John 6:35

Sermon preached on September 29, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

During dinner at presbytery last week the wife of the pastor of the host church mentioned how her son had been injured in a construction accident. She said that he had somehow triggered a staple gun that drove a staple into his knee. She was lamenting about how long his knee was taking to get better. As we were commiserating with her there was a young guy sitting across the table from us. I believe it was his first time at presbytery. When he sat down he introduced himself by his initials— "RJ" or something like that. He was dressed very casually, and from how he looked, perhaps just a bit untidy, one could have concluded that he was also a construction worker. None of us knew anything about him. But he said he knew what her son was going through. He went on to say how a few years ago he was on a mission trip to South America and how he had a little fall and hit his knee on the concrete floor. He said it bothered him for two or three years before it got better. He went on to say a few more things about the knee and that knee injuries take a long time to heal. I'm not sure what prompted it, but I think he got the impression that we weren't really paying attention to what he was saying—so he stopped and said,

"I know what I'm talking about, I'm a family physician."

That changed things. At that point we all paid more attention to what he was saying. The fact that he told us he was a doctor gave him more credibility, as before that we all thought he was just some young guy relating a personal experience.

If someone is truthful, what they tell you about themselves can be very revealing and teach you about how you should relate to them. The other evening I met a lady who works at SUNY. She said that she was at work one day when this man came in and greeted her and shook her hand. It was like he was introducing himself. I don't know the details, if he was by himself or with a small group, but the way I pictured it was that she was at her desk and this gentleman came in and was all friendly and shook her hand. But the thing was, she had no idea who he was. I don't know if he had told her his name and that didn't ring a bell with her, or if he forgot to tell her his name because he assumed she knew who he was. She had no idea who this gentleman was. So she asked him,

"And you are?"

He then informed her that he was the president of SUNY. She went on to talk about how nice he was. Some college presidents might have been taken back by the fact that someone didn't know who they were—but this president wasn't. He was introducing himself (presumably) to start a relationship, a good relationship so that she would know him and if a problem came up she would, if necessary, be able to go to him with it.

In John 6 Jesus is telling people who He is. Jesus came to this earth in a way that hid very important aspects of His glory. There were many testimonies to it, from the angels who announced His birth, to the wise men who came and worshiped Him and the incident on the Mount of Transfiguration where James, Peter and John saw some of His glory. But those were brief and localized testimonies—most people didn't see them. To them, Jesus appeared to be a very normal human being.

But Jesus here is telling them that He is much more than that. What He says here is one of seven "I am" sayings of Jesus. This morning we are going to look at what Jesus said in verse 35.

"Then Jesus declared,
'I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me
will never go hungry,
and he who believes in me
will never be thirsty."

Jesus is the bread of life. This is an incredible truth that has great implications for us and how we should live.

The first thing we should notice about this statement is that Jesus draws people's attention to it.

He indicated to them that what He was saying was extremely important.

The words that begin the phrase, "I am the bread of life" are very interesting. Normally, in Greek, it would be just one word. Greek verbs have different endings to differentiate between 'I am, he is, she is, they are' etc. All that information is contained in the verb. So you only need one word to say that in the Greek. But in our text Jesus says, "I, I am…" The first word is the emphatic personal pronoun, "I" followed by the verb "I am". It is unusual and striking. It gives it emphasis.

Do you want to know who Jesus is? Do you want to know who He claimed to be? If so, you should pay attention to these seven statements in John. They are very important.

Many people today will tell you that Jesus never claimed to be God. That His disciples distorted His teaching after his death. They want you to believe that Jesus was not divine, that He didn't claim to be divine and that you shouldn't believe it.

But nothing could be further from the truth. The only way that people can believe that is if they ignore or disbelieve what the New Testament actually says. Since the New Testament has the only eye witness accounts of Jesus— if they reject it what they have to do to replace it is just speculate, make stuff up.

But if you take the New Testament at what it says, Jesus did claim to be from God. Indeed, these "I am" statements are best understood in light of what Jesus said in John 8. We read, (John 8:56–58)

"Your father Abraham rejoiced
at the thought of seeing my day;
he saw it and was glad.'
You are not yet fifty years old,'
the Jews said to him,
'and you have seen Abraham!'
'I tell you the truth,'
Jesus answered,
'before Abraham was born, I am!' "

Jesus' words there are incredible, astounding. Before Abraham existed, Jesus claims to have existed. His existence both predates and postdates Abraham. Jesus claims something no ordinary human being could claim. He is claiming pre-existence. As John wrote in John 1:1-4,

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made
that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men."

