The miraculous boat ride ended, and the crowd slowly trickled across the Sea of Galilee to follow after Jesus and His disciples. When the first of them arrived, they were astonished to find Jesus with His disciples. The evening before, they had seen Him send away His disciples as He walked off into the mountains. Now the next morning, as they arrived, Jesus was already on the other side with His disciples. How was that possible? John goes on to explain that they were astonished at this miracle.
Having arrived, Jesus addressed them with some pretty straightforward truth. The day before, in compassion, He had fed the thousands. He had provided for their physical needs. He had proven to be able to supply them with food in a miraculous way. Now, they wanted to come and have Him give them more food. In their minds, they could follow Him and never have to worry about paying for a meal ever again. Knowing their hearts, Jesus went from feeding them physical food, to offering them spiritual food.
They came for bread, and He told them of the Bread of Life. This was a completely new concept for them, so Jesus had to do away with some misunderstanding.
At first, they confusingly thought that the “Bread of Life” was a physical piece of bread that they had to eat to receive eternal life. Their minds were drawn to the massive feast the evening before and figured that since they partook, they must be special and be recipients of eternal life. Jesus decimated this misconception when He said “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” He was not speaking in terms of physical bread, and He certainly was not advocating some type of ritualistic, Eucharistic cannibalism. Instead, He was using a word picture to illustrate that just as you eat bread and take it into your body for temporal life, you must trust in Him so that He can give you eternal life.
For a while, they were hung up on the fact that Moses spoke of manna as the bread from heaven, but Jesus made it clear that even though manna had fed the people for a little while, all those who ate of manna eventually died. The Bread of Life would not leave people empty or needing another filling. It would certainly satiate their hunger. Jesus was clearly the Bread of Life, and eternal life could only be found by those who came to Him.
Food for thought: Who did Jesus say would cause those who came to Him to come? From today’s text how do we know that Jesus was not talking about physical food?