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  • The Bread of Life

    By Peter Amsterdam

    Audio length: 11:06
    Download Audio (10.1MB)

    In John chapter 6, we read of Jesus feeding five thousand people with bread and fish. After that, He withdrew to a mountain by Himself, while His disciples got in a boat and started off to Capernaum. After rowing three or four miles, it was dark, and the lake became rough due to the wind, which made it difficult to make headway. Then the disciples saw Jesus walking on water and coming near the boat. They took Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached land.

    The next day, when some of the people who had partaken of the loaves and fishes saw that Jesus wasn’t there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”1

    Considering that the crowd had wanted to make Jesus king after having eaten the bread He had provided, it’s not surprising that they sought Him out the next day. Jesus didn’t respond to their question, but instead exposed their motives. They weren’t interested in the meaning of the miracle He had performed or who He was; they were focused on the fact that He had provided them with bread. This is similar to how people responded to Roman emperors in Jesus’ day. Roman emperors and other politicians kept the Roman people pacified with free food. Like Roman clients, the crowds joined Jesus’ “entourage” just for “a handout of food.”2

    Jesus went on to say: Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.3 Seals were used in various ways in antiquity, and rulers sometimes gave a seal to those who were commissioned to act on their behalf. This passage seems to convey that the Father had verified Jesus through the signs and miracles which Jesus did. As an alternate interpretation, some Bibles translate this phrase as: “On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.”

    Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”4 As Jesus had told them to labor—or work—for food that endures to eternal life, they wanted to know how Jesus defined work. Jewish tradition didn’t isolate works from faith, as faith was often one “work” among many. Whereas here, Jesus defined faith differently—He stated that the work that was necessary for eternal life was belief in Him.

    So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”5

    It seems rather odd that they would refer to the sign of manna which God gave the Hebrews in the desert, when just the day before, Jesus had multiplied five loaves of bread to feed five thousand. Their asking for a sign so they could believe showed that they didn’t really want to see and believe, but rather were interested in receiving more free food.

    Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”6 Jesus reminded them that the manna in the wilderness was not from Moses, but from God. Manna was not “the true bread” from heaven, but rather an earthly, material type of that bread. It gave life to the people of God for forty years, and also served as a foreshadowing of the “bread of God” which 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 shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.7

    Those listening understood that the bread was a metaphor for a divine gift. They began to recognize that in some way Jesus was offering them “life,” even eternal life, as He had earlier told them not to work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life. Having told them that they were to labor for the food that endures to eternal life, He is now telling them that He is the way to that life, He is this bread, He is the one who gives this life. This in a sense changes the focus from what Jesus does to who Jesus is.

    However, once Jesus said that He was the bread, some clearly did not believe.8 The people had asked for a sign, and Jesus replied that He was the sign. He explicitly stated that He came down from heaven, and that His purpose was to do His Father’s will.

    The Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”9

    The people began to grumble among themselves, probably confused and/or disagreeing with one another as to what He meant. Knowing who His parents were made it difficult for them to accept the concept that He came down from heaven.

    Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”10

    Earlier He said, All that the Father gives me will come to me,11 and here He makes the same point in a stronger fashion—no one can come to Him without the Father drawing them. A person is “drawn” to Jesus by being taught by God, by hearing and responding to God’s call.

    Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.12 This is the third “truly, truly” statement in this chapter. He is making a solemn vow that whoever believes has eternal life because He is the bread of life.

    Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.13

    Earlier, the crowd spoke about manna and indicated that they would like a similar miracle. It was because of this that Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Having said this, He then spoke of manna’s limitations. While it was food from God, it had to be eaten the day it was gathered, and whatever was left over was rotten the next day. It sustained the people, but they still died in due course. However, those who eat of the bread Jesus was speaking about will not die. The Greek verb tense used for eat in the phrase so that one may eat of it and not die indicates a once-and-for-all action, so that when anyone partakes of this bread once, they will never die.

    Since this is no ordinary food, how then is it eaten? The answer of course is to believe, as Jesus stated earlier: Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. The concept of belief or faith as eating gives some insight to what it means to believe. We partake of and absorb what we believe in a manner similar to eating food, so that it becomes part of who we are. Those who partake of Jesus will never die.

    Jesus’ definition of the bread as His flesh, His body, was a startling statement, but it became even more so when He stated that He would give Himself, His own body, His own flesh “for the life of the world.” Those listening to Jesus didn’t know that Jesus was speaking of His death for the salvation of the world.

    This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.14

    The “bread of life” which comes “down from heaven” is different from any earthly bread. Those who eat this bread, who take Jesus into their lives, while they will experience physical death, won’t experience spiritual death. As Jesus said earlier in this chapter:

    This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.15

    May all of us who have eaten the bread of eternal life be faithful to share this bread with others.

    Originally published January 2018. Excerpted and republished December 2020.
    Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.


    1 John 6:24–26.

    2 Craig Keener, The Gospel of John, A Commentary, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 676.

    3 John 6:27.

    4 John 6:28–29 NIV.

    5 John 6:30–31.

    6 John 6:32–33.

    7 John 6:34–35.

    8 John 6:36–40.

    9 John 6:41–42.

    10 John 6:43–44.

    11 John 6:37.

    12 John 6:47–48.

    13 John 6:49–51.

    14 John 6:58.

    15 John 6:39–40.

  • Dec 2 How Understanding Divine Omniscience Helps Anxiety
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  • Nov 26 The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
  • Nov 24 True Wealth
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  • Nov 17 Dealing with Dragons
  • Nov 13 Be Still and Know that I Am God
  • Nov 10 Character-Producing Times
  • Nov 9 Unconditional Love
   

Directors’ Corner

News, writings and thoughts from TFI Directors

  • Living Christianity: The Ten Commandments (Contentment)

    (Points for this article were taken from The Doctrine of the Christian Life by John M. Frame.1)

    The tenth commandment stands out among the others because it focuses on our inner thoughts and desires rather than outward sinful actions. For example, while the eighth commandment forbids the act of theft, the tenth commandment forbids the desire to steal. The term used to express this desire is to covet. To covet means to feel inordinate [immoderate, excessive] desire for what belongs to another.”2 When we have a strong desire to have something which belongs to someone else, we are coveting.

