The Wonder of His NameBread of Life
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks, where do you turn for satisfaction?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you ever find yourself living, striving, working for “food that perishes,” substitutes for Jesus, things that don’t really matter? Are you satisfied to have your physical and your temporal needs, but maybe ignoring the eternal needs of your soul?
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, March 25.
Nancy’s in the series, “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus.” Yesterday she unpacked the name I AM. If you missed it, you can hear yesterday’s program at ReviveOurHearts.com.
For the next several sessions, we’ll look at some of the names that accompany that phrase, “I AM.”
Nancy recorded this program at Grace Community Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, part of the Revive Tour.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we come to the Gospel of John in the New Testament, we find seven “I AM” titles for Jesus. And those titles speak to us about how Jesus is God, the great I AM, Jehovah, the Lord. He who revealed Himself to Moses and to His people in the Old Testament, has come to earth. Jesus is God incarnate the great I AM.
As we look at these I AM names of Jesus we see that Jesus is not only God with us, but He is all that we need. He is the all-sufficient one. He is Light in the darkness. He is a Shepherd to lead and feed and guide us. Whatever we need, He is.
Now as we look at these I AM names over the next several days keep in mind that the point of it all is not the gifts He gives us, but Jesus—who He is to us. We’re going to look at several of these names starting today with the Bread of Life. “I am the Bread of Life,” Jesus says.
Now in ancient times and still in many parts of the world, bread is considered a basic staple for sustaining life. People made it every day, fresh bread, and it was an essential part of their diet. They couldn’t live without it. It was a necessity. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “the staff of life”? That speaks of that which supports us—bread—it’s necessary for survival. You’ve heard the phrase “bread and butter.” That means what’s your main source of sustenance. Or we talk about money or cash as “bread or dough.” It’s what you need to live on, right? Bread.
Well, in the Scripture, bread points to our basic spiritual needs—what we can’t live without, what is necessary to sustain life. It also points to God’s provision for our needs and God’s presence to fill us and sustain us.
The first mention of bread in the Bible is found in Genesis chapter 3 where God says to Adam that one of the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit is that the ground will be cursed. There would be pain and labor and hardship and sorrow and toil. And He says in verse 19 of Genesis 3: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” In other words, it’s going to be hard work to just support yourself, to just sustain yourself as a result of sin.
Then you remember how in Exodus chapter 16 as the Israelites came out of Egypt and were led by God into the wilderness, how they grumbled against Moses and grumbled against God. And they said, “When we were in Egypt,” which for hundreds of years they had been longing to get out of Egypt. But now they are looking back wistfully at Egypt, and they’re saying, “When we were in Egypt, we had meat and we ate bread to the full. You have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (v. 3). They were so focused on their basic physical needs, and they grumbled when those needs weren’t provided as they wished.
And so God says in verse 4 of Exodus 16: “You want bread? I’ll give you bread. I will ‘rain bread from heaven for you . . . in the morning you shall be filled with bread . . .’ Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God” (vv. 4, 12). And God so graciously provided bread for His people. They called it “manna.”
Daily for next forty years, God sent this manna from heaven, bread from heaven, till they were in Promised Land and could plant and sow and reap harvest there. And that manna, that bread from heaven was a daily reminder that Jehovah was their Source. He was their Provider, and they were dependent on Him to meet their needs.
Then we come to the Tabernacle in the Book of Exodus. You remember how each week twelve fresh loaves of bread, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, would be placed on a table in the Holy Place. If you have the King James or the New King James version, those loaves are called the Showbread. In our more modern translations it’s translated literally the Bread of the Presence. The Bread of the Presence.
Those twelve loaves were placed on that table, the table of the Showbread, the table of the Presence of God. It was a picture. Those loaves were a picture of God’s desire to have fellowship, communion with His people and that He was their nourishment that they needed His presence to live each day.
Now bread in the Old Testament as is true with so many other things, is a type that was intended to point us to Jesus. So let me ask you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John chapter 6. John chapter 6 and we are going to look at this first of seven I AM statements found in the gospel of John as Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”
John chapter 6, let’s begin in verse 2. "A large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick." They saw these miracles, these signs that Jesus did. And then the next paragraph, verses 5–13, is the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus does yet another miracle.
Actually, there were probably about 20,000 people there when you add in wives and children. And Jesus did this miracle of providing food for the crowd. They ate their fill and there were twelve baskets of bread left over. I wonder if that is a connection to the twelve loaves in the tabernacle, the bread of the presence of God.
So turn to verse 14: “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world.'” The promised Messiah told about in Deuteronomy. So here’s Jesus with His popularity skyrocketing. The people were enamored with the signs, the miracles. They believed that He was this promised Prophet who would come, they thought, to deliver them from the hated Romans.
