THE BREAD OF LIFE
The doctrine of Christ’s role in the atonement is spoken of in many ways throughout the scriptures. One of the more interesting passages that teach of the atonement is the feeding of five thousand recorded in the New Testament. To the casual reader, it is an interesting story of a reported miracle, probably done to prove he is the Son of God. But this miracle laid the foundation to His incomparable sermon on the Bread of Life which followed and became a clear testimony of his role as Savior and Redeemer.
“8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,
9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
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.
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.
12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
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.” (John 6:5-13)
The story line is that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist in prison. When Jesus heard of it, he departed by ship into a desert place, John said it was also upon a mountain, and there He stayed with his disciples. He was probably distraught and in mourning and went to be alone except for some close friends. Most of us would do likewise. When the people heard of this, they followed him on foot out of the cities. When Christ saw the great multitude he was moved with compassion toward them and healed their sick. When it came evening, Christ said, “…they need not depart; give ye them to eat.” The apostles said they did not have sufficient money to provide the food.
As a missionary, how can you follow Jesus’ example of compassion? You must let your love for the work and the people create compassion in you toward them so when it is late, you are tired, hungry or it is inconvenient your compassions for the people carry you forward.
The boy gave all that he had, five loaves and two small fishes. You follow this example when you, like the boy, give whatever you have in His service. The Lord magnified the boy’s service to feed the five thousand and he will magnify you and your service as you serve your mission. This miraculous feast from five loaves and two fishes symbolizes the spiritual feast the Savior offers you in return for your small offering as a missionary of all that you make. James E. Faust said,
“Many nameless people with gifts equal only to five loaves and two small fishes magnify their callings and serve without attention or recognition, feeding literally thousands…They have largely surrendered their own interests and in so doing have found the peace of God, which passes all understanding.” (Conf. Report Apr 1994)
The following day Jesus took advantage of the miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes to testify to the people in Capernaum about his mission to bring about the atonement. He chided the followers saying ye seek me, not because of the miracles but you ate and were filled. They flocked to him hoping for another free lunch. He then said:
“35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:35, 47, 49-51)
The Bread of Life is an appropriate description of the Savior and the blessings he offers to us and to our investigators. Hunger and thirst are bodily appetites and passions that everybody understands. Food is important but incidental to the real nourishment the Savoir offers. As we strive to know him, remember him and serve him, we receive spiritual nourishment and our confidence in our spiritual standing before the Lord increases. We partake of the bread of life as we accept and use the atonement in our lives and experience the peace He brings. We will then never hunger or thirst again due to spiritual depravity. Thus, “He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst and hath everlasting life.”
The Savior then tied the lesson directly to His atonement that brings this liberation and peace:
“53 … I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54)
I testify that Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life and he has the words of eternal life. I hope all of you can continue to apply his promises from the sermon on the Bread of Life.