Appropriating the Bread of Life
Good Morning, from the Voices of Hope Evangelistic Team, to all who are reading this message; I welcome each of you gathering by way of the internet. Once again, I praise God as we are able to share His Word all over the world.
The title of my message is “Appropriating the Bread of Life” and the scripture is found in John 6:51-59 which we’ll read as we go through the message. If you would turn there, you will be able to follow along.
Verses 51–59, are the climax to the great sermon in which Jesus claims to be the bread of life. He has claimed that men need food for their souls, true soul food. He has claimed that God had sent such food. And He has claimed that He is that food, that bread. And all of this came out of the feeding of these people on a hillside where He fed them physically and then moved from a physical feeding to a sermon on spiritual food and claimed that He is that spiritual food.
We are again confronted with the theme of John. John’s recurring theme in this gospel is always that Jesus is God. And the question of the ages is who is Jesus Christ? There is no question that is superior than that question, who is Jesus Christ?
He is no mere man. He is not the best of men; He is God in a body, God incarnate in human flesh. He is either God in a body, or He is the most diabolical fraud that ever lived. Jesus, says John, over and over again is God in a human body. And week by week as we have studied John’s gospel, we have heard that same message over and over again. He states his purpose at the end of his gospel in 20:31 when he says in reflecting on the whole gospel of John, “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name.”
In other words, the theme is the deity of Jesus Christ, that He is God, the essence of perfect deity. And John has for now six chapters in our study brought forth witnesses to declare that this is so.
He didn’t stop there. He called on the testimony of the miracles of Christ. Nicodemus said, “We know that Thou art a teacher come from God because no man can do the things Thou doest except God be with Him.” Miracle after miracle has been echoing the statement of John, Jesus is God, Jesus is God.
Added to that is the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself. He claimed to be God. He says “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Why? “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” In other words, Christ is the determining factor between life and death.
Then to add to that statement He claims “Verily, verily I say unto you, Moses gave you not that 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 in verse 34 … 35 He says, “I am that bread.”
That brings us to where we are today. Christ has said to those Jews who were fed the day before, that you need to call attention to the fact that your souls are hungry and you need that food that satisfies the soul.” Then He says, “God sent that food and I am that food.” So in His sermon He’s really got three good points … your souls are hungry, God sent you food, I am that food. That’s the message of His sermon on the bread of life.
I’ve read over this so many times, I began to think, Christ really belabors the point. He says I am the bread of life. He waits a few verses; I am the bread of life. A few more verses, I am the bread of life. He repeats Himself almost as if He’s laboring with the point. And then I began to think about who He was talking to and it’s obvious why He belabored the point because their minds were so thick with ignorant unbelief that He couldn’t get through. Christ has already spent from verses 30–50 saying one thing, your souls are hungry, God sent food, and I’m that food. He said that two or three times. They still don’t have the message.
In our verses today, Jesus moves ahead and explains this doctrine in more detail. We’re going to see some things that are going to thrill our heart.
John has three basic areas in these verses 51–59. We see the pronouncement, the perplexity and the promises. The pronouncement Christ makes, the perplexity of the Jews in response and then the promises that Christ gives.
Notice the pronouncement, that’s verse 51, He begins by making a pronouncement that is exactly a recurrence of verse 33, 35, 47 and 48. The fifth time He says this in verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Two things there, we have the nature of Christ, living bread. We have the source of Christ, heaven.
Jesus Christ said I came to this earth as living bread for souls that are hungry. I am that bread to nourish your hungry, gnawing, unrelieved soul. That’s also true today; we live in a hungry world. We live in a world where people’s souls are hungry and void and empty. And Jesus Christ says I’m the only one that can fill that void. It’s amazing how self-centered and how man has kind of coated himself with an artificial sense of belonging and meaning when man is really frustrated. Our world is jammed with them. Turn on the television and everybody you see is frustrated. We all use the wrong deodorant, the wrong mouthwash, the wrong toothpaste, the wrong hair spray, we drive the wrong car, we wear the wrong clothes, everybody has the wrong detergent, uses the wrong cleansers, everything is wrong. Man is frustrated and he’ll solve his problems as soon as he takes an Excedrin. Someone said, “Life must go on, I forget just why.”
There’s only one person, there’s only one soul food, there’s only one Bread in this universe to satisfy the gnawing hunger of a man’s heart, that’s Jesus Christ.
