Today Jesus has two discussions regarding bread. First, the crowds find Jesus because they are looking for more of the bread He gave them in yesterday’s reading about the five loaves. Jesus says to them, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” The people want to know what work they must do to receive the food of everlasting life. Jesus responds, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Jesus is saying that works don’t save — it is faith, and out of faith in Him our good works flow. The writer of Hebrews explains that it is impossible to please the Lord without faith – “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” This is the first of seven “I Am” statements that Jesus will make to further reveal Himself. Remember when the Lord appeared to Moses at the burning bush and commissioned him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, He told Moses to tell the Israelites that “I Am” sent him (Exodus 3:14). In Jesus’ “I Am” statements, He is describing Himself as the spiritual life-giving Messiah, the Son of God – “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give 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.”
However, this statement is extremely perplexing to the Jews who are trying to figure out how they would receive eternal life by eating the flesh of the son of Joseph and Mary, whom they know. But instead of making it clearer for them, Jesus does the opposite by saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
The Jews don’t understand that Jesus is the final Sacrifice who has come to shed His blood so that we may have eternal life. That is why today we take communion by eating the bread and drinking the juice as a symbolic act to remember what He did on our behalf. After Jesus’ death, Paul is going to say, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The second conversation around bread is when the Pharisees see Jesus’ disciples eating bread without washing their hands. These hard-hearted religious ones have a certain way they wash their hands in order to be deemed clean, and they look down upon anyone who doesn’t adhere to their standards. But Jesus has a rebuking word for the religious leaders. He calls the Pharisees hypocrites and quotes Isaiah – “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6-7, Matthew 15:8-9, Isaiah 29:13). Once again Jesus makes clear that He is not impressed with any outward ritual acts of worship or obedience. Jesus is going after the hearts of the people, and from a true heart change a desire for obedience will follow.
Jesus calls out the religious ones for upholding the traditions of man over God’s commandments. He explains that what you put into your body doesn’t defile you; it is what comes out of your body from your heart – “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
We also learn today that many disciples leave Jesus because of their lack of faith. And soon one of Jesus’ twelve disciples is going to betray Him, and Jesus knows exactly who it is – “‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.” However, this is all part of God’s plan to redeem mankind. Remember, nothing surprises the Lord! So keep reading to see His perfect plan unfold. (John 6:22-71, Mark 7:1-23, Matthew 15:1-20)