The multitude seek signs
Following the feeding of the 5000, Jesus knew that many of his followers were following him only in the hope of another miraculous feast:
John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
These followers had witnessed miracles but had not grasped that they were performed by the Messiah. His great sermon on the Bread of Life was a sieve to separate the true followers from those who were insincere.
In verse 30 they seek another sign or miracle (how many signs do they want?):
They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
This is just the day following the feeding of the 5000 and already the multitude are asking for another sign or miracle. The next verse gives away what they are really after:
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (John 6:31)
Here they seem to be not only demanding another miracle but also disparaging the miracle that they had witnessed. They imply that Moses provided bread from heaven while Jesus provided only loaves and fishes and that while Moses fed a whole nation, Jesus only fed a few thousand, Moses provided heavