In many cultures, bread has been long regarded as the ultimate staple food. This includes the Jewish culture Jesus lived in when He taught his followers to ask for God’s provision by praying for “our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). And in ancient China, a proverb advised, “When you have two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.” Even in the contemporary United States we still refer to someone who provides the resources to support a family as a “breadwinner.”
In our reading today, Jesus uses the image of bread, the ultimate staple, to describe Himself as the “bread that came down from heaven” (v. 41). This heavenly bread differs from earthly bread in many respects. Perhaps most of all, earthly bread alone is insufficient to sustain life. As Deuteronomy 8:3 reminds us, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” In Jesus, however, we find spiritual bread made from the one who is the Word of God (see John 1:1). The spiritually lifegiving power of this bread thus knows no bounds: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (v. 51).
But how are we to eat this bread? Much like earthly bread, which we must welcome into our bodies so it might become part of us, so too we must welcome Jesus, the bread of life, into our lives so He can strengthen and transform us. This means above all believing that Jesus was who He said He was: the Son of God (see John 19:7; 20:31). Despite the spiritual provision Jesus represents, many responded by “grumbling” (v. 43). If that describes us, it’s time to stop grumbling and start receiving.
If you have never welcomed Jesus into your life, you can do so today by confessing your trust in Him and believing that on the last day He will raise up those who come to Him (v. 45). If you are a believer, are there areas of your life that He does not yet fully rule? Welcome Him into those areas, believing that He brings life-giving power.