I AM the Bread of Life.

John places a discourse of teaching before or after each of the miracles he writes about. A chief discourse is found in John 6:22-71 after the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus' walking on the water. In this passage, Jesus is at the end of His Galilean ministry. Having fed the 5,000, He and His disciples are along the shores of the Sea of Galilee near Jesus’s hometown. Those who have been fed and healed have found their way to the other side of the lake, marveling that Jesus is there too, knowing He had not set out in the boat with His disciples the evening before.

John writes his gospel with the purpose of proving that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that we might believe, and in believing, that we might have life through His name. In both the feeding of the 5,000 and John 6:16-21, we see that God is Provider, providing food and safety to His people. Jesus proclaims in the synagogue in Capernaum (John 6:59) that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Jesus exclusively states His self-existent nature while at the same time declaring that He is sufficient food for their souls for all of eternity. At the zenith of His ministry and the pinnacle of His influence, Jesus compassionately pursues doing the will of His Father who has sent Him.

The Confusion of Unbelief

Questioning, grumbling, and arguing sum up the confusion of unbelief. Each time the gospel of John describes this unbelief, the discontentment builds against Christ’s offered words. Jesus rebukes the people because He knows they are following with wrong motives (John 6:28-33) as they are looking for bread to fill their stomachs and not bread to satisfy their souls. The people begin questioning Him, sincerely misguided in their religious unbelief.

This crowd follows Jesus, wanting to make Him King and have their basic needs met, seeking bread for the stomach which only leads to death. Since they have failed to see Jesus as Savior, He directs the crowd’s eyes and hearts heavenward, to seek bread from heaven and to properly identify Jesus as the One on whom God has set His seal, the One who has been commissioned with the authority to forgive sins, grant eternal life, and reconcile mankind back to God through the sacrifice of Himself. The religious ones ask Jesus what they must do to work the works of God (John 6:28). This is the question of all religions that are never satisfied with Jesus.

Though Jesus tells them to believe (John 6:29), they only continue to question Him. They ask Him to repeat the miracle of manna from heaven eaten by God’s people in the wilderness even though they had already experienced eating bread from Jesus’s own hands just the day before (John 6:31). They wanted just one more sign before they might believe. Unbelief will continue asking questions with expectations of God but none of self to embrace the sufficiency of Jesus Christ for salvation. Jesus teaches that the true bread of heaven sent by the Father gives life to the world (John 6:32-33).

The people go from questioning to grumbling (John 6:41-42). Grumbling may be translated as complaining or murmuring, causing us to think of the wandering Israelites in the Old Testament. They are struggling with Jesus’s exclusive statement that He comes from heaven. They fully understand that Jesus is stating He is God. Each one is being asked to do something which is unthinkable as humans and unlawful as faithful Jews: eat flesh and drink blood. They begin arguing about how Jesus can give them His flesh to eat (John 6:52). Unbelief is never satisfied, wanting more signs and miracles, continuing to question. Unbelief complains about not being able to take away from or add to what Jesus says, seeing Him as merely human (John 6:42). Unbelief argues and debates over the way of salvation.

The Clarity of Jesus

Jesus does the will of His Father despite the people’s unbelief. In His mercy and with love, Jesus seeks to clarify to mankind the matter of His person, purpose, and plan. We learn from John 15 and 2 John 1:6 that love is simply doing the will of the Father. We need not wait for others to obey before we will obey. Knowing the people would not believe, Jesus performed the miracles anyway. God’s people never wait for others to obey first, they just obey. Christ has set for us the model of obedience. We ought to honor the will of our heavenly Father without seeking to be merely pleasing to men who can never be satisfied. Regardless of His approval rating among men, Jesus gave of Himself.

Jesus seeks to be clear about the provision of Himself, His plan to grant mankind that provision, and the purpose of that provision and plan. Nine statements repeat in this passage; this use of repetition by Jesus is an act of His mercy. These phrases give us an understanding of His provision, Himself. "I AM the bread of life" is one of seven I AM statements in the book of John, repeated in various forms throughout the chapter (John 6:27, 32-33, 35, 41, 48, 50-51, 55, 58). Jesus tells the people I AM the provision for your soul, the eternal answer to your sin. This provision of Living Bread came down from heaven (John 6:32-33, 35, 41-42, 50-51) with the guarantee of never hungering again (John 6:35).

Jesus continues to clarify by explaining God’s plan to bring this provision to man. Jesus declares that He is the divine gift of spiritual bread from the Father with a plan to give life to the world (John 6:32-33). This explains the scope of God’s love for those who He came to die for. Jesus has seen the unbelief and experienced the rejection of His own people in the earlier parts of the book of John, and now He experiences the same from the Gentiles at the end of His Galilean ministry. Knowing they will reject His offer of eternal life, Jesus still offers Himself as "the food which endures to eternal life" (John 6:27) and that anyone who "believes in Him will have eternal life" (John 6:40). This is the plan repeated in John 6:47, 50, 57-58: that those who believe will have eternal life and not die, living forever because of Him. Peter affirms that only Jesus has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

Jesus clarifies His purpose as well, that He must do the will of His Father (John 6:29, 38-40, 57). Jesus is determined to obey the divine will of His Father, to accomplish the work given to Him by His Father. This gift of life is offered to all and granted to those who have been given to Jesus by the Father (John 6:37). It is the Father who divinely influences and draws souls to the Son (John 6:44-45). It is the will of the Father that everyone who believes in Jesus would have eternal life (John 6:40). Five times in the first nine verses of John 17 of Jesus’s high priestly prayer we are reminded of these truths. This is the purpose of the incarnation. The granting of eternal life is the will of the Father, and those who come to Christ are drawn by the Father.

The Compelling Invitation

Those of us who are born again have answered Christ’s compelling invitation in the following ways. Jesus says to come. The required action on our part is to intentionally approach Jesus. It is God’s grace that grants us the ability to do so. We are to behold Him, to examine with passion and joy the gift of Jesus Christ (John 6:40). We are to believe in Jesus, to eat and drink of Him. The analogy of eating His flesh implies the sufficiency and necessity of His bodily sacrifice for sin. He is the Lamb of God who physically needed to be sacrificed. Jesus uses the analogy of drinking His blood to demonstrate the violent means of His death on the cross. Without the shedding of His blood, there would be no remission for sin. Eating and drinking imply final appropriation of Him by the individual who has come, beheld, and believed that He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Many who had been following Jesus now leave. Jesus inquires if the twelve will leave as well (John 6:66-67). Peter declares that Jesus has the words of eternal life and is the Holy One of God (John 6:67-69). In Matthew 16:17, Jesus explains it is God who has taught Peter this truth just as He has taught our hearts to believe also, yet most do not, like the one Jesus refers to as the devil among them (John 6:70-71).

Believer, all of Him must govern all of who we are in the way we think, speak, act, and live. If we do not have the life of Jesus living through us, then we do not know Jesus. There is no middle ground. We are either in belief or we are in unbelief. Come, behold, believe, eat, and drink.

Application Points

  • Do you still need to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? God is demonstrating His mercy to you and inviting you to come, behold, believe, eat, and drink.
  • Has Jesus changed the way you think, speak, act, and live? Knowing the content of the gospel is not enough; you must be born again. God would have you come, behold, believe, eat, and drink.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore

Jesus’s I AM statements

  • The Bread of Life – John 6:35, 48
  • The Light of the World – John 8:12, 9:5
  • The Door – John 10:7, 9
  • The Good Shepherd – John 10:11, 14
  • The Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25
  • The Way, The Truth, and The Life – John 14:6
  • The True Vine – John 15:1