master repeated the lessons for them: (1) We must rely on Jesus for all our needs. (2) Jesus has the power to provide for those needs. Just as Jesus provided bread for the hungry multitudes, the disciples should have expected Jesus to protect them in the storm. How much more should we rely on God to protect our new creature from danger and to calm the sin-produced tumult of the world and restore mankind to harmony with himself through the bread of life — Jesus Christ.

Calming the storm is the same picture as the feeding of the multitude. In the Millennium, mankind will receive life and be restored to perfection. The storm of this present evil world will be calmed.

I Am the Bread of Life

John 6 next presents Jesus as the Bread of Life. Now Jesus explained how this bread functions as a life-giving remedy for sin and its effects. In verses 53-58, Jesus says that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood. By this saying, Jesus lost many followers for this was difficult to understand (verses 60,66). Besides this statement’s inherent confusion, it produced an even greater shock due to the Law’s commandment against drinking blood (Leviticus 17:10-12). Once again, Jesus was speaking in symbols. There are different viewpoints on what these symbols might mean.

View 1 — In this view, the flesh represents Jesus’ sacrificed body as the ransom which produces justification, Blood represents his suffering. Through suffering, Jesus became our merciful High priest who works to sanctify us. This is similar to the memorial emblems.

John 6:51 says, “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.” Here, Jesus defines the bread as his own flesh given for “the life of the world” — justification. Partaking of his flesh, pictured in the bread, prospective members of the church accept Jesus’ ransom sacrifice and it is applied to them for justification. They are reckoned clean by the covering of Jesus’ robe of righteousness. Thus, they are justified when they partake of the bread (flesh) at consecration.

The blood represents a different aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice: the daily laying down of his life in his experiences and suffering. In drinking his blood, we receive the benefits of his experiences as he oversees our lives. Following his example, we accept sufferings as part of our sacrifice (John 15:20-21, 2 Timothy 2:12). These experiences sanctify us, drawing us nearer to God and developing us into the image of Christ.

Thus, Jesus is describing the way that we are both justified by eating the bread of life (Jesus’ flesh) and sanctified by drinking his blood, receiving the benefits of his own life experiences.

View 2 — In this view, the bread discussed previously includes both Jesus’ flesh and the blood. Jesus speaks mainly about eating the bread and that he is the bread. Then, he uses a few verses to delve into the flesh and blood before returning to bread. Thus, consuming the bread of life, or feasting on Jesus, would be a two-part process, including both his flesh and blood. Jesus speaks of eating the bread of life to gain eternal life (verses 50-51). Then he says we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to gain eternal life, equating both together to eating the bread of life (verse 54).

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (verse 63, ESV). Now, Jesus reveals that he is not talking about his literal flesh, but is describing his words. They are spiritual and life-giving. By linking his flesh with his words, feasting on Jesus’ flesh could represent feasting on the Word of God, the teachings and the example provided by Jesus. He is called the Word in John 1:1, so it is a fitting symbol. Feasting on the Word begins with reading, studying, and meditating upon it but must extend to internalizing it and allowing it to change us (see Psalms 119:9-16, James 1:22, 25, Matthew 7:24-25). Feasting on the Word sanctifies us, as Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Eating Jesus’ flesh results in sanctification.

The other part of the bread of life is the blood. The blood represents Jesus’ ransom sacrifice which provides justification. “We have now been justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9). When we first partake of the blood at consecration, we are given a robe of righteousness which covers our sins, and we are thus reckoned perfect through justification (Isaiah 61:10, 1 John 1:7). Because of this, we can have a standing with God. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). The blood of Christ allows us to have a relationship with God. This is our justification.

From this viewpoint, Jesus explains that eating the bread of life constitutes both eating his flesh (sanctification through internalizing the word of God) and drinking his blood (justification through Jesus’ ransom sacrifice).

Similar Points

Both views share some commonalities. Both recognize Jesus as the bread of life and acknowledge that one must eat Jesus’ flesh as well as drink his blood in order to run for the high calling. Both include justification and sanctification in their symbols. The differences are in which symbols represent which parts, and thus, follow-up lessons will differ between the views.

Epilogue

Following this, our Lord inquired if the twelve would also leave him. Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (verses 68-69). Jesus is the only path to eternal life, the only way to salvation. Our sinful lives would be meaningless without him. That is why the apostle Paul exhorts us to give our lives in sacrifice, calling it our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). While our sacrifice is imperfect and insufficient, like the five loaves and two fish from the young boy, we should be eager to present it to our Lord who sacrificed everything for us and all mankind.

Conclusion

Jesus Christ is the bread of life. He, a gift of God’s grace, is freely given to all. However, to obtain everlasting life, one must “eat the bread.” In the miracle of the loaves, Jesus showed how the blessing of everlasting life would be distributed to all who would eat. By walking on the water and calming the storm, Jesus demonstrated that he would calm the storm of sin that plagues mankind. The next morning, Jesus taught the deeper blessing of drinking his blood and eating his flesh — of becoming both justified and sanctified through him. Those who now eat the bread of life have the unique opportunity to become part of the body and bride of Christ and participate in blessing the world of mankind in the future. They will help distribute the true bread of life which conquers sin and death and brings joy to God and His whole creation.

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