“I am the bread of life”: What did Jesus mean? (John 6:35)

After Jesus fed the five thousand, the crowd talks about God providing manna to their ancestors in the desert. Jesus then tells them about the genuine bread from heaven that offers life. When the people request to have this bread, Jesus responds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

But what did Jesus really mean by this? Let’s explore.

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First, why did Jesus use bread as a metaphor?

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In the New Testament era, bread was typically made from wheat or barley. It was a fundamental food for many in that region. In Hebrew, “to eat bread” is almost like saying “to eat a meal.”

Eating bread was a main part of the early Israelites’ daily diet. Nowadays, in parts of Asia, the equivalent is rice or noodles, in the UK it’s potatoes, in South Africa it’s meat, and so forth. Each food is popular in its respective region and time frame.

So, during Jesus’ time, using bread as a metaphor was logical and effective. It was a way to connect with people and get them to think about deeper spiritual matters.

So what does Jesus really mean when he says “I am the bread of life”?

Jesus nourishment

Of course, Jesus isn’t saying he’s an actual loaf of bread. That would be odd!

Instead, Jesus uses bread as a metaphor to show people the only true way to obtain spiritual sustenance from God. In simple terms, just as bread nourishes our bodies, Jesus, being the bread of life, nourishes our souls. While physical bread spoils and only keeps us full briefly, Jesus is the eternal spiritual bread from our heavenly Father, granting us not only life on earth but also a path to everlasting joy in heaven, for “whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:51).

Also, notice that Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35).

Jesus offers true spiritual nourishment to anyone who seeks him. But, we need to choose to approach him with open and sincere hearts, with a willingness to trust (Proverbs 23:26). This also requires humility, surrender, and repentance to God for our sins. The following related posts give further context to this.

Find out what the Bible says about us being saved by grace, not by our good works.