Audio Only (with the Old Testament Scripture Reading)
It’s Never “Just Food”
This morning, we are continuing our study through one of Jesus’s sermons—and, as I said last week,
this sermon is of no little significance. It’s what we call Jesus’s “bread of life sermon”, or his “bread
of life discourse”. At first reading, Jesus’s words in this sermon may sound a bit confusing. He’s
using rich metaphors, here—and, he’s using metaphors and images which are particularly significant
to the greater story in the whole Bible. This is a sermon about the kind of food we find in the
Bible—the kind of food that God gives to his people. So in that respect alone—just seeing that
Jesus is talking about food—might make us somewhat intrigued by Jesus’s words, here. “I am the
bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger”, Jesus says in verse 35. How is that not
compelling? It ought to make us lean in and say “What food is he talking about? What does he
The Bible makes a big deal out of food. God made food—and throughout the Bible, he uses food to
reveal something of himself to us. Food is one of the most compelling, reoccurring, powerful tools
God uses to teach us about himself. Truly—have you ever thought about that?
If you trace food and drink throughout the Bible, you could literally tell the whole story of the Bible.
In the beginning, at the center of the garden of Eden, there was food—lavish food that God offered
to his people, and only one food that was forbidden. The garden of Eden, at the surface level, was
all about food. Although it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that underneath the food, God
was using the food to test Adam and Eve. “Will you trust me, and turn to me for security and
wisdom and strength and food and nourishment—to continue living in this lavish garden? Or, will
you not trust me, grumble against me, turn to yourself, trust yourself, and take that forbidden fruit?”
Food is compelling, and incredibly significant. It’s never just about food. You might say that food is
both a school and a battleground. It’s a school of trust and thanksgiving, as you learn to trust your
breadwinner and give thanks to him—or, food is a battleground for control. You either receive the
food that God offers with humility and thanksgiving, or you fight him for the control to feed
yourself. Take any family dinner table. Depending on how the parents fair at disciplining their
children, the family dinner table is either a school of trust and thanksgiving, as the children learn to
give thanks for whatever is given to them—or, the table is a battleground for control. It’s never just
about food. So, we see the same themes in the Bible—and needless to say, God will not allow his
table to be a battleground for control. He has one thing on his menu—the bread of life—and, you’ll
either sit at his table with humility and thanksgiving, or you won’t sit at his table at all.
So, we come to this “bread of life discourse” this morning, where Jesus stakes his claim that he
himself is the bread of life—the true bread from heaven itself. He’s what’s on the menu at God’s
table—and any food which God has ever fed his people has ultimately been about him. I said last
week that all the food stories in our Bibles find their climax in this sermon, here in John 6. Jesus’s
words, here—even though they certainly reference the Exodus—are not about the Exodus. Jesus’s
word’s here—even though they may apply to the Lord’s Supper—are not about the Lord’s supper.
Rather, in God’s good providence, the Exodus and the Lord’s Supper is about this sermon, here in
our passage. The Exodus, the Lord’s Supper, and all other food stories in the Bible center into this
passage, right here. This is a massively climactic point in our Bibles, folks. Jesus is telling us in very
clear words what God intended food to be about. “I am the bread of life”, Jesus says. Will you trust
him, or will you go looking for your own food because you’d rather have control over what you eat?
Now, we’re only looking at verses 30–40 this morning. We really can’t unpack this whole bread of
life sermon in one sermon—it’s just too rich. So, in the verses we're looking at this morning, this is
what we’re going to see. We’ll see the exclusivity, the security, and the eternity of the food he offers.
That’s all right there, in verses 30–40—the exclusivity, the security, and the eternity of Jesus’s food,
and especially the exclusivity of Jesus’s food. I’ll just say up front, here, that we’ll spend most of our
time on that first point—his exclusivity, and parsing it out from several angles. Jesus is the bread of
life, and only Jesus. So, let’s go there now.
The Exclusivity: A One-Item Menu
This passage is brimming with the exclusivity of Jesus, folks—and, we it’s what we should expect, as
we turn to a passage where we learn about God’s food. What do we often hear God say throughout
the Bible? Something, to the effect—“You may exclusively eat what I give you and permit you to
eat”. That’s why he gave them food laws. God was teaching his people to be dependent upon him.
