That day, the meagre packed lunch of a young boy was placed in the hands of the Creator, with the result that five loaves plus two fish were multiplied to the masses. This miracle, which breaks mathematical law, points to the One of whom John wrote in his prologue: ‘of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace’ (John 1:16). The Lord Jesus was completely divine – He was God – and from the fullness of His divine nature He was able to feed these needy people; they were beneficiaries of His deity. Even today people can benefit from His deity by believing that He is the Son of God and, as a result, receive eternal life through His name.
This miracle draws on Israel’s history, looking back to the time when God fed them with bread from heaven in the desert. The manna in the wilderness foreshadowed the Lord Jesus, for ‘the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’ (John 6:33). God has provided for this world, not simply in giving us physical food but in sending His Son to offer eternal life. The Christian gospel is based on the historical fact that ‘the Word [who] was God … became flesh’ (John 1:1,14), the Son of God became a man to He might rescue us from our sins.
The problem, however, was that the people did not see past the physical reality of His miracle. Just like Western society today, the first-century Jews were blind to spiritual realities. They wanted a Saviour to solve material problems like hunger and poverty, but they did not want a Saviour to deliver them from their sins. The Lord said as much: ‘you seek me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled’ (John 6:26). It’s the same today. People will accept Jesus Christ as a good example, but not as the Son of God. People want Him to remedy their social and economic ills but will not come to Him for the forgiveness of their sins. To such people the Lord issued a solemn warning: ‘do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life’ (John 6:27). Many people, governments and subcultures today are working hard to make the best of their physical life, but the Lord Jesus reminds us to put all our efforts into finding out who He is and how to get saved. The Lord Jesus urges us to prioritise the eternal over the temporal, to think of heaven, not earth, and to value everlasting life, not physical life.
With Israel’s history in mind, the Lord Jesus climaxed with the words, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst’ (John 6:35). Just as we need food to satisfy our physical needs, the Lord Jesus is the answer to our spiritual needs. The monumental issue of sin has left us spiritually impoverished, completely unable to help ourselves. Unless our sins are dealt with, we will die and spend eternity in hell. Just as malnourished people in a famine-stricken land cannot save themselves, neither can we deliver ourselves from this desperate plight. The answer is neither within nor around us, but in the bread of God who has come down from heaven: ‘when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:6). Under the metaphor of eating bread, the Lord Jesus says if we believe in him, we shall have eternal life.
This metaphor is expanded further. The Lord said, ‘The bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world … whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life’ (John 6:51-54). Just as God provided manna in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus left heaven and became a man in order to die on the cross. Although He died on behalf of all, it doesn’t mean everybody goes to heaven; rather, it means that provision has been made – salvation is available to all.
We must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to gain eternal life. This is not a literal statement but a metaphor for faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith is not empty intellectualism or mere sentimentality but complete dependence on the Lord Jesus. It is appropriating to yourself His work on the cross. Just as we take food into our being and depend entirely on it for physical life, so we need to take the Lord Jesus to ourselves and be united to Him in order to be saved. The metaphor of eating His flesh and drinking His blood is a vivid illustration of what faith is – complete dependence on Him, resting in Christ alone. He is the bread of life. To reject Him is to die eternally, whereas to believe Him is to live eternally – which will it be?
The words of the Lord Jesus always divide (Matthew 10:34). Even after He announced, ‘I am the bread of life’ (John 6:35), many did not believe. People today think that seeing is believing, but the Lord Jesus said, ‘you have seen me and yet do not believe’ (John 6:36). Though they had irrefutable evidence that He was the Son of God, they would not come to Him for eternal life. John gives the reason: ‘the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19). People reject the gospel, not for a lack of evidence, but because they love their sin. Will you let go of your sin, follow the evidence where it leads, and yield to the Lord Jesus Christ?