The phrase “bread of life” is used several times by Jesus in the Gospel of John. For Christians, this powerful symbol reveals key truths about who Jesus is and what He offers us. In this post, we’ll explore the meaning behind the bread of life and why it matters.
In John 6, Jesus performs the miracle of feeding over 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Afterward, the crowds follow Him, hoping for more food. But Jesus urges them not to seek physical bread alone, but spiritual bread that leads to eternal life (John 6:26-27).
He then makes seven key “I am” statements, calling Himself the “bread of life” (John 6:35, 48). This helps unpack the significance of this metaphor. Here are some key takeaways:
- Jesus is the only source of spiritual nourishment that satisfies completely
- Coming to Jesus provides eternal sustenance and life
- Faith in Christ unites us in a personal, nourishing relationship with Him
- Feeding on Jesus by faith is simple, available to all, but essential
- The life Jesus offers is eternal, surpassing physical existence
The Setting of John 6
To appreciate what Jesus meant by calling Himself the “bread of life,” we need to understand the context. In John 6, a large crowd has gathered to hear Jesus teach and be healed. When evening comes, the disciples encourage Jesus to send the people away to find food in nearby villages (John 6:5).
But Jesus tests their faith, telling them “You give them something to eat” (John 6:6). They protest that their few provisions are inadequate. But Jesus miraculously multiplies the food, allowing the disciples to distribute it (John 6:11). Over 5,000 eat their fill, with twelve baskets leftover (John 6:13).
This reflects God feeding the Israelites bread, or manna, from heaven during their wilderness wanderings (Exodus 16:4, 31). Jesus is now the new, superior provider of bread. The next day, people flock to Jesus for more wonders, but He urges them not to seek physical bread alone (John 6:26).
Jesus as the True and Living Bread
Jesus contrasts the temporary satisfaction of physical bread with enduring spiritual bread from heaven. He declares, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Several key truths emerge here. First, Jesus is the only true and ultimate source of spiritual nourishment. Unlike physical bread that perishes, He offers Himself as living bread that lasts forever (John 6:51).
Second, Jesus stresses that coming to Him and believing in Him is essential for satisfaction. Physical hunger returns, so we must continually eat bread. But faith in Christ alone provides complete, enduring relief from spiritual emptiness.
Third, Jesus highlights the personal nature of this nourishment. He intimately offers Himself to us as bread to eat and blood to drink (John 6:53-56). This points to personal union and communion with Christ by faith.
These truths would resonate deeply for Evangelical and Charismatic Christians. We believe salvation involves a vital, personal connection and ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. The bread of life encapsulates this beautifully.
The Availability and Simplicity of the Bread of Life
After shocking hearers by speaking of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, Jesus emphasizes the availability of this spiritual bread. He states, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54).
Several key implications emerge here. First, this bread of life is available to all. Just as Jesus fed the 5,000 without restriction, so He freely offers Himself now to all who believe. No one who comes to Him will be turned away (John 6:37).
Second, while profound, receiving this bread is simple. Just as eating physical bread is straightforward, so we receive Christ into our lives through childlike faith. This offers hope to all, regardless of background or ability.
Third, this bread is utterly essential for salvation and eternal life. While Jesus fed the 5,000 in their physical need, He now focuses on their deeper spiritual need. Partaking of the bread of life is necessary to receive resurrection life.
These truths inspire Evangelicals and Charismatics in our gospel mission. We proclaim Christ as the bread of life available freely to all who believe. Receiving Him by faith alone secures eternal salvation.
Abiding in Christ the Bread of Life
After declaring Himself the bread of life, Jesus becomes even more specific: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Here Jesus makes several powerful claims about the implications of partaking of Him by faith:
- He is the true bread from heaven above that gives eternal life, unlike the manna that sustained physical life alone
- Eating this bread means receiving His broken flesh and poured out blood on our behalf
- This was accomplished ultimately on the cross, giving His life to save the world
- Abiding in Him by faith sustains our spiritual life forever
For the original audience, these radical claims would be shocking and offensive. For Christians, they encapsulate the saving work of our Savior.
Through His sacrificial death, Jesus became the atoning bread of life. By continually feeding on Him through faith, abiding in Christ, we receive resurrection life and the certainty of eternity with Him. This bread truly satisfies our deepest spiritual longings.
The Bread of Life and the Lord’s Supper
For Evangelical and Charismatic Christians, the Lord’s Supper holds deep significance. Also called Communion or the Eucharist, this sacrament commemorates Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf.
The bread symbolizes Jesus’ body broken for us, while the cup symbolizes His blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-28). By partaking, we proclaim our faith in and union with the crucified and risen Savior.
This connects intimately with Jesus as the bread of life. He promises, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56). Each celebration of the Lord’s Supper provides opportunity to feed on the bread of life. This sustains our faith and renews our devotion to our Savior.
Objections and Warnings
However, John 6 records that many disciples rejected these radical teachings of Jesus and stopped following Him altogether (John 6:66). Even today, some stumble over Jesus’ language of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
In response, Jesus warns against unbelief, affirming the necessity of feeding on Him by faith: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
Rather than literal cannibalism, Jesus calls us into personal, spiritual communion with Him. Those who reject Him in unbelief cut themselves off from the bread of life essential for salvation.
As Evangelicals and Charismatics, we heed Christ’s warning against hard hearts and shallow faith. We proclaim the vital necessity of partaking of the bread of life by genuine faith in Christ alone for spiritual life.
Conclusion: Key Takeaways on the Bread of Life
In summary, here are several key things the powerful image of the bread of life represents for Evangelical and Charismatic Christians:
- Jesus alone fully satisfies spiritual hunger and provides eternal sustenance
- Coming to Christ in repentance and faith is essential for salvation
- Christ invites all freely to receive Him by grace through faith
- Abiding in Christ sustains us and resurrection life flows through this vital union
- The Lord’s Supper allows us to celebrate and proclaim our faith in Christ
- Rejecting Jesus cuts us off from the true bread of life essential for salvation
Two thousand years after Jesus spoke these life-changing words, they still captivate our hearts as believers. By God’s grace, we have tasted of the bread of life. Our deepest prayer is for all people to partake of Christ and experience His goodness. May the true bread from heaven satisfy your every longing!