Jesus Christ is The Bread of Life
The stage is now being set for one of the most significant and important doctrinal discourses given by the Master Teacher as He defines and describes His role as the One who can nourish and strengthen us and bring us unto the Father. It is often called the Bread of Life discourse or sermon, John 6:25-71.
When some of the spokesmen for the people who had been fed located the Master in Capernaum, they had a question for Him, but their motives were not pure. The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) makes this clear.
26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily [this is very important; listen carefully!], I say unto you, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. [You are not looking for Me because you want to obey My gospel; you just want to be fed again. In other words, you are looking for Me for the wrong reasons.]
26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me, not because ye desire to keep my sayings, neither because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. (JST, John 6:26)
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth [don’t spend all your effort working for worldly things which do not last], but for that meat [food, symbolic of spiritual priorities] which endureth unto everlasting life [which brings exaltation], which the Son of man [Christ] shall give unto you: for him hath god the Father sealed [sent]. (John 6:25–27)
Now begins a brief series of interesting questions and answers between the spiritually blind and insensitive people and the Master Teacher.
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of god? [What would it take to teach us how to multiply loaves and fish?] (John 6:28)
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of god, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. [You must develop faith in Jesus Christ whom the Father has sent.] (John 6:29)
30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? [They are getting a bit irritated that He is stalling and not teaching them how to multiply loaves and fishes. They challenge Him to show them a sign to prove to them that He has not lost the power which He had yesterday when He fed them.]
31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. [In other words they seem to be taunting Jesus, saying in effect, “Moses gave our ancestors bread (manna) every day when he was their leader. What’s the matter? Aren’t You as capable as Moses?”] (John 6:30–31)
What follows in verses 32–58 is commonly known as the Bread of Life discourse or sermon. It is well known and contains tremendous symbolism. Have you noticed that the Savior masterfully uses familiar objects and everyday settings as background for teaching gospel doctrines and principles? We see this method throughout His teaching.
32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven [Moses didn’t give you that manna]; but my Father giveth you the true bread [symbolic of Christ] from heaven.
33 For the bread of [from] god is he [Christ] which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life [resurrection and the possibility of eternal life] unto the world. (John 6:32–33)
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread [give us bread so we will never get hungry again]. (John 6:34)
As you can see from verse 34, above, they still don’t get the point (see also verse 52). They don’t understand the symbolism that Christ and His gospel will nourish them spiritually here on earth and forever in celestial glory. Next, Jesus explains His role as the Redeemer, and that He has been sent to earth by the Father to enable us to return to Him. In effect, He is giving them a short course in the plan of salvation. In verse 35, we see the symbolic bread of life from which the sermon gets its name.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger [spiritually]; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst [spiritually].
36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
37 All [all the righteous people] that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise [never] cast out [of my kingdom].
38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him [the Father] that sent me.
39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me [all the righteous saints] I should lose nothing [none of them], but should raise it up again at the last day [resurrect them in the resurrection of the righteous].
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:35–40)
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up in the resurrection of the just at the last day. (JST, John 6:40)
The “resurrection of the just” as used in JST verse 40, above, is a term which means those who will attain exaltation, which is the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom. Sadly, as you can see from verses 41–42, next, these people still don’t get it. They are typical of people who are so focused on material things that they can’t see the spiritual.
41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? [How can Jesus have come down from heaven? We know His parents. We’ve known Him all His life.]
43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves [don’t criticize Me among yourselves for saying what I’ve said].
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:41– 44)
The JST makes major changes to verse 44, above:
44 No man can come unto me, except he doeth the will of my Father who hath sent me. And this is the will of him who hath sent me, that ye receive the Son; for the Father beareth record of him; and he who receiveth the testimony, and doeth the will of him who sent me, I will raise up in the resurrection of the just. (JST, John 6:44)
45 It is written in the prophets [in the Old Testament; Isaiah 54:13], And they shall be all taught of god. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. [Everyone who has properly understood Old Testament prophets will be motivated to come unto Me.]
46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of god [except he who is worthy, such as Stephen in Acts 7:55–56], he hath seen the Father.
47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me [Christ] hath everlasting life [will be exalted; will be placed into the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom and will become a god—see D&C 132:20].
