Monday, 18 April 2011 12:27

I Am The Bread Of Life

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Today we will look at the first of seven messages on the so called seven “I am” statements of Jesus given in the gospel of John. Dear friends, will you hear what Jesus says about Himself?

The message today is based on John 6:35, the first “I am” statement in John’s gospel account. That verse reads, “And Jesus said 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.” Now even before we look closer at this verse, there is something very special to notice about the gospel of John giving us seven different “I am” statements that Jesus makes. Each of the four gospel writers had their own special focus in writing about Jesus the Saviour when here on earth. And do you know what John’s special focus was? From the first verse on, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John in his gospel account aimed to stress that Jesus Christ is the divine Saviour. He is the ‘God-man’. Jesus is God Himself come in the flesh. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity who, in the fullness of time, was sent of the Father to this earth, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary, and so became truly man as well as remaining very God. Yes, as Paul also says in 1 Timothy 3:16, as mysterious and wonderful as it is, this is the gospel truth about Jesus Christ, in Him and with Him “God was manifest in the flesh.”

It is very striking then, and most fitting, that especially in the gospel of John we have also these seven “I am” statements of Jesus about Himself. Why? Because they give added weight to Jesus being truly God as well as truly man. Let me explain this further.

Perhaps you are aware of the Old Testament event about Moses meeting with God in the wilderness seeing that burning bush? We read about that in Exodus 3 where we are told Moses asks for God’s Name. And then it says in Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM has sent me unto you.” Here we learnthat Jehovah God’s Name means “I am”, and “I am that I am”. And now we come to John’s gospel and notice not once or twice, but seven times even, Jesus says about Himself, “I am”. Literally even you could translate He says, “I, I am”. To have us know better what Jesus means in proclaiming and revealing Himself thus to us as Saviour and Lord, He gives us these seven pictures of Himself. They are meant to help us understand Him truly for Who He is and heartily to believe in Him, always trusting and following Him.

Now we will look at Him saying, “I am the bread of life.” Further on, in the gospel of John, we read of Him saying, “I am the light of the world” [John 8:12]. And then Jesus says also, “I am the door; I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth, and the life; I am the resurrection and the life; and I am the vine. Yes, altogether seven special “I am” statements are given. That too is something to notice, because the number seven in the Bible is symbolic of completion and perfection. These seven “I am” statements then are like Jesus saying loud and clear, ‘Look, I am the promised Saviour of sinners, yes, God Jehovah come now in the second person of the Trinity to be the Saviour, that Seed of the woman promised since the day of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Jehovah God is “I AM THAT I AM”, and now “I am” has come to this earth, and let us see further who this “I am” is. All those who deny Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh can be proven so wrong even just with the seven “I am” statements of Jesus in the gospel of John.

With this first of the seven “I am” statements Jesus makes in John’s gospel, we need to ask why He even says this. And what does He all mean when He says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” To help us understand and treasure this first “I am” statement, consider with me at least five points Jesus clearly wants to bring across. The hope and prayer with this message is not just that you learn more about Jesus but that you trust and embrace Him for all His worth and ever feed on Him and follow Him as only Saviour and Lord.

And Jesus said 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.” Dear friends, with this saying Jesus makes clear for one thing, He is the blessed Saviour of sinners. Here let us think about what brought Jesus to make this statement. As the opening verses of John 6 relates, this is just after Jesus had fed a crowd of probably about 10,000 people, according to Matthew 14:21, with just five little barley loaves and two fish. It was a great miracle which made the multitude desire to make Jesus their king right then and there. They also followed Him, we are told, in His travels across the Sea of Galilee, being so very interested in Him as miracle worker and the one who could make their earthly life be so much better and easier. Still today that is so common that people become interested in Jesus thinking only of how it might bring them personal and earthly gain. The so called health and wealth gospel teaches this false view of Jesus, that we should follow Him because He promises us all riches and prosperity here and now. It is a false gospel presentation, all about us and not about God and His glory.

