At youth group Sunday night we discussed the portion of John chapter six where Jesus claimed, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) This is the first of seven metaphorical “I Am” statements recorded in the gospel of John. Using them Jesus declared his identity and purpose with common imagery of that day.
His hearers would have understood the use of the word “bread” differently than we might in our low-carb culture. In biblical times bread was such an important element of the diet that the word was sometimes used synonymously with food in general. In Matthew 6:11 Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” The people needed bread to survive. He referenced the Israelites who wandered in the dessert with Moses and the provision of God which was manna from heaven. That bread, along with quail, sustained them for forty years. Jesus was saying that only he could quench spiritual hunger and that he was the source of eternal life for the world.
One student at youth group suggested that it might be like Jesus saying “I am the Iphone of life” in today’s culture. Our application for the lesson was to think about Jesus being the bread of life at some point in the next week while eating bread or a biscuit. Monday I got a text from a mom who said that her son told her he remembered three times that day that Jesus was the bread of life.
Each time I hear John 6:35 I can’t help but think of a song. We sang the lyrics as students almost forty years ago at St. Mary’s Elementary School at a funeral mass. The mass was for a fellow student named Monique who died from a debilitating disease. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall not hunger. He who believes in me shall not thirst. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. And I will raise him up. And I will raise him up. And I will raise him up on the last day.” That song obviously made quite an impression.
This January as many of us start the new year determined to consider carefully our physical food let us not neglect our spiritual food, which merits even greater attention. We should make it our goal that we “do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give.” (John 6:27)