48 I am that bread of life. [Symbolism: Jesus is the spiritual “bread” sent to us by the Father. When we eat it, that is, when we internalize it and make it part of our lives, we will be exalted.]
49 your fathers [ancestors, mentioned in verse 31] did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
50 This is the bread [symbolic of Christ’s gospel and His Atonement] which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof [internalize it], and not die [not die spiritually].
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever [shall have eternal life]: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. [Jesus will sacrifice His body through suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and crucifixion in order to accomplish the Atonement and provide resurrection for all and eternal life for those who qualify.]
52 The Jews therefore strove [argued] among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? [They still don’t get the point!] (John 6:45–52)
Mormon Beliefs is About Learning Through Repetition as Jesus Christ Often Taught
Just as the Savior repeated the message time and time again in the previous verses, so He will repeat it several times in the next verses. He loves these spiritually insensitive people and is giving them every chance to understand that they must accept His Atonement and His gospel in order to be saved. They must symbolically “eat” Him (“he that eateth me,” verse 57), that is, eat or internalize everything He is and everything He offers them and then make it a part of their lives in order to receive eternal life. Sadly, many of them will still not get the point, and will leave Him, even after so much repetition (verse 66).
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except [unless] ye eat the flesh of the Son of man [Christ], and drink
his blood, ye have no life in you. [Unless you internalize the Atonement and make it part of your lives, you will not have the life and light of the gospel here in mortality or in the world to come.]
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:53–54)
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up in the resurrection of the just at the last day. (JST, John 6:54)
As you have no doubt noticed, there is much sacrament symbolism in the Savior’s Bread of Life discourse. We see yet more of this beautiful symbolism that can help us appreciate and understand the sacrament better, as Jesus continues.
55 For my flesh is meat [food; symbolic of spiritual food] indeed, and my blood is drink [symbolic of spiritual drink] indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. [He becomes one with Me, united with Me in the gospel.]
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me [internalizes My gospel], even he shall live by me [will be saved through living in accordance with My gospel].
58 This is that bread which came down from heaven [this is the Savior who was sent to earth from heaven]: not as your fathers did eat manna [physical nourishment], and are dead: he that eateth of this bread [spiritual nourishment] shall live for ever [will have eternal life, exaltation].
As previously noted, John informs us that this sermon was given in the synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus spent so much time teaching and performing miracles in Capernaum that it became His adopted hometown, since His actual hometown, Nazareth, rejected Him. After hearing this discourse, many people stopped following Him.
59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
60 Many therefore of his disciples [followers], when they had heard this [the Bread of Life Sermon], said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? [This is too deep for us. Nobody can understand what He is saying.]
61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you [are you bothered, offended by what I have taught about the Bread of Life]?
62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? [Would it offend you if you saw Me go back up into heaven where I came from? Jesus will do exactly that after His resurrection.]
Next, we are taught the necessity of having the help of the Holy ghost in order to understand the message of salvation that the Savior is giving these people. This is an important reminder of the vital role the gift of the Holy ghost plays in our lives. Those who do not have it cannot understand the importance nor the depth and beauty of these things.
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth [it is the Holy Ghost that gives you understanding]; the flesh profiteth nothing [you can’t possibly understand what Jesus just said, from an intellectual, academic basis]: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit [spiritual], and they are life [they bring eternal life].
64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I [this is the reason I said] unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. (John 6:63–65)
The JST makes an extremely important change here.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except he doeth the will of my Father who hath sent me. (JST, John 6:65)
As you can see from verse 66, next, many people deserted Jesus after He gave the Bread of Life sermon.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back [left him], and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? [Is this doctrine of the Bread of Life so hard to accept that you, too, will leave Me?] (John 6:66–67)
Peter’s response is so simple and beautiful! It is the right answer for each of us who is completely committed to follow the Savior by living His gospel.
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living god. (John 6:68–69)
Next, Jesus prophesied that one of the Twelve would betray Him. In verse 71, John explains to whom the Master was referring.
70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon [a different Simon than Peter the Apostle]: for he it was that should [would] betray him, being one of the twelve. (John 6:70–71)
D. Ridges, The Third Year, (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2010), 212-219.