“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst…. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”John 6:35, 51 KJV
Jesus is identifying Himself as the only spiritual food of man’s soul. Christ alone is able to nourish man with forgiveness and friendship with God and eternal life. In that sense, Jesus is bread. Not just any bread, not just another bread, but the bread of life.
Bread, as we know, is a necessary food. It is a basic staple of life… So it is in the spiritual realm. Jesus is necessary food for sinners’ souls. Jesus is the absolute staple of spiritual life. He is the soul’s basic and only need… He is the living Bread, able to impart spiritual life as well as to sustain it, able to give it as well as to keep it, able to bestow it as well as to nourish it and make it grow… There is no life, no health, apart from this bread of life.
The bread that Jesus is, is also a daily food. There are some kinds of food which we eat from time to time and on occasion. But bread is something that we eat every day… We must have Jesus daily, or we grow weak and wither spiritually. We must have the daily supply of grace that is in Him, or we perish. He is our constant, on-going need.
So too, bread is a satisfying food. Bread fulfills man’s need. It takes care of his bodily needs and leaves him nourished and strong. Other foods may satisfy our palates and fill our bellies, but bread alone satisfies our basic needs and leaves us well. So it is with Jesus, the bread of life. He alone satisfies our souls spiritually… with grace that saves from sin and death, with grace that fills us with peace and life with God and the hope of eternal life.
And let us not forget either that God must come to us, not just to reveal Himself to us as the bread of life, but also to impart Himself to us as the bread of life… Man does not climb up to God to get the food he needs. God comes down to us and gives Himself to us.
Earthly bread, too, of course, is meant to be eaten. It does not do you any good if you simply know that bread is good for you… You have to eat it… Only then can it nourish and strengthen you. So it is with Christ, the bread of life, only now in a spiritual sense. You must not simply know, objectively, that Jesus is the living bread… You must appropriate Christ and assimilate Him in your heart and soul. You must take Him in and digest Him as the very food for your soul. Without that the bread of life will do you no good. You will die in your sin.
How does this eating take place? What is involved in partaking of Christ, the living bread? It means coming to Him in your heart spiritually… with hunger in your soul because you know your sin and wretchedness. Coming to Jesus means that you are repentant for your sins. You are sorry for them. You have confessed them and turned from them. Then, too, coming to Jesus as the bread of life means believing on Him with a true faith… You know that only He can satisfy the hunger-pains of your soul… And for that reason, to eat Christ means that you cast yourself upon Him with a believing heart, you rest upon Him, embrace Him, receive Him, and feed upon Him.
But now you and I have to face a harsh reality about ourselves and about all men. That is that we have no ability to come to Christ, and no ability to believe on Him of ourselves.
Is there no one who partakes and is saved in Christ? No, this partaking is a gracious partaking. By that we mean that sinners eat this bread of life that Jesus is only by God’s grace. As Jesus Himself tells us here, the Father does draw some sinners to Himself, enabling them to come to Christ and believe on Him. He does that by working irresistibly in their hearts by the power of His Spirit; not pulling them against their will; not working apart from their activity; but by working in them the willing and the doing of His good pleasure. It is God, by His Spirit, who works in sinners the grace of hunger and repentance and faith, causing them to see their sin, to see Christ, and to come to Him.
Then you also know the rich, spiritual profit of coming to the bread of life… You will never hunger or thirst. You will be fully satisfied with the riches of salvation in Christ. And you will never die. That is, you will have the victory over death in all its forms. Yes, you will still die physically, but not spiritually and not eternally. You will know life with God after death. And in the resurrection you will be raised up to newness of life with God, body and soul. What a profit there is in coming to this bread of life. May God lead us by His grace to Him so that we feed on Him and never hunger or die.
Let us pray together.
Heavenly Father, we thank Thee again for giving us Thy Word and giving us the truth concerning Thy Son, Jesus Christ, Thy only begotten One, who is the Word become flesh. We thank Thee that He is the bread of life in Himself. And we thank Thee that He is the bread of life for those who come to Him and believe on Him. Strengthen our faith, Lord, that we may daily feed upon Christ as the only fountain of our salvation. And then find that we will never hunger or thirst and never die through Him. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
This post was abridged from “I Am the Bread of Life” – a talk by Rev. Charles Terpstra on Reformed Witness Hour Radio.