John is claiming that Jesus is God. And that's what Jesus does in John 8. Iain Campbell writes, (Campbell, Iain D (2011-12-19). I Am: Exploring the 'I am' sayings of John's Gospel (Kindle Locations 66-78).

"By describing himself as the pre-existent 'I am', Jesus is identifying himself with the way in which God revealed himself in the Old Testament. When Moses was confronted with the burning bush in the wilderness and the voice of God spoke to him, commissioning him to confront Pharaoh with the demand to let his people go, Moses asked, 'What is your name?' God, in that grand moment of self-disclosure and self-revelation, declares: 'I AM who I AM' (Exodus 3: 14). God continues: 'Say this to the people of Israel: "I AM has sent me to you."' Here is the God of the Bible: he is the eternal, unchangeable, glorious God whose name is I AM. And now Jesus applies that designation to himself. So in the context of the grand Christ of John's Gospel, John picks up these seven distinct sayings of Jesus, all of which expand on the name of Jehovah, the name I AM, the name that belongs to Jesus because he is the God of the Old Testament. The descriptions are linked to the designation 'I AM', and the designation belongs properly to Jehovah. The seven sayings, then, are rooted and grounded in this revelation, and go on to employ a metaphor, or figurative language, to answer the question: 'Who are you, Jesus?' He is the great I AM who exists from eternity to eternity, and yet comes into our world and says, 'I am the bread of life, the light of the world, the true vine', and so on. These seven sayings are full and deep and rich with meaning and significance."

We see this truth expanded a little in our text. Jesus said,

I am the bread of life.

Jesus sustains us, gives us life. At the beginning of John 6 we saw that Jesus fed the 5000 with a few loaves and fish. A large crowd started following Him and He tells them who He is and what He does.

We know from Colossians 1 that Jesus created us and gives us physical life. Colossians 1:17 says,

"in him all things hold together."

But here He's speaking more in a spiritual sense. In verse 51 Jesus said,

"I am the living bread
that came down from heaven.
If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.
This bread is my flesh,
which I will give for the life of the world."

John Calvin writes,

"Christ is the bread by which our souls must be fed…"

"The simple doctrine is, 'Our souls do not live by an intrinsic power, so to speak, that is, by a power which they have naturally in themselves, but borrow life from Christ.' "

Iain D. Campbell writes,

"Just as bread is the staple diet of our natural life, there is something here that is fundamentally important for our spiritual life, and for our life in the presence of God. Without it we perish and die of hunger, our souls starve and there is nothing to nourish and fill us. If we fill our lives with anything else, it is junk food compared with this food: this is the food that brings life and vitality and health."

It means that Christ, spiritually, is our nourishment, our source of life. In Colossians 3:3–4 the apostle Paul wrote,

"For you died, and your life
is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also
will appear with him in glory."

There are four things this means.

First of all, for Christians, this means that

you need to rely on Jesus.

You need to be daily feeding on Him. You need to be reading His Word, you need to be praying to Him, you need to be using all the means of grace. It's grace you need and it only comes though Jesus. He is your life, your source of life, the sustaining power in your life. He protects you. He keeps you. He gives you strength. As He said in John 15:5,

"I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."

Secondly, for unbelievers, this means that

you need Jesus.

Even though you may think you're alive right now, in a very real way you're dead. In Ephesians 2:1 Paul says of the Ephesian Christians before they came to know Christ,

"As for you, you were dead
in your transgressions and sins,"

They were dead spiritually.

Lots of people today describe themselves as very 'spiritual' people. But if you don't have Jesus, you aren't spiritual. There's no spiritual life without Him. In verse 58 Jesus said about Himself,

"This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Your forefathers ate manna and died,
but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

Iain D. Campbell writes,

"By describing himself as the bread of heaven, Jesus is reminding me that I must have him if I am to have life."

