I must admit I have always found it rather strange for Jesus to say that he was the bread of life. I just couldn’t quite work out the point he was trying to make. When we look at this statement in isolation it is a bit weird, but when it is put into the context of the chapter it starts to become clearer.
This classic Jesus statement comes after he feeds 5000 people with just a few fish and bread rolls. Is this what Jesus is talking about when he says “I am the bread of life”? And if so why doesn’t he mention the fish?
Between the feeding and his statement is a bit of a strange event. Jesus walks across the Sea of Galilee. Is Jesus just showing off now? It would have been just as easy to sail. Does this have anything to do with Jesus’ statement?
In both cases I think the answer is yes. When I look at the feeding and the walking on water, I cannot help but be reminded of another Biblical story. I can only assume that his listeners would have too.
The story of the Exodus is one of the most significant stories in the whole Bible. It is literally the telling of how God delivered his people from the hand of oppressive Pharaoh and brought them to the edge of The Promised Land. I imagine that most would see the ten plagues as being the main miracles in the book but this is not really the case. These are more of a showdown between God and the gods of Egypt. I think the two major miracles are walking through the Red Sea and the manna in the wilderness. In other words they are miracles of God’s deliverance and sustaining.
I see a connection in these two episodes. When Jesus feeds the people the bread and fish it is as though he is giving them manna. When he walks across the water it is like he is re-enacting the crossing of the Red Sea. So what does all of this mean? When Jesus then says “I am the bread of life” he is saying that he is doing the very same thing as God did – delivering and sustaining. But his promise is bigger. He isn’t preparing them to enter the Promised Land but eternal life. The message is for us. Take courage when you feel the oppressiveness of your fallen nature. Jesus will deliver you. Take courage when you journey through the desolate places of life. Jesus will sustain you.