Bread lines during America’s Great Depression (in the 1930s) often reached all the way around a city block. Men would stand in line even in freezing weather for up to eight hours to receive a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. After eating it, they would rejoin the bread line twice more so they could have three meals a day. Most of them would much rather work for pay to buy their own food, but there were few jobs to be found, They knew the agony of hunger.
Jesus knew the importance of bread in people’s lives and how agonizing hunger can be. When a crowd listened to him teach all day long in a desert place, he asked his disciples to give them bread so they wouldn’t faint from hunger on their way home (Matthew 14:15-21 and John 6:5-14). The disciples couldn’t provide the bread, but when a lad contributed his small lunch, Jesus multiplied that to feed 5000 men plus women and children.
Even after this mighty miracle, many people did not believe in him. Jesus wanted to give them “food which endures to eternal life,” (John 6:27). The only “work” they would need to do for this spiritual food was to believe in God (v. 29). “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world,” (John 6:33).
Then Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35 RSV).
When you eat, you take something into your body, right? Jesus wants us to take him into our lives. He wants to be a part of us. When I studied Greek in college, I got the impression that when Jesus talked about bread in the Lord’s prayer, he meant “that which is essential to our lives.” It is essential to our lives to receive Jesus’ real presence in our lives. This is why he told his disciples at the last supper, “take and eat. This is my body,” Matthew 26:26. (I wonder if Judas spit the bread out of his mouth when he left.)
Jesus “I am the bread of life” twice later in John 6 and it caused quite a dissension among the Jews who said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v.52). They were thinking literally. Many in the crowd stopped following him because they didn’t understand, but Jesus meant “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” John 6:40. He continued, “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Our forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever,” (John 6:57-58).
Jesus said, “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Our forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever,” (John 6:57-58)
In recent blogs, we thought about Jesus’ saying: “I am the resurrection and the life,” and “I am the good shepherd.” His teaching about the bread of life also helps us understand that If we accept Jesus into our hearts and lives, we will have abundant life as he promised.