Tom kicks off our series on the 7 "I AM" statements in the book of John, speaking on Jesus' discourse in John 6:25-40 explaining how he is the fulfilment of God's promise of eternal satisfaction.
This evening we are considering the statement in John Chapter 6:
“I am the bread of life”
This statement follows one of Jesus’ most famous miracles, and we can only marvel at the sheer scale of this miracle.
This is a ‘Throwback Miracle’,
John 6 is full of Exodus language. ‘I AM’ is taken from Exodus 3 where God reveals himself to Moses, by saying: ‘I AM who I AM.’ He is God, without beginning and end, eternal, unchanging, the source of life.
If Jesus had just used this phrase once, we could dismiss it as an accident. But he uses it all the time. He knows exactly what he is doing by taking the name of the eternal God to himself.
If you scan across John 6 you will find many things that make you think ‘Exodus Story’.
Jesus has crossed the sea, to the other side. There has been an amazing sign. There are crowds of people. He goes up a mountain. It is the Passover. He goes into the wilderness. He is surrounded by people and he has provided for them. You do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to see the connections.
This is Exodus ‘Take 2’, and the feeding miracle, at the beginning of John 6, is at the heart of this ‘I AM’ statement, that we are considering tonight.
The scale of this miracle is incredible:
In verse 2 “a great crowd of people were following Him.”
In verse 5, “He saw a great crowd of people coming toward him”
In verse 7 Phillip said to Jesus “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
In verse 9 the disciples questioned how 5 loaves and 2 fishes could ever feed so many.
In verse 10 we learn that “about 5000 men sat down to eat”.
Understandably, the disciples doubted whether they could feed them all. But Jesus knew what to do. He gave thanks and the disciples distributed as much food as the people needed - Just as in Exodus, when the great ‘I AM’ provided, Jesus, here, provided for his people.
This miracle is a signpost to what really satisfies
But this miracle is not just about providing, it is designed to say something about Jesus and what he can offer us.
My wife, Laura, recently went to pick up a ‘click and collect’ order from a supermarket. When she arrived at the store, and asked at the help desk, they told her that all the ‘click and collect’ orders had been cancelled. So, she went inside to try to buy the shopping. Sadly, she found that all the shelves were virtually empty.
It is interesting how, in these moments, we long for simple things like bread and milk. We don’t realise how much we rely on these things until we can’t get them. It’s a sombre fact that many people in the world live like this all the time, never knowing where the next meal will come from and we must sympathise with such people.
The crowds in today’s passage would have been living from hand to mouth. So, having someone like Jesus around who could provide what they needed was great. It was like having their personal ‘click and collect’ service.
However, whilst we can feel some sympathy for their situation, we need to realise that they were missing the central point of Jesus’ miracle.
Verse 14 shows that they recognise Jesus to be a great prophet: “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
But they are far away from truly understanding him.
Verse 30 says: “So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
This verse shows that they were still looking for a sign from Jesus to prove that he is the son of God. Either they had just forgotten the miracle he had just performed, or, most likely, they just could not see the connection. They did not understand what was going on around them, they could not see who was standing in front of them. They could not work out what they really needed to fill them. Their understanding was clouded by unbelief.
But Jesus was ready to help them and to show them where their real need was.
In verses 27 to 28 he said:
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
And in verse 33 he says:
“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life o the world.”
Jesus is saying ‘You are in the right place but after the wrong thing. You don’t see that you have a greater need than bread. Stock piling is not the answer to your problem. Your soul is hungry. You need someone to satisfy your soul, and only I can do that.’
This miracle is about the gospel of Jesus Christ
This miracle and the miracle in the Exodus wilderness are not just
2-dimensional closed system miracles for providing a physical need. They always point to the great ‘I AM’ who satisfies us and provides for our souls. This miracle is about Jesus, the great I AM, the Lord, MY provider, the one who can satisfy my soul.
One writer has put it this way: ‘Every blessing through Jesus is a deficient gospel. Every blessing in Jesus is truly good news.’
If Jesus is only a pipe to channel God’s blessings, then He becomes just like the ‘click and collect’ service; just one of the places we can go to get good things from God.
But if every blessing is in Jesus then he himself is the source of life, He is THE GOSPEL, God is THE GOSPEL. Once we have believed in him, as it says in verse 29, we have come into the ‘bakery’ of God, where we are able to feast on the bread of life, to rejoice alongside the one who gave his body [the bread] on the cross and who rose to bring us into the life of God. Every blessing is in him. He is the satisfaction of our souls.
Covid19 has placed us in a kind of wilderness, but we must remember that the big battle of our hearts is to keep feasting on Jesus; to keep coming to him and being renewed by his provision, physically and spiritually.
We need to watch over our hearts. We can turn to activities to help us through this period. But things such as exercise can become just a means of escape. Alcohol can easily become a habitual means of unwinding. Technology can become a big distraction, because it makes us feel connected to the world, to know what’s going on. These things all promise satisfaction for a moment, but they are food that spoils. And we need to see this false satisfaction for what it is.
We need to keep returning to the promise ‘I am the bread of life’ and feasting on Jesus the great’ I AM’, the only one who can really satisfy.
John 6:25 - 6:40
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 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. 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.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 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.’” 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.”
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. 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.”