The Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (New International Version)
Christians everywhere hold to Jesus as the Son of God, Lord of the universe, and Savior of all.
However, for most people who were following Jesus around in the first century, this was not their understanding of Christ. In his earthly ministry, Jesus spoke in ways that introduced people to who he really was and sought to bring them to a point of following him based on his identity.
Jesus wanted the crowds to see him for who he really is – themselves for what they really needed – and follow him based on the deepest needs of their lives.
I believe Jesus is the hope of all nations and all people, and in him humanity’s most basic and profound needs are met for forgiveness, love, and purpose in life. To address this, I ask three basic philosophical and theological questions of life:
What should human beings seek in life?
The responses in history are legion. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle thought a proper appreciation for an ethical and virtuous life found in practical wisdom was where people’s most concerted efforts should be.
Karl Marx, the father of communism and socialism believed the proletariat should use their heads and their hands to rise above their economic conditions and oppression.
In the late 1960’s, Bobby Kennedy said we ought to be working the hardest to achieve justice and not advance ourselves on the misfortunes of others.
In more recent times, the Harvard Business Review is continually on the lookout for the best ways of being efficient, productive, and making the most of time because work itself is paramount.
Jesus insisted that people are not to work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life. Christ positioned himself as the bread of life – the one who is able to sustain humanity and enable to thrive and flourish in life.
By literally feeding thousands of people, Jesus wanted the people to understand the source of life itself comes from him. Jesus aspired beyond providing a supper for folks – he desired the people to feast on himself – to ingest him, to take him into their lives in a deep and profound way as the fulfillment of all the hope and promises of the Old Testament.
Jesus is the bread, the basic staple of life, that meets the cravings and needs of all people everywhere. Starving people, in both body and soul, find in Jesus a meal which keeps on giving, a feast of grace that is both delectable and unending.
The answer to my own question is that, for me, one’s highest pursuit and greatest quest is Jesus. Apart from Christ, I will starve. Furthermore, Jesus is not some cheap fast food off a value menu; he is real soul food to be ingested and enjoyed with others.
I believe people need Jesus. A passionate seeking of Jesus, to follow him, live for him, center life around him, is my most ardent desire. I do not simply desire Jesus for what he can do for me; I vigorously chase after him because if I do not have Jesus, I will die, I will starve to death.
For me, Jesus is so much more than a nice addition to my life, like a new puppy; Jesus is Lord and Savior. I must consume him, or I will be completely undone, and I will not survive! Jesus is my bread, my food, my life! I cannot survive on a daily crumb, but I feast on every word that comes from the mouth of Jesus because in Christ there is the life that is truly life.
What should human beings do in life?
Believe. To have and keep faith in the One God has sent, Jesus, is the primary “work” that pleases God.
Jesus communicated to the crowd that they can do so much more than follow him for another earthly meal – they can place their faith and hope in him for food that will last, food that will transcend the three-dimensional world.
Faith is more than an intellectual recognition to some facts about Christianity.
Belief is not about always having clarity and certainty to every facet and loci of Christian doctrine. Rather, Christian faith is a complete trust in Jesus as our hope and our life.
Education, economic uplift, political stability, and institutional peace and justice are important activities for this world. For the Christian, the accomplishment of these and so much more comes from the grace of God in Christ. As people come to the end of themselves with their homebrewed and half-baked attempts at being satisfied, Jesus stands at the door and knocks, the Living Bread who offers himself for humanity’s deepest needs.
Giving kudos to Jesus might be nice, yet Christ himself cares about folks placing their trust in him for grace, forgiveness, and hope in their world. Jesus longs to reconnect people with God through giving himself as the means of making that happen.
All the works we do in this life, every good deed we accomplish, and each positive action we do are all helpful and necessary… and they all pale in comparison to the greatest work of all, to believe in Jesus Christ as the hope of this world, the hope of your family, the hope of the church, and the hope of your life. It’s all accessed by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
Church buildings and furniture, stained-glass windows, pews, and even the Bible are not Jesus – they are simply and hopefully signs which point to him. They are all designed to lead us to Christ so that we may come to him. And coming to Christ is what the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, and any other description you want to give about ingesting Jesus is about. The elements of bread and cup bring us to Christ so that we can experience Jesus and be joined to him by faith in a mystical union of human and divine in the unseen heaven.
Where will you find true satisfaction and hope? Probably not in the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart. Likely not in conforming to cultural Christianity or embracing generic forms of Jesus as merely a good teacher and moral example.
Furthermore, life’s ultimate satisfaction and hope are not to be found in a spotless house and perfect kids; in working more hours and making more money. Nor will we find contentment and peace in the radical independence of doing things my way.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. Through ingesting him, passionately pursuing him, believing in him, and coming to him in everything, we find the life that is truly life. Do not settle for any substitutes to Jesus. Come to the real person.
Lord God, you said that when we seek you with all our hearts, you will be found. As the deer pants for streams of water, so we, your people, long for you in a dry and weary land. We hunger and thirst for your righteousness. We deeply desire your presence in all things. So, we die to ourselves and surrender to your will and way for us, by faith trusting you will come into our lives and completely take over. May your blessing rest upon us as we seek Jesus. Amen.