“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 the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’ ” (vv. 32–33).
The crowd of five thousand men whom Jesus fed took His miracle as a sign that He was a Moses-like figure who would liberate them from Roman rule. Just as bread appeared miraculously in the wilderness under Moses, the liberator of Israel from Egypt, Jesus miraculously provided bread to the crowd in the wilderness of Galilee (Ex. 16; John 6:1–15). So, when Jesus and the disciples attempted to escape the crowd by traveling to Capernaum, the crowd found Jesus in the synagogue there (John 6:16–25, 59). As was the Jewish custom, they entered into dialogue with Jesus, and He told them that they were not looking for Him for the right reasons. They exerted great effort to find Him because He could provide physical bread, so they thought He would be able to provide political liberation. But to labor only to meet one’s earthly needs is a waste of time, Jesus told them, for we must labor for the food that does not perish, the food that leads to eternal life. And the labor that leads to eternal life is believing in Christ as Savior, not doing what we think of normally as good works, although good works do prove whether our profession of belief is genuine (vv. 26–29; James 2:14–26).
The crowd should have gotten the point after Jesus’ detailed instruction, but today’s passage shows that they did not. They asked for more signs that would prove Jesus to be the Moses-like figure who would give them earthly liberation (John 6:30–31); they were not looking for what Jesus came to provide, namely, salvation. But Jesus refused to bring down bread from heaven again. One reason why He might have refused was that many first-century Jews thought the Messiah would bring down bread from heaven, and since the crowd had a wrong expectation of the work the Messiah would do, to multiply bread before them again would only encourage their false expectations of Him (v. 15). But we know for certain that the main reason He did not provide the bread again was because it was not what the people needed. God provided manna through Moses, but it was not the true bread from heaven because the true bread leads to eternal life. Mere physical bread cannot do that (vv. 32–33).
Jesus told the crowd that He is that true bread from heaven that provides eternal life, and those who eat of Him by faith will never hunger again (vv. 34–35). He provides the only thing that will satisfy our spiritual hunger. Only He can give us eternal life by reconciling us to our great God.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
We can find eternal life only in Jesus. He alone can feed our souls with the bread of life. This means that no matter how much someone might appear to be dedicated to the Scriptures, they are not saved if they do not believe in Christ. We must pray for those who are not saved and yet may express affection for the Scriptures—Jews, members of Christian cults, Muslims, and so on—that they would have a true love for God’s Word and so turn to Christ.