This collection of the seven I am sayings of Jesus are pretty famous. We shall be covering them in the next few weeks. As an introduction let’s summarise them. I am the bread of life, The light of the world, The gate, The good Shepherd, The resurrection and the life, The truth and the life, The true vine.
The academic theologians have quite a bit to say about them and about this fourth gospel. Let’s get rid of the controversies first of all. It might be called the elephant in the room. Many preachers just ignore it for all sorts of reasons. I think it is important to acknowledge it.
Like many of the books in the Bible we don’t actually know who wrote them and as far as this gospel goes it was probably written some 50 or 60 years after Jesus died. I don’t think the writer intended it to be a historical account of the life of Jesus but was keen to show the divine nature of Jesus more than his human side.
The other major debate is about whether the I am sayings were said by Jesus or put there by the writer to emphasise the divinity of Jesus. I don’t intend to enter into that argument today but I want to make it clear at the outset that I don’t think it matters. What matters to me is what we make of the thoughts they bring to mind on both the character of Jesus and our response to them.
Having got that out of the way lets look at today’s topic. ‘I am the bread of life.’
As you know I like to look at the context of the events and sayings and to do that we need to look at what happened earlier. The previous day Jesus had fed the five thousand. The crowd had gone home pleasantly full. When they woke up the next morning Jesus and his disciples had gone.
They had gone to the other side of the sea of Galilee. The disciples had gone by boat and Jesus had decided to walk it. The writer tells us the people were seeking Jesus. That sounds great. As churches we love seekers. Disappointingly transpired they only wanted Jesus for some more bread for their stomachs.
Who doesn’t like a free meal? That reminds me of the first sermon I ever gave when I was in training. It was on Isaiah 55. “Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Jesus was offering just that. A free meal, not to fill their physical bodies temporarily but to feed their spiritual needs for ever. Those people who had chased Jesus did not understand. They were still after ordinary food. Not surprisingly really. Bread was an important staple food for them. My father used to try to encourage me to eat more bread by calling it the staff of life. Bread with everything.
Even luxuries like tinned fruit and evaporated milk had to be accompanied by bread. Purely to fill the stomach. It had no lasting benefit. I was still always hungry.
Having dealt with those only interested in materialistic things Jesus turned his attention to those who would respond to his invitation to believe in Him. Not only to believe in Him but to follow Him. Food or Bread is essential for life. Loaves of physical bread, even if you only eat it in the form of pizza, will keep our bodies alive. Without physical food our bodies die.
Jesus is saying without Him our spiritual bodies will die. Following Jesus sustains spiritual life precisely as eating and drinking sustains physical life.
OK. That’s the technical stuff but what’s in it for me if I do follow Jesus.
In Matthew’s Gospel it has Jesus saying, “Remember, I am with you always; even to the end of the age.” This is echoed in John’s Gospel with Jesus saying, “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away. It is the will of God that all who see me and believe in me may have eternal life.”
All through his ministry Jesus promised us life. Abundant life.
Sadly, the life that Jesus promised has, in many cases been wiped out by the church itself. The church has given us religion where which is often about creeds, discipline and habit. The way to abundant life is through faith, worship and compassionate love. Don’t you think it’s strange that that is what Jesus spent his life demonstrating and teaching. It’s strange because so many don’t take it on board.
Jesus, as the bread of life, is not about pie in the sky when we die. It the promise of life lived in faith, hope and love to quote Paul.
Jesus said. “Follow me” If I can paraphrase him, Follow me and you won’t go far wrong.
“I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus is the spiritual bread which gives his followers life to the full.