Jun 22, 2015

I AM the Bread of Life






I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. (RSV-CE Jn. 6:35)


This is the first of seven self-identifying statements by Jesus in the Gospel of John.  In each of these statements Jesus reveals something about Himself.  As “the Bread of Life”, Jesus is a gift from the Father and spiritual nourishment

In John 6:27, God’s Word, the Law, the Torah is described in terms food.  “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal."’  We can see similar references in Old Testament passages.  “How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103)  Wisdom is portrayed as a woman setting a great feast.  “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars.  She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town, "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" To him who is without sense she says, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.”  (Prov. 9:1-5)  “The man who fears the Lord will do this, and he who holds to the law will obtain wisdom. She will come to meet him like a mother, and like the wife of his youth she will welcome him. She will feed him with the bread of understanding, and give him the water of wisdom to drink.” (Sirach 15:1-3)  The term “seal” denotes emissary and ownership.  So, Jesus’ claim that the Son of Man (Jesus), is the emissary of God and through him the faithful become God’s. 

This is a strong statement.  One destined to enrage those of struggling faith as it did to the crowd in John 6.  Jesus claimed to be greater that Elijah and Moses.  Moses, they believed gave their ancestors manna (bread) in the desert.  “Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (6:32) True here indicates that the previous “bread”, i.e. the Torah was less complete.  The new bread, the bread from Heaven, Jesus is the full, complete gift from the Father, “’I am the bread which came down from heaven.’”  (6:41)

He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony; he who receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit; the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.” (Jn. 3”31-36)

As the crowds press on him and challenge him more He further adds to this title.  The manna given in the desert was incomplete, those who ate it died.  Those who eat the bread from heaven will live forever.  “’I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”’ (6:51) In the Torah, immortality was given to Adam and Eve through the fruit of the trees in the Garden of Eden.  They were expelled because of sin, leading to the need for the various Covenants and the loss of eternal life.  The Bread from Heaven is the final Covenant, restoring immortality righteousness.

Jesus is spiritual nourishment, restoring humanity to its state of grace.  We can view these words both figuratively and literally.  Jesus is the Wisdom of God, His word and deeds are for our salvation.  As Catholics, we physically welcome Jesus at the Eucharistic feast every Sunday.


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Sources:
  • Bergant, Dianne C.S.A., and Robert J. O.F.M Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1986.
  • Brown, Raymond D. S.S., Joseph A, S.J. Fitzymer, and Roland E, O. Carm. Murphy, . The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. I and II. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968.
  • Hunt, Michal. "The 7 Symbolic "I Am" Metaphors of John's Gospel." Agape Catholic Bible Study. AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2007. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Days%20and%20Seven%20I%20AMs%20in%20John's%20Gospel.html>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "Christology in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 8 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcatholic-resources.org%2FJohn%2FThemes-Christology.htm>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "I AM" Sayings in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/John/Themes-IAM.htm>.
  • Lewis, Scott M. The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 2005. Print.
  • Martin, Francis. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Print.
  • Mays, James L., et al., . Harper's Bible Commentary. New York City, New York: Harper San Francisco: a Divison of Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.
  • Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.

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