The Bread of Life
Open Your Bible
John 6:22-71, Exodus 16:4-5, Jeremiah 31:25
One of my favorite pieces of literature tells a story of a quest. On this quest, the key characters are given an allotment of special bread to sustain them on their journey. It’s a long, hard road ahead, and they have to carefully ration the bread so that it carries them through to the end. But there isn’t enough for the return journey. Some of the bread gets lost along the way, and there’s only enough to strengthen them for the final grueling climb up the mountain.
In the end, these two characters do make it back home again, but this bread isn’t what saves them. It’s through forces of good that are outside their control—what you might call “divine intervention.”
Just two chapters ago, in the book of John, we saw Jesus describe Himself as the living water to the Samaritan woman. He helped her understand His nature, the only One who is truly able to satisfy our thirst. Likewise, in John 6, Jesus expands on this imagery by claiming to also satisfy the hungry. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry,” says Jesus to the crowd at Capernaum, “and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35).
What stands out to me in today’s passage is that the crowd already has a story that contextualizes what Jesus is saying. On one hand, the people are tracking. They’re familiar with the stories of their ancestors that tell of God’s provision in the wilderness. They know their heritage and how God provided the Israelites with bread from heaven to sustain them on their journey (Exodus 15:4). But they’re also confused. They’re hung up on tangible signs and the kind of bread you can chew and tear apart in your hands.
With full bellies and curious hearts, they question Jesus in a verbal exchange that’s almost humorous. But Jesus is trying to refocus their vision on eternal things. Miraculous loaves and fish, or heavenly bread in the wilderness, were not just intended to fill their bellies. They were prophetic meals that pointed to Christ.
I’m grateful for stories of great literature that remind us of God’s divine provision amid our limitations. Physical food and drink only take us so far. Jesus, the bread of life, never runs out (John 6:35), and He alone sustains us for the long and difficult journey ahead. He is the nourishment we feast on. There are no circumstances beyond His control. His grace and provision will see us through to the end.