Our theme today is part of John’s traits of the seven I AM sayings that he used and recorded in the Gospel of John.
- I am the bread of life: John 6:35 (seek bread for yourself)
- I am the light of the world: John 8:12 (power to understand spiritual truths)
- I am the gate: John 10:9 (gate to the heavenly kingdom)
- I am the good shepherd: John 10:11 (Jesus knowingly gave his life for us)
- I am the resurrection and the life: John 11:25-26 (he offers new life even after our physical death)
- I am the way, the truth and the life: John 14:6 (way to the father is by accepting the death of his son for our sins)
- I am the vine: John 15:5 (when we yield to the will of God we become the branches that bear fruit).
For us listening to this story of Jesus, while he tells his audience that he is the bread and people need to eat him, it sounds strange, but this was not strange to the listeners then. During Jesus’ time, people used to offer sacrifices to different gods. As we know it now, whatever sacrifice was offered, not everything was burned but rather people were given meat to celebrate a particular god. When they ate meat, that meat offered to a certain god, the believed they had eaten part of that god. They also believed that life was contained in the blood. If one ate the blood, they would be eating the real body of that god. It is, therefore, in this backdrop of understanding that Jesus insists that people should eat his body and drink his blood so as to be connected. Jesus is using an old practice here to bring a new teaching. We need also to remember when Jesus called himself the bread of life, he was drawing on a rich symbol of the Jewish culture. Bread played an important role in the lives of the people, then, as it does to our community today. Bread has been used in the Old and New Testament to teach or reveal specific messages: In the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:17 – worship, Exodus 25:30 – God’s presence, Exodus 16 – food for the journey. In the New Testament: Matthew 4:4 – bread as spiritual food, Luke 11:13 – prayer request, Luke 24:30-31 – as a means of revelation.
After feeding the five thousand with five pieces of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-20) Jesus introduces the place of the bread as a means of working a miracle. People were still remembering this event and the effect it had on the people present. Therefore, when he talks of the bread they could relate to that aspect. Today we are moving to the last part where Jesus is teaching about being the bread for the world that needs to be eaten.
Let’s look a little at the meaning of bread in general. Bread is a universal food, even though the ingredients of preparing it are different. One thing we know is that no matter the kind of bread it has to go through fire for baking before it can be eaten. Jesus had to go through suffering that was similar to the fire to save us. When you mention bread, many will know what you are talking about. In some countries bread is not available to all people while in other parts of the world bread is part of every meal. This bread may take different formats, but here in the United states and other developed countries when you mention bread someone may ask you to qualify what kind of bread you are talking about. If you go to the store you have all kinds of choices to make. Many here will eat bread not as the main meal but just as a side dish or part of the many things that we snack on or eat for breakfast. Nonetheless, many people know what bread is.
When Jesus says he is the bread of life, we get to that mental thinking of regular bread we have in our homes. Jesus, as the spiritual bread of life, offers to the believers who eat it the following:
- Bread of Fellowship: The Greek work for fellowship is Koinonia. It means communion. So, when we partake of the Lord’s Table we find ourselves connected to God and to one another. It becomes our fellowship with him. In this fellowship we are also connected with the saints, the people who have been promoted to glory. Therefore, Jesus is the bread of fellowship where everybody is somebody. (1 Corinthians 10:16). In this fellowship we discover that we were meant to care and to love one another because we are family. As we fellowship, God opens our eyes so that we see new insight about what God can do in us, to us, and through us. I like that aspect of our eyes getting opened because sometimes we fail to see the mightiness of God because our eyes are closed. I like the story of Elisha and his servant when they were surrounded by the army of the enemies. Elisha’s servant was so terrified but his master prayed that his eyes might be opened so as to see the army of the angels that was surrounding them (2 Kings 6:15-17).
- Bread of Blessings: God is a god of covenant who promises blessings to his people. when Jesus died on the cross and shed his blood it was the blood of the new covenant. In this covenant he establishes mercy and grace, cleansing and forgiveness, faith and hope. Through Jesus we are given spiritual blessings. God’s mercy reminds us that we are still sinners but he is willing to show us mercy by his grace. Cleansing and forgiveness remind us that through his blood our sins are taken away and his forgiveness is for real, through faith and hope.
- Bread of Healing and Wholeness: As we eat of the bread it is a wonderful time for us to reach out to the Lord in faith and receive healing from him. We need healing in three areas: We need body healing, healing of our souls, and healing of our spirits.
- Body healing: Peter quoting from Isaiah 53:5 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness for by his wound we have been healed (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus, as the bread of life becomes the healing balm that we need so as to move forward. Healing in that when we compare our lives with that of Jesus we can’t measure but we know through his power we can receive physical and spiritual healing.
- Soul (emotional) healing: is in regards to the hurt and pain that we have gone through from other people.
- Spiritual healing: comes when we go before the Lord and confess our sins and we are forgiven. This means we have been pardoned, release, and set free from the condemnation of sin. This means our sins are not held against us. Forgiveness heals the broken relationship with God and restores us to fellowship (Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”). Jesus, as the bread, is capable of triple-healing that we need everyday (body, soul, and spirit). An example is where somebody was abused one day causing physical harm which was cause by a sinful act leading to the heart breaking. When Jesus comes into the picture we have to claim the triple healing because that is the only way we can receive the wholeness that Jesus promises. There are many people today who are physically healed, spiritually healed but whose souls keep on hurting due to the experience. To receive this triple healing, we will need to have the desired “appetite” to want to invite Jesus in our lives. We will need to have the will power to take this journey. It is a painful journey and it also takes time. Maybe we have people in church today whose souls are still hurting because of the family inheritance disputes or family disagreements. Even when they seem to have moved on their soul still hurts for the injustices that took place. We have to allow Jesus to provide this triple healing by naming it and allowing ourselves to get the healing. Having a bandage is good but we need to know when to remove it. The challenge we face is that we have the desire but we will need the will power to act on it. By liking to eat meat does not help your desire by just looking at the cooked or grilled meat. What helps you is reaching and having a bite. One has to take an action of getting that meat in their mouth. In the same way we might hear about Jesus for many years but it is not until we invite him into our hearts that it makes a difference. Like William Barclay put it, having a book in the bookcase and you don’t read it means little. It might be a glory with wonderful characters but as long as you don’t take and read it, it is external to you, but when you read it you get thrilled and fascinated and moved. The story sticks in you and remains in your memory. You can think about it and even share from within. In the same way, unless we invite Jesus into our lives he will remain an historical figure written about in many books. Jesus wants us to be part of him so that what he says might come true “because he lives, we shall also live.”