The Bread of Life gives eternal life

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" 43 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:41-51)

This text contains a number of insights into the purpose of Jesus’ coming to this world.  Since many of these Jews knew Jesus’ parents, they could not accept his claim of coming down from heaven.  Christ’s humanity interfered with their acceptance of him as being sent from God.  Jesus also clearly states the divine truth that no one can believe in him unless the Father draws him.  The specific power of the Father’s grace takes hold of the sinner’s soul and moves it away from darkness, sin, and death and conveys it to Jesus, light and life.  In verse 44 Jesus promises again that the Father’s initial work will culminate with the Son resurrecting believers at the Last Day.  Christians are all taught by God and everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to believe in the work of his Son, Jesus Christ.

The main focus, however, is Jesus’ words in verse 47, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”  Anyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life.  To drive home his point Jesus states three proofs.  First, Jesus once again states, “I am the bread of life.”  Jesus explained the meaning of these words in verse 33, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  All people need food and water to live physically. Bread, like water, sustains physical life.  Many of us eat bread or some form of it at many of our meals: white or wheat, rye or garlic, toast, buns or rolls.  One Bible commentator puts it this way, “Ordinary bread only sustains physical life, but Jesus as the Bread of Life not only sustains spiritual life but even gives us this life” (Lenski, St. John’s Gospel, p. 480).  Jesus, who is the most important part of our spiritual life, will give us eternal life.

Second, Jesus states that the forefathers of the Jews ate manna in the desert and they died.  A popular expectation of the Jews was that when the Messiah came he would renew the sending of manna.  Some in the crowd probably reasoned that Jesus had done little compared to Moses. While Jesus had fed 5,000 men, he had done it only once.  Moses had fed a nation for 40 years, But Jesus points out God the Father had provided the manna in the desert, not Moses, and he still provides true bread from heaven in Jesus.  The Jews should not just focus on material gifts, like having enough food to fill their stomachs.  Instead, they should concentrate on the spiritual bread which comes down from heaven, to ingest God’s Word so they may believe in Jesus and not die.

Finally, compared to manna which sustained the lives of people for a time, Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven.  In time their forefathers died, but Jesus is the living bread, and anyone who believes in Jesus by faith will live forever.  As Jesus told the woman at the well, “Whoever drinks the water I will give him will never thirst” (Jn 4:14).  So here Jesus says, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (Jn 6:51).  Jesus boldly states that he will give his flesh for the life of the world.  When people believe that Jesus gave his body on the cross as a sacrifice for the world’s sins, they have eternal life.


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