But in that setting we read in the verses just before our text that Jesus instructs the people how they need to think of more than only in terms of this world and their earthly prosperity. Jesus urges them not to labour and live just for “the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him has God the Father sealed” [John 6:27]. We are told though, the people didn’t get what Jesus was saying. They ask Him for a sign that would prove He really was the one they should trust now, and they are thinking trust as their earthly Messiah. And so they say to Jesus, ‘How about doing a work like Moses did with the manna that came from heaven every day in the wilderness’? They wanted more than even what Jesus had just showed with the wonderful miracle of feeding that large crowd as had just happened. Let Jesus supply bread every day for them so they might really believe on Him. The religious leaders of that day were also promoting this kind of view of the coming Messiah, someone who would serve them in this miraculous way for their earthly good then and there.

Well, in this context Jesus declares, ‘Look, I am the fulfillment of all the promises and Old Testament foreshadowing of God’s care and provision for you, not primarily for your physical and earthly benefit, but for your spiritual and eternal wellbeing. That manna miracle in Moses’ day was something just temporary and for the body only, but you need that gift of God which brings salvation for your souls, which brings reconciliation and redemption before God for you as a sinful wayward people by nature. And I now am that true bread from heaven given by God the Father for you.’ In Deuteronomy 8:3 the Lord had also instructed the people how with the manna miracle in the wilderness He had a spiritual lesson in mind, namely, “that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” And now when Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life”, He is teaching, ‘Behold, I am the word made flesh’, meaning “I am” the true and living bread given by God from heaven for the salvation of your souls. He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”’

I am the bread of life. Do you hear and understand how with this statement Jesus is declaring clearly He is the blessed Saviour promised from the day of man’s fall? He is the fulfillment of all prophecy and foreshadowing concerning the promised Messiah, and He is the ultimate gift of God, come as Saviour of sinners, whom we need to believe and receive shall we truly be saved and eternally be blessed in body and soul. This is a bold statement of Jesus. But with it Jesus is declaring to the crowds in his day, and to us today, ‘I am the biblical and blessed Messiah Saviour God’. “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” Jesus says in vs. 55, referring, of course, to His once for all sacrifice for sin with His suffering and death on the cross on sinner’s behalf. Those who received the manna in the Old Testament days still died, and all too many of them even perished forevermore still, but says Jesus in vs. 58, “he that eateth of this bread, [that is, embraces and trusts wholly in Him as Saviour], shall live forever.” “I am the bread of life.” Do you see with me how this statement of Jesus proclaims Christ as the blessed biblical Saviour of sinners, the only Saviour whom we must receive and believe and live by, shall it be well with us, you and me, and everyone?

And what reasons to receive and believe on Him, for notice next how surely this statement of Jesus also proclaims to us He is the rich Saviour of sinners. In our text passage Jesus makes Himself known as the true and living bread from heaven for all the world to receive. There is enough supply of true food and drink for all who come to Him. All who come to Him shall never hunger or thirst again, spiritually speaking, Jesus declares. There is such infinitely abundant salvation supply with Christ. Let the sinner come! The manna in the Old Testament was temporary and only given on a small area of the earth, and it only was for the body. But the true and living bread from heaven, as given by God with His Son Jesus Christ, in and with Him is found riches of salvation for whoever comes from wherever, drawn by God’s Spirit and Word. His salvation supplies are not just temporary but eternal, and they are not simply for the body but for the soul and body. Jesus is the greater than Joseph in Egypt, not just with countless storehouses of food for the body, but with endless supplies of salvation for body and soul, in life and death, for now and forevermore for all who trust and follow Him.

