What Did Jesus Mean When He Said "I Am the Bread of Life"?
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35).
God is our Provider, and Jesus is the Bread of Life. John recorded Jesus’ promise that all who freely accept this bread will no longer hunger. The first of the “I am” statements of Jesus, which solidify His nature as fully God and fully man is “I am the bread of life,” which describes the way we find full satisfaction in and through Christ alone.
“God is the supplier of divine bread,” explains the NIV Commentary, “and whoever eats of it will live forever.” Every word Jesus spoke on earth carried precise weight and meaning. This important note of Scripture defines our need to trust the Living Word to satisfy our physical bodies, heart and soul.
The Meaning of "I am the Bread of Life" in John 6:35
John begins his gospel account with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Manna was the miraculous bread given to the Israelites as they traveled through the desert. Enough was given to them to satisfy their hunger for the day. If they kept any for the next day, it would spoil with worms. Jesus overturned traditional Jewish beliefs by referring to Himself as the bread of life.
Jewish leaders also referred to bread, or manna, as spiritual food. In this text, John records Jesus explaining He is the Bread of Life, the very Word of God made flesh. “As the people yearned for the heavenly bread and as the rabbis reinterpreted this bread to mean the wisdom or life-sustaining presence of God,” the NIV Application Commentary explains, “so now Jesus is that precious gift.”
“The day before Jesus said these things, he had fed a crowd of 5,000 people with loaves and fish,” explained Jon Bloom for desiring God. “Not since the days of manna had a prophet provided miracle bread like that.” Jesus was now proclaiming to be Manna Himself, writes Trevin Wax. Not only is God Provider for our physical needs, but His Word made flesh satisfies the needs of our souls.
The Greek word used to describe the eating of the bread “uses the Greek aorist tense: It is a singular event, a decision to believe and appropriate the gift of eternal life” (NIV Application Commentary). The Greek root of the word bread refers specifically to the manna in the desert, but also to food of any kind. Paul wrote about our strength coming from Christ, and Scripture echoes that the purpose of our lives is to honor and bring glory to God in all we do.
Why Would Jesus Use the Analogy of Bread for Himself?
Jesus spoke in terms, parables, and analogies most could understand. Especially in the light of Passover, He knew the Jewish leaders and God’s people would understand His reference to bread. Their understanding of exactly what He meant, however, was divinely appointed. Through the relation of hunger, a physical need, Jesus explained the recalculation of our every desire -not just for physical food but spiritual - to be satisfied in Him.
The Israelites in the desert were required to trust God daily for manna, their literal daily bread. Jesus is imploring believers to put full confidence in Him, trusting He will provide wisdom that leads to true satisfaction. He is the only way to the Father.
Jesus’ earthly life was dedicated to executing the will of His Father. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “have the same mindset as Christ, who: being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His advantage” (Philippians 2:5-7). Christ took on human skin and was crucified to eliminate the separation between God and His people. The NIV Application Commentary explains, “the idea is not about Jesus’ welcoming people, but about Jesus’ welcoming people whom the Father has given into his care.”
Photo credit: Pexels/Mariana Kurnyk
Is This Verse Found in Other Gospels or Only John?
“I am the bread of life” (John 6:48).
Found only in John’s gospel, this phrase is repeated twice more, part of a bigger text and even larger prophetic fulfillment of the seven “I am” statements of Jesus. John also recorded Jesus words: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
These statements were not easy for listeners of Jesus’ message to hear. It was not only the Jewish leaders who took offense at some of the things Jesus was claiming, but also His followers. He lost many followers as He spoke on this subject.
What Should Christ Followers Take Away from This Verse?
“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27).
John’s prose reminds Christ followers where our strength and sustenance comes from, both physically and spiritually. In Christ and God-willing, we are able to see and understand notes of Scripture, and life around us, through godly perspective and in tune with divine purpose. “The darkness of the world is so severe that God alone must penetrate it in order to free people to see Jesus clearly,” writes the NIV Application Commentary.
We should take this verse as a reminder to seek Him first, and trust we will be satisfied through obedience to His Word and calling on our lives. Our faith is anchored in grace, requiring no legalistic accolades or accomplishments. But from hearts seeking Christ, grace and love flow. “Jesus came into the world to change your desires so that he would be your main desire,” explained John Piper.
When we celebrate the Last Supper through communion, we are reinstating our trust in God, and our need for Him to satisfy our souls. “God must move the inner heart of a person before he or she can see the things of God. And this takes place on God’s initiative” NIV Application Commentary. Christ came to eliminate the separation we all have from God before we accept Christ as our Savior. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Him.
The Living Word, Jesus in this one statement describes our need for Him, and the hope we find in Him to be fully satisfied by our Creator - the One True God. These words recorded by the apostle John lead us forward in obedient hope. He who heals every ailment and provides for every need will be faithful. Jesus, The Bread of Life, fully satisfies our every hunger.
NIV Application Commentary, Gary M. Burge, 2000.
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at Joy Overflowing and Sunny&80. She is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team as Editor of Christian Headlines. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.