“Jesus saith unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”—John 6:35

Christ is the all-satisfying Bread of Life.  In John chapter six Christ identified Himself as the “Bread which came down from heaven.”  His purpose was to bring His audience to the understanding of His divine nature and to reveal His abundant sufficiency to meet their spiritual and physical needs. As the believer understands Christ’s identity as the Bread of Life he grows in his faith that Christ is able to meet every need in his life.

John 6 begins with Jesus’ visiting a remote region by the Sea of Galilee.  When the people discovered where He was, a great multitude of about five thousand men plus women and children gathered around Him.  Jesus, realizing the physical need of the people, asked Philip where they could purchase bread to feed the masses.  Philip could see no solution to this problem.  All that was found was a boy with five barley loaves and two small fish.  The setting was thus prepared for Jesus to provide physical evidence for the spiritual promise He would utter within a few hours: “I am the bread of life.”

After blessing the meal, Christ broke the five loaves and two fish and had his disciples pass them out to the people.  Miraculously, God multiplied the food so that every man, woman, and child took as much as they desired, and the remains were gathered into twelve baskets.

The miracle validated Christ’s claim to be God’s Son[i], provided the authentic proof for Christ’s forthcoming declaration that He was the bread from heaven, and proved that He always offered more than enough to satisfy man’s spiritual hunger.  It also recalled to the Jews the feeding of the multitudes in the wilderness for forty years.

Indeed, no sooner had the miracle been completed than the Jews began to whisper among themselves, “Could this be the prophet that is to come?”[ii]  Instantly, many desired to make Him their king.  Surely, one who could provide thus for them in abundance would be a powerful ruler on their behalf.

Though the Jews were correct in their surmise that Christ was the promised prophet, they failed to grasp the true significance of His miracle.  Indeed, they later forsook Christ when He sought to direct their attention to their spiritual need.

In order to understand the symbolic significance of this miracle and the importance of Christ’s ensuing proclamation that He was the Bread of Life, it is necessary to look at the Old Testament parallel account of provision from heaven.  Exodus 16 recounts the condition of the children of Israel in the wilderness just one month after they had experienced miraculous deliverance by the hand of God at the Red Sea.  They had run out of food and had begun to complain.  Rather than trusting God and remembering His past faithfulness, they immediately began to doubt Him and His goodness in having delivered them from Egypt.

In spite of their ungratefulness, God provided for them.  He sent quail in abundance for meat, and then every morning (except on the Sabbath) for forty years He rained down bread from heaven.  The small wafer-bread, which the Israelites called manna, was daily provided for their sustenance and nourishment.  In this heavenly bread, God provided all they would need for survival in the desert.

Apart from meeting Israel’s physical need, God had two purposes in providing this manna.  These purposes can also be applied to the believer’s relationship with Christ as the Bread of Life.  First, God used the bread to teach Israel dependence upon Himself.  He wanted them to look beyond just having their physical needs met and see their desperate need for a relationship with Him.  Moses said of the manna, “He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knew not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee to know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”[iii]

It was God’s desire that the children of Israel would learn the all-important truth that man was more than just a physical being.  Man was also spiritual, and as such, required spiritual nourishment.  That nourishment could only come by his daily receiving the words of God and entering into relationship with Him.

There were two characteristics of the manna that taught the Israelites their dependence upon the Lord.  The manna could only be harvested in the cool of the morning; when the withering sun came up, it melted the bread.  Also, except for the day before the Sabbath, the manna was to be used in the day it was harvested; otherwise it spoiled and bred worms.

These characteristics were symbolic of man’s relationship with the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.  If man was to enjoy the sweetness of fellowship with Christ, he needed to seek Him in the beginning of the day, before the cares of life had a chance to “melt” away the manna.  He also needed to seek Christ every day.  He could not make it through the week on one or two encounters with Jesus.  Man needed daily sustenance from the Bread of Life.

God’s second purpose in providing the manna was to wean Israel from the appetites of Egypt (a picture of the world) by developing an appetite for the Promised Land (a picture of spiritual maturity).  Frequently, throughout their wanderings, the Israelites longed for the meats and vegetables of Egypt.  At one point, referring to the heavenly provision of manna, they even said, “Our soul loatheth this light bread.”[iv]  Their problem was, not that they lacked variety in their diet, but that they had more of a desire for the world than for the Lord.  They allowed themselves to be controlled by the flesh rather than by the spirit.

God desired that the children of Israel develop a spiritual appetite.  The manna was said to taste like wafers made with honey.  God had promised that the land to which He was leading them was flowing with milk and honey.  In the food He provided for forty years, God was giving the Israelites a foretaste of the fruit of the Promised Land.  This miraculous provision was meant to create in man a spiritual appetite to dwell in God’s presence and an awareness of his dependence upon God for daily sustenance.

The flesh naturally seeks sustenance in the things of the world.  However, those who would live by the spirit must develop an appetite for “spiritual food.”  This spiritual appetite comes only as the believer daily receives nourishment from the “Bread that came down from heaven,” by spending time feeding upon the living Word of God.

[i] John 6:40

[ii] John 6:14

[iii] Deuteronomy 8:3

[iv] Numbers 21:5