Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
‘I am the bread of life’
When I was a kid, bread was bread. Mother’s Pride, Wonderloaf and Hovis. Today it is ciabatta and croissants, bagels and baguettes, naan and (Peter Kay’s favourite) garlic bread. Suddenly lots of us are non-wheat, or gluten free eaters. Back then we all simply ate and filled up on it. Bread and jam, bread and dripping, we even had bread and butter and tinned fruit. In Jesus’ day it was bread and wine.
In John’s Gospel we find the seven ‘I am’ sayings where Jesus takes seven pictures or metaphors to describe who he really is and how he deeply impacts on our lives.
I am the bread of life (6:35)
I am the light of the world (8:12)
I am the gate (10:9)
I am the good shepherd (10:11)
I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
I am the way, the truth and the life (14:6)
I am the true vine (15:1)
In all these ‘I am’ sayings there is a subtle reference back to the occasion in the Old Testament when Moses asked God what His name was and He answered, ‘I am what I am’ (Exodus 3: 14). So Jesus is both talking about seven ways in which he touches human lives and at the same time saying here are seven ways in which I am just like God.
Unique in the Bible and world literature. They are seven mysterious truths. Powerful and personal; prophetic and poetic; human and divine. They are statements that become promises. In each one of them they represent Jesus saying, ‘this is who I am, and this is what I can do for you’. In saying something about Jesus, they also say something about us. If he is the shepherd then we are the sheep, if he is the way we are the lost and if he is the bread then we are the hungry.
Bread has always been one of the staples of life, a fundamental building block in our diet and the first thing most people spend their money on. Alongside potatoes, rice and pasta, bread is a hole-filler, an energy-giver, a daily foundation to build everything else on. At the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus multiplied the loaves. In the Lord’s Prayer he teaches us to pray for bread. He knows the importance of bread.
So when Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life’, what is he saying to you right now? Where are you hungry, where do you need energy, building up, something to keep you going? Where and what is the biggest hole in your life that needs filling?
Jesus’ disciples were known as his companions (Luke 24:33). I love that word. It resonates with friendship, help and mutual support. It means more than this however. To be a companion is to be a ‘sharer of bread’ (as in the French ‘pain’ for bread). Together we journey; sharing with and in both our daily bread and in our bread of life.
Today is the 22nd day on our journey. Are you a searcher trying to find Jesus? Have you found him and are now trying to follow him? Or perhaps you are a follower wanting to become like him?
A thought for the day. Stop. In your mind visualise Jesus as a great big crusty loaf, tear a slab off and eat. Fill the hole. Tear off another chunk and fill the hole some more. Think about the idea of feeding on him several times a day, every day. Now you are ready to journey onwards as one of his companions.
If you are the bread of life,
Then I am one of the hungry ones.
As I live, I get hungry.
When I serve you, I get hungry.
No matter how much I eat,
I keep getting hungry.
So may you be my daily bread,
My daily bread of life.