I Am the Bread of Life
Open Your Bible
John 6:1-15, John 6:22-58, Exodus 16:11-36, Luke 22:19
In the whimsical, little village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, there’s a restaurant called Forge in the Forest. And, yes, it looks exactly like it sounds. It has a courtyard reminiscent of Disneyland’s Pixie Hollow, full of creeping vines and flowers and string lights. One of my students had recommended the place in a food review, so my friend and I pretty much planned our whole trip around having dinner there. After a day of sightseeing and beach-combing, we were way beyond that point of hunger in which you can barely form cohesive sentences. So, as you can imagine, we were giddy after ordering bacon burgers, a balsamic beet salad the size of a hoola-hoop, and chocolate lava cake garnished with raspberries. Of that meal, all I can say is, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”—I’ll just leave it at that.
Before Jesus feeds the five thousand near the Sea of Galilee, He notices the crowd’s physical needs. “Where will we buy bread so that these people can eat?” he asks Philip (John 6:5). Once the disciples spot a young boy with food, Jesus uses five barley loaves and some fish to nourish the crowd’s physical hunger. He knew they wouldn’t be able to listen well if they were starving. This meal was an act of care and an entryway into relationship, where He would begin to nourish them spiritually.
In fact, providing above and beyond for this crowd was enough to convince them that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah. When they saw this miracle, they said, “This truly is the Prophet who is to come into the world” (v.14). Throughout Scripture, bread is a common motif used to demonstrate God’s provision and sustenance—whether that’s the Israelites’ “bread from heaven” in the desert (v.31) or a mountainside meal. Jesus goes as far as to tell the disciples that He is the bread of life (v.35).
One of the earliest heresies in the church was the belief that the spiritual realm is good while the material world is evil. But we live in fragile bodies that have needs, and the way of Jesus is distinctly earthy. He walked along the dirt and fed people with fish and broke bread to symbolize His own body (Luke 22:19). Jesus doesn’t neglect the physical world for the spiritual world. This place we live in—a world with cinnamon bark and praying mantises and fresh basil—is the setting God created for us to encounter Him.
We have physical needs and spiritual needs, and Jesus offers to meet these while teaching us a higher way of living. Although our physical needs are great, Jesus is the nourishment that sustains us far beyond just alleviating our hunger pangs. How kind of Him to offer Himself in a way that makes little sense to us on one level, yet is exactly what we need Him to be: our “bread of life” (John 6:35), the only sustenance we will every truly need.
Although there wasn’t anything particularly spiritual about that meal at Forge in the Forest, I felt God’s pleasure as I ate it. The same God who designs intricate plant life so that we can garnish our cake with raspberries also gave Himself up for us out of love. May we always remember that.