John 6.51-59 (full reading). For the youngest child, we read only verse 51.
We know that Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd to help us understand who he is. But Jesus has other ways of helping us understand him. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus tells us a little more about who he is. We can put this new information beside what we already know about the Good Shepherd so that we understand even more. Listen:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Jesus says that he is bread.
Bread that lives.
Bread from heaven.
That seems a little strange.
Let's go back to what we know. What does the Good Shepherd do?
He lets me rest in fields of green grass (Psalm 23:2)
Of course! The Good Shepherd feeds his sheep. Not just any grass. Green grass. No hurry. The sheep can rest while they eat. Only the best for the sheep.
Jesus also says,
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
The Good Shepherd cares so much for his sheep. He gives them his whole life. There does not seem to be anything he will not do for them. It seems that he loves them!
This is what Jesus does. He feeds. He gives his life. He loves.
Today we hear him say,
I am the living bread
We know something else about Jesus and bread. We know that at the Last Supper he celebrates with his friends, he takes bread and gives it to them, saying,
“Take; this is my body.” (Mark 14:22)
He gives his body to the disciples—in the bread. He needs his body to live, but he gives it to them. Like a mother who feeds her baby with the milk of her body, he feeds them. Everything he has, he gives to them. Only the best.
If Jesus gives them his body in the bread, if he gives them his life, how can he live? Has he not given his life away?
I am the living bread
We know that Jesus dies on the cross, but on the third day, God raises Jesus to new life— life that can never end. Eternal life. So the life that Jesus gives—the life that is in the bread—it is eternal life.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever
The Good Shepherd wants to be with his sheep forever. Living bread for eternal life.