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I AM, Part 1
The Bread of Life
Bruce A. Hess
Now, if you would, please take out the word of God that you have—it may be a printed one, it may be an electronic one—and turn in it to the second book in the Bible, the book of Exodus, and chapter number 3.
A number of years ago there was a fascinating survey done by Dr. Hugh Morehead, who was a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University. What Dr. Morehead did is: he wrote to 250 famous philosophers, scientists and intellectuals and he asked them a very simple question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ He asked them to write back. Well, some offered their best guesses at the answer to that question. Others admitted that they just really made up a response. Still others admitted that they were, frankly, clueless at how to answer that question. Yet, also, interestingly enough, several of the intellectuals asked Morehead to write them back after he had garnered all that information and tell them if he had discovered the purpose of life.
What is the meaning of life? No doubt, that is a question that everyone asks at some point in their life and they wrestle with it. But I do want to say this, the answer to that question is not found in speculation, it is rather found in revelation. It is not, the meaning of life, a place where we might go, or a practice that we do; it is found in a person. It is not a ‘what,’ it is a ‘who.’ And the answer to the meaning of life is really the person of Jesus.
We are beginning today a new series we have entitled, “I AM.” In this series we are going to be unpacking and understanding who Jesus really is, and we are going to be looking at some of the ‘I AM’ statements that Jesus makes in the gospel of John. I am very excited to be doing this. This is going to be of immense value to us. It is a value not only in this life that we live now, but it has value into and through all of eternity. I think, as we look at these ‘I AM’ statements of Jesus’, we are going to get some insight into how we can meet the deepest needs of our soul.
So, our plan today is to basically do two things. Number one, we are going to look at some historical background. We are going to take a look at a profound name of God that stands as the background to everything that Jesus has to say.
Then secondly, we are going to look at His colossal claim, number one—the first ‘I AM’ statement—as we begin to unpack who Jesus really is. It is very simple; are you ready to go on the trip with me?
Let’s begin by looking at some historical background. We’ve gone to Exodus, chapter 3, in order to get that background. As you turn to Exodus, chapter 3, it is important to understand that the key character here is the character of Moses. Just to remind you, the people of Israel have for four centuries been in pagan Egypt, and for most of that time they have been in slavery to the Egyptians.
You might remember that in God’s providence Moses was raised as a prince in the house of Pharaoh. After he had grown up, on one particular day, knowing his Hebrew background, he saw an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew. He looked around–he looked to his left, he looked to his right—he didn’t think anyone was watching and he actually killed the Egyptian. Then he buried his body in the sand. He didn’t think anyone saw it, but somebody did witness it and the word had gotten around the Hebrew community. So, Moses flees as a fugitive into the desert and he spends forty years in the desert.
That brings us to chapter 3 and verse 1. Moses has been for these forty years in the desert pasturing the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, who was a herdsman who had a lot of wealth. He led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and he came to Mount Horeb. The angel of the Lord appears to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush of all things. “Moses looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.”
Basically, Moses wants to go check this thing out. Notice in verse 3 he says, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” In other words: I’ve got to go check this out, I’ve never seen anything like this. We have a lot of fires going on in the United States right now, but when things burn they burn up. Here you have a bush that is burning and it doesn’t get consumed. He says, ‘I’m checking this out more closely.’
If you remember the story, as he walks closer to the bush God speaks to him and He says, ‘Moses, I am going to send you to Pharaoh’…remember, the most powerful man on the planet at the time. ‘And you are going to go to Pharaoh, even though you have been this fugitive in the desert for forty years, and you are going to demand that Pharaoh release all the slaves of Israel. We just need to get a little feel for this.
In verse 11, Moses’ response to all of that is: “Who am I?” Of all the people you might call on, who am I? And he begins what is really a series of excuses as to why he can’t do this. It continues through chapter 3 and even down into chapter 4. It is kind of fascinating if you want to go back and read it.
Basically, when he says, “Who am I?” God’s response is verse 12, He says, “Certainly I will be with you.” That phrase, men and women, “I will be with you,” is a key secret of how to live life. “I…will…be…with…you.”
If you follow it on down into verse 13, Moses says, ‘If I’m going to go back and talk to these guys—we’ve been four centuries in pagan Egypt—if the people of the Hebrew nation ask me what is Your name, what am I supposed to say?’
