JOHN 6: Bread from Heaven

CommunionBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35 ESV).

It is ironic that someone born in Bethlehem, which is Hebrew for house (beth) of bread (lehem), should be famous for performing the miracle of breaking bread!  Adding to irony is that the miracle of feeding the five thousand should occur during Passover (v 4) and the bread was barley loaf (v 9).  Because barley is a poor person’s bread, this miracle takes the appearance of a peasant revolt.  Jesus will have nothing to do with it and leaves (v 15).

Jesus’ teaching and the miracle of the bread have both messianic and covenantal implications which are linked.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3).  Moses is linked to God’s provision of manna in the desert (v 32) and to the crossing of the Red Sea.  In an obvious parallel, Jesus likewise feeds the five thousand (v 11) and walks on water (v 19)1.

John’s references to communion here are unmistakable.  Jesus says: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (v 53).  The link to Passover makes this passage look like a Galilee Passover rehearsal for the Last Supper in Jerusalem.  Later in chapter 17, however, John focuses on Jesus’ intercessory prayer, not a covenantal meal, like in Luke 22:20.  What is interesting about all this is that John’s covenantal meal involves Jesus feeding hungry people (outsiders) rather than his disciples (insiders).

The reference in verse 35 where Jesus says, I am the bread of life, is the first of seven famous “I AM” references in John’s Gospel.  The others are I am:  the light of the world (John 8:12), the gate for the sheep (John 10:7), the good shepherd (John 10:11), the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6), and the true vine (John 15:1)[1].  Each sentence is significant because it begins with “I AM”, the covenant name of God given to Moses (Exodus 3:15).  The implication is that these are the character traits of God himself.

Which of these character traits are most meaningful to you?

[1] Gary M. Burge.  2000.  The NIV Application Commentary:  John.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, pages 194,199.


How was your week?  Do you have anything about your week that you would like to share? Do you have any thoughts about last week’s lesson?

Quote References
I am the bread of life… John 6:35, 41, 48, 51
I am the light of the world… John 8:12,18, 23
I am the gate for the sheep… John 10:7, 9
I am the good shepherd… John 10:11, 14
I am the resurrection and the life… John 11:25
I am the way and the truth and the life… John 14:6
I am the true vine… John 15:1, 5
Source:  Gary M. Burge.  2000.  The NIV Application Commentary:  John.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, page 199.
  1. Where and when does this chapter take place? (vv 1-4)
  2. Why does Jesus ask about bread for the people (vv 4-5; Exodus 12:17)
  3. Why does Andrew bring a boy with his lunch? (vv 8-9) (John 1:36-40)
  4. What is the significance of the bread being made of barley? (v 9)
  5. How did the people interpret the many fragments of bread? What parallel comes to mind with the bread miracle?  (vv 12-14; vv 31-32Exodus 16:35;)
  6. Why do the people want to make Jesus king? What does Jesus do? (v 15)
  7. What is the parallel that comes to mind in the walking on water incident? (vv 16-21; Exodus 14:21)
  8. What is Jesus’ teaching about bread? (v 35)  What was the reaction? (vv 41-42)
  9. What is significant about John’s reference to communion in verse 53? Who takes part here?  Who takes part in Luke 22:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-28?
  10. 10.What is the response to Jesus’ conversation about communion?  (v 66)
  11. 11.In particular, how do you interpret verse 65?
  12. 12.What is Peter’s response? (v 68)

JOHN 6: Bread from Heaven

Also see:

JOHN 7: Living Water 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

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