This is the gospel tidings. Jesus is the most blessed Saviour of sinners, and the most rich Saviour for sinners too. We read thus also in Romans 10:12b-13, “…the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Truly, with Jesus as the bread of life you find riches beyond compare for this life and the next. But to live life without Him, no matter if you should gain the whole world, leaves you abysmally poor in the end, eternally miserable in fact. So Jesus also warned, didn’t He, “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul” [Mark 8:36] not being right with God, not having received the bread of life from heaven? Are you rich before God, dear friend, knowing true satisfaction in life and eternal peace with God here and now through Jesus Christ the Saviour? When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life”, you can know for yourself and for others, He is proclaiming Himself here as the most blessed Saviour for us and the most rich Saviour too! And what else is He telling us? Oh, in the context of this passage and with this first “I am” statement of Jesus, isn’t He also very much revealing Himself as the earnest evangelical Saviour of sinners? Notice how in the context of John 6 Jesus is addressing a mostly unbelieving and scoffing and murmuring crowd. The people come across as not very interested in Jesus as the bread of heaven come down to be the Saviour of sinners. And at the end of the chapter we read even that after this teaching about Him as the bread of life, many turned away from Him, and it says in vs. 66, they “walked no more with him.” But see now how with such an audience, Jesus with all longsuffering laboured to show them who He truly was, and how much more important than their earthly prosperity was their getting right with God and being saved from sin in and through Him, Jesus Christ, the God-given and only Saviour of sinners. The way Jesus relates and reasons with the crowd shows His great care and compassion for sinners and how He truly came to give His life a ransom for many.

Jesus is unquestionably most earnest and evangelical as Saviour, urging all to come unto Him to be saved. Even the simple picture Jesus uses to describe Himself as Saviour, calling Himself the “bread of life”, is something which shows His desire to reach out to all, even to the children and youth. Everyone knows what bread is and how we need bread to live. With this simple picture, “bread of life”, Jesus brings out how people need Him as Saviour and Lord truly to have life and that more abundantly and eternally. Let them come to Him for life and ever feed on Him. When the text chapter speaks over and over about eating and drinking Jesus’ flesh and blood, it is not referring to the sacrament of Lord’s Supper here. No, rather it is about truly receiving and believing in Jesus Christ personally, in our own hearts and lives, each one and everyone.

What most brings out also that Jesus is indeed the earnest and evangelical Saviour of sinners is the fact that with this whole declaration of Himself as the bread of life for sinners like us, Jesus well understood that for Him this would mean His suffering and death on the cross in the sinner’s place. As one commentator put it, “Have you ever thought about all that grain must pass through before it becomes bread? It must first be planted and then grow. When it is ripe it must be cut down, winnowed, ground into flour. Finally, it must be subjected to the fiery heat of the oven. Only by this process does it become able to sustain life. This is what happened to the Lord Jesus Christ in order that He might become your bread. He was born into this world. He was bruised. He was cut down by sinful men. He passed through the fires of God’s holy wrath as He took [the sinner’s] place in judgment. This is His glory. He suffered this for [such sinners as we are of ourselves]. How then can you refuse to feed on Him? Come to Him! Draw from His fullness, [and find life, truly] and grow stronger [daily]!” Do you too come to the bread of life and believe and feed on Him, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners? John 6, in telling of Jesus as the bread of life, for us gives so much reason to hold Christ high as the blessed Saviour for us, and the rich Saviour, and the earnest evangelical Saviour. And this all becomes so relevant for everyone too when you notice next what the chapter implies throughout, this Jesus is surely also the absolutely needed Saviour for us. This is our fourth point that comes out with Him described as the bread of life for us, namely, what an absolutely needed Saviour Jesus is for you and me.

Doesn’t the analogy of Him as bread of life bring this out by itself? I mean here, just as people need bread to live, likewise we need Christ Jesus truly to live before God and for eternity. The term “bread” doesn’t here have to refer to a loaf of bread literally, but it does refer to what is our staple food, our daily ration of food for our physical health. Without our regular meals and drink we could not live but we would die. Jesus speaks about the natural man being hungry and thirsty, and without God in Christ as our Saviour and Lord, the fact is that we remain lost in sin, hopeless and without salvation before God, and forever empty and doomed to perish under the condemnation of God’s just judgment for sin. Without the gospel word of Jesus Christ the Saviour, this whole sinful world since the fall and rebellion of Adam and Eve lies under the curse of God and the eternal righteous wrath of God for sin. But now Jesus came, sent of the Father, not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. Jesus as Sinbearer would bear the judgment of God, even the eternal anguish of hell in body and soul in the sinner’s place, and there is no other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