He determines what they should eat, because he’s the one they should look to for food. Again, God
makes his dinner table a school of humility and gratitude. He makes sure his people knows food
comes him. So, especially in the Old Testament, they couldn’t eat whatever they wanted. They
couldn’t eat like the rest of the nations ate. They were to receive food as though it were from God’s
hand, per God’s instructions, with thankfulness to God. Now, did the people of Israel get it?
The Exclusive Giver of Food
Look at verses 26–29. We considered these four verses last week—but, look there again as we ease
our way into the new material this morning. In these verses, we see whether the Jews of Jesus’s day
truly understood the lesson God has for his people in giving them food, and food laws. Again, the
massive crowd who Jesus fed followed Jesus to the other side of the sea of Galilee, and they were
looking for two things. One, they were looking for more food from Jesus after he just fed them. Two,
they were looking to make Jesus king, so that his food and blessings would be poured out not just
over them, but over all Israel. So, they come to him, and asked him (to the effect) “when did you
come here to the other side of the sea?! We’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Verse 26—
26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw
signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes,
but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him
God the Father has set his seal.”
Did you hear that? That was the key point, there. “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food
that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you”. In other words, “stop striving after
your next meal and just look to me! I’ll give you the food you need! That’s the whole point of
food—that you’d look to God and trust him!”. Jesus would later teach his disciples to pray, “give us
this day our daily food”—again, food is God’s school of trust, and discipline, and thanksgiving.
Jesus is saying “I’ll give you this food, if you’ll just trust me and ask for it”. it’s part of the exclusivity
of Jesus’s food. Yes, he’s the only food at God’s table—we’ll see that in a moment. Yet even more
so, he’s the only chef at God’s table. The only way you can get his food is if you receive it from him.
It’s all about him. He exclusively gives the food, even as he exclusively is the food.
Now, what do these Jews do? What do they say to Jesus? Verse 28—
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
Do you hear how they completely miss the point? “What must we do?”, they ask. “What must we
do, to be doing the works of God”—and, I think what they have in mind is, “so that we might eat”.
They don’t want Jesus to be the exclusive giver of food. They want to get their own food, based on
their own works.
Let me ask you this. If you think God gives his people food on the basis of a merits system—a
system of works—where does all the attention and focus turn to? It turns to the works, and person
working for food, not the giver of food. Sure, God could dish out some pretty amazing blessings—
“oh, but I worked for this! I earned it!”.
As soon as God’s table becomes a place where God’s food is merited based on works, all the
attention shifts from the bounty and goodness of God to the righteousness and works of those who
are meriting a seat at the table.
It’s much like an exclusive banquet for a very selective club, or for a select group of lucrative
donors. “If you’ve donated $100,000 or more to this cause in the last year, you’re welcome to the
table”. These events aren’t uncommon at all. What’s the elephant in the room? “Yeah, the meal is
great, good job chef—but all these people! They’re something else! They’re real generous, wealthy
philanthropists, at this event.” The focus is on the guests rather than the chef, and the food. Is that
how God’s dinner table should look? It’s what happens when seats at a table are earned rather than
freely given—and, these Jews are looking to do the works of God so that they may eat of his blessings.
They have it all wrong.
Rejecting His Exclusivity: Bartering for Control
What else happens when God’s table is is viewed this way, as though you could earn your seat at his
table? It becomes a game of control. The table is a battleground for control. Think again about the
banquet. What is everyone on edge about? “Are those who earned their seats happy? Do they feel
honored? If any one of those donors ask for anything, make sure it happens”. A table that’s operating
on the premise of merits and works becomes a table of control, bartering, presumptions. Sometimes,
we come to God’s table like this, don’t we?
Look at verses 29 and following, where our new material really picks up for this morning.
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has
So, Jesus is laying down his terms, here. He’s saying that the only work that can earn you a seat at
God’s table, to enjoy his bread of life, is faith. Freely, humbly, believe in him as the breadwinner and
Lord of the table—then you may enjoy his food. Yet, again, the Jews won’t listen to this. They’re
too focused on their works, their demands, their control. Verse 30—
30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What
work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He
gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
So, they demand that he prove himself and his claims with a sign. Can you believe that? Do you
remember the things he’s done in their midst? This is literally right after Jesus had miraculously fed
them in the wilderness and told them that he’ll give them imperishable, everlasting food if they’d
believe in him. He feeds them—a group of 20,000 people (5,000 men with their families)—and they
say “what sign do you do, that we may believe in you?”. The presumptuous, unbelieving arrogance is
thick, folks! Where is that coming from? You’d think the miraculous feeding and the healings and
exorcisms would have been enough, yet they’re asking for more?! Where does that come from?!
