JESUS IS “THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN”
Over on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus miraculously fed thousands and then escaped when they wanted to make him king. That night he walked on the stormy sea and rescued Peter, who also walked on water but began to sink when his faith wavered. Jesus also calmed the wind, perhaps saving his disciples from shipwreck.
Now Jesus is back on the western side of the sea, in the area of Capernaum. Those he miraculously fed find him and inquire: “When did you get here?” Rebuking them, Jesus says that they are looking for him in the hope of being fed again. He urges them to “work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for everlasting life.” So they ask: “What must we do to carry out the works of God?”
They may be thinking of works set out in the Law, but Jesus points to the work of highest value: “This is the work of God, that you exercise faith in the one whom he sent.” The people, however, do not exercise such faith in Jesus, despite all that he has done. They demand that he perform a sign so that they may believe in him. “What work are you doing?” they ask. “Our forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Regarding their request for a sign, Jesus directs the people to the real Source of miraculous provisions: “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 the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Not grasping his point, they plead: “Lord, always give us this bread.” (John 6:32-34) What “bread,” though, does Jesus mean?
He explains: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will not get hungry at all, and whoever exercises faith in me will never get thirsty at all. But as I said to you, you have even seen me and yet do not believe. . . . I have come down from heaven to do, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none out of all those whom he has given me, but that I should resurrect them on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who recognizes the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life.”
This causes quite a stir, and the Jews begin murmuring about him. How can he claim that he is “the bread that came down from heaven”? (John 6:41) To them, he is just a son of human parents from the Galilean city of Nazareth. The people ask: “Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?”
“Stop murmuring among yourselves,” Jesus responds. “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will resurrect him on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone who has listened to the Father and has learned comes to me. Not that any man has seen the Father, except the one who is from God; this one has seen the Father. Most truly I say to you, whoever believes has everlasting life.”
When earlier he spoke with Nicodemus, Jesus mentioned everlasting life and linked that with faith in the Son of man, stating: “Everyone exercising faith in [God’s only-begotten Son] might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:15, 16) But now he is speaking to a much larger audience, telling them that he has a role in their gaining everlasting life, which neither the manna nor the bread commonly available in Galilee can provide. So how can everlasting life be gained? Jesus repeats his words: “I am the bread of life.”
This discussion regarding the bread from heaven continues, reaching a climax while Jesus teaches in a synagogue in Capernaum.