That leads us to verse 14, which is actually the verse I wanted to look at. God says to Moses, ‘You want to know My name? Here’s my name. I AM WHO I AM. “And he said, “thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” If you take the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, and, you look there, in verse 14, that little phrase, ‘I AM,’ is two words. It is the words, ‘ego eimi,’ (e-g-o e-i-m-i). I AM. What’s Your name? I just AM. I am the creator God. I am the eternal One.
Notice what He says at the end of verse 15. He says, “This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.” I AM WHO I AM. It comes out of the verb, ‘be’ and they do a lot of little twists and turns with this verb, to be.
This is actually the word in the original language: ‘Yahweh.’ The scribes became fearful because they didn’t want to misuse the name of Yahweh, it was so sacred. So when they were going to read it out loud, they took the vowels from another word for God, the word ‘Adonai,’ often translated, ‘Lord,’ and they moved the vowels from that word over to this word, which is part of what gives us the pronunciation you have heard, ‘Jehovah.’ It is really Yahweh, with the vowels from Adonai. The point of all of this is, everyone knew in the Hebrew community that God was I AM, He was the sovereign creator God. The idea is that: wherever you go, whatever you have to face, whether it was Moses and nation of Israel, or even us today, the promise from God was, I AM.
Now, turn with me to the New Testament, to the gospel of John. We are going to go to chapter number 6. When you come to the New Testament and the gospel of John, Jesus, some twenty-six times in the gospel of John, has this phrase ‘ego eimi.’ I AM. What Jesus does here is He decides that I am going to explain further who God is. John, chapter 1, verse 18 tells us He was coming to do that. What He does is, not only does He use the phrase, ego eimi, I AM, but He begins to fill in the blank. He begins to give us a further description of what I AM really means.
That’s the historical background. We need to have that in our minds as we move to these I AM statements of Jesus. We want to look at the very first one, His first colossal claim. We see it in several verses in John 6. Notice verse 35. Jesus said to them, ‘Ego eimi.’ Now, that would get everybody’s attention. It goes on, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”
Look at verse 40, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Look at verse 48, “I am (ego eimi) the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness.” Remember, after they come out of Egypt they are in the wilderness and God provided this manna for them. He says, “Way back then your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died.” The bread I’m talking about now, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am (ego eimi) the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
So, the first I AM statement we are going to look at from Jesus, is ego eimi, I AM, and He expands on what that means: the bread of life.
Just prior to Jesus talking about being the bread of life, the fourth miracle that John records of Jesus’ had happened and it was the feeding of the five thousand men. You remember that event? We’re not exactly sure how many people were actually there. It was five thousand men not counting women and children. So in my mind there had to have been at least ten thousand people there, maybe twelve thousand people. Any time you’ve got thousands of people and you are feeding them, it is quite a scene.
For several years we’ve gone to the Shepherd’s Conference in California in the Los Angeles area, and we have about three thousand men that come to that. One of the things they do at the Shepherd’s Conference is they go and find all of these catering trucks from all over Los Angeles and they bring them all in and they park them in part of their back parking lot and they go all the way around in kind of a U-shaped form.
You have an opportunity, as hundreds and hundreds of guys are gathering around, to pick a particular catering truck and you are going to eat from that catering truck. Now, that’s just three thousand guys. I don’t know how many—if it was twelve thousand to be fed—how many catering trucks would you have to have? It’s quite an ordeal is the point.
Yet, Jesus doesn’t bring any catering truck in. He rather takes, remember the story, five small barley loaves and two small fish and He multiplies them, and He feeds this 10,000-12,000 people group, and then there are so many leftovers that they fill multiple large baskets with them.
What was really the lesson behind that miracle? Part of it reflected on who Christ was, but part of it is that Jesus wanted to emphasize that earthly bread is temporary. In fact, just before He makes this statement you have the same group of people, whose stomachs are now grumbling the next day, and they are looking for Jesus. Hey, can we get back to all the catering trucks? Can you feed all of us again? We’re a little bit hungry.
But the purpose of this, primarily, was to point to the need for spiritual bread; something that would satisfy the heart and soul; something that would meet the deepest need that a human being has. So, that’s the first thing we learn from Jesus’ statement, I AM the bread of life, and that is that Jesus is the one who satisfies.
You know, as human beings, it was true way back in the Old Testament era, in the New Testament era, every era since, and our era today. As human beings we tend to look everywhere for answers for the things that satisfy, except for looking to God.
