In the book of John, Jesus makes the statement I AM 20 times. 7 times, however, Jesus follows up the statement with a metaphor that gives us a glimpse into who Jesus is. John 6:35 is the first of those 7 statements.
In John chapter six Jesus feeds the crowd of five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. When everyone was full they collected twelve baskets of left over bread. This would have been seen as a significant sign to the people of Israel. A prevalent belief of the day was that when the Messiah came He would perform the same miracles that Moses had when the Israelites were delivered from Egypt. Not only were they looking for someone to perform those miracles, but it was also believed that when the Messiah came he would re-institute the daily bread that the Israelites enjoyed in the desert after they left Egypt so that they would never hunger again. Sensing that the crowd was putting this together Jesus perceives that they are going to seize Him and make Him a king, so he retreats into the mountains and leaves his disciples to handle the crowd.
The very next day on the opposite side of the sea the same crowd of people are looking for another free meal and ask Him for a miraculous sign to prove that He is the Messiah. They bring up the miracle of the bread from Heaven that Moses provided for their ancestors. Jesus corrects their error in thinking telling them first that it wasn't Moses that had given them the bread from heaven, but God. Second He tells them that God will still give them bread from heaven and that bread IS the one who comes down from Heaven to give life to the world.
It's pretty clear to anyone who's spent some time in the Christian church that Jesus is talking about himself here. But, through the lens of the life of a Jew at the time they still didn't quite get it. So they reply to Jesus, "Lord, forevermore, give us this bread." They are still having trouble seeing through the indoctrination of years of teaching by the religious leaders who completely missed the point of the words of the prophets who told of the coming of the Messiah.
This is where we get to our current verse and I AM statement "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." He goes on to preach what a modern minister would count as probably the most unsuccessful sermon they had ever delivered. It went right over the head of the crowd and of the what was believed to be up to 120 disciples at the time, only 12 of them stay with Jesus because of this sermon.
He says, "I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he who believes in Me as Savior already has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life the Living Bread which gives and sustains life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the Bread that comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the Living Bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever. And the Bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up from the dead on the last day. For My flesh is spiritual food, and My blood is spiritual drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in the same way remain in him. Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, even so the one who feeds on Me will also live because of Me. This is the Bread which came down out of heaven. It is not like the manna that our fathers ate and eventually died; the one who eats this Bread will live forever.”
It's not hard to understand why the crowd and most of the disciples had a hard time with that message. Even now we look back and reading these words it's hard to grasp exactly what Jesus is teaching here. It's even hard just to read through. You see, Jesus preferred to use metaphor when He taught and let the listener own the revelation of the knowledge and enlightenment they had earned. Peter got it. Jesus asks His 12 remaining followers if they are going to leave too and Peter answers, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We have believed and confidently trusted, and even more we have come to know that You are the Holy One of God; the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is exactly what Jesus was preaching here, when Peter says, "We have believed and confidently trusted..." he is parroting Jesus' teaching back to him without the metaphor. They're talking about salvation, we put our Faith and Hope in Christ. It's our response to Christ finishing the covenant that God started with Abraham. It's what redeems us from the sin and eternal death that we're all headed towards because of the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It's the good news of the gospel that Jesus didn't come to condemn us for who, or what, and where we are, but to bring us hope of a free gift. The gift of salvation. Go back and read that passage where Jesus is preaching in John 6 where he talks about all that bread of life and drinking of my blood and realize that when He's saying that He's talking about Faith and Hope. He's talking about spiritual matters not physical matters. There are those that have equated what He's saying there to Holy Communion. That He's talking about taking of the sacraments, the bread and the wine, or grape juice as a lot of churches use. But, here he says that these things are a requirement for salvation, and Paul talked about the only requirements for salvation, we covered this is episode 33, are the belief of your heart and the confession of the mouth of that belief. That there are no other hoops to jump through. Jesus is literally talking about Faith and Hope in this message.
We need to understand how the basics of how our salvation works. This is it, this is the basics of salvation. Once we grasp that, we need to get out there and love on those that don't have faith in Christ like we talked about in episode 34, and when they ask whats different about us, let's be prepared to share that free gift that we received.