Teacher’s Overview: Lifeway “Explore the Bible” lesson John 6:26-40, “I Am The Bread”

(A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 6:26-40, for Sunday, January 22, 2023. A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:

INTRO: MAKE/BUY BREAD FOR YOUR CLASS THAT DAY!

Then discuss:  “What’s your favorite kind of bread?”

(Cornbread; sourdough bread!, monkey bread, bran rolls; cinnamon rolls are a kind of bread … etc.) Share your favorites.

Then at the appropriate time you can say: Today in our study of the Book of John, we’re going to see how Jesus said that HE is the “bread” of life.  

CONTEXT: Book of John

  • John 1: the Person & Work of Christ: “fully God and fully Man” (John 1:1 & 1:14) and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • Chapter 2 has the first of the 7 Signs that John 1-11 is built around.
  • Chapter 3 is Nicodemus’ famous visit and John 3:16
  • Chapter 4 = how Jesus reached out to the Woman at the well, and we need to do the same w/others 
  • Chapter 5 Jesus healed the man at Bethesda, but legalists began to fight against Him. 

NOW Chapter 6 opens with Jesus feeding the 5000. In :15 they wanted to make Him King, so He withdrew to the mountain alone.

So in :16+ Jesus walks on water and meets the disciples. The crowd meets Him on the other side, and in :25 they ask Him: “Rabbi, when did You get here?”  This brings us to our focus text, beginning in :26. 

If you want to use an outline, you could use something like this to teach some of the highlights of this passage:

  1. The Erring Motivation: :26-31
  2. The Nourishing Provision (:32-36)
  3. The Comforting Promise (:37-40)

I. THE ERRING MOTIVATION

:26 “You seek Me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves”

??? Why do you think Jesus addressed them like this? It is almost as if He didn’t WANT them to follow Him. WHY would He do that? Why wouldn’t He want them to make Him King? WHY wouldn’t He tell them He walked on water?

(Because they wanted Him for the wrong reason. They wanted the wrong kind of King.  HE HAD TO BE REJECTED AND DIE FOR OUR SINS. Our problem isn’t that we didn’t have bread; our problem is that we have SINS! THAT is what Jesus came for.

But this addresses the whole issue/application of MOTIVE.

??? Does it matter WHY you do something? (Motivation)

(Absolutely! It makes ALL the difference.

  • Is getting baptized “good”? Yes — IF you are doing it for the right motivation: to confess Christ as your Savior.  

But if you are doing it hoping it will save you, that is a wrong motivation. Or if you are doing it to please someone else!

A few years ago I heard the story of a mom who had prayed for her son, year after year, to be saved and baptized. And unfortunately, like sometimes we do, she tried too hard and badgered him too much. One day in church he went forward and made a decision to get baptized — but as he was coming out of the water, someone heard him say: “Now maybe THAT will get her off my back”!

Does it matter WHY he was baptized? Absolutely! I would’t bank too much on that man’s salvation. 

??? Can you think of some other applications here: that it matters WHY you do what you do — in any area of life?

— Does it matter WHY you pray/read your Bible?

If you think it’s to “gain you points” for salvation, it’s BAD! Totally wrong motivation. It’s to know the Lord better. If you’re doing it as a “work,” you’ll be legalistic/self righteous. It totally makes a difference why you do it.

And the same with ALL Christian works:

— it matters why you tithe/give: to be seen? For “credit” towards heaven? Because you HAVE to?

— it matters why you visit/minister to someone: 

In virtually every Christian work/deed, it matters WHY you do what you do.

That’s why Jesus said, “blessed are the pure in HEART.” He doesn’t just care about what we DO, but WHY we do it!  Christianity is not just a religion that consists of doing certain “works;” the heart is central to God; it always matters WHY we do what we do.

— There’s also application from John 6 regarding the Prosperity Gospel, which teaches that Jesus will always make you “healthy, wealthy, and successful.”  Could there be some wrong motivations there?

To me, the prosperity gospel is JUST what Jesus is warning us about in John 6: you don’t want Me because I’m the Messiah; or because you know you know you need a Savior for your sin; you want Me because I’ll give you loaves of bread — or a promotion at work, or a new car; or make you rich; or always heal you; or make you a success at whatever you do. This is the Prosperity Gospel — and Jesus says I DO NOT want you following Me for wrong motivations like that! 