He says, “I am that living bread, there is no other.” Only Jesus can give meaning to life. Then He says in verse 51, “If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever.” Fantastic promise, eat of this bread. Notice from previous weeks He’s not talking about divine elective decree that God made in the past when He said, “No man comes unto Me except the Father draw him.” Here He’s balancing it off by talking about human responsibility. He’s saying, “If you want to live forever you have to come and eat of Me. You’ve got to receive Me. A man must eat.” This is a beautiful parallel, Christ is using a human illustration of eating bread to teach a spiritual truth. This figure of eating has tremendous meaning. Just a few thoughts.
First of all, eating is necessary if I’m going to get any benefit out of the food. I mean, I could have a nice feast in front of me and I could look at it and I could admire it, and I could smell it and then I could analyze it. I could philosophize about it. I could handle it a little bit. I could be assured of its excellence. I could trust the guy who made it, cooked it up. But if I don’t eat it, it doesn’t do anything for me. So it is with spiritual food. So many people sitting around analyzing Jesus Christ, so many people going over all the qualities and all the virtues and they never eat. Knowing the truth, speculating about the truth, talking about the truth, believing in its goodness is going to do me no good, I must take it and eat, I must take Jesus Christ into my life.
Another thing about eating, eating is responding to a felt need and that need is called hunger and it’s immediately detectable. Some of you get it about two minutes after twelve on Sunday morning. You don’t need anybody to remind you that you’re hungry, you know when you’re hungry, something happens inside of you. And when you’re hungry you eagerly eat. If you’ve ever been stuffed full, not if, I know you have, stuffed full and then you see some food it’s repulsive. So it is spiritually. You see, when a sinner loves his sin, when he’s stuffed full of the world and the flesh and he thinks he’s got all the answers and he’s self-satisfied, then the thought of the bread of life is nauseating, it’s ridiculous, it’s repulsive and he mocks and disdains it. And in his self-satisfied spiritual bloated-ness, he pushes Christ away because he has no need. But when a man is broken, when a man is awakened to his lost condition, when a man faces the content of his purposelessness, when he senses the void and the gnawing hunger in his heart and the desire for reality, for peace, for real love, for meaning, for hope, for security, that man is ready to eat the bread of life. That’s what Jesus said, “I can’t do anything for you people that aren’t sick.”
The third thing about eating, eating implies an act of appropriation. You know, when I eat I make the food my own. Whatever you eat becomes you. Whatever you put in becomes you. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just becomes more of you. There’s a wonderful little scientific thing operating in us called amino acids, there are 600 octo-decillion amino acids and whatever you eat they produce you-type flesh.
So, the food that I eat becomes a part of me, it becomes what I am. And so it is spiritually. Christ may be presented to me in all His beauty and glory, I might even respect His perfect life, I might admire His wonderful person. I might be touched by His unselfish love. I might even cry real tears over His death on the cross. But it’s only when I take Him in that He comes into me and dwells in me and becomes what I am.
There’s another thing about eating. Eating is personal; nobody can do it for you. There’s no such thing as eating by proxy. If I’m going to be nourished, I’m going to eat. So it is spiritually. It doesn’t do any good to sit around and watch other people being nourished. I can’t be nourished for you. If I could receive Jesus Christ for you I’d do it. I can’t. You’ve got to eat the bread of life yourself. It’s up to you. “But, says Jesus, if you do eat you’ll live forever; what kind of life am I going to live? Full life, beyond your wildest expectations and imaginations. So, Jesus says, “Here I am, bread, eat and live.” It’s amazing how people can refuse such an offer but they do.
Then Jesus takes another step in describing Himself as bread, which is going to be the key to our passage. “And the bread that I will give is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”
He’s describing this bread in a little more detail. Get this thought, He’s saying, “My flesh is the key.” If all Jesus did was come to this earth and say, “I’m from God, I want you to accept Me, I want you to shape up, I want you to obey God, now get with it,” and go back to heaven we’d be in a hopeless mess. We’d have all the standards but no way to do them. We can’t get to God. We can’t please God by our works.
So Jesus didn’t just do that. He came to earth and said, “Here’s what God wants, here’s the requirement, believe in Me.” And then in order to make it possible He gave His flesh. He had to give His flesh to make all of that possible. He didn’t just come down and say, “Here’s what to do,” and then leave again. He gave Himself; He died for the life of the world. I love that statement, “I will give,” because He’s talking prophetically about His cross. He’s saying, “I’m going to give My flesh.” He is soon to be a vicarious sacrifice for sin. He’s going to offer His own flesh on the cross; He’s talking about His crucifixion.
God has always chosen that blood sacrifice be the way of taking away of sin, the covering of sin, the sacrifice for sin. Something has to die because the wages of sin is death.
