March 8, 2010 Eat my Flesh: I am the bread of life.
One of the miracles I wish that I could see is the feeding of the 5,000 men. It is so hard for me to imagine. The amount of food for that many men, and to think of all the children and women that weren’t counted. Did the bread multiply in the basket as it was taken out, or did it overflow immediately after Jesus prayed over it?
Is it any wonder that the people during this time wanted Jesus as their king. Think about all the hungry people who could be fed on a regular basis. It seems to me all the popular kings over time were the ones who cared for the peoples needs rather than hording riches for themselves.
This is the background for the first I AM saying in the gospel of John. If you were to look at this word: I AM in the Greek is it literally ego eimi. Translated it means literally I AM. God has made it very clear that he alone is God and there is no other. He has reserved the name I AM for himself. I find it interesting to note that both the Assyrian and Babylonian empires fell because they claimed for themselves ” I am, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 47:8,10; Zeph. 2:15) At the pinnacle of their kingdom they thought they ruled supreme. In the Greek the “I am” found in both these passages is the same ego eimi found in the gospel of John. Before long the great and mighty empires came tumbling down by another kingdom, but not before God had sent his message that HE is the I AM. (Isaiah 45:5-7)
After the great feeding the people began to wonder who this man Jesus was. The disciples were exhausted from the long day, so Jesus dismissed them to cross the lake ahead of him while the people began to disperse. The Jews of this time were awaiting the promised Prophet. (Deut. 18:15) They came to understand this as the promised Messiah. After all the conquering that had occurred they imagined the King to be a physical king returning Israel to the glory days of David. Jesus knowing their intentions and false understanding of the Messiah withdrew from the crowd. (John 6:14-15)
As evening approached our attention is drawn to the disciples as they cross the Sea of Galilee. They are half way across (v 19) and a storm seems to be approaching. As they glanced across the lake they see the strangest sight. Jesus is making his way toward them, not by another boat, but walking through the waves and water. This brings me back to the Isaiah 45 passage. Here God reminds them, “I created the heavens and everything in them.” All the earth submits to the creator. How did Jesus walk on water? He created the water and the laws of gravity are defined by his power. Only he can make what is known to us that seems like an impossible thing possible. The I AM can create and uncreate. As if this wasn’t enough, after loading into the boat with the disciples they travel through time and space and find themselves “immediately” on the shore. They find themselves breaking the laws of time and space. Forget Sci-Fi. Mark this down as another miracle I want to see.
Jesus arrival even confuses the people. They ask about when he arrived. Jesus, knowing their intent begins in a discourse about their true intentions. I always thought it a curious thing that Jesus said they were looking for him, not because of seeing miraculous signs, but because they were fed bread. Could it be that the people didn’t even know that their feeding was a miracle and sign? Perhaps they assumed Jesus had bought all the food or maybe even planned for the giant picnic. We do know that the disciples knew of the miracle, because Jesus asked them to provide the food for the people. (John 6:5-8)
So it is asked, “What does God require?” This is an age-old question. Most people count on their good outweighing any bad they may do. Jesus answer is unexpected.
“Believe in the one (God) has sent.” John 6:29
This is important to note, because this is the point Jesus is making for the following discussion. It is belief in Jesus as the only way for salvation that can please what God requires. No amount of religiousness, self-effort, well intentions, or sacrifice will please the demands of God. Belief. Not only in God, but belief that Jesus is the Son of God and satisfies God’s judgment by dying on the cross, and returning to life.
I find it interesting to also note Exodus 14:14. The Israelites have just left Egypt. The Egyptians are in hot pursuit and gaining. The newly freed people are in tight spot, because there is no seemingly way out. Moses directs them, don’t worry be still. No action is required from them to be saved except to believe. Believe that God will fight for them.
Like many today, the Galileans were unwilling to believe without seeing some sign. They make the mistake of saying that Moses gave the manna from heaven. Jesus clears this misconception and clarifies more the purpose of his coming. It is not to rule as king. It is as if he is saying, “I am the God of Moses in human flesh.”
It is here that Jesus proclaims, “I AM the bread of life.”
I have already spent time explaining I AM here and the significance of names here, but what is Jesus talking about when he says he is the bread of life? Further in this passage Jesus even goes on to say that we must eat his flesh. What in the world?!?
Bread (or any food) is the sustenance to life. I believe that Jesus is saying is that he is the source of eternal life. He already cleared the air that he isn’t here for everyday business. Jesus is talking about spiritual life. To eat the bread, spiritually speaking, is to believe in Jesus alone for salvation.
Jesus makes this even clearer to the Galileans by using their own example, the manna. The ancestors, Jesus explains, ate manna but still died. What Jesus means by this is that the sacrificial system and laws that were established under Moses were never able to save the Israelites. It has always been their belief in God that saves them.
To know Jesus as the bread of life is to believe that he is the Son of God. To believe that the only way of salvation was through the death of Jesus on the cross. To believe that he conquered death and the penalty of sin by coming back to life. To believe that I could never do enough to please God, and confess of my need for a savior. Finally to believe that Jesus alone can save me and make me clean.