Jesus made a number of terse, succinct statements about his identity, and his mission. One such statement was “I am the bread of life.”
These statements, like when Jesus told parables, are not literal. Jesus is using figurative language to express spiritual truth. Bread, of course, is a basic food staple. In some cultures, it was eaten in some form at every meal. It was a primary part of their diet.
Jesus was, of course, referring to our relationship with the Father, and Jesus being the necessary, primary ingredient in that relationship. People cannot enter into a relationship with the Father without Jesus. A person is born a slave to sin. He is held captive to it, and its consequences. To live the life God designed, to live in relationship with the Father, we need to break our relationship with sin and the world. So, Jesus died … and he created a bridge back to God. We choose allegiance with God. We walked across the bridge into relationship with God, and into the life we were designed to live. (Of course, transformation is necessary to actually live, practice, and experience that relationship.)
Bread is the means to sustaining life. Without it, life cannot exist; it dies. And since, Jesus calls us to a new kind of life – a life we were designed to live from the beginning, but which only Jesus ever really lived – we need a new and different kind of “bread.” A “bread” that Jesus supplid. And when we make “bread” our own, we we consume it, we make it a part of us. And the life in it is injected into us. The physical benefits of bread are not delivered until we consume it. Neither will the benefits of this new “bread.”
Part of what Jesus was trying to do was show that people’s conceptions of what was important, of what constituted a true relationship with God, of what constituted true living, were flawed. These figures Jesus used were not theological position statements, with well-defined, precise and exhaustive language. They were attempts to bump people out of their mental ruts, which were engraved in stone, and as deep as the Grand Canyon. Every time Jesus gave one of these statements, it was a clarion call from revelation. It was a call for changes of allegiance, and changes into a revelutionary lifestyle.