How absolutely needed Jesus is for your and my salvation from start to finish. Have you too come to realize this, learning something of your sins and sinfulness before God in and of yourself? Too often people fail to realize and refuse to admit their greatest need of all. Do you realize what is more important than food on the table and clothing for your body, far more urgent even? It is the need to be born again by the Spirit of God and through faith in Christ, being reconciled with God and forgiven and cleansed of your sins and having a perfect righteousness before God on your account. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your heart and life as only Saviour and Lord, you will die in your sins and forever be in hell after this short life here on earth. But listen, Jesus is the bread of life, and His gospel word still is that whoever comes to him shall hunger no more and he that believes on Him shall never thirst again. That is saying and promising you will find complete salvation rich and free with Him, coming to Him as a poor and needy sinner. Do you believe Jesus Christ is absolutely needed as Saviour for yourself and for all people? Will not this declaration of Jesus as the bread of life so lead you in true faith and repentance before Him, both initially and continually? How sad that so many in the setting of John 6 turned away from Jesus, not interested any longer in Him. The same is tragically true today too, so many will have nothing to do with Christ Jesus even though He is the bread of life for us. But you won’t be such a fool, will you? As Peter confesses in John 6:68-69, He [Jesus] is “that Christ, the Son of the living God” and “To whom else shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

Therefore hear then this blessed gospel word of Jesus Christ as the bread of life for us. Jesus saying “I am the bread of life” is making clear, as we have seen so far, truly He is the most blessed Saviour, rich Saviour, earnest evangelical Saviour, and absolutely needed Saviour. Still one more point to bring out is surely He is in all this and with all this the most dependable Saviour of sinners too.

How does this last point come out here in this Scripture passage? Well, hear for yourself how emphatically Jesus asserts that those who come to Him as the bread of life will no longer hunger and those who believe on Him will nevermore thirst. Jesus states triumphantly in John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever…” How can Jesus’ dependability as Saviour as bread of life for us be explained? It is Jesus’ God-given qualities as Saviour and His God-approved mission as Saviour, and His almighty abilities and willingness as Saviour that guarantees His dependability as Saviour. Over and over Jesus declares in our text chapter how He is sent from heaven from God the Father and that He is serving God’s cause and plan as bread of life for us. In vs. 37 Jesus triumphantly declares, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Do you hear it, dear friends? Jesus as the bread of life declares Himself as most dependable Saviour of sinners. Nothing and no one in the entire universe can be more dependable than Jesus Christ is as Saviour of sinners, the true and living bread for as many as come to Him and feed on Him.

I have to end, and let me do so with telling yet this story. This is apparently a true story about someone from Great Britain who was coming to America. He had purchased a ticket on one of the great ocean liners, one of those cruise vessels much more common in our time today. The man did not have much money to spare so he decided rather than buy food on the ship, he stock up for himself lots of crackers, cheese, and fruit for most of the trip. The ship sailed for it’s close to 8-9 day journey across the ocean, and the man ate regularly, as he had planned, from his stacked up crackers, cheese, and fruit. For the first week this went okay, but then the crackers became increasingly stale, and the cheese moldy, and the fruit spoiled. Finally there was no more that could be fit to eat. So this traveler after a day of hardly eating anything thought, ‘Let me, with one day left, go to the ship’s dining hall, and have at least one last, good meal before the liner docks in Manhatten and I go ashore.’ Well, imagine this man’s total surprise to discover that nothing in the dining hall cost him anything, and that all he could ever have eaten and more had already been included in the price of his ticket before he left the British Isles!

The point of this story now is, of course, how tragic then that so many would still rather feed on the dry crackers of their own ideas, or the spoiled fruit of their own good works, or rest their case with the moldy and vain traditions of men rather than receive freely and fully the bread of life from heaven in and with Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners. Oh listen, one and all, Jesus Christ alone as crucified and risen Saviour of sinners is the bread of life for us. Apart from Him you will be famished and left to perish forever in your sins and sinfulness. Will you hear the gospel of Jesus first “I am” statement that John tells us about, and receive it and pass it on while it is yet the day of grace? Amen.

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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