Christ came along and He became that sacrifice, the final sacrifice and God said, “I’ll accept Christ’s death as the final sacrifice.” And by virtue of His death paying the penalty of sin, we have access to God. We can’t go to God with sin in our life. We can’t get into His presence. And so Christ had to die, He had to be the sacrifice for sin. It was only a slain Christ that could allow poor sinners to be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” In other words, God could lay out all the requirements in the person of Christ, but unless He died, unless He gave His flesh, there’s nothing to cover our sins that we have no way to get to God. So Jesus says, “The bread that I give is My flesh. I’ll give it.” There was no way men could go to God unless He died. And so Christ came and not only showed us God, but He made the way to God possible in His death. So He says … the bread that I give is My flesh. Notice that He says, “I give it,” two times in verse 51, “I will give is My flesh … I will give for the life of the world,” it’s voluntary. Jesus said in John 10:18, “No man takes My life from Me. I lay it down of Myself.”
Notice He says He gave His life for the world. I believe in an unlimited atonement. I believe 1 John 2:2 says He’s not only the propitiation for our sins, or the covering, or the Mercy Seat for our sins, but the sins of the whole world. He died for the world, all types, classes, strata, intellects, cultures, the whole world. This living bread, this one whose flesh was sacrificed on the cross is so full of salvation that all the world may come and eat and live forever. So Jesus makes the pronouncement, “I am living bread, eat and live forever, and the bread I give is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” The world can’t have life unless He takes our place in death.
Next the perplexity.
Naturally with a statement like that in the Jewish frame of mind we see a perplexity in verse 52. “The Jews therefore strove,” and this is the idea of a battle going on, a hassle, not a whisper this time, they’re talking out loud, “strove among themselves saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’”
Here we meet the standard Jewish response. Every time Jesus gave them a physical illustration of a spiritual truth, they always got hung up on the physical. They only see the physical. Remember Nicodemus? Jesus says, “You must be born again.” He said, “How can I get in my mother’s womb and be born again?” The woman at the well, “I’m going to give you this water and you’ll live forever.” And she says, “Where are You going to get it, You don’t have a bucket?” They never got pass the physical interpretation of everything. And then He said to those Galileans, “I have the bread of life,” earlier in the chapter and they said, “Oh, give it to us.” And here He says, “You’ve got to eat My flesh,” and they say, “How can He give us His flesh to eat?” They don’t understand anything.
This kind of ignorance is the ignorance of unbelief because it’s so obvious what Jesus said, the end of verse 51, He says, “I’m going to give My … give this bread, or My flesh, for the life of the world.” Now did they really think that the whole world was going to feast on Him? They can’t be that stupid. He said, “I’m giving My life for the life of the world.” And yet they’re still zeroed in on that physical thing.
Before you condemn them though, you might recall that this is also the basic text for the Roman Catholic Mass in which the Roman Catholics teach that the blood and body of Jesus Christ is literally there and consumed by the one who involves himself in the Mass and the Eucharist.
That’s not what Jesus is saying. He’s saying,
“Take Me, accept My death.” So the pronouncement and the perplexity followed by the promises, verses 53–59, and here Jesus gives some promises.
Notice Christ doesn’t clear up their problem; He never caters to willful unbelief. If a person really wants to know, if you seek Me with all your heart you will surely find Me. God always responds to a seeking heart. He never responds to unbelief, willful ignorance. He doesn’t even deal with their problem.
Verse 53, “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.”
It was bad enough when He said eat His flesh, but now to add to a group of Jewish people that they had to drink His blood. If you know anything about the Old Testament, you know that the most repulsive possible dietary thing could be blood to the Jew and rightly so, because that’s exactly what God told them back in chapter 17 of the book of Leviticus and verse 10 it says this, “And whatsoever man there is of the house of Israel or of the strangers that sojourn among you who eateth any manner of blood, I will even set My face against that soul that eateth blood and cut him off from among his people.” Verse 12, “Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, no soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourn among you eat blood.” Verse 14, “For it is the life of all flesh, the blood of it for the life thereof, you shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof, whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.”
They were right. God told them don’t eat blood; that was a sanitary thing to keep them healthy. That was a provision of God’s sovereignty and God’s omniscience to let them know that they needed to be aware of this because it could be poisonous and detrimental to their health and God gave them those rules. Now for Jesus to say to them “you’ve got to drink My blood” must have been the most nauseating thought imaginable. And so instead of solving their problem, Jesus compounds it and you see the move from willful blindness to judicial blindness. Instead of catering to them, He carries them into deeper mystery.