And so verse 15 tells us that they wanted to make Him king. “Let’s crown Him right now and get rid of these Romans.” Of course they didn’t want that for long. By the by end of chapter, as we’ll see in a few moments, Jesus has gone in their minds from hero to zero. It doesn’t take long.
But let’s continue in the passage. That night, Jesus walks on the water to get to the other side of Sea of Galilee—another sign, another miracle. And the next day, the crowd sees that Jesus is gone, so they get into boats and head across the lake to Capernaum, where Jesus now is and they go looking for Jesus.
Verse 26 of John chapter 6: “Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.'” This crowd had first followed Jesus, as we read early in the chapter, for the miracles. Then they had followed Him for the meal—the bread. But this is a crowd of curious people, not converted people. They were impressed with Jesus, but they weren’t ready to invest their lives with Jesus.
Their relationship with Jesus, as we’ll see in this chapter, was about as meaningful as Facebook “likes” or Twitter “followers.” It means nothing. You can have thousands of “followers,” thousands of “likes” from people you’ve never met, people you have no idea who they are. This is a crowd that was fickle. You know, you can “un-follow” as easily as you can “follow” in Twitter, right? They were fickle. They had no commitment. They wanted Jesus for what they could get from Him and what He could do for them. By the way, unfortunately, that’s the way a lot of churches have been built in our era. Sensational programs, activities, celebrities, anything to draw a crowd.
But Jesus says, “You followed me first for the miracles, then you followed me for the meal.” Then He says in verse 27:
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.
Now, just by the way here, Jesus is not saying don’t work for a living because elsewhere in the Scripture we read if you don’t work, you don’t eat. But what He does mean is don’t let temporal things, like food, bread, stuff, don’t let temporal things dominate your attention or steal your affection. Don’t work for those things.
Do you ever find yourself living, striving, working for “food that perishes,” substitutes for Jesus, things that don’t really matter? Are you satisfied to have your physical and your temporal needs meet but maybe ignoring the eternal needs of your soul? Maybe satisfied to meet your children’s temporal physical needs. You are a good mom. You’re going to make sure they’re clothed and fed and to school and to ball practice. But are you paying attention to the issues of their hearts?
And where do you turn for satisfaction, for fulfillment, for nourishment? Do you turn to games, movies, novels, shopping, food, exercise, people? There’s nothing wrong with all those things. But is that where you’re looking to get the innermost needs of your heart satisfied? If you are, then that’s food that’s going to perish. It’s not going to last. It won’t satisfy for long.
Verse 28: “Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?'” Okay, these were people who were always, like us, wanting a to-do list—rules that they could keep to please God. Verse 29:
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God [it’s not anything that you must do] that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (vv. 29–31).
Now hold on a second here. They want a sign? Just less than twenty-four hours earlier, Jesus had miraculously fed some 20,000 people with a boy’s lunch and they say, “Give us a sign”? Verse 32:
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you [not just gave you back then, but gives you now] the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is [not an "it," it’s He] he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vv. 32–33).
The Bread of God is a person. It’s Jesus. And Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament type of the Bread of the Presence, the manna from heaven. That manna was temporary bread. It perished every twenty-four hours. It spoiled. It didn’t last. But it pointed to the Bread that lasts forever, to Jesus.
So verse 34: “They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” This attests to the fact that in the human heart there is a spiritual hunger. It reminds me of the Samaritan woman a chapter earlier who said to Jesus, “Give me this living water so I won’t thirst again.” (see John 4) There’s this longing in the human heart to have that which is eternal. And verse 35:
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. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe” (vv. 35–36).
Jesus was claiming to be the one and only source and sustainer of life. He’s saying, “You can’t live without Me. I am absolutely essential—not an optional add-on or a category of your life.” He is not one of many religions. He is exclusive, the one and only Bread of Life. And He said, “Receiving Me is necessary for eternal life, just as receiving bread is necessary for sustaining physical life.”
So you’d think they would have been pretty excited about this, huh? Just like you think everybody in this world would be excited about Jesus when they hear that He is the living Bread who gives life to those who believe in Him. Look at verse 41:
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (41–42).
Remind you of some grumbling you know about in the Old Testament? Before and after God sent this manna from heaven, the Jews grumbled. They murmured at Moses. They grumbled at God when He sent this manna from heaven. And here now, they’re grumbling when Jesus claims to be the bread sent by God from heaven. Why were they grumbling? Because they knew that He was making Himself equal with God. And they considered that claim blasphemous.
You see this contest going on between Jesus and the Pharisees over and over again through the gospels. They did not and they would not believe in Jesus, that He was who He said He was. And they were angered by His insistence that the only way they could have life was to believe that He was who He said He was. And that’s exactly what makes people angry today when you say that Jesus is the only way—the only way to have eternal life.
