The Bread Of Life

April 29, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
John 6:34-40

1. "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger, whoever believes in me will never thirst," (John 6:35). Jesus said that. This is the message [from God] given to us today.

Not A Psychological Bread

2. "Whoever comes to me will never hunger." Jesus said this probably because there were actually people there who were hungry. Such a statement like that wouldn't make any sense if nobody there was hungry or thirsty.

3. There certainly must have been not a few "physically hungry people" around Jesus because Jewish society back then was not economically wealthy. Jesus always remembered that the people had empty stomachs. Words on that are written in the first half of chapter six. The miracle story is written [there], of Jesus giving bread and fish to over five thousand people. We don't know for sure how he actually gave them the bread. There's nothing really to say except it was a miracle. In any case, the great crowd's hunger was satisfied. Then after Jesus gave them bread, they began to purse after him.

4. Before these same people, Jesus said, "Whoever comes to me will never hunger." But, did Jesus say that to the crowds that chased after him in the sense that "I'll always dish out bread for you, performing the same miracle?" There was probably nobody there who took Jesus' statement in that way. Any way you think about it, Jesus was not simply giving a statement about physical hunger and thirst. Even a child in church school knows that.

5. Therefore, we immediately come to the conclusion that Jesus was not speaking about physical hunger and thirst, but was giving a statement regarding mental hunger and thirst, that what we really do need is mental satisfaction and that our emotional thirsts be quenched.

6. We living in this country certainly do feel that it is easy to think that way about it. As a matter of fact, we've heard stories about "the wealth of the heart which has parted with seeking after material wealth" so much our ears have gotten calluses in them, and a life plan where "material wealth equals happiness" is deemed old fashioned by most folks. Even though a person may be loaded with things, many will feel a hunger in one's heart and will seek to quench the thirst of his or her heart. We're living in an age where there are so many [ways] to provide emotional fulfillment and satisfaction, it has become a business. When we hear the words of Jesus the way we are, we are quite likely to think that "Jesus is providing emotional fulfillment and satisfaction," and it even seems reasonable to us to think that that is the Christian faith.

7. But, we must listen to the words of Jesus here very carefully. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life." Jesus is neither saying, "I give psychological bread," nor is he saying, "I am psychological bread."

8. Hey everybody, in the case of "psychological bread," there is plenty enough of that in the world. As touched upon earlier, there are plenty of ways to provide for a psychological sense of fulfillment and an emotional sense of satisfaction, and if it is just a psychological meeting of needs that one desires, a person can get that any number of ways. For that somebody [can] pay a [little] money, get up early, hop on a train or bus and visit down aways. Just as we all can put food into our stomachs when we're hungry, each day we can expect to have something to put into our hearts to fill it. What kinds of things do we put into our hearts? Please give it a little thought. What form [might] the psychological bread to satisfy the hunger in your heart [take]? Even the notion that "Anything this world provides is all but junk food. Religion is the one and only decent food ..." is not entirely right. We all feel that we are eating decently enough food. In the sense of psychological bread, we're probably eating highly nutritious things.

9. But, in case [they were] following after that kind of "psychological bread," then [they] had no need any more of what Jesus was speaking of; for, in the cultural height at that time when Jesus lived in the Greco-Roman world, there was assuredly plenty of psychological bread. Jesus did not claim that he was that kind of bread to fill psychological needs. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life."

The Bread Of Life

10. Now then, how shall one define "the bread of life?" In truth, just before today's passage of recitation, Jesus spoke as follows. "The bread of God comes down from heaven and grants life to the world," (verse thirty-three). In this way then, "the bread of life" means "the bread that gives life."

11. It is what comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

12. The saying that it "comes down from heaven and grants life to the world" is not very familiar to us at all. Have you ever seen bread fall from heaven? I'd say probably not. I sure haven't either. But, there were certainly bells going off for the Jews who were hearing this. That's because in the Old Testament there is a story that can be found, of bread that came down from heaven, which is the exact passage that was read in today's first reading [of scripture].

13. In today's first reading, the story of the time when Israel journeyed through the wilderness was read. When the Israelites made an appeal over their hunger, God said through Moses, "Look, I will cause bread to fall from heaven on your behalf," (Exodus 16:4). Then the marvelous food called manna was given. So they were nourished by the bread from heaven and were able to continue their journey. In that sense, we could certainly state the case that bread from God did come down from heaven and give life because they did survive through the manna. They were given life through the manna.