Obviously He’s not talking of drinking His blood literally. If you’re not willing to swallow the shed blood of Jesus Christ for sin, you can’t come to Him. For a man to come to Jesus Christ he must be willing to accept Christ’s atoning shed blood on the cross. That’s what He’s saying to these Jews. He’s saying you not only have to take My person, you’ve got to be willing to swallow My sacrifice; not swallow literally. You’ve got to be willing to accept the fact that I have to die and shed My blood.
Can a man come to Jesus Christ other than believing in the shed blood of Jesus Christ? No. That’s exactly what the Jews won’t do, is believe in His blood. The greatest stumbling block to Israel’s belief in Messiah Jesus Christ is His death, a dead Messiah just doesn’t fit the Jewish concept. “Not only do you have to accept My person, My flesh, you’ve got to be ready to accept My bloodshed.” When He said “Drink My blood,” He was saying to them, “You’ve got to be willing to accept My shed blood for you.” Nobody receives Jesus Christ without accepting His death and shed blood. You must be willing to see the need of the shed blood. As bread He nourishes, but as blood He cleanses.
He gives them the first promise, verse 53, “Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Turn it around. If you eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, you have life. What kind of life? The life that’s in you. What kind is that? Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly, rich, real, thrilling, abundant, exciting, invigorating, purposeful, love life.” That’s the kind of life. He says if you’ll eat My flesh, accept My person, drink My blood, believe the shed blood on the cross to cleanse your sin, if you’ll accept that you’ll have real abundant life.
You that have accepted Jesus Christ, do you have that kind of life? It’s real, it’s abundant life. Shortly after I received Jesus Christ my whole personality changed from hate to joy.
Second promise, not only abundant life, but look at verse 54, here’s the second promise, eternal life. “He who eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life.” Not only abundant life but it lasts forever. My body will die, but I won’t. No, the one who eats Jesus Christ’s flesh and accepts His blood atonement has not only abundant life but eternal life.
Then He gives another promise, end of verse 54, “And I will raise him up at the last day.”
So He says, “For the one who feasts on Christ there is abundant life, eternal life and bodily resurrection.” So we see tremendous promise … abundant life, eternal life, and a bodily resurrection. Then in verse 55 He adds this thought, “For My flesh is food indeed, My blood is drink indeed.” Now the word “indeed” means real. It could be read this way, “For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. I’m not talking about artificial stuff, this is the real stuff,” He says. It’s so good and so real that it gives abundant life, eternal life, and bodily resurrection.
Any more promises? Verse 56, “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him.” That’s exciting to me. Do you realize that when we receive Jesus Christ we become one with Him? “And the life which I now live is not mine,” Paul says, “it’s Jesus Christ living in me.”
John 14 verse 20, “At that day you shall know that I am in My Father and ye in Me and I in you.” That’s one love triangle I want to be in, all wrapped up with God the Father and Jesus Christ. That’s too glorious to even put into words, just to know that I am one with Jesus Christ. That’s almost incomprehensible. This is not my life, it’s His life. The beautiful mystery of union with Jesus Christ, one with Him, He dwells in me, I dwell in Him. The Bible says, “In Him I live and move and have my being.”
Verse 57, where did He get all this life to give us? This is what He said, “As the living Father has sent Me and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” In other words, Jesus says God gave Me temporal life to come here from Heaven and I’m giving you spiritual life to go back there. As the Father gave Me life here, I give you life to go there. That’s the whole point, God sent Christ to bring us back. God longs for our fellowship and love.
So, Jesus says the Father gave Me life, I came here to give you life. I became what you are that you might become what I am. So Christ is bread from heaven, sent by God. If we eat, we get back to God where we belong. What promises. Abundant life, eternal life, bodily resurrection, union with Christ in an individual oneness. And that’s for all those who eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood.
Then in a great climactic summary in a nature of an invitation He closes out in verse 58 and He says, “This is the bread which came down from heaven,” not that stuff that they got back there in the desert, that manna, they ate that and they’re dead. “He that eateth of this bread shall live forever.” That’s an invitation to those people. “And these things, said He in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”
Did you hear that invitation? He alone has the power to transform lives. He alone is the bread that can fill the hunger of the heart. He alone can change your life, He’s done it a multiplied million times.
What is the question of the ages? Who is Jesus Christ? What is the answer? He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. And if you want abundant life, eternal life, bodily resurrection and union with Him, then you must eat His flesh and drink His blood.
There’s nothing glorious about our faith, there’s only something glorious about the object of our faith.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible on-line, please click here and may you be blessed by the song, "Oh How He Loves You and Me."