It reminds me of the grandest life experiment ever tried in a search for meaning. I love this grand life experiment because it speaks to where we are as a culture. There are a lot of lessons for us even today and there will be lessons even twenty years from today. When I talk about the grandest life experiment that was ever done, it was done by one of the Kings of Israel by the name of Solomon. Do you remember Solomon?
Solomon got an offer from God that nobody else has ever received. God came to Solomon and said, ‘Whatever you want, ask for it and I will give it to you.’ Can you imagine God doing that with you or with me? Hey, Bruce, whatever you want, just ask for it and you got it.’ But that’s the offer He gave to Solomon. What does Solomon ask for? He asks God for wisdom and for insight…and God gave him that.
Solomon decided to do this grand life experiment in his very early years and truly try to mine out what is the meaning of life. Where can you find true happiness? Where do you find lasting satisfaction that just satisfies you deep in your soul?
So, he conducts this grand life experiment. I want you to know that he had resources we don’t have. For example, he had no intelligence limits. I guarantee you, you may not know me well, but I will tell you, up front, that if I were going to conduct a grand life experiment, I would have intelligence limits. He had none of those.
He not only had no intelligence limits, he also had no financial limits. He was the richest person who ever lived. We oftentimes hear about the people who are the richest people in the United States, the richest people in the world: nobody like Solomon. He is the richest person who ever lived on the planet.He had no intelligence limits; he had no financial limits; and he had no authority limits. He was the king.
At this point Israel was a very powerful nation. So, he says, ‘I am going to do this experiment. I am just going to take all of these resources and I am going to figure this out: what brings lasting satisfaction?’ The first thing he tackled is the idea of pleasure. He said, ‘I am going to see if I can get enough pleasure that it just satisfies my heart. So, he went after fun; he went after good times; he went after laughs.
I’m not going to tell you everything he did, but he was—I like to call him—the original ‘party on, dude,’ guy. What he did is—this is amazing to me—every single day he had a party for thirty thousand people. Anybody have a party for thirty thousand people?? No! Are you kidding me? Every day they had a party for thirty thousand people and they had gourmet, gourmet food.
They had the best of the wines and this went on for years. Party! Party! Party! Party! No one ever partied like he partied. He said at the end of that, as he reflected back on it, he said, ‘You know what? This, frankly, kind of left me empty. It was a little bit like trying to find satisfaction by chasing after the wind.’ I’ve always loved that phrase. We live in a very windy state. Sometimes you really just need to go outside and try to picture what it would be like to chase the wind down. It’s totally futile, right?
The second thing he decided to do in this grand life experiment is, he said, ‘Well, it must be found in achievement. If you can make the right kinds of achievements, then, then you are going to feel it in your soul. So, he spent seven years building the temple to God, the Solomonic Temple, which was the greatest temple to God ever built ever, before and since.
Not only that—he had spent seven years doing that—most people don’t know, he spent, get this, thirteen years building his own house. You can imagine what that was like. Then, not only that, but he designed and he built eight full cities. We often give credit to Donald Trump in his prime, when he was building casinos and office buildings, but Trump was a nobody compared to Solomon.
Not only those kinds of achievements, but he became an encyclopedic expert on trees and on birds and on fish and on dozens of other subjects he was the number one authority in all of the world. He was a composer; he wrote a thousand songs. He said, ‘After all those achievements, it kind of left me empty, it was like chasing after the wind.’
Then, in his grand life experiment, he went to possessions. Oh, that’s the way to really feel satisfied, if you can just get enough possessions! So, he had the largest fleet of ships that ever existed. We go down to Naples, Florida every year—at least we have for the last few years—to the FamilyLife Speaker Retreat down there. And one of the things they have in Naples, Florida—I’m telling you—they have some yachts down there and they are something to see. We drive around and look at some of these things.
Well,Solomon had more yachts than anybody in the world. Or we could put it this way, he had a whole fleet of 757 airplanes that he could take to go anywhere he wanted. His possessions included 12,000 horses. I can’t imagine cleaning out the stalls of 12,000 horses. In his day it was horses, in our day it would be cars. Can you imagine someone who has 12,000 cars? And they would be the most expensive, the most luxurious cars. He collected jewels from around the world; he collected gold treasure. It says, in 1 Kings, chapter 10, that silver was as common as stones in Israel in Solomon’s’ day. Now, if you ever go to Israel, you will understand why they stoned people, because there are just stones everywhere. They are saying that is what silver was like, it was everywhere, that’s how many possessions he had.