I’ll give you a few quick answers, as there are several ways you could go about this.
Generally, it comes from sin—our natural pride and desire for control. They’re demanding particular
signs. They’re demanding Jesus to be a particular kind of Messiah—and, their terms will never be
met unless they relinquish control and say as Jesus himself said to his Father, “not my will but thine
be done”. This is the problem of all humanity, folks. We demand signs—and, God has given us
plenty of signs. That’s what Romans 1 is all about. Yet because the real problem is that we don’t want
God, we suppress the signs. We push God away, and say “I don’t want your bread. I don’t want
your Jesus. He’s too boring, he’s not sufficient”. Yet God is saying “I’m offering him, and
exclusively him, and he is enough”. Yet, we continue to demand for signs because we won’t
relinquish control over our dinner tables. That’s why these Jews are demanding more signs from
Jesus. “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?... 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the
Often, we struggle with the exclusivity of Jesus because we don’t think he’s sufficient, so we barter
with God and make deals with him. Only, God keeps coming back with one word—“Jesus, Jesus,
There’s also a cultural, or religious, reason these Jews said this to Jesus. Many pastors and
commentators mention how the Jews of this time likely expected the coming Messiah to duplicate
Moses’s miracle of mana. So yes, Jesus multiplied the bread. That’s cool, it was edifying, it was
tasty—but, it’s not mana directly from heaven. Jesus is clearly claiming to be the better Moses—and,
this crowd is expecting him to show himself as the better Moses. So, they’re saying here, “at the very
least, Jesus, you can prove your claims by calling manna to rain down from heaven as Moses did—
perhaps just once, or even for an extended period of time”. One commentator says that there is “at
least a little evidence that such beliefs were not unknown” by the folks Jesus was interacting with,
here. The problem, of course, is that the Old Testament simply doesn’t make this claim.
Do you see how their pride is all over this passage, making demands upon Jesus? Who do they think
they are? Who do they think is in control, here, at God’s table? “What works must we do” to have
access to God’s table? That’s how they’re talking, here. Then, “What sign do you do, that we may
see and believe you? Moses brought manna—what greater work do you do to prove you’re the
greater Moses? Once we see that, we’ll believe and we’ll take you by force to make you our king.”
The True—and Only—Bread From Heaven
So, we’ve seen Jesus’s exclusivity from a few angles, here. He exclusively offers bread—and, we see
what happens when we don’t want his exclusivity. We try to gain the upper hand with our works and
our wisdom, we try to maintain areas of control in our life because it’d be crazy to believe that Jesus
exclusively is sufficient for life and happiness. It’s a wild thought, really. So, as Jesus gets more
particular with his claims, the Jews get more grabby for their control.
Now, look at the next few verses, where Jesus responds to their demand for more signs. Verse 32—
32 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.
Now, obviously the Jews knew that Moses himself didn’t give the mana. Jesus knew that. Of
whatever else could be said about this verse, I think the simple point is that Jesus is drawing their
attention away from Moses, away from Moses’s food laws and ceremonial system, away from their
obedience to Moses’s law. He’s drawing their attention away from all that, and onto “my Father [who]
gives you the true bread from heaven”. The Father’s table is about the Father who gives true bread.
By “true”, there, I suspect Jesus means the real bread which all other bread from God has ultimately
pointed to. The manna was just a pointer to this bread—the manna couldn’t truly edify. This bread
that Jesus is referring to truly and really edifies forever. It’s the only bread God offers for his
nourishment and peace—none other will do. “It was not Moses who gave you the bread, but my
father”, Jesus says. Get your eyes off Moses and yourselves, and onto my Father.
Jesus continues in verse 33—
33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
That’s the true bread—“he who comes down and gives life to the world”. It’s the only bread that
Now, it’s hard to capture this in our English translations, but Jesus is still being intentionally
ambiguous at this point. When Jesus says, there in verse 33, “the bread of God is he who comes
down from heaven”, the Greek is ambiguous, and I think Jesus was intentionally trying to be
ambiguous in his language. He was building up to verse 34. Here in verse 33, Jesus could be
understood to say—“the bread of God is that bread which comes down from heaven”.
Grammatically, that works just as well as saying that “the bread of God is he who comes down from
heaven”. Which is it? We know he’s referring to himsellf, because we can read ahead to verse 34.
He’s referring to himself. Although at this point in the conversation, the Jews didn’t know, yet.