In :27 He tries to point them to a higher motivation:  “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” 

They have a little back & forth on that in the next verses, and the crowd tells Him in :30, What sign do You give? They tell in Him :31, “our fathers ate manna in the wilderness” (implied: so what are YOU going to give us?!) But again, Jesus points them to the higher thing He has to give them than physical bread:

II. The NOURISHING PROVISION (BREAD OF LIFE)

??? Read :32-33 and ask your group: what all can we glean from these verses about the “bread” that God has to give?

— it comes from “My Father” — it is from God

— it is the “true bread”

— it is “out of heaven”

— it gives LIFE (:33)

  — and it’s for: “the WORLD” — for everyone!  

:34 so when they heard this, the crowd = “Lord, always give us this bread” (notice this is like the Samaritan Woman with the water: (4:15) “Sir, give me this water …”!  

But in both cases, something held them back, and Jesus had to point it out to them.

— in the case of the Samaritan Woman, Jesus pointed out her SIN (“you’ve had 5 husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband”!) He = you’ve got to deal with your SIN if you want the living water.

HERE Jesus says the “bread” is not what you think! And this brings us to what is perhaps THE KEY VERSE of this passage, :35, where Jesus said, “I AM the bread of life.”

This is a KEY statement:

— FIRST: point out that this is the first of SEVEN “I AM” statements Jesus makes in the Book of John. There’s “Seven Signs” that John 1-11 are built around; and there are Seven “I AM’s” in John.

“I AM” is the name God gave Moses in Exodus 3, when Moses asked Him “what is Your name?” He = “I AM THAT I AM.” 

So it is significant that here in John, Jesus repeatedly says: “I AM …”

  1. I AM the bread of life (6:35), 
  2. I AM the light of the world (8:12), 
  3. I AM the door (10:7)
  4. I AM the good shepherd (10:11,14), 
  5. I AM the resurrection and the life (11:25) 
  6. I AM the way the truth and the life (14:6) 
  7. I AM the true vine (15:1)

Also in 8:58  “Before Abraham came into being, I AM!” And the Jews took up stones to stone Him, for they knew just what He was =, that He is the “I AM” God.  

??? If you want some discussion at this point, I might ask my group: Which one of those “I AM” statements do you like best, and why???

(For EX: I kind of like “I AM the Good Shepherd.” He’s my Shepherd, and I am his sheep, like Psalm 23 says. He leads me and protects me and provides for me – and will take me home to be with Him.)

Share your favorite, and let your group share theirs. 

— THEN: look at this statement itself: “I am the bread of life.”

??? What do you think Jesus meant by that, “Bread of life”; why would He call Himself, “bread”???

(Bread is the “basic necessity” — especially in those days. Bread meant life. If you had bread, you would live, if you did not have bread, you would NOT live.

I just read Over the Edge of The World, by Laurence Bergreen, about Magellan’s first-ever voyage around the world in the 1520s. They packed a lot of food for the trip, which took 3 years! They ran out of most of it, but their basic staple was “hardtack.” 

“HARDTACK” is a kind of bread made from flour, water, and salt. It was popular because it would last a long time, but it’s not very good. 

(You might make/bring a HARDTACK SAMPLE to class?!!)

Magellan’s crew survived on “hardtack.” So did many settlers and pioneers in America. It wasn’t “luxury” bread — but it was a SURVIVAL STAPLE. If you had it, you could LIVE.

So Jesus said here: “I AM THE ‘BREAD’ OF LIFE.” I.e, He’s saying: I am the BASIC NECESSITY. I am what you really need to live.” And not just “live,” but often in scripture, the word “live” refers to “eternal life.” 

(*EDIT from video: Luke 10:28, not Matthew 19*) When the lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life, and quoted the Great Commandments to Jesus. He said, “Do this, and you will LIVE.” By “live” there, Jesus meant “have eternal life” like the lawyer had asked Him about.  Often in scripture, “life,” or “live” refers to ETERNAL LIFE.

So it’s important that when Jesus says here: “I am the bread of LIFE,” He means ETERNAL LIFE. He’s saying: “I am the One you need to have eternal life.”

This is the Gospel. Share the GOSPEL at this point in class:

— God wants us to be with Him

— But we separated ourselves from God by our sin

— Jesus came to die on the cross and pay for our sins

— If we repent of our sins, and believe in Him as our Lord & Savior, we will be saved.

BUT WE MUST HAVE JESUS for this to happen. He is the “bread” of life. We can’t be saved without Him. There is no salvation without Him dying on the cross. There is no forgiveness of sin without the blood He shed. There is no possibility of us having eternal life without Him. HE is the “bread” we must have, to have eternal life.

Jesus says: the way you get this “bread” is to BELIEVE.

