Why Did Jesus Call Himself the Bread of Life?

In yesterday's meditation, we talked about the inner emptiness we experience in our lives when we live apart from the presence of God. Jesus had just multiplied bread and fish for more than five thousand people. After this miracle, the Jewish people who ate of the miraculous food asked Christ for a miraculous sign, similar to Moses giving them manna in their wilderness wanderings. Jesus responded with the following words:

33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread." 35Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:33-40).

When the listeners responded with desire for such bread, saying, “From now on give us this bread” (v. 34), they were thinking in terms of daily food that would come to them from that time on, just like the manna that came down from heaven in the time of Moses. But the manna was just a type, a picture, of the true Manna that God would send. Jesus was saying that He is the True Bread from heaven, the only one that satisfies the spiritual stomach. Jesus was talking in spiritual terms.

What did the Lord mean by His statement that He is the Bread of Life? Bread was a staple of life in Israel in those days. Deep inside our being, we have an inner stomach that needs spiritual food. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” the One who fills the empty “spiritual stomach.” If the Lord had been speaking to an Asian person, perhaps, He might have said, “I am the rice of life.” Only Christ can fill our spiritual stomach. He is the staple diet of the soul, the One who fills the void that is deep within us.

Here in this Scripture above (v. 35), we have the essence of how to become a Christian and have the emptiness within our hearts filled. It is coming to Christ and feasting on His life in a spiritual sense, believing or trusting in Him. This experience of eating this bread is not so much talking about a once-for-a-lifetime bite, as in inviting Christ into one's life and being born again, but daily feasting on Christ, being changed into His image and likeness as we live for Him.

The eating of manna every day by the Israelites in the wilderness was just a picture of the future reality that Christ would put on the spiritual table for us. Paul the Apostle put it like this: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are transformed inwardly as we feed spiritually on Christ and appropriate (take for one's use) His power and life just as a branch from a vine draws its life from the vine rootstock itself (John 15:4-5).

There is a spiritual connection that God makes with us when we are born-again and receive the gift of new life in Christ. The Spirit of God comes and lives in us and helps us maintain that connection, a flow of spiritual life from God, sustenance that gives people a sense that all is well with their inner being, their soul. Commentator R. Kent Hughes says this about Christ being the bread of life:

There are several similarities between manna and Jesus, “the Bread of life." The manna typified Jesus, for it was white like fallen snow, just as Christ was without blemish or imperfection. Manna was also accessible. That was one of its main virtues. When a man walked outside the camp to gather it, he had a choice. He could either tread on it or he could pick it up. We can either tread on Jesus, or we can take him as our Savior. To put it another way, the Scriptures say Jesus can either be a cornerstone or a stumbling block. How we respond to Him makes all the difference.[1]

Shortened from the more extended study at the following link: Jesus the Living Bread

[1] R. Kent Hughes, That You May Believe, Commentary on the Book of John, Page 206, Crossway Publishers.