Bread and Life

(Joh 6:9) There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
(Joh 6:10) And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
(Joh 6:11) And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
(Joh 6:12) When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
(Joh 6:13) Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

Today’s text is the conclusion of JOH 6:1-13 wherein a multitude had followed Jesus into a remote place and He fed them. He first in compassion fed their souls (as Mark’s account tells us): “...moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (MAR 6:34). The words of His mouth were more important than their necessary food (JOB 23:12). That the people were as sheep without a shepherd was not to the praise of their esteemed teachers who had “...taken away the key of knowledge...” (LUK 11:52) and shared the censure of their forebears: “...Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? (EZE 34:2). Under a cloak of piety, the Scribes and Pharisees devoured widows’ houses (MAT 23:14) and fed themselves. Theirs was a lucrative ministry, “...for filthy lucre’s sake” (TIT 1:11).

Christ’s compassion on the multitude was not limited to their souls’ needs. He “...was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick” (MAT 14:14), and then fed their bodies by a miracle of multiplying loaves and fishes. The prophets Elijah and Elisha had both overseen miraculous multiplication of necessities to individuals (1KI 17:9-16; 2KI 4:1-7) but Jesus’ work was for a multitude. That was a sign to Israel: Moses had overseen a miraculous feeding of a multitude in the wilderness who tempted God, saying, “...Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” (PSA 78:18-19). Nevertheless, the LORD supplied them suddenly with quail and manna:

(Exo 16:11) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
(Exo 16:12) I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
(Exo 16:13) And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
(Exo 16:14) And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
(Exo 16:15) And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

I freely admit that if I were an average Israelite on that day, I would have probably needed an extra injection of faith to eat something found on the ground after a huge flock of quail covered the camp. But it was good food, the corn of heaven and angels’ food (PSA 78:24-25). It was a miracle of divine creation by God directly and continuously for a multitude until they got to Canaan (EXO 16:35). Jesus reminded his audience, “...Moses gave you not that bread from heaven...” (JOH 6:31-32). Moses had told Israel that God would one day raise up another Prophet like himself to Whom all the people must give heed (DEUT 18:15-19). Some there at the multiplying of the loaves and fishes realized, “...This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (JOH 6:14). Jesus had just provided them with a proof that He was greater than Moses, was Messiah, and was God manifest in the flesh (for Messiah was to be “...the mighty God, The everlasting Father...” per ISA 9:6-7).

JOH 6:12 deserves further attention: “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” The next verse shows Christ’s disciples gathering a huge surplus. There are many practical and spiritual lessons that could be drawn from this. We could say that Jesus showed us the value of “Waste not” (PRO 18:9). We could even say that Jesus was very enviro-friendly and left us with a good example of care of public grounds (it was a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida, LUK 9:10). But there seems to be something else in play here. Jesus’ miracles were not for entertainment (something Herod loved, LUK 23:8), nor merely for the relief of men’s bodies from trouble. His miracles tended to have another message: they could be platforms for expressions of truth about His Person and Power. In MAR 2:1-11, He healed a paralytic only to underscore the fact that He had power to forgive sins. In JOH 9:1-7, a blind man was selected for healing “...that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (JOH 9:3) and that man’s life became a convicting testimony to unbelieving Israel so Jesus could say, “...For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (JOH 9:39). Another time, He purposely let Lazarus die from a sickness so that He might be glorified in raising him from the dead (JOH 11).

In this same chapter of John, on “The day following...” (JOH 6:22), with the association of Jesus’ food-making miracle with Moses and the manna still on the minds of many, Jesus launched into a discourse in which He presented Himself as the superior bread from heaven (JOH 6:32-58). The manna was bread that sustained life, but Christ is the bread of God that gives life (JOH 6:33). The manna could do nothing for a dead man, but Christ has power to quicken the dead (JOH 5:21). The manna sustained natural life temporarily, but Christ is the bread of everlasting life (JOH 6:49-50; JOH 6:58). The manna only sustained life for Israel, but Christ gives life unto the world (JOH 6:33): His everlasting life includes Jew and Gentile (1JO 2:1-2). The manna only temporarily stopped hunger, but those who partake of Christ shall never hunger (JOH 6:35). The manna had to be given repeatedly to sustain life, but Christ was given once for the life of the world (JOH 6:51 c/w HEB 9:26-28; HEB 10:10-18; 1PE 3:18). The manna stopped when Israel entered Canaan, but Christ is continually the bread of life after entering heaven (HEB 9:24-28). Those that ate manna might fall short of Canaan at any day, but all who partake of Christ shall certainly come to heaven at the last day (JOH 6:36-40). Those that ate the manna could be cast out of Canaan (DEUT 29:24-28), but those given to Christ the Bread of Life will never be cast out (JOH 6:37).

Christ’s discourse here shows that believers in Christ may rest assured that they are partakers of Christ and His life: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me HATH everlasting life” (JOH 6:47). See also JOH 3:16; JOH 3:36; JOH 5:24; 1JO 5:13. The belief is not the cause of everlasting life any more than seeing Christ is the cause of everlasting life (JOH 6:40). To make belief a condition for everlasting life is to make seeing a condition for everlasting life also (and few in history ever actually saw Him). Belief is rather the effect of eternal life which precedes it (ACT 13:48; JOH 5:24), the evidence of a part in an unseen Savior in an unseen heaven (HEB 11:1). By reasoning from the effect (belief) back to the cause (eternal life), one may conclude that believers have everlasting life. By their fruits they are known.

This discourse also shows that those who have a part in Christ the Bread of Life shall be certainly raised by Him at the last day (JOH 6:39-40; JOH 6:44; JOH 6:54). The future resurrection unto life eternal with the Lord at His Second Coming is at the last day, the day of His appearing (HEB 9:28) which is the end (1CO 15:23-24), at the last trump (1CO 15:52). How significantly this differs from any scheme which supposes that the resurrection of the saints is only the beginning of some new era on earth! Scofield’s resurrection fable denotes a beginning; Christ’s resurrection fact is THE END.

In short, JOH 6:31-58 sets forth Christ as Life, the Bread of Life, even everlasting life. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1JO 5:11). Every one that was given to Christ to save has this everlasting life, they have a part in the Bread of Life Who indwells them (JOH 6:56), and He will unfailingly raise them up at the last day. It is a reasonable inference (and that is all) from all that we have considered, therefore, that JOH 6:12 may well have had His perfected salvation for His people in view:

(Joh 6:12) When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

On the day of Christ, He will send forth other servants for a gathering operation:

(Mat 24:31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

There will have been many of God’s children that will have already died and gone home to be with the Lord (2CO 5:8; PHIL 1:23; HEB 12:22-23). In that sense, they have already experienced a “filling” of the Bread of Life, but their bodies remain on earth. Christ will bring them back with Him at Resurrection Day to be reunited with their remains and transformed (1CO 15:51-52) and the remainder of the elect will be resurrected immediately after that:

(1Th 4:14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
(1Th 4:15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
(1Th 4:16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
(1Th 4:17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

“...that nothing be lost” (JOH 6:12) c/w

(Joh 6:39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

Every single aspect of all the elect (their spirits, souls and bodies, 1TH 5:23-24) shall be gathered out of this world, no fragments overlooked, nothing lost, and all convened to fulfill God’s sovereign will of salvation:

(Eph 1:9) Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
(Eph 1:10) That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
(Eph 1:11) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Well was it said of Christ in prophecy, “...unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (GEN 49:10). “...Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (REV 22:20).