The Bread of Life, Part 1 (+Q&A) | John 6:22-40
So, John chapter 6 is where we are, and to get started, I want you to go back in your mind, to the earliest memories you have— that may be elementary school, or earlier for some of you. If we think back and reflect on the entirety of our lives (even all the way back in the beginning), I bet there was rarely a time when you didn’t want something that you didn’t have. This is a mark of being human, isn’t it? To want something that we don’t have. To, really, always want more. Whether that be stuff, like money, or time, or respect, or power, or leisure. Whatever it is, we always want more, don’t we?
No matter what we may have at any given moment, we’re not satisfied! We want more, and more, and more. It’s kind-of a rare thing to be completely content with where we’re at in life. And it’s easy to attribute this to our sin, and to say, “Ugh, that’s just our sinful natures, not being content.” And maybe that’s true in some ways. But, it also seems as if God hardwired us this way. We were built with desires for great things!
There’s a famous C.S. Lewis quote, I’m sure at least some of you have heard. It’s from the very beginning of his book, The Weight of Glory. Lewis writes,
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. [He goes on]. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. [He concludes], We are far too easily pleased.
The more biblical notion is not that we need to suppress our desires for great things, whether physical or otherwise, but that we need to channel our desires toward the greatest thing of all, the only eternal thing. In other words, the problem is not that we want bread; the problem is we’re looking for the wrong bread, just like the Galileans in John chapter 6.
If you recall last week, we saw Jesus feed 5,000 men plus women and children, and we also saw him walk on water. He was giving the Galileans and later readers like us the tiniest glimpse of his glory and supremacy. And so, with that tiny glimpse of his power, you’d think the Galileans would follow after Jesus just because they wanted Jesus! But, apparently, they were following him for other reasons. Look with me at John chapter 6, starting with just verse 22:
On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.
That kind-of tells us why the crowd stayed, why they didn’t cross the sea with the disciples, because Jesus didn’t cross. They wanted to stay where Jesus was, so they didn’t get in the boats. But now they’ve woken up and noticed that Jesus isn’t there! So, now they do want to cross the sea. Verse 23:
23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
So, already, we’re seeing the crowd follow after Jesus, and my gut reaction is to say, “Go Galileans, go! Just follow Jesus, wherever he goes. He’s the King! He’s the Son of God! Follow Him! Yes!” I can’t help but almost, like, be on their team at this point. So they cross the sea, and they find Jesus. Verse 25:
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
Naturally, they’re curious, right? They ask, “When and, maybe, more importantly, how did you get here?” That’s what’s implied in their question. But Jesus ignores their question altogether. Verse 26:
26 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.”
So, wait! Now we see the true reason that they’re following him. Not because they saw the signs. Meaning, not because they recognized that what he was doing was pointing to who he was—these signs of who he is— not because of that, but simply because they were hungry again. They weren’t following Jesus for Jesus. They were following Jesus for bread!
And, honestly, we probably shouldn’t too quickly condemn them for this. Logistically, you have thousands of people following Jesus around, likely from lots of different towns and areas, and so finding food for such a large group of people is difficult. They were likely hungry, and needing another meal. The problem is not that they needed to eat, because we all need to eat! The problem is that they didn’t see their far greater need than mere bread: they needed Jesus, Himself.
So, Jesus just says it, “You’re here for food, not because of what these signs might mean.” As in, about who I am. So then he corrects them. Verse 27:
27 Do not work 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.”
This is where we see the first ingredient to the Bread of Life. That’s how we’re going to structure the truth of this passage. Three Ingredients to the Bread of Life. #1:
- Jesus is the only One who can give us true life (22-27).
These Galileans are trying to find Jesus, apparently because they need more food! In their minds, at least at this point, this was their greatest need! In their minds, to eat meant to live. The problem is that didn’t even see the life they didn’t yet have! They didn’t see the significance of Jesus himself. They took their greatest need to be that of physical life and sustenance, when in fact Jesus was there to offer them life eternal.
