Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE BREAD OF LIFE”

John 6.1-59 

This morning I want to bring to you a very simple sermon from a very long text, so long that it would be impossible for us to read today. However, it is a text that many are somewhat familiar with, and easy enough to read when you get home. Turn in your Bible to John chapter six, my text being verses 1-59, but keeping your Bible open so you can look at a verse here and there along the way.

So that you can appreciate the flow of the passage, I should point out that verses 1-59 covers the better part of two days in our Lord’s earthly ministry, at four different locations. The chapter begins on what was likely a Thursday afternoon on the Northeastern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. We move from there to the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night, with the twelve apostles struggling to make headway against a fierce contrary wind. We then move quickly from the Lord’s appearance when He walked on water to the sudden arrival on the Northwestern shore. Our third location is on that Northwestern shoreline a short walk South of Capernaum, the narrative probably resuming several hours after their arrival and departure from the little fishing boat. Then the text ends with a conversation taking place in the synagogue located in Capernaum, likely that second evening, and meaning it was on a Friday with Sabbath beginning at sundown.

The chapter opens with the gathering crowd, the approach of late afternoon, hungry multitudes, and the miraculous feeding of 5,000 men and additional women and children from five loaves and two fishes. After feeding them bread and fish, the Lord dispatched His disciples to the far shore in what ordinarily would have taken a couple of hours at most. But the storm arose, and they rowed for some eight to ten hours without much progress before the arrival of the Savior by walking on water. Once on the shore near Capernaum, those from the far side began to arrive several hours later in boats that had come from Tiberias at the South end of the Sea of Galilee, some who had been fed by the Savior the afternoon before having been picked up, who arrived and wondered how He was able to get to Capernaum without a boat at His disposal. My guess is a dialogue between the Savior and the crowd that gathered on the second day began near Capernaum’s shore and continued for most of the day, concluding after they had all attended the synagogue Friday evening.

If you were an apostle, your previous day began over there, with your night spent rowing on the water until the Lord miraculously arrived, with your morning spent just down there, and the second evening concluding with your Master engaged in a discussion. If you met the Lord on the far side the day before, you got hungry in the late afternoon, were miraculously fed barley loaves and fish, watched the Lord send His apostles away in the only boat available, had a fitful sleep through the storm that night, with some of you coming across the next morning in the boats arriving from Tiberias to find the apostles there, surprisingly finding the also Lord there, and then engaging Him in conversation the rest of the day and into the night after worship in the synagogue.

If the auditorium is the Sea of Galilee, the piano is the Northeastern shore, and the front doors roughly correspond to Tiberias, with the organ being the shoreline near Capernaum. The apostles started there, took a long time to get here, arrived with the Lord in the boat here, and ended the second day here. On the first day, in the afternoon, the Lord fed the multitudes, and on the second day, He and some who arrived the second day by boat did some talking.

Important to us is what they talked about. What do you talk about with a man who works miracles and makes astonishing claims about Himself the day after He fed you and five thousand other hungry men, beginning with only five barley loaves and two small fish supplied by a little boy? How does such a conversation go? Because this passage is so long, the flow of the conversation and the context in which it takes place is sometimes missed. So, in this sermon, we will try to pay attention from this point onward only to the central conversation.

You will notice that the discussion they engaged in with the Lord Jesus Christ centers around bread. So I will make three comments related to the conversation they had about bread: 

First, THERE IS THE RECENT BREAD 

What do I mean by recent bread? By recent bread, I refer to yesterday’s bread. I refer to the astonishing miracle of feeding 5,000 men with five loaves and two fishes. They all saw it. None denied it. They had a great meal. What can be said about the recent bread? Three observations:

First, there was a need. There they are near the shore, late in the afternoon. All the convenience stores are closed. There isn’t a burger or salad to be had anywhere. And the region is sparsely populated, so trying to obtain food from homes in the area isn’t an option. The problem, of course, is that the men, the women, and certainly the children are getting hungry. There is a need for food. The need was certainly obvious to those who were hungry, but more importantly, the Lord Jesus Christ was aware of their need. He knew what they needed. They needed food, as Luke 9.12 reveals: 

“And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place.” 

Of course, victuals, if you are from Appalachia is pronounced vittles, is food. For the crowd to eat normally, they would have to leave, because there was no food to be had where they had gathered. The need existed and was perceived or felt. But the solution was not immediately apparent.