Then, he decided, ‘Wait a minute, maybe that’s not where it’s found, maybe it’s found in sexual pleasure.’ So, he had—and it always blows my mind to hear this—he had 700 wives. And, he had 300 concubines. You say, ‘what’s a concubine?’ It’s friends with benefits. He had a thousand and they were the cream of the cream of the cream [the best of the best].
Then, he said, ‘Well, what about fame and notoriety?’ If you can just become well-known. Remember, they lived in the time when there was no radio, there was no television, and there was no internet. It took time to go around the world and he became known all around the world.
In fact, the Queen of Sheba, who herself, had world-wide acclaim, said, ‘I’ve got to go check this dude out.’ So, she gets this large entourage together and she brings a whole slew of ships full of gifts to him. One of the gifts that she gave to Solomon when she came—check this one out, see if you’ve ever given a gift like this—four tons of gold! I need to impress the guy, you know; so she brings four tons of gold.
Let’s go over to 1 Kings, chapter 10. I want you to see this in detail. Turn over to 1 Kings, chapter 10. If you get to 1 and 2 Samuel, next is 1 and 2 Kings. 1 and 2 Chronicles means you need to go back to the left. But, 1 Kings, chapter 10. I want you to see her response to all of this. Verse 1 of chapter 10, it says, she had heard about the fame of Solomon. Now, think about the miracle that is: with no internet, no TV, no radio, no nothing. She was a big-timer herself and so she comes to check out the situation and she came to Jerusalem with a very large, verse 2 of chapter 10, retinue, “With camels carrying spices and very much gold and precious stone. When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her.”
Notice verse 4, “When the queen of Sheba perceived all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the parties that were carrying on, the attendance of his waiters and their attire, his cupbearers, and his stairway by which he went up the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.” It just blew her off the map.
She didn’t even know what to say. Verse 6, “Then she said to the king, ‘It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. Nevertheless, I did not believe until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told.” It was more than double what I heard. I mean, you want to talk about having notoriety and accomplishments and everything else—but he says at the end of this grand life experiment: ‘It frankly left me empty, kind of like chasing after the wind.’
What can satisfy a human’s heart and soul? What can meet our deepest need? Hey, we’ve got people all around us and at times we fall into the trap, too. They are pursuing pleasure, achievement, possessions, sexual pleasure, fame and notoriety. Solomon has a message for them and for us. He says if you are looking to find satisfaction: don’t go that way. It will just leave you empty at the end.
It really moves me; it hurts my heart to think about how sad and jarring it is when you see people struggling with spiritual emptiness, sometimes even despairing of life. I want to read to you a real-life suicide note.
To anyone in the world who cares, who am I? Why am I living? Life has become stupid and purposeless. Nothing makes sense anymore. The questions I had when I came to college are still unanswered and now I am convinced there are no answers. There can only be pain and guilt and despair here in this world. My fear of death and the unknown is far less terrifying than the prospect of the unbearable frustration, futility, and hopelessness of continued existence.
Man, it’s sad when someone feels that way. At the very end of the book of Ecclesiastes, which is what this is all from, in the last two verses, Solomon shares the secret and he says the secret is not a ‘what,’ it is a ‘Who.’ The secret is the living God.
Now, back to John, chapter 6. Jesus elaborates, notice in chapter 6, verse 33, He says, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven,” and here comes the key phrase: “and gives life to the world.” Verse 35 again, “Jesus said to them, (ego eimi) “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” We don’t really see it so much in the English translation here, but these phrases in the original are very strongly worded. “He who comes to Me will not hunger.” We could translate it, ‘Will absolutely never, ever hunger.’ “He who believes in Me will never thirst.” We could translate it, ‘Will absolutely never, ever thirst.’ Very strong statements that He makes, and obviously He is talking about spiritual satisfaction. He is talking about finding the real meaning of life.
Men and women, we realize that our deepest and greatest need is spiritual. We were created with hungry souls and Jesus steps up and He says, “I AM the bread of life.” Jesus is the one who satisfies. We also know from this statement that Jesus is the one who sustains. That’s what bread was in the ancient world, it was the daily sustenance that was needed—and he says, ‘I am the bread of life, I am the one who sustains you.’ No matter what we may face.