This’s why Jesus tells them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” This food that Jesus offers, and that only Jesus can offer leads to something far greater than just physical life. Far greater than just survival on the earth.
You know, we spend a lot of our time as Christians, those who have this eternal life, we spend most of our time working for food that perishes. And honestly, again, we have to do that. We have to put food on the table. We have to work in order to live. But my question is this: do we realize that our need for spiritual food and nourishment is infinitely greater than our need for physical food? It’s funny how easy it is to forget to read the Word, and be nourished by our relationship with Christ on a regular basis, especially when compared to how difficult it is for us to forget a meal.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t forget about lunch, or dinner, or 2nddinner. (Anyone else find themselves eating every night around 11pm? I should try and deflect with Lauryn, and tell her that I’m just sleep-eating, not even aware). Generally speaking, we don’t forget to eat. Perhaps we need to take Jesus’ gentle rebuke here as not only for those like the Galileans who don’t really know who Jesus is, but also for those of us who do know who Jesus is! Yes, work for food that perishes. But even more important than that, “work” for food that doesn’t perish. And this goes for raising kids, too! Yes, help them learn to work for food one day, but, even more importantly, help them learn to work for the food that endures.
And, ultimately, what does this “work” look like? This work for food that endures to eternal life. Well, the Galileans asked that exact question! Look at the next two verses, verses 28 and 29:
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” [In other words, how do we work for this food that endures, as you say?] 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
For a second there, maybe you thought Jesus was telling us to somehow earn this eternal life! But that’s not what he’s saying. What is the work of God, ultimately? What are we to do? How can we work for the food that endures to eternal life? The work of God is simply to believe in Jesus Christ. Here, yet again, we see John’s ultimate goal. He wants us to believe in Jesus.
Believing in Jesus means that we stake our very lives on the truth that Jesus is the only hope we have. Specifically, what he accomplished in his death and his resurrection is the only hope we have! That’s what it means to believe. The work of God is to trust in the One whom he has sent, Jesus. Ultimately, he’s the only one who can give us true life. He’s the only one on whom the Father has set his seal. In other words, God the Father has authorized Jesus to give eternal life to those who believe in Him.
But, apparently the Galileans either don’t fully get this yet, or they’re skeptical. Because after Jesus says this to them, look at their response in verse 30:
30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
So what do we see happening here? They’re back to wanting food again! That’s what they’re saying. It reminds me of my son. We eat lunch, and 5 minutes later: “Can I have a snack.” They’ve already seen Jesus feed 5,000, and now they’re bringing up Moses to try and back up their argument: “Hey, Moses gave our fathers bread from heaven to eat. Maybe you should do that, and then maybe we’ll believe.” They still don’t quite get it. So, Jesus responds. Look at verses 32 and following:
32 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. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
So, first Jesus corrects them: Moses didn’t ultimately give your fathers that manna. My Father did! And now God gives you the true bread from heaven, he who comes down and gives life to the world. They hear Jesus say this, and apparently they want it, or so they think. So they tell Jesus, “Give us this bread always.” They’re still somewhat confused here, and so Jesus just comes out and says it in verse 35, The central verse of this whole text, really all of John chapter 6. Verse 35:
35 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.
This brings us to ingredient number 2 of the Bread of Life. Truth Number 2:
- Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy our hunger (28-35).
Jesus is the Bread of Life. There is something drastically different about this Bread. Have you ever noticed that no matter how satisfying a meal may be, we always need another meal? Even a hearty, wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner—with turkey, dressing, gravy, stuffing (like we’re going to have this Wednesday night, please sign up and come!)—even with how satisfying it is, and even with having to unbutton the pants to be able to sit down on the couch afterwards (don’t pretend like you don’t do that): But no matter how satisfying or filling, a few hours later, we need more food. A few hours later, the satisfaction of Thanksgiving Dinner is gone.