Verse 47, "Truly I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Jesus doesn’t back down. He doesn’t tame His claims for those who don’t believe in Him.
I am the bread of life. [He says it again.] Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread [I am the Bread who] comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven (vv. 47–51).
In case you didn’t get it. He’s just saying it over and over again. “I am the bread.” And as we share Jesus, we have to just compassionately and graciously and winsomely keep saying, “It’s all about Jesus. He is the Life. You may not believe in Him but He is still the Life, the bread of Life.”
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (v 51).
The bread that God provided to sustain His people physically in the Old Testament could not make them live forever because the wages of sin is death. But that bread in the Old Testament, that manna, that Bread of the Presence was intended to point them and us to the living Bread who gives us spiritual, eternal life.
Now that means that there is a life and death issue here when we talk about Jesus. In fact, that word “life” or “live” or “living” is found eighteen times in this one chapter, John 6. This is a matter of life and death. If you eat this bread, you live forever. If you don’t eat this bread, you die.
Well, look at verse 60: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'" These were disciples. Maybe that term should be in quotes. They were kind of like those Facebook “likes” and Twitter “followers.” They loved the miracles; they loved the meals; they loved the mechanics of “religion”—what shall we do to work the works of God. But when the Master said that He had to be their one and only life, that there was no life apart from Him—not so much. They resented, they resisted the claims of Christ. They refused to believe in Him, to rely exclusively on Him.
The essence of sin is that we want to rely on something or someone other than God—other than Jesus. And I’ll tell you what a lot of religious people do. They’re relying on themselves—their own good works, their own efforts. And Jesus says, “No, you cannot live that way. You can only live if you come to Me and believe.”
Well, verse 66: “After this many of his [so called “disciples,” Facebook “followers,” Twitter “followers”] disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” Jesus’ claims seriously thinned out the crowd. They had been following Him for the wrong reasons—even some who appeared to be true followers. And when it came down to Jesus claiming who He was, they said, “No. We can’t go that far. We’re not going there.”
As John Piper has said, “They were excited about bread as their pleasure, not Christ as their Treasure.” People want all the good things God can give them, but they don’t want Jesus. They don’t want to humble themselves. They don’t want to say, “We can’t live without Him. We have to have Him.” They say, "No, we want Jesus plus—plus church, plus work, plus religion, plus happiness, plus . . ."
And Jesus said, “No. It’s got to be Me. I am the only One who can sustain you and give life.” So, verse 67:
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 67–69).
Some did believe. Some were more than Facebook “likes” and Twitter “followers.” They believed. They staked their lives on this truth.
And so we have to eat or partake of Christ, the Bread of Life. That means to come to Him, to believe in Him, to cease relying on ourselves for eternal life, to acknowledge that there is no other way to live, to acknowledge that He is our daily bread, our sustenance, our life, our nourishment, our provision, to feed on Him.
You’ve heard it said, “You are what you eat.” And as we feed on Jesus in His Word and on Jesus the Living Word, the Bread of Life we become like Him. We’re changed into His likeness.
Now, if you’re gorging yourself on junk food, you’re not going to have much appetite for the Bread of Life. Jesus will seem boring. His Word will seem boring. One pastor has said it this way:
If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the Glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.
Do you long for more of Jesus? Do you hunger for more of Him? Do you feel your need for “daily bread”? Not just on Sundays, not just at a recording session like this, but every day? Or are you satisfied to be entertained with religion, but not to feed on Jesus? John Piper has said, “If we don't want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.” To have come to Him in faith is to recognize your desperate daily need for Him.
Do you remember how the Jews in the Old Testament had to gather that manna daily? That’s how often we need Him. We need to feed on Him and His Word daily by faith, and so we pray, “Give us this day our daily Bread. Give me Jesus. Give me His Word. I have to have it to live.”
Now, just as a reminder, as we close, and that is this. For us to have that eternal life, Jesus, the Bread of Life, had to be broken and die. Remember the feeding of 5000, how He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and then the disciples gave the bread to the crowds.
And then at the Last Supper we read: “As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it [He] broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’” (Matt. 26:26). A picture of what was to happen within just a matter of hours as His body would be broken there on Calvary so that the hunger of the world could be fed.
And so, “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread . . . [He] broke it, and [He] said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'” (1 Cor. 11:23–24).
Leslie: Aren’t you thankful for the Bread of Life? That teaching from Nancy Leigh DeMoss is part of a series called “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus.”
If you feel like you now understand a lot better what it means that Jesus is the Bread of Life, imagine how well you’ll know your Savior as you explore thirty-two of His names.
Nancy’s written about all these names in a new book, also called The Wonder of His Name. You’ll fall in love with Jesus all over again—or maybe even for the first time—as you get to know Him through these names.
We’ll send the book when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Just visit