    This commandment is stated twice in the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus we read:

    You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.3

    In the book of Deuteronomy, it states:

    You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.4

    Today, people generally aren’t coveting their neighbor’s ox or donkey, but they do covet others’ jobs, paychecks, bank accounts, material goods, spouses, or social or workplace positions; all of these fit under the clause anything that is your neighbor’s. We covet when we are discontent with our material situation while envying what others possess. Coveting is a desire for what someone else has which causes us to be dissatisfied, to see our happiness and contentment hinging on obtaining those things.

    Warnings against covetousness are found throughout the New Testament. Jesus warned against it.

    He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts … coveting. … All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”5

    He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”6

    In the book of Romans, Paul included covetousness in a list of the sins of unbelievers.

    Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness.7 

    In the book of Colossians, he wrote:

    Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: … covetousness, which is idolatry.8

    As human beings, we all have God-given desires and dreams which are perfectly legitimate. There is nothing immoral, ungodly, or sinful about setting financial or other goals and working toward them in order to improve your life. It’s not wrong to work toward buying a home, a new car, or studying to earn a degree, or saving money in order to meet some future need. However, when you desire the things which belong to your neighbor, whether it’s something they physically possess or their position, relationships, or their particular gifts and talents, that is sin.

    Within Scripture we find examples of covetousness that led to people illegitimately obtaining the objects of their covetousness. In the book of Joshua we read of Achan who, because he coveted, disobeyed the command not to take anything from the city of Ai.

    Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”9

    King David coveted Bathsheba—the wife of Uriah, one of David’s soldiers—when he saw her bathing on her rooftop. He coveted his neighbor’s wife, which led to his committing adultery with her, which resulted in her becoming pregnant. Then, in order to cover up his sin, David arranged for Uriah to be positioned in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and for the soldiers who were near him to draw back from him so that he would be killed in battle.10

    While covetousness may not result in outward action such as these examples describe, it is a major cause of unhappiness. It breeds comparison between yourself and others and causes dissatisfaction, which can result in an intense desire for what others have, such as their job, money, house, car, spouse, etc. Covetousness can cause one to judge their self-worth by their possessions; however, Scripture clearly states that our lives and our worth as human beings are not measured by how much or how little we own.

    The antidote to covetousness is contentment—to find fulfillment and happiness in whatever state we may be in. The apostle Paul wrote,

    There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.11

    As the apostle Paul expressed, he had experienced both abundance and financial need.

    I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.12 

    Being content means that we are thanking the Lord for what we have rather than complaining about what we are lacking. Like with the apostle Paul, it’s important that we learn to be content in whatever situation we may find ourselves. Being content with our present situation, however, does not mean that we cannot take steps to improve upon that situation.

    It’s not morally wrong to let someone else’s success motivate you to take action to improve your life. Often we are inspired by what others have accomplished, and it helps us to see that we too can make progress and achieve worthwhile goals in some aspect of our life. Such motivation is not coveting, as there is no desire to take what belongs to another; rather, we are motivated by someone’s example to work toward legitimate goals and to improve ourselves in some way.

    The way to combat covetousness is to trust that God will provide our needs and to have faith in His promises. Scripture tells us, and our experience reinforces His promise, that He will care for us.

    Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”13 

    As Christians we are called by Jesus to not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.14

    Covetousness ultimately has to do with our relationship with God. Do we trust that He loves and cares for us and has our best interests at heart? If so, are we willing to accept what He has or hasn’t provided for us, and to be content and thankful?

    As Christians, it’s important that we remember that Jesus gave up everything in order to bring salvation to us.

    You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.15

    Jesus didn’t let His position in heaven stand in the way of sacrificing everything in order to redeem us. Likewise, each of us should follow His example by expressing gratitude to God for supplying what we need, and by being generous to others.


    Note

    Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


    1 John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing), 2008.

    2 Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary.

    3 Exodus 20:17.

    4 Deuteronomy 5:21.

    5 Mark 7:20–23.

    6 Luke 12:15.

    7 Romans 1:28–29.

    8 Colossians 3:5.

    9 Joshua 7:20–21.

    10 2 Samuel 11:1–27.

    11 1 Timothy 6:6–12.

    12 Philippians 4:11–13.

    13 Hebrews 13:5.

    14 Matthew 6:31–34.

    15 2 Corinthians 8:9.

     

  • Nov 24 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Sons of Zebedee
  • Nov 17 Jesus—His Life and Message: Healing of the Ten Lepers
  • Nov 10 Jesus—His Life and Message: The Pharisees Plot
  • Nov 3 More Like Jesus: Reflections on Love
  • Oct 27 Living Christianity: The Ten Commandments (Truthfulness)
  • Oct 13 More Like Jesus: Reflections on Love
  • Oct 6 Jesus—His Life and Message: Three Incidents
  • Sep 29 Jesus—His Life and Message: Divorce and Remarriage
  • Sep 22 Jesus—His Life and Message: Are You the Christ?
   

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