John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
We have a friend, a bachelor, who for many years has lived on fast food and cheap microwave meals. I understand why he eats this way. It is easy, requires no cooking skills, and doesn’t take much time. I understand because I know how hard it is to feel motivated to cook proper meals just for me! Our friend is now middle-aged, and he is beginning to see that he is what he eats. His health is not holding up well. His immune system is poor, and he just does not feel well most of the time. His body has not had the nutrients it needs to be healthy.
Our bodies are wonderfully made to take in food or “bread” each day and use it as fuel. In fact, we have a built-in alarm system that sets off hunger-pang warnings when our fuel supply is getting low. All people – everywhere – need food. So when Jesus talks about eating, we all get it. Without daily food, we die.
Jesus had just fed 5,000 people, and He was real popular. They were following Him around lakes and everywhere He went because He had given them food and quieted those hunger pangs! But when Jesus began teaching, many of them could not take it. This was one of those dividing times, and only those who truly believed kept following Him.
Jesus explained that there are two kinds of food: Food that spoils and food that endures to eternal life. The 5,000 had just eaten the kind that spoils, and they were already hungry again. But Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry… I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” This is when the grumbling began. Who does Jesus think He is? He’s the boy next door! We know His parents! So how can He say He came down from heaven?
The teaching that day got even tougher. Jesus called Himself “the living bread.” And He said, “This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” We know what He meant because we know that later He died on the cross to pay for our sins. But if we had been listening that day, we would not have understood that future event, and we would have been shocked to hear Him say that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood! Unthinkable!
Even Jesus’ disciples thought this was a hard teaching and one that was impossible to accept. He knew that they were grumbling, and so He explained that the Spirit gives life, and the flesh counts for nothing. He said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” But at the same time, Jesus knew how grossed out they all were by the things he had been saying. He knew that without God’s special insight, they would not be able to hear what He was really saying: Just as your bodies need to eat food, your spirit also needs to eat. I am the bread your spirit needs. If you feed on me, you will live forever. If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will remain in me, and I will remain in you. We are what we eat… spiritually, too.
The people who had eaten the miraculous meal the day before lost their appetites. In fact, many of Jesus’ disciples could not stomach this and no longer followed him. So Jesus turned to the twelve disciples and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
Just like Simon Peter, I fail so many times. But his answer fills my eyes with tears because it is also mine: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Heavenly Father, thank you for helping me to understand this tough lesson. Jesus, thank you for giving your flesh for the life of the world so that you can be my spirit’s bread. Holy Spirit, thank you for giving my spirit life.