Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 10 2013 - John 6:22-40 – The bread of life

One of the most remarkable signs that Jesus performed was the feeding of the 5000. Certainly it made a deep impression on the first disciples for it is one of the few incidents that is recorded in all four of the gospels. One of the details that always amazes me is that after feeding the crowds with five small barley loaves and two fish, the disciples collected up 12 baskets full of the remnants of the feast. There was more food left over than had been available at the beginning!

In John’s Gospel, this remarkable miracle is immediately followed by a section of teaching in which Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life. The crowds who had been fed came seeking Jesus again on the following day. They were looking for more free food. Jesus tells them not to pursue food that perishes but the food that remains for eternal life; they are to believe in the one that God has sent into the world (John 6:29).

Jesus then draws a parallel between himself and the manna which God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness after he had rescued them from Egypt. Both are bread sent down from heaven by God, but the manna quickly went rotten. Jesus is the bread of life; he not only possesses eternal life, he gives that life to all who believe in him and will raise them up on the last day. He gives resurrection life.

Just as the Israelites in the desert needed to gather manna daily to meet each day’s need, so we need to feed on Christ daily that we may live in him and continually draw our life and strength from him. Fellowship with him is vital to our wellbeing; we need to treasure the words of his mouth more than our daily bread (see Job 23:12). The crowds demanded, “Sir, always give us this bread” (6:34), but they would not feed on him as the bread of life. Their cry should also be our plea; a plea to feed continually on him.

Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts,
Thou fount of life, thou light of men,
From the best bliss that earth imparts,
We turn unfilled to thee again.

Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood;
Thou savest those that on thee call;
To them that seek thee thou art good,
To them that find thee all in all.

We taste thee, O thou living bread,
And long to feast upon thee still;
We drink of thee, the fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from thee to fill.

John makes it clear that the feeding of the 5000 was intended as a sign. Jesus intended it as a pointer to himself; he is the one who gives life and gives it in abundance. He is not merely adequate for our needs, there is always more, more left over than there was at the beginning! What we have tasted of him is but the first course: the best is yet to come. The fullness of life that we will possess in him when we are raised up on the last day exceeds all present imagination.

Father God, we praise you that you have given us even more wonderful food than the manna – the bread of angels that rained from heaven. Spirit of God, increase my hunger for the Lord Jesus that I may seek him daily, even moment by moment. Lord Jesus, bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore. So may I enjoy life in you now and the fullness of resurrection life in the age to come. Help me to point a hungry world to the bread that truly satisfies that they also may have life.

Peter Misselbrook