Fortunately, there was compassion. It is only in Matthew’s Gospel that we see mention made, not only of the Lord’s compassion for the multitudes but also of the sick that He healed on that occasion. Matthew 14.14: 

“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” 

The word translated “compassion” here is frequently translated “bowels” in the New Testament. We see it in Philemon, and I referred to it Wednesday night. It reveals the emotional component of our Lord Jesus Christ’s concern for and ministry to others. Thus, a portion of His motivation for what He did next was His emotional investment in those He ministered to. He cared. Let there be no confusion about that. He cared.

Then, of course, there was provision. Our Lord took the loaves and fishes from the lad Andrew brought to Him, gave thanks for the food, divided the small portions among the apostles, who then fed everyone there their fill with twelve baskets of food remaining, John 6.11-13. If you were tired and hungry, with no prospects of food, and someone fed you so much food in a miraculous fashion that you were stuffed, would you remember that great miracle the next day? That is recent bread. 

Next, THERE IS THE REMOTE BREAD 

It is now the next day, on the opposite shore, and here is how the conversation begins, John 6.28-31: 

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 

Again, three observations:

First, we recognize that for the children of Israel, a long time ago, there was a need. We will not take the time to read from Exodus and Numbers about the manna God provided for the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings for forty years, fourteen centuries earlier. Lest there be any doubt, Nehemiah 9.15 declares that God gave the children of Israel manna for their hunger. With such a large number of people traveling in a wilderness area, with the demands for food for so many people, the need for that remote bread, that manna, had to be great. Without bread, people would have died. For the children of Israel to eat they had to obtain food. But there was no food to be had where they had been brought by Moses. Their need existed and was perceived or felt. They knew they were hungry. But the solution was not immediately apparent.

To be consistent, we should once more ask if there was compassion. Oh, make no mistake about God’s compassion. Many have opinions about God’s compassion who have never cracked the Book. Sometimes translated “compassion” and other times translated “mercy” and “pity,” such is a major component of God’s dealings with His people. The primary Hebrew word used is found more than forty times in the Old Testament to refer to God’s compassion for His people.

And, of course, this compassion led to the provision of the manna. But notice what the Lord Jesus Christ is careful to point out to the men He was speaking to, John 6.32-34: 

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 

Making sure to focus their attention by beginning His comment with the words “Verily, verily,” He wants assurance His audience understands that it was not Moses who provided the manna the children of Israel ate for forty years, but His heavenly Father. As well, “my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.” Thus, there is physical bread, like manna and like the bread He had fed those same men the day before, and there is “the true bread from heaven.” Notice, also, in verse 33 He declares “the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven,” and that Individual mentioned “giveth life unto the world.” Of course, our Lord Jesus Christ was speaking of Himself. I get ahead of myself just a bit, but I want to point out to you the irony of those men’s thinking, paying no attention to the miracle of the bread they had eaten the day before while focusing their attention on the bread their ancestors had eaten more than a thousand years before. And this without making any connection between the two miracles, the one being worked by the God of Israel fourteen centuries earlier and the other being worked before their very eyes by the One standing before them, that they paid no attention to. Separated in time by considerably more than a thousand years, with loaves and fishes being a more tasty meal than manna, those Jewish men’s fixed their minds on the remote bread rather than the recent bread. I find that astonishing. That’s just weird. 

Then, THERE IS THE REAL BREAD 

Even more important was the failure of the men who talked with the Lord Jesus Christ to discern the difference between both the recent bread and the remote bread and the real bread. In verse 33 the Lord said, 

“For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” 

“Okay,” they said in essence, “Give it to us.” In the course of the ensuing conversation, the Lord said, 

“I am the bread of life,” 

verse 35, and 

“I am that bread of life,” 

again in verse 48. Three observations? Yes, three observations. This is a sermon of three observations:

First, let us observe that there is a need. It is a very different kind of need than one’s physical appetite. When you get hungry, you know it. Hunger gnaws at you and prompts your craving for food, tasty food, fulfilling food, nourishment for your physical body. Important to note, however, is that no matter how many times your need for physical bread is met you will still someday die. Remote bread, such as manna from heaven, and recent bread, such as loaves of barley, satisfies only temporarily. You remember the billboard visible to the westbound traffic on the 210 freeway some years back when cigarette advertisements were legal? One ad featured a young babe with bronze skin and hair like straw who seriously looked into the camera while holding a lit cigarette with smoke wafting skyward. She said, “Marlboro satisfies.” Really? If smoking a cigarette satisfies you would not want another one. In a few hours you invariably get hungry again. And no matter how many times you eat such bread you will eventually die. You know the difference between fat people and skinny people, don’t you? I can say this because I am fat. Skinny people eat when they get hungry, and fat people eat when they are not full anymore. Isn’t that a sad reality? But in both cases, food does not satisfy. Not really. And not for long. Such is the limitation of both remote bread and recent bread. The Lord Jesus Christ said to those men, in verse 49, 

“Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.” 