Lots of people today think that they don't need Jesus. Some high school graduates from Christian families go to university and they soon decide that they don't need Jesus. They're among smart people and many of those smart people tell them that they don't need Jesus. So they leave Him behind. Some other people become rich. They have access to many of the good things of this world. They became sophisticated having everything they wanted. They think that they don't need Jesus. They couldn't be more wrong.

There's no real life without Jesus. Without Jesus you don't have life. In another of the seven 'I am' sayings, Jesus said, (John 14:6)

"I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."

In John 10:10 Jesus said about His people,

"I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full."

It's only in Jesus that we have life. You must believe in Jesus. In John 20:31 John told us why He wrote His gospel.

"But these are written that
you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that by believing
you may have life in his name."

Iain D. Campbell writes,

"It was through eating that we lost communion with God: Adam ate forbidden food and all mankind fell into sin. And it is also by eating the bread of God's providing that life and vitality are restored to our souls. If we do not eat, we die in our sins."

The third thing that follows from our text is that

Jesus satisfies.

The end of verse 35 says,

"He who comes to me will never go hungry,
and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

In verse 30 and 31 we see that the people wanted to see another miracle so they would believe. They tell Jesus that their forefathers ate the manna in the desert.

But of course the manna didn't satisfy the rabble. So Jesus tells them that He gives the true bread from heaven, which gives life to the world. (verse 33) John Calvin writes,

"The meaning therefore is, 'Whoever shall betake himself to Christ, to have life from him, will want nothing, but will have in abundance all that contributes to sustain life.' "

R. Kent Hughes, (John: That You May Believe, Preaching the Word; p. 206)

"Jesus is 'the bread of life.' He is our sustenance. Verse 35 says that he who comes to Christ will not hunger and he who believes in him will never thirst. Apart from Christ, nothing satisfies. The best of fishing trips must be followed by another fishing trip. The most exquisite meal still leaves you hungry. C. S. Lewis said, 'I cannot find a cup of tea which is big enough or a book that is long enough.' You can play the best racquetball game, be at your best, but it has to be followed by another game. You can have a great Sunday dinner, but it has to be followed by a good breakfast in the morning. You can wear the fanciest, most chic clothes, but you will have to have [John, p. 207] new clothes next year. All of these things are like a Chinese dinner—in just a few hours you are empty and ready to eat again. That is the way it is with the best things of life."

But once you have Jesus there is true life and true satisfaction. If you have Him you have the pearl of great price. You know there is nothing better, nothing more satisfying. To have Christ is to have life, life to the full.

D. A. Carson writes, (John, PNTC; p. 288)

"This does not mean there is no need for continued dependence upon him, for continued feeding upon him; it does mean there is no longer that core emptiness that the initial encounter with Jesus has met. The consummating satiation occurs when those 'who have washed their robes…in the blood of the Lamb' stand 'before the throne of God' and experience the oracle: 'Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst' (Rev. 7:14-16)."

The fourth thing that our text implies is that

This bread is available for everyone.

If Jesus had said,

"I am the caviar of life,"

that would have conveyed an entirely different idea. Caviar is for rich people. I've never had it, I don't even think I've ever seen it. It's not for me.

But bread is for everyone. The manna in the Old Testament was available for everyone. So is life from Jesus. Isaiah 55:1-3 says,

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live."

Iain D. Campbell writes,

"That is the one point at which the Christian religion is distinct from all the religions of the world. You can go to the creeds of all the religions all over the world, and they will give you as many steps to heaven as you could possibly wish. If you follow these you are promised that you will get to heaven. But that is not good news; we cannot climb to heaven."

Jesus has done it all for us. R. Kent Hughes writes, (John: That You May Believe, Preaching the Word; p. 206)

"It is no coincidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, 'the house of bread,' "

James Montgomery Boice adds, (Christ and Judaism John 5–8), Boice Expositional Commentary 16; p. 480)

"Have you ever thought about all that grain must pass through before it becomes bread? It must first be planted and then grow. When it is ripe it must be cut down, winnowed, ground into flour. Finally, it must be subjected to the fiery heat of the oven. Only by this process does it become able to sustain life. This is what happened to the Lord Jesus Christ in order that he might become your bread. He was born into this world. He was bruised. He was cut down by sinful men. He passed through the fires of God's holy wrath as he took your place in judgment. This is his glory. He suffered this for you. How, then, can you refuse to feed upon him? Come to him! Draw from his fullness, and grow strong."