Same with thirst. I love drinking ice, cold water, especially when I’m thirsty. It just feels so good to quench your thirst. But then a few hours later, you’re thirsty again. Isn’t this true in all areas of life? You feel the need for more money than you have, then you get it and it feels good. But then after a time, you’ve adjusted to that, and you feel like you need more. Or you just want to relax and enjoy your time off, but then that time comes to an end, and you still want more.
Maybe you’re one of those that loves Thanksgiving and Christmas, the holiday season. You have it all hyped up in your mind what it will be like, and Thanksgiving comes, and it doesn’t turn out quite like you had in mind. It doesn’t deliver what you had hoped. Or even if it does, the holidays end, and you just wish you had another holiday.
In every area of life, it seems like nothing ever truly delivers the satisfaction we want. Nothing truly and completely fulfills the promises we’ve made up in our minds. Are we just stuck in this world of never having anything to truly quench our thirst and our hunger for something more, something better, something lasting? No. We’re not stuck. A vacation may not deliver everything you hope. A raise may not. Thanksgiving Dinner may not. The Christmas season may not. But listen: Jesus delivers, and he is the only One who can truly deliver.
If you’re here, and you’re a believer. You know Jesus. He’s given you eternal life, not just life that never ends length-wise, but life that never ends depth-wise. The joy and satisfaction is unending in quality. Stop looking elsewhere for meaning and significance and satisfaction. Jesus is the Bread of Life! He who comes to Jesus shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Jesus shall never thirst. He’s talking true, meaningful, lasting satisfaction. Always there, forever. And we know that this is forever by what comes next. Let’s read verses 36 to 40, and pay close attention to what Jesus says here, ok? Verses 36-40:
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And 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. 40 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.”
The third and last ingredient to the Bread of Life, the last Truth of the Bread of Life:
- When we eat the Bread of Life, we are eternallysecure(37-40).
Right off the bat, I don’t want you to miss here the language Jesus uses: “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” “I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” “Everyone who believes will have eternal life.” Here’s the truth of the matter: there’s a reason it’s called eternal life. You know the reason? It’s called eternal life, because it’s not temporary. That might seem basic, but we need to make sure we get this.
At the moment we truly believe in Jesus, we receive eternal life. Our eternal life begins, even before we actually die. With that eternal life, there is the guarantee that Jesus will raise us up on the last day. That’s his promise right there in verse 39. This is one of those times that we canclaim it, precisely because Jesus himselfhas named it! We will be raised up! Jesus saved us, and he will not lose us! It is absolute, because the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice is absolute! Jesus is absolutely enough, therefore we are absolutely saved and secure by trusting in Him.
Over and over and over in John chapter 6, we see the guarantee of eternal life and that this eternal life is forever, not temporary. There’s a list in your notes of 7 or 8 times Jesus tells us that this is forever. One example is verse 51: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” What’s he talking about when he says, “eats this bread”? He’s talking about believing in Jesus, the Bread of Life. That’s how we symbolically eat the bread! If we eat this bread, we will live forever!
It doesn’t say, “unless you throw it back up—that’s a totally different discussion.” Right? It doesn’t say that. Listen, if you eat of the Bread of Life. You believe in Jesus alone, there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from your new identity as a child of God. And that’s not because you’re great or something, but because Christ is great. It’s not because you’re holy, but because Christ is holy. It’s not because you’re enough, but because Christ is enough. And it is certainly not because you are some consistently good person, but because Christ is the perfectly consistent Lamb of God. We are Sons of God, as we sang earlier, because of what Christ has accomplished in his death and resurrection. When we believe in him, we become sons and daughters. God will no more reject us than he will reject Jesus Christ.
