… 32 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
34 Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."
35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
“The Bread Machine.” They were the coolest thing about twenty years ago. You opened it up and put the flour and yeast and all the other ingredients in, pushed a couple of buttons and a few hours later you had a fresh, hot loaf of bread. White, wheat, rye—whatever bread you wanted to bake, you could bake it in The Bread Machine. All you had to do was follow the recipe, and you had fresh bread on demand! What could be better than that, right? And so everybody went out to the store, and dropped their hard-earned money on their own bread machine with which to enjoy the smell and taste of fresh-baked bread in their own homes.
Well, the Jews believed that they had found their “bread machine” in Jesus. He had just fed thousands of people by the shores of the Sea of Galilee with nothing but five loaves of barley-bread and two small fish. And while the disciples were having trouble looking to Jesus to give them bread, the Jews had gone to the other extreme. They had wanted to take Jesus and make Him their king by force precisely because He had given them bread—and they believed He could continue to give them bread. That’s why they were so disappointed when they found out Jesus and the disciples were gone the next morning. That’s why they hurried up and got into the boats to go looking for Him. They saw Jesus as their “bread king,” kind of like a “bread machine,” as their ticket to a good, happy life on this earth. You go to Him with all the right ingredients, all the words, all the right prayers to butter Him up, and then He gives you what you’re looking for.
But was that how Jesus wanted to be seen? Did Jesus want to be merely the people’s “bread machine”—the One they looked to merely to keep their cupboards stocked and their tummies full? Or did Jesus have in mind to give people something greater than just food for the belly?
- The only Bread truly worth working for.
Shortly after getting off the boats in Capernaum, John tells us that the people found Jesus and asked Him when He’d gotten there, almost as if to say, “Where’d you go, Jesus? We were having such fun together!” (vv. 24-25).
Jesus didn’t give them the answer they were looking for; but it was the answer they needed to hear: “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (v. 26). They came all pious-looking, sailing across the see to find Jesus, feigning concern over how He got to where He was. But Jesus, knowing their hearts, pointed out the true reason for seeking Jesus out. They were chasing after Him, not because the miracle was so amazing, revealing Jesus to be the true God, the God of all grace and faithfulness who cares for His people. They were following Jesus only because of what they thought they were going to get out of it: free food to fill their bellies!
It blows your mind when you think about the energy that these people expended in looking for Jesus: searching for Him on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, piling into the boats to go across and look in Capernaum, basically tearing up the town until they found Him. That’s a lot of work! And for what? Just so Jesus can give them more food. What advice does Jesus give them? “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (v. 27).
People spend a lot of time working and chasing after the blessings of this world, having that bread machine so you can wake up to the smell of fresh baked bread in the house. But what happens? Bread goes bad. It gets stale and moldy and then you have to throw it out. It’s a food that perishes. Even the “non-perishable” canned pork’n’beans that looks like it’ll last forever has a “sell-by” date on the bottom of the can. And it’s not just true of food, but of all our earthly blessings. They just don’t last. And even if our earthly blessings last, you and I don’t! Because of sin, there’s a day coming for each one of us when we won’t need any of those things anymore: the day we die. Isn’t that really our biggest problem, our greatest need, an answer for death?
If you’re going to chase Jesus down in your prayers, don’t just ask Him for earthly blessings. Don’t treat Jesus like a bread machine. Seek Him out so you can get the food that lasts to eternal life. The food of God’s grace and love; the food of forgiveness of sins; the food of John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life.”
And the best part is that this food—these spiritual blessings—you don’t have to work to get them. Jesus says that these are blessings that “the Son of Man Himself will give you.” I know, it flies in the face of human thinking. You usually have to do something in order to get something. But that’s not the way it is with God. How do you know if you’re doing the works of God? “This is the work of God, that you believe in Whom He sent” (v. 29). You don’t have to earn your way to heaven! Just believe in Jesus—believe that God has sent Him to earn heaven for you! And even that believing—it isn’t something you do, it’s the work of God, “the gift of God, so that no one can boast”! (Eph 2:9). Those kinds of blessings are the kind that are truly worth working for!
- The only Bread that truly satisfies.
That’s because Jesus is the only Bread that truly satisfies. The Jews who had sought Jesus out demanded a sign so they could put their trust in Him. And it wasn’t just any sign; they had a pretty specific thing in mind: “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (v. 31). It was as if they were saying, “Yeah, Jesus, you fed a few thousand people one time—but Moses? He fed millions of people in the desert for forty years with the miraculous manna, the bread from heaven!”
See, nothing Jesus gave them was ever enough. They were never satisfied; they always wanted more. And they would never be satisfied—because they were looking in the wrong place to be filled. They were looking to their worldly blessings to fill them up, instead of looking to be filled by the One giving the blessings.
In our materialistic society, we’re constantly being advertised to, constantly being told that in order to be happy you have to have this or that or the other thing. And a lot of people buy into it. Many were sold on the idea of buying a bread machine because they believed that being able to have fresh bread whenever they wanted would make them happy. And that’s the temptation we face too, of being sucked into that mass-marketed mindset, of believing, “If only I just had this, then I’ll be happy.” Yet, if you look around, you have to ask: where did all the bread machines go? You can find them mostly at the thrift stores. People gave them away because, in the end, they didn’t make us happy. They didn’t give us any sort of real fulfillment, other than the filling of our bellies.
Jesus points us to the true source of real fulfillment. Jesus told the Jews, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vv. 32-33). The true Bread from heaven is not the manna of Exodus; it’s not the bread Jesus handed out when He fed those thousands of people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The true Bread from heaven is the bread that gives life to the whole world! And that’s exactly what Jesus gave by His own death and resurrection. In Him we have the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
And nothing is more satisfying and fulfilling. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (v. 35). The greatest gift that Jesus has to offer is… Himself! He is the Bread of Life. Coming to Jesus and believing in Him are both the same thing—they yield the same result: total and complete fulfillment in Him. You eat regular bread and what happens? A couple hours later you’re hungry again. But when you eat the Bread of Life, when you trust in Christ, you are never hungry for anything else.
Think about what that means for the compulsive shoppers who go to the store and run up the credit card in a vain attempt to feel better about themselves. Think about what that means for the countless people who when they have a bad day or feel bad about something they’ve done, turn to the freezer and drown their guilt and sorrow in a quart of Haagen Dasz ice cream. Think about what that means for everyone who has tried to find fulfillment in places where it’s just not meant to be found. You don’t have to waste time chasing after it anymore! You have complete fulfillment in Jesus. You have His peace; You have the assurance that He has redeemed You with His own precious blood, that He has washed you clean of every sin. You have the gift of knowing that Jesus loves you so much that not only will you outlast every earthly possession you have, you’re going to spend forever with Him in heaven! So “Why spend your labor on what does not satisfy? Come, buy and eat! Buy wine and milk without money and without cost!”
Receive the true Bread from heaven, the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. Trust in Him as your Savior from sin and death. Receive the blessings He has for you in His Word and Sacraments: the blessings of forgiveness, faith, and everlasting life; the blessing of Jesus Himself. He is the only Bread worth working for—the only Bread that satisfies. Amen.