John 6:48 (ESV) … “I am the bread of life.”
After the feeding of the many thousands, it is not surprising that these same numbers sought Jesus out again. When they found Him, Jesus read their hearts and confronted them with their motive: “You are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (6:26). Jesus then encouraged them not to devote themselves to such pursuits but rather to “food that endures to eternal life” (6:27).
This eternal food is the teaching of Jesus. When asked about what works were necessary to appease God, Jesus replied in a decidedly different fashion than they anticipated. Rather than outlining a list of do’s and don’ts, Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (6:29). Salvation is not something that is attained through human effort, but instead it is a freely given gift. The only “work” necessary is to receive the gift of God for eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The crowd then asked for a sign, as Moses gave with the manna, that Jesus was indeed the One sent from God (6:30–31). This revealed that their primary interest was food, attempting to goad Jesus into giving them bread in exchange for their faith.
This interchange resulted in the first of the seven “I am” statements found within the Gospel of John. Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life” (6:35). The Greek language at this point is strongly emphatic, reminiscent of God’s own “I am” recorded in Exodus 3:14. Jesus stated that all who come to Him in saving faith will never be driven away and that it is God’s will that all should so come (6:37, 40). Such statements did not please the Jews. Jesus was claiming to have come from heaven, and this was unacceptable for them to bestow upon one “whose father and mother we know” (6:42).
In reply Jesus maintained the following: first, that no one can come to the Father through Christ except as the Father wills (6:44). Second, to be in relationship with God is to be in a relationship with Jesus (6:45). Third, only the Son, Jesus, has seen the Father (6:46); Fourth, the bread of life (Jesus) is that which comes from heaven, and only by eating of that bread, given for the world, can life eternal be gained (6:48–51). The Jews understood this to mean that Jesus was going to give of His actual flesh for them to eat (6:52). Jesus added to their confusion by stating that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (6:53).
This verse is subject to many misinterpretations, such as thinking that it refers to the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist. Nowhere, however, is it taught in Scripture that the taking of the Lord’s Supper is the single requirement for salvation. The sole requirement for salvation is not partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper but faith in Christ (6:35, 40, 47, 51). So what is the flesh and blood of which Christ spoke? Clearly it is the flesh and blood He offered to the world at the moment of His death, an offering made to the world for acceptance, resulting in eternal life for those who accept His death on their behalf as an atonement for their sin.