That is a phenomenal truth that we don’t often get in cultural Christianity. It seems like, today, a lot of what we get from church is some masked form of moralism. This Christianity that’s taught so often emphasizes that being a Christian is really just about trying to be a good person. No, no, no. The heart of it is that we’re not good. No one is good. We deserve God’s wrath, and yet God has given Christ the authority to give eternal life to those who trust in Him.
I want you to see why this is so compelling, though. We’re eternally secure because God has done all of the work for our salvation. We contribute nothing to our salvation. Even our faith in Jesus, ultimately, is God’s doing. It’s God’s gift to us. That’s Ephesians 2:8-9.
In verse 36, though, Jesus is commenting on the fact that these Galileans see Him, and yet they don’t truly believe. How is that? Why do they not see, truly? Well, that’s because God has not unveiled their eyes. He makes this clarification in verse 37. And this may be a little unsettling at first, but then I hope it’s a beautiful thing at second glance. He says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” The question that inevitably comes up with that, is, “So, do we choose God, or does he choose us?” “All that the Father gives to me will come to me.” In theological terms, this is called Irresistible Grace.
Something so often neglected in Bible teaching and preaching is the biblical teaching of election. That God chooses those who will be saved. And the reason this is not often brought up is because it’s difficult for us to grasp at first. That God would choose those who would be saved. That can be difficult. But, we see this over and over in the New Testament. That God does not just save us when we decide to choose him. But, in fact, we see that none of us are even able to choose him, without him first overcoming our resistance to the Gospel.
In fact, if you look at verse 44, a few verses after today’s text. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” No again, I know our first reaction to that may be confusion. No one can come to the Father, without the work of God on them to draw them. If you read Romans 3, verses 10 and following, you see very clearly, that no one, on their own accord, truly seeks after God. None of us, of our own will, seeks after God. Instead, we all turn to our own way. Every time, we are our own kings until God does something to change that.
And yes, he chooses some before the foundation of world, according to Ephesians 1. He chooses some, simply by his grace, to overcome their resistance to the gospel, and save them. Now, again, I know that may be difficult to understand. But this is God’s Word. This is his revelation to us. Ultimately, I think the difficulty comes in not being able to grasp God’s timelessness. The fact that he exists outside of time, we can’t even fathom that, what that means. And so, we may not be able to fully grasp the truth that he chooses some before the foundation of the world to be his children.
But here’s the thing, even if this is newer for you, or you don’t fully grasp this: think of what these truths can do for us. This can bring us so much assurance that God has us in his hands, if we’ve have believed in Jesus alone for salvation. You can no more lose your salvation than you can gain your own salvation in the first place! And guess what? You did nothing of your own accord to gain your salvation! You can’t lose it, because you didn’t earn it in the first place. You can no more vomit the Bread of Life back up than you can bake your own Bread of Life in the first place. Truly, only by God’s grace, were you saved, and verse 37 makes clear: you were given to Jesus, which is the only way you were able to come to him, and by coming to Him you will never be cast out.
Some of you may just need to hear that today. If you have believed in Jesus alone for salvation, you will never be cast out. That’s proof that he chose you before the foundation of the world.
So, why are you seeking Jesus? Because if you’re only seeking Jesus because you think somehow your life will be easier by following him, you’re seeking Jesus for the same reasons as these Galileans. They wanted another meal. Jesus Himself, though, is all we need for true and lasting satisfaction. Augustine once wrote, “It is easy to want things from the Lord and yet not want the Lord Himself, as though the gift could ever be preferable to the Giver.”
Jesus doesn’t just come to giveus the Bread of Life. Jesus isthe Bread of Life. Have you partaken in the Bread of Life? If you have, are you now, for whatever reason, looking elsewhere to satisfy your hunger, when you have the only Bread that truly satisfies?
To go back to C.S. Lewis’s words I brought up in the beginning: The problem is not that we desire to strongly. It’s not that we want bread, it’s that we’re chasing after the wrong bread. Are we content making mud pies in a slum? Or, do we see the infinite joy and satisfaction offered to us in the Bread of Life?