Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 7, 2016
“Jesus: The Bread of Life”
Text: John 6:35
Recall, in last week’s sermon, the Lord’s revelation to Moses—and to us—of His essential Name: I AM (Hebrew ’ehyeh). As we noted last week, we see again in this sacred Name of the Lord that God is He Who always was, and is, and evermore shall be—and we see that He is the One from Whom all else in creation derives.
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, ca. 250 B. C., translated the Hebrew ’ehyeh with the Greek ego eimi (egw eimi), which means, “I indeed am,” or “I surely am.” In Exodus 3:14, therefore this Greek phrase translates the Hebrew phrase for God’s essential self-revelation of Himself. In Exodus 3:14, the Hebrew for I AM WHO I AM (ehyeh asher ehyeh) is translated to “I AM, the One Who is being” (Greek ego eimi ho hon, [egw eimi o wn]). I find it striking—to say the least—that the Lord Jesus Christ, in at least nine instances in John’s Gospel, refers to Himself by the aforementioned Greek phrase.
We see this in John 8:58, where Jesus asserts before an increasingly hostile Jewish crowd, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The crowd knew exactly what Jesus claimed for Himself, and they took up stones with which to stone Him to death, but He escaped from them. In John 18:6, certain ones came with Judas Iscariot to arrest Jesus. The Apostle John notes this curious phenomenon, “When Jesus said to them, ‘I AM,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” Even those who would take Jesus into custody bow before Him—for He was claiming to be God and, apparently, in that instant they agreed.
Seven other instances occur in the so-called I AM sayings of John. Jesus says, I AM,…,” in order, the Bread of Life (6:35), the Light of the World (8:12), the Gate for the Sheep (10:7), the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14), the Resurrection and the Life (11:25), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6), and the (True) Vine (15:1). All of these involve both declaration and metaphor. Jesus makes an implied comparison in each of these; He compares Himself to bread, light, and so forth. He also makes a staggering declaration in them—He is God incarnate, with all that entails. God willing, we shall take each of these this week and for six messages following—beginning with Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Physically, bread is the staff of life. It is the main foodstuff for many people of the world, and it is a necessary constituent of almost any healthy diet. Without bread, both in itself and as it represents good food generally, nutritional problems arise. In the short term, hunger arrives—and, if unremedied, starvation ensues in the long term. Our bodies simply must have bread—not to mention good food generally.
Jesus—calling Himself the Bread of Life—assures us that, as we feast spiritually upon Him, He feeds our souls to satiety. Our souls’ hunger goes away and our souls become full to overflowing. Moreover, as we feast spiritually upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, He nourishes our souls like none other. Our souls become healthy as we partake of Him. Hence, our souls must have Him for fullness and wholeness—and such fullness and wholeness cannot be obtained apart from Him.
When we think of life, we think of accomplishing necessary life functions (respiration, circulation, digestion, sensation, etc.), and we think of not-life as the absence of life functions. Jesus here speaks of something else—something even more fundamental than physical life. In the place where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” a more wooden (though accurate) translation is, “I am the bread of the life.” This notion of Jesus as the life appears in John’s first general letter, and it refers to the Word of life—Jesus Himself (1 John 1:2). Jesus Himself, in His Person, feeds and nourishes eternal and abundant life. That is, life with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, is eternal. It is unending in scope (John 3:16). Life with God through Christ is also abundant; it has within it a richness unknown outside Christ, Who came that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). Lest we think we can obtain this life from any number of sources, let us become clear now: This life, precious though it be, comes only from God, through Christ, by the Holy Spirit—and to seek elsewhere for it is to seek in vain.
Jesus’ first hearers of this lesson missed the point. They sought Him only for food for their bellies; they cared nothing for the more fundamental nourishment He had for them. Moreover, when Jesus declared that He Himself is the bread of life—Who, when partaken, banishes hunger and thirst forever—those first hearers misunderstood eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood. They thought of it only in physical terms, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” We, however, must understand this in spiritual terms. We feast on Christ, as He invites, as we relate to Him through the means of grace. Examples of these include Scripture, sacraments, prayer, worship, and fellowship, to name but a few. By these our souls become full and healthy.
Do we get the point? Never forget that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Our lives are not nourished by forbidden substances, such as illicit drugs. Nor are they nourished by forbidden activities, such as sexual activity outside the relationship that exists between a man and a woman married to each other. Nor are our souls nourished by pursuits and attainments with self-aggrandizement, such as status, influence, and the like, as the chief end rather than the glory of God. Whatever we think we gain from these, it is not life according to Scripture.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. Let us feast upon Jesus Christ as we relate to Him in those excellent ways—those means of grace—mentioned earlier. Consequently, then, let us find ourselves alive in Christ abundantly beyond anything we have ever known and eternally beyond our most distant future perception