But notice what He said in verse 51, contrasting real bread, spiritual bread, living bread, with remote bread, merely physical bread: 

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” 

That’s good stuff. Because you have an eternal and undying soul, you are in far greater need of real bread than any such thing as remote bread or recent bread. You need far more than a great meal, or great meals throughout your life. You need such nourishment of your soul that you will live forever. Thus, your need is established, even if it is not perceived. You may not perceive your need, or be aware of it in any way. But it is the single greatest need your soul will ever have. And sadly, most people go through life not responding to the Gospel because they do not feel the need. How tragic. How sad.

Next, we ask if there is compassion. The Lord Jesus Christ was moved with compassion yesterday to work a miracle and feed 5,000 men as well as women and children. The God of Israel had been moved with compassion more than a thousand years earlier to feed His wandering people for forty years in the wilderness. Do I need to establish that our Lord Jesus Christ would have more compassion to meet eternal and spiritual needs than to provide a physical meal? I can do that. Did He not weep as He stood before the tomb of Lazarus? Prompted by compassion. Did He not weep as He entered Jerusalem on the foal of an ass? Prompted by His compassion. As well, children eagerly approached Him because they discerned that He was a man who cared. He had compassion. I hope that we are somewhat Christ-like in our ministry to children, whether we are involved in ministry to children or not, that we love them, that we care, that it breaks our hearts that their parents to not minister to the spiritual needs of their souls.

And, finally, we see that His compassion played a part in His provision. Though the Lord Jesus Christ does not specifically refer to His death, burial, and resurrection in our text, He most certainly does present Himself as the remedy for what ails us. He is the provision, the Bread of Life, that nourishes the soul. Verses 51-58: 

51  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

52  The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 

You know, there’s always somebody in the crowd who is just stupid. Just stupid. They take a comment to absurd and nonsensical ends. And they know better. It’s almost like watching cable news. 

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.

54  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

55  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

57  As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

58  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. 

You will notice that when confronted by the absurdity of some suggesting He was speaking of literally consuming His flesh, back in verse 52, our Lord does not even dignify such nonsense with an answer, but continues His figurative presentation of Himself as the spiritual nourishment of the soul that provides eternal life. 

Don’t get hung up on eating His flesh and drinking His blood as a statement. The Lord Jesus Christ was not advocating cannibalism, which is a sin by the way. He was using figurative language that a couple of dullards took far too literally.

Here is what we have in summation: He worked a miracle to provide physical nourishment to fulfill the need that hunger be satisfied. The next day He faced a group who had witnessed the miracle the previous day, who made mention of the miracle God worked in feeding the children of Israel manna, yet who did not seem to make the connection between Him feeding them the day before and God feeding their ancestors long ago. The miracles of feeding hungry people with bread are miracles only God works. Hello! And yet they did not make the connection.

Thus, the spiritual blindness and dullness of the multitudes is illustrated. He then goes on to point out that even those who ate the manna provided by God eventually died. One needs more than nourishment for his body. You need spiritual nourishment for your soul. You need something that is soul-satisfying and eternal life providing. That can only be provided by the Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To review, over two days, four different locations, a conversation resulted in which bread is related to miracles three times. Recently, the Lord worked a miracle to multiply bread (along with fish) to feed a multitude. Remotely, the next day the crowd seemed to ignore the previous day’s miracle to bring up the issue of God providing bread more than a thousand years earlier. Remote in time, so they didn’t have to deal with the implications personally. However, in both cases, the bread that was miraculously provided and eaten would eventually result in death. Only the third bread, only the Bread of Life, only the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, could so profoundly meet a man’s needs that once the Bread of Life is consumed, ingested, is assimilated by faith, he will live forever.

Our congregation has been considerably thinned this morning by Providence. Is this a message that is particularly needed by you? A person can have pancreatic cancer that will kill him before he has any pain, any discomfort, any disruption of lifestyle. So, does that man have a great need he is unaware of?

I submit that you are in need of the Bread of Life that will nourish your soul. Have you eaten the Bread of Life? Have you trusted Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinful men’s souls? If not why not? And if not now, when?

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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