So Jesus was intentionally ambiguous in his language, and I imagine these Jews thought Jesus was
still speaking of bread coming down from heaven. This is classic “gospel-of-John” stuff, here folks.
We’ve seen this before. Jesus makes a strange, ambiguous statement to be misunderstood, and then
he circles back with a massively clear statement about himself.
Think about it. Jesus says in John 3, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”.
There’s a strange statement. Nicodemus responds, “how can a man be born when he is old?”.
Nicodemus is confused—he almost seems to take Jesus literally! Then, in chapter 4, Jesus says to the
woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of
the water I will give him will never be thirsty again”, to which the woman responds, “sir, give me
this water”. She couldn’t see Jesus through the metaphor. Then, what does Jesus say? “I, who speak
to you, am he”, he says to the woman. He says, “I’m the prophet, I’m the living water, I’m the
savior.” That’s classic gospel-of-John stuff, there.
I think a similar thing is going on here in our passage. Jesus says, “33 the bread of God is he who [or
again, possibly ‘that bread which’] comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”. The
people are too focused on the bread to consider the possibility that Jesus is referring to himself as
the bread which has come down from heaven. So, they say just as the woman at the well, “sir, give
us this bread always”. They miss the metaphor, and they ask Jesus for bread. They ask him for
manna. "Give us this bread always. Make that your sign, and we’ll believe you. Make the mana come
down always!” This might reflect what I said earlier, that they expected the coming Messiah to bring
back mana in perpetuity—the Messiah would come, and God’s mana would return and never stop
coming. Is that the surface-level Messiah we need—to just curb our hunger every day? What about
our sin, our grief, our pain in this sin-sick world?
Praying to Desire the One-Item Menu
It is such a mercy that God does not always give us what we ask for, isn’t it? We ask for bread like
mana, or other perishable, half-sighted, foolish things—yet God has imperishable glory in mind. He
has a much greater food in mind, folks. Pray, every day, that the Lord would guard you from being
so short-sighted and carnal-minded. Pray that you wouldn’t come to his table with your own ideas of
what should be on the menu. He’s always got the best on his menu—and folks, it’s a one-item
menu. He’s got one thing—it’s a very exclusive menu, and it’s the best. Verse 35,
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not
hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
That’s it. That’s what’s on the menu folks—Jesus—and if you don’t like it then you can leave
because God isn’t taking any requests. He offers you Jesus, and that’s the only acceptable bread
which he is pleased to comfort and bless and strengthen his people with. Any other bread would
mean you’re still in your sins, under his wrath, and to receive no comfort or help from God. Sure,
the Israelites got their fill of mana in the wilderness, but they had a much deeper hunger which only
faith in God’s promises and grace could solve.
Only in Jesus will you find a plate of forgiveness before God’s wrath against you. So long as Jesus is
our bread, we have fellowship and peace with God—and all his blessings of life and joy and peace
therein. It’s the gift—or, the bread—that keeps on giving.
Take it as a mercy that God has nothing else on his menu. Take it as a mercy that when you’re
suffering, and going through a hard time, and you pray to God with a possible solution to all your
problems, God says “the answer is Jesus”. It’s a mercy that God doesn’t always give us the things we
ask for—he’s disciplining us at his table of grace. You might say “I want brats”, or “I want beer”, or
“I want pizza” (I’m speaking metaphorically)—God only gives you Jesus.
You want a new car, but God isn’t making one available to you? Trust in Jesus, he’s sufficient.
You’re suffering the death of a loved one, and you’re questioning the sufficiency of God’s goodness
and love and wisdom? Look to Jesus, and learn that he’s far more than sufficient. Are you exhausted
after being sick with seasonal illnesses—perhaps you’re a stay at home mom and you’ve reached the
end of your rope. Jesus is on the menu—and, God is saying “he’s the only thing on the menu, and
you’d better not look elsewhere because nothing else will strengthen you like Jesus”.
Sometimes it’s a hard lesson, but we’ll be all the better and joyful and thankful if we learn how great
it is that God has given us a one-item menu. He’s given us Jesus—and with Jesus, his Spirit and all
of his promises for all of eternity. It’s a very lavish item, on that menu. It’s the exclusivity of Jesus,
A Summary and Application
Now, let’s summarize and apply real quick. We’ve just discussed at length the exclusivity of Jesus’s
bread. Our natural inclination is to desire any food except for Jesus. Our natural inclination is to
desire to work for our food, because food is all about control. If you’re the breadwinner—if you’re
meriting your food, then you can have a say in what food you get. The Jews who Jesus was speaking
to wanted to work for their food so that they could have a say in what food they were offered. Yet
God won’t play the game. He won’t allow his table to be a battleground for control. He offers one
thing at his table—and he offers it freely without price, so that no one may boast, and so that his
table is a table of grace and thanksgiving.
