32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
I don't know about you, but just about my favorite thing to eat is a freshly baked loaf of bread. Nice and hot with butter melted all over it. If there is one thing that I don't think I could give up it is bread. And, cheese is a close second. In Jesus day, bread was one of the main foods people ate. For the Jews, bread was a symbol of God's provision in the wilderness, where God provided bread called "manna". Literally the word meant "what is it?" They did not know what it was but it still fed them. Since Moses was their leader they assumed it came through him.
In this chapter, Jesus has just fed the 5,000 on a few loaves and few fish. Then, he walked on water. When the crowds saw he left and the boat was still on shore, they were even more curious. They were hungry. They were following Jesus trying to understand his significance and where he came from. They knew Moses and the miracles he had done among them, but they had not yet realized who Jesus was. Was he greater than Moses? They could see he was doing miraculous deeds, but they were sure what to make of them. Jesus did the miraculous signs to lead them to who he really was. The signs in and of themselves were not important, but what they pointed to regarding his identity.
The miracle of feeding the 5,000, the miracle of walking on the water, and the history of the manna of Israel all were clues to draw them to Jesus. And then when he has captured their attention he reveals his true nature when he says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never grow hungry, and whoever believes in me will ever be thirsty." Unlike the manna in the wilderness that only provided temporary satisfaction, Jesus was offering a different kind of sustenance. Jesus met those who were seeking him and revealed himself as the One who could offer them eternal life.
I believe people are more spiritually hungry than ever before. They have had their fill of what the world brings, and they are hungry for something more, even if they don't know what that is. And what can we give them? We can give them the bread of life. We can take our meager resources and he will multiply them to feed thousands. I think if we asked Jesus how can we reach hungry people he would say, 'You give them something to eat." And of course he is referring to what only he can give, but he gives it through us. We get to serve the bread!