— :35 “he who BELIEVES will never thirst”

— :36 “yet you do not BELIEVE”

So “believing” in Jesus is the key. NOT just “head knowledge,” but really entrusting your life to Him: committing to Him as your Lord & Savior.  He said to the crowd that day: most of you are NOT doing that. You do NOT believe. 

III. THE COMFORTING PROMISE

:37 “the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.”

A number of people wonder: can I come to the Lord? Can I be saved? Some doubt whether they can, because of how sinful they are, or because of something they’ve done in the past. But here Jesus gives us the answer: IF YOU WILL COME TO HIM, HE WILL TAKE YOU! HE WILL NOT CAST YOU OUT!

Ask your group: ??? Have you ever been nervous/afraid if someone was going to receive you well???

  • Esther and the king! Would he extend the royal scepter … She had to be very nervous about that!
  • There have been some hospital/evangelistic visits I’ve gone to make, when people said: “they may not want to talk to you,” so I went kind of nervously: how will they receive me?
  • A pastor or staff member coming to meet a church may wonder how they will be received?!
  • At our church Wed PM, our Minister of Music’s fiancee (Tresa) was driving down from Houston to be introduced to our choir/music team. She told me later she was nervous about how she would be received that night.
  • Sometimes a person meets a long-lost parent/child they had not met: how will they be received.

– YOU/ YOUR CLASS can give OTHER EX’s: 

Then I would say: Many are this way with GOD: will He take them? 

I’ve had people ask on my blog: I don’t know if God will still take me. I’ve responded to them with this verse: “if you come to Him, He WILL NOT cast you out!”   It’s a great promise!

The Greek wording here for “I will certainly not” is  OU ME (pronounced EW-MAY) “not/not” — a double negative. We don’t use a double negative in English: it’s like saying “they ain’t never …” but they do use the double negative in Greek when they really want to emphasize something: “Ou me” — “not/not’ — it WILL NOT happen!!

— This double negative is used in John 10:28, where Jesus says “I give eternal life to them, and they will NEVER perish.” “Never” there is literally “ou me” — NOT/NOT — “they ain’t never gonna perish”! It’s a very emphatic verse on the eternal security of the believer.

And so it is a very strong verse here as well: Jesus says: “the one who comes to Me, “I will certainly NOT cast him out” — OU ME — NOT/NOT — it “ain’t never” gonna happen!

This is such a great promise: if you are willing to come to Jesus,  you don’t have to worry: “will He take me?” No, He has promised: “The one who comes to Me, I will NOT — with all the weight of that expression — NOT throw you out.

HE WILL NOT “THROW YOU OUT” if you come to Him!  So it’s a great encouragement to us, to always come to Him.

AND it’s a great word that some of us need to share with friends and loved ones — who are wondering like those people did on my blog: can I come to the Lord? Will He take me? The answer is always YES HE WILL — IF you will come to Him!  He will be YOUR “bread of life” and save you, and forgive you, and give you eternal life — if you are willing to come to Him!

SUPER passage for this week! I hope this overview helps you get ready for it. And if you write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.

Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:

– These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.

– Lifeway resources are available at: goExploretheBible.com  and: goexplorethebible.com/adults-training

– If you have questions about Explore the Bible resources you may send emails to explorethebible@lifeway.com

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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7 Responses to Teacher’s Overview: Lifeway “Explore the Bible” lesson John 6:26-40, “I Am The Bread”

  1. Theresa Latham says:

    This is so wonderful. Thank you so much. Is there a way to print the notes?

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      Theresa, I know that people have told me that they print these out and sometimes even teach from them; I’m not sure if there’s a way to do it directly from the blog. I do know that I have just highlighted, copied and pasted sections of some of my sermons from this blog to a word document before, and printed them — so I know you can at least do that. And there may be other ways to do it as well (readers: please feel free to comment here if you know how!)

  2. Weldon Fallaw says:

    Thanks for your help. It has really been a blessing to listen to your commentary in my preparations. God bless!

  3. Josephine Brown says:

    Thank you again for your commentary on the Scripture each week! It is so helpful to me as I prepare the lesson.
    Our class is really enjoying the study of John. Last Sunday we once again had a room full and some wonderful discussion.
    Our small church is still seeking a pastor. Please pray with us about that.
    May God bless you!

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      I’m so grateful to hear what the Lord is doing in your church Josephine (one of my grand daughters’ names, by the way!). And I am praying that God will give you all His direction for your church’s next pastor, as well as for your class tomorrow!

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