The Greatest Bread
Jesus uses the image of bread to demonstrate that, even compared to all the great things God has done before, God’s greatest miracle is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, the bread of life, is a greater miracle than the manna God sent in the dessert (Exod. 16:14), greater than the bread the angel brought to restore Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8), greater even than the loaves Jesus had just multiplied to feed a crowd of more than five thousand people (John 6:1-14)! In Jesus, God gives bread for the journey—not only for this life, but also into eternal life.
We’re so familiar with this image that it loses some of its original power. But the claim Jesus is making here is a radical one—and a dangerous one. To Jesus’ original audience, his claim to be the bread from heaven, the Son of God, must have sounded like outrageous blasphemy. “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” they say. “How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:42). Who does this guy think he is?
Jesus’ message is both outrageous and outrageously comforting: anyone who eats this bread will live forever. The Son of God meets us in this life and gives us real and certain hope for eternal life. Normal bread is amazing in its own right; manna is miraculous. But Jesus Christ is the true bread and the greatest miracle of all. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8).
After feeding more than five thousand people in the wilderness, Jesus teaches them regarding the true significance of this remarkable sign.
35Jesus said to [the crowd,] “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”–John 6:35, 41-51