Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 01 (“I am the Bread of Life”)

1.     INTRODUCTION:

Today, on this glorious “resurrection Sunday”I would like, together with our series on Revelation and James, also start with a short, eight part series in which we will be focussing on the person of Jesus Christ by looking at the eight “I Am”statements that He made in the Gospel according to John and in all eight, He combines “I AM”with tremendous metaphors which express His saving relationship toward the world: 

“I AM the Bread of life”(6:35, 41, 48, 51). 

“I AM the Light of the world”(8:12). 

“Before Abraham was, I am”(8:58). 

“I AM the Door of the sheep”(10:7, 9). 

“I AM the Good Shepherd”(10:11, 14). 

“I AM the Resurrection and the Life”(11:25). 

“I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life”(14:6). 

“I AM the true Vine”(15:1, 5). 

John wrote his Gospel to persuade people to believe in Jesus (Joh.20:30–31). From the

opening verses, he declares that Jesus is God, stressing his unique relationship with God the Father. We also read in Matt.16:13-15 the following ~ Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”

Here we see that Jesus asked His disciples who the people say that He is. In this short series, we are however, not going to look at what other people, or what Jesus’ disciples said about Him, but what He said about Himself. In order to do this, He uses a very interesting structure to place the focus on who He is and we call this structure, “The I am’s of Jesus,”because He uses the expression “I am”to introduce Himself, e.g. “I am the Bread of Life,”“I am the Good Shepherd,”etc.

The reason why it is important to know these “I am’s”(which is in actual fact another list of Jesus’ names, or more specifically, His attributes or character) is to help us trust Him with our daily affairs and with our eternal destiny. Furthermore, in Scripture a person’s name often signifies his character or ability or mission – especially when the name is given by God. Adam names his wife Eve, because she is the mother of all the living (Gen.3:20). God changes Abram’s name to Abraham to show that he had made him the father of many nations (Gen.17:5). He changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen.32:28). And when the Son of God came into the world, His name was also full of character and signified His abilities and mission ~ “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt.1:21).

2.     SCRIPTURE READING:

​Joh.6:22-39 (ESV) ~ “On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

3.     EARTHLY BREAD (6:22-34):

Just prior to this conversation between Jesus and His disciples, Jesus, in one of the seven miracles referred to in John’s Gospel, fed 5,000 people by multiplying five barley loaves and two fishes (Joh.6:9). But in spite of this miracle, the people still asked for a miraculous sign in order for them to believe that Jesus was the Son of God – the Messiah.

The next day, after the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish, the people were looking for Jesus and eventually found Him in Capernaum. In vs.25 they asked Him when did He arrive there, but without answering their question~ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves’”(Joh.6:26). Jesus rebuked them for their materialistic motivation and their lack of spiritual perception. They saw miraculous signs, but to them it was only an easy meal. They failed to see what it signified.

Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of food: food for the body, which is necessary but not the most important; and food for the inner man, the spirit, which is essential. What the people needed was not food but life, and life is a gift. Food only sustainslife, but Jesus giveseternal life. The words of Isaiah come to mind ~ “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food”(Is.55:2).

While Jesus was talking to the people, He said in vs.27 ~ “Do not work for the food that perishes…”The people immediately heard the word “work” and misunderstood it to mean they had to workfor salvation. They completely missed the word give. Being part of Judaism which was at that stage already a very legalistic religion, they thought they had to “do something,”they had to work for their salvation – to do good deeds in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus however, made it very clear that only one “work” was necessary and that was to believe and be saved – vs.29 ~ “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus’ response to their question was a contradiction of their thinking. They could not please God by doing good works. There is only one work of God, that is, one thing God requires. They need to put their trust in the One, the Father has sent, namely Jesus Christ. Because of their sin people cannot please God by doing good works for salvation, we see that clearly in Eph.2:8-9 ~ For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”God demands that people recognise their inability to save themselves and receive His gift ~ For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom.6:23).

The people however, still wanted to see another miracle, so that they could believe and while asking for another miracle, they challenged Jesus by referring Him to Moses, who according to them, performed a miracle in the wilderness by providing their forefathers with manna (Ex.16). 

This request or challenge, if you want, in vs.30 reveals the shallowness of the people’s thoughts, for what further sign did they expect than the feeding of a multitude from negligible supplies? The reference to the manna in the desert(vs.31) provides the clue to the working of their minds, namely for them Jesus had to outdo Moses to convince them to believe in Him. 

In vs.32, Jesus told the people that it wasn’t Moses who provided the manna, but God – “…and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance”(Ps.78:24-25). Furthermore, the manna that was given was not true bread from the true heaven. It was only earthly bread from a visible sky – it was only temporary bread.

4.     ETERNAL BREAD (6:35-36):

Jesus then turned away from the person of Moses and pointed to Himself and said to them… ~“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’”(Joh.6:35). The everlasting bread that God now wants to give to the people, is far beyond the manna that only lasted for a short while and only sustained a few Israelites in the desert, but the Bread that God now offers, already came down from heaven and gives eternal life to the world.

James Montgomery Boice in his book, “The Gospel of John – Volume 2,” says that Jesus used the example of bread, because people knew about bread and He further points out that…

  • Bread is necessary for life: Bread is necessary for life. In Jesus’ day, bread was the only staple in most person’s diets. Without bread, men died. The same with Jesus – without Jesus, man will surely die.
  • Bread is suited for everyone: Bread is suited for everyone. Some people are allergic to shellfish, others to other foods, but bread is suited for almost everyone. In the same way, Jesus is perfectly suited to the needs of all men.
  • Bread should be eaten daily:Bread should be eaten every day. This refers to our everyday life. No person can stay alive if you don’t eat every day. This reminds us of the Lord’s prayer and specifically where it says in Matt.6:11 ~ Give us this day our daily bread.”God nourishes us spiritually on a daily basis and if we do not eat this bread daily, we will not stay alive.
  • Bread produces growth: Bread produces growth. Believers need to grow. Boice says the following about this fact: “The Church of Jesus Christ is weak in our age, and it is weak simply because the individuals who compose it are not strong.”He furthermore asks and answers as follow, “What is the reason for our sickly Christian postures? Undoubtedly, the reason is our deep failure to feed upon Jesus Christ who alone can make us grow.”

The attainment of this bread that Jesus referred too, hinges on belief. To the people listening to Jesus, “belief”meant acceptance of His competence on the basis of miracles; to Jesus it meant commitment, not on the basis of the miracles, but on trust in His Person. Jesus was talking about “the”bread that gives eternal life; but this was beyond their comprehension, just as the miracles Jesus had performed in their sight did not lead them to believe in Him.

We must not see Jesus’ statement in vs.35b, as an abstract statement – a statement with what the audience could not do anything with namely, “I am the Bread”and nothing else. No, He follows that up with an appeal. Jesus said to them ~ I am the bread of life (and then the appeal); whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Since Jesus is the Bread of Life, everyone hearing this, is invited to come to Him and to believe on Him and be saved. After receiving it, you will never hunger for the Living Bread anymore, because you have received it – you have received Jesus Christ as the Living Bread – the Saviour. You will never long – you will never thirst, for salvation, because you have received it and will never lose it ~ Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”(Rom.8:33-34).

5.     EFFECTUAL BREAD (6:37-39):

Vss.37-39 focusses on the effectual sacrifice by the Lord ~ All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

We find a very important verse in this regard in Heb.10:14 ~ “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God were given instruction concerning the type of sacrifice which was required of them. A sacrifice was necessary because they, as well as ourselves, had offended a perfect God who requires perfect obedience from His subjects. Because of the great offence of sin, God taught His people that a perfect sacrifice was required to cover the guilt of sin. Nearly fifty times in the Old Testament we read that the sacrifice must be “without blemish”; God demands perfection, as He is perfect. Man however, offended a righteous God, and as the Heidelberg Catechism (Q16) teaches, “…the justice of God requires that same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin.”In short, our “lamb without blemish”must be wholly man; and man is fallen in his very nature, so it seems that man had a problem. But, God on the other hand, is the only perfect One. He is the very definition of perfection. Only God could bear the weight of the penalty for our debt. What a true “lamb without blemish”must look like is One who is completely God to bear the weight of our sin, and completely man so as to be a true representative for us. Jesus, the true God/man, is our perfect “lamb without blemish”!

The implication of this is that not one single elect sinner for whom Jesus Christ effectually (Afrikaans:“volkome doeltreffend”) died will perish. Christ’s accomplishment of redemption insures their eternal salvation. There was only one perfect Lamb that could accomplish effectual forgiveness of sin, and that was the “Effectual Bread”; the “Bread of Life”; the Lamb of God (1 Pet.1:19).

6.      CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

If you have received Jesus Christ as Saviour, my question to you today is: Do you feed on the “Bread of Life” daily? Do you grow in Christ? Is your life a testimony that Jesus is the Bread of Life? Do you really live a life of submission, of obedience, of glorification and sanctification – are you “feeding” on the Bread of Life? We read in Joh.8:31-32 ~ “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”and in Joh.13:35 ~ “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

If Jesus Christ is not your “Bread of Life”, it is not too late. Jesus says in ~ “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”(Matt.11:28)and in Joh.3:16 He says ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Kobus van der Walt
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