We talked about Michael and Joy Bendrick [Wildwood church members], Joy being in the hospital up there at Baptist and being first on the list for a liver transplant as her liver is failing and she is in a very weak state. They are awaiting a liver transplant. I was just up talking with them earlier in the week. I will have you know that they would say that if God provides a liver for a transplant, that as they go through that whole process, Jesus is the one who will be sustaining them. And they would also honestly tell you that if the door is not opened for a transplant and Joy goes home to be with Jesus, He will still be the one who is sustaining them through that process. Jesus is the one who sustains. How does He do that? He sustains us through His word, through the Bible, through the body of truth that we have.
Jesus said this, Himself, Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” It is through the truth of God that we find sustenance.
I love this verse from Jeremiah, chapter 15, verse 16, Jeremiah says to God this: ‘Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart’s delight; for I bear Your name, O Lord God Almighty. Your words are what sustain me.’ That’s why we teach the Bible on Sunday mornings. That’s why we’ve always done it, why we are going to continue to do it; because that is what sustains us.
But here is another question, who is it that is sustained? That is very important. Everybody? Well, notice again verse 35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger.” So, one thing if we want to be sustained, is we need to come to Him.
Verse 40, “Everyone who beholds the Son”…who sees Jesus for who He really is, the living God, who came to this planet with the purpose to come and die for our failures, our rebellion, my failure, my rebellion, and then was gloriously resurrected from the dead. The one who’s sustained comes to Him; beholds Him; sees Him for who He really is. And then it is mentioned twice in verse 35 and also in verse 40, “He who comes to Me and he who believes in Me,” verse 40, “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.”
No problem is too large when Jesus is in charge. No problem is too large when our eternity is secure. We were created as eternal beings, that’s what some people miss. Jesus is the answer. Jesus is the one who satisfies. Jesus is the one who sustains—and He says if you want to experience that, what we must do is we must come to Him; we must behold Him; we must believe in Him.
You talk about belief and you talk about faith, and so many people are confused. What does that really mean?? Well, ultimately, it means to rest all of our hope on Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher from across the Atlantic, put it this way. I love this quote. He says,
Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an impractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation. Faith, he concludes, is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, that He will do what He has promised to do, and expecting this of Him.
He said, ‘I AM the bread of life. He who comes to me, who beholds Me, and believes in Me, will experience that.’
Our need for the bread of life and the truth of the bread of life, I think, was very well captured by Augustine, centuries ago, when he said this to God,:
“You made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Jesus is Yahweh. Jesus is Jehovah. Jesus is I AM. And He fills in the blank for us. He says ego eimi, I AM the bread of life, the one who satisfies a hungry soul.
Clara Williams is a woman who lived in the nineteenth century. A friend came to her one day and said, ‘I’m putting together a book of poetry. I’d like you to write a poem that could go into that book.’ This is what she wrote:
All my life I had a longing
for a drink from some clear spring
That I hoped would quench the burning
of the thirst I felt within
Hallelujah! I have found Him.
Whom my soul so long has craved
Jesus satisfies my longings,
through His blood I now am saved.
One thing we have to say about the bread of life is this: God will never force feed us the bread of life. We must come to Him; we must behold who He is; we must believe in Him.
I want to close with these words from Isaiah, chapter 55, verses 1-3. “Come all who are thirsty. Come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money without cost.” This is the amazing truth. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good.” I love this next phrase, “And your soul will delight in the richest fare. Give ear, come to me. That your soul may live.”
Jesus said, “I AM the bread of life.”
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You again for Your book. We thank You for the truth, that this is a living book. We thank You for our Savior; we thank You for Jesus who came to this world to be the bread of life that we need to satisfy us and to sustain us. We pray that everyone who hears the words of this message would be someone who chooses to come to Him; understand who He is; and account everything in the trust of Him, so that they could know the bread of life. And we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
The Bread of Life
1. Bruce made the statement: As humans we often look everywhere but God for answers to life. Why is that?
2. Which substitutes for fulfillment apart from Christ do you tend to be most tempted by?
[none are necessarily wrong in the right context]
3. When are you most vulnerable to pursuing that, rather than seeking fulfillment in Christ?
4. Why is it that so few people know about Solomon and his grand life experiment? How can that change?
5. We can so easily be like those among the crowd that followed Jesus. We experience a miracle one day, and we find ourselves seeking another the very next day. How can we guard against such a tendency?
6. What are some things you are currently asking for from God?
7. Read John 6:35 out loud again. Express gratitude to Jesus that He is the Bread of Life, delivering true fulfillment, satisfying our deepest needs and desires. He won’t let us down.