Our scripture for this week is John 6:35—“I am the bread of life.” Actually, if you’re reading ahead, I suggest reading all of chapter 6 to get the full flavor (so to speak). It’s good stuff!
If you read chapter 6, you’ll see that the theme of bread runs all through it. Jesus feeds the 5,000 from a few loaves of bread and some little fish.
All of which begs the question, what does bread do? For one thing, it tastes good. I love bread. I could never go on the Atkins diet because I just love bread too much. I love the smell of fresh-baked bread. I love the texture of multi-grain bread. I love it with butter on it, I love it with honey on it. I just love bread. So maybe that’s part of what Jesus is getting at, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
In Jesus’ day, bread wasn’t like it is for us. For us, it’s a nice thing to have, it’s delicious. The way some people do it, it’s almost a luxury. We like it, but it’s not essential. But in Jesus’ day, it was a staple of life. Without bread, you might well die. It was essential for maintaining life. And I think that’s what he’s talking about.
Bread doesn’t create life, but it does sustain it. So, Jesus is saying that he provides the sort of bread that sustains our spiritual lives. But it’s more than just that. He IS the bread. Just like he said he IS the vine and he IS the way, he IS the bread. He doesn’t just show us the way to God, he IS the way. He doesn’t just give us what we need to sustain our spiritual lives, he IS the bread.
This may not seem like a big deal, but I think it is. If Jesus is just a guy who delivers the bread, then he’s just a wiser, more spiritual version of you and me. He’s received insight from God on how we can nourish our spiritual selves. If we just do what he says, we will be able to live in relationship with God. But if he IS the bread, then he IS spiritual nourishment, he IS the relationship. And if that’s true, then the first and most important thing isn’t to do what he says, but to somehow get him inside of us to nourish us so that THEN we can do what he says.
That’s what he means when he says, “I am the bread of life.” And it makes all the difference in the world.