14. But, the reason God gave to Israel the manna, that bread from heaven, was not just to satisfy their physical hunger, and not just to provide them with psychological satisfaction and fulfillment. That's not why he did it, but rather he did it so that they would look to God from day to day and to give them a life style in which they lived in trust and reliance upon God. Therefore, he required of them that they "gather only a sufficient portion for each day," (verse four). They must not stock up on it. Each day they would receive it from God. Then each day they would give thanks to God. They would live trusting and depending upon God. In this way then it was a daily life style of being with God, it was a fellowship with God, this was the very kind of life which [God] had given to them.

15. It is certainly important that physical life be preserved through food. However, the bread that preserves the corporeal part of life will lose meaning sometime at the end because everybody will one day at the end get to where he or she can't eat. To live emotionally and psychologically satisfied is wonderful. It is not wrong to live vibrantly eating one's fill from the loaves of emotional bread which this world provides. But, the time would necessarily come when even such psychological bread would lose its meaning. And then the [only] thing left at the end is one's relationship with the eternal God. What has ultimate meaning at the end for a human being is one's fellowship with the eternal God. It is the life that comes through one's relationship with God. Therefore, that life is "an eternal life."

16. That life must be given to one. "The bread of God comes down from heaven and gives life to the world," said the Lord. This world has need of the bread from heaven. Life must be given to the world because it is a world that has lost fellowship with God. What we need so much as we live in this world is a relationship with God, "the bread of life" which brings a relationship with God.

I Am The Bread Of Life

17. After that Jesus pointed to himself and said, "I am the bread of life." Jesus did not say, "Since you need bread [for] life, I will give it to you." He said, "I myself am the bread of life."

18. What does it really mean that Jesus himself is "the bread of life?" This thing called bread gives life by being chewed by teeth, swallowed, and then digested. Put another way, bread gives life by giving itself, by sacrificing itself. In a similar manner, Jesus also becomes the bread that gives life by giving himself.

19. Therefore, Jesus states what he himself is about to do after this with a quite graphic expressiveness. "I clearly say to you. Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life inside you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will obtain eternal life and I will raise that person again from the dead at the end of days. For, my flesh is the true food, my blood is the true drink," (6:53-55), says the Lord.

20. "I am the bread of life." -- "Eat my flesh. Drink my blood." Anybody who heard it at that time must not have understood it, [but thought,] "What in the world does this even mean?" But, before too long the disciples would come to know exactly what it would mean. And generations of the church have kept telling its meaning, and its meaning has been told even to us as well. The words of Jesus pointed to the events of the cross, where Jesus would later literally tear his flesh and shed his blood. The figure of Jesus upon the cross was the very cry of the Lord indeed of "Eat my flesh. Drink by blood. I am the bread of life."

21. In order that we might live with God, Jesus had to die. Why is that? [Jesus had to die] because our sins must first be atoned for, in order that we might live in fellowship with God. Even though we may completely forget our sins, they still will never vanish. People may forget, but the sins themselves remain. They remain in the sight of God. Those sins separate us from God. Sin must be atoned for with a life. For that reason Christ had become the sin atoning sacrifice for us. Thus, by giving himself, the Lord has become "the bread of life," which gives us life.

Those Who Come to Me

22. However, the fact that one is given bread doesn't necessarily mean a person is always relieved of hunger and thirst. A person with bread in hand still gets hungry and will die. If a person doesn't eat the bread, even though the bread is in the person's hands, they will hunger and [eventually] end up dying.

23. The heavenly father has given us the bread of life. But, that doesn't automatically relieve a person of the hunger of life or relieve one from decay and destruction. A person comes to "the bread of life" and must eat it. Therefore, the Lord did not just say, I am the bread of life," but also went on to say, "Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

24. "Whoever comes to me" can also be said as "whoever believes in me." To come to Jesus and to eat Jesus means to believe in Jesus. We are not being required merely to believe the religion of Christianity. We are not being required merely to believe a set of scriptures called "The Holy Bible." Nor are we merely being asked to believe "the teachings" of the Lord Jesus. We are assembling in this place in order to live [for] and believe in Jesus. [We're not here] just for psychological satisfaction. Because we believe in Jesus we are assembled to eat Him. The way we do that in a form visible to the eye is The Lord's Supper, Holy Communion. By doing that we living with God. We are here in this place in order to live with God, in order to live in fellowship with God.