This means, then, that we must discipline ourselves to humbly receive Jesus and only Jesus. It’s a
discipline, folks, to be content when only Jesus is on the menu. The image of picky children at a
dinner table comes to mind. At our home, we’re very traditionally minded when it comes to the
dinner table. When we put food out on the table, our children will eat the food with a happy heart. If
they don’t like it, they’ll learn to like it, or they’ll eat it with thankful hearts regardless. I don’t think
that’s a small, little matter, to overlook in a household.
Now, does that come easy to children? Does it come easy to children, to see food on the table that
they don’t want, and say a genuine, heart-felt, humble “thank you”? It doesn’t. The children have to
learn it—they need to be disciplined by mom and dad to learn it. They have to learn to resist the
initial grumble, and to turn that grumble into thanksgiving because mom and dad thought of them.
Mom and dad put that food on the table for their good. In fact—and, here’s where the rubber hits
the road—what happens when they don’t learn this? If they aren’t disciplined to be thankful at
whatever food is placed before them, then they aren’t going to just sit neutrally at the table. They’re
going to fight for control over the table. It won’t take long for them to say, “I don’t want this, give me
something else”—and then suddenly the fight for control consume the entire house and not just the
God gives us Jesus, folks—and only Jesus. Sometimes we don’t want Jesus. Sometimes we have
really good ideas of what we think will really be good for us and make us happy. Don’t go down that
road—you’ll quickly find yourself in a battle for control which you will not win, and it will not
satisfy. God always offers the best. No matter what your situation is, God gives you Jesus and he’s
more than sufficient for every occasion. He gives you Jesus’s word of instruction, Jesus’s example,
Jesus’s sacrifice, Jesus’s righteousness, Jesus’s Spirit, Jesus’s fellowship, Jesus’s peace and comfort,
Jesus’s ongoing ministry, Jesus’s inheritance in eternity, Jesus’s fellowship (I could go on, you know).
Don’t ever fall into thinking Jesus isn’t enough.
So discipline yourselves, by faith, to rejoice and be thankful for the exclusivity of Jesus, the only
bread of life who gives life to the world.
Now, I said we’d spend most of our time on this matter of Jesus’s exclusivity. The other two points
flow out of what we’ve been talking about. Why is it good that Jesus alone is on the menu, and not
anyone or anything else? Again, we want to discipline ourselves—train ourselves—to be increasingly
happy and grateful at God’s table of grace. Well, the rest of our passage gives us two reasons to
relinquish our control, and be thankful at God’s table where Jesus is offered.
The Security: His Sovereign Purpose
First, the matter of security. It’s good that Jesus alone is offered, because Jesus alone is able to
secure you in God’s grace. Verses 37–39,
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast
out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who
sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he
has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Isn’t that a point of supreme, rock-solid comfort? Jesus came to do his Father’s will, to lose nothing
that his father gave him. He will never cast out a single soul whom the Father gives to him. This is
Calvinism 101, here folks. Limited atonement, effectual calling, irresistible grace, perseverance of the
saints—it’s all here. The father gives Jesus those he must die for and save. They will come to him,
and he will save them. “I should lose nothing of all that he has given me”. You hear the absolutes,
there? Jesus’s exclusivity is good news because he exclusively can really and actually save you to the
end, folks. What other rock solid, effectual Savior could you ever dream of turning to, other than
We’ve seen his exclusivity—and, his exclusivity is good because of the security he offers. Last, his
exclusivity is good because of the eternity he secures.
The Eternity: Raised on the Last Day
Verse 40, our last verse for the day—
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him
should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
We desperately need this hope, folks. Jesus isn’t simply promising to keep us secure until we die and
cease to exist. He’s saying, here, that he’ll keep us secure until the last day, on which he will raise us
up with him unto all eternity. We will reign with him forever. We will feast with him, enjoying his
fellowship and peace and joy, forever, even with the saints of have gone before us. Folks, this is the
bread of life—his exclusivity, his security, his eternity. Relinquish any and all remaining desire for
control over your life, and turn to him exclusively for such blessings.
I’ll close with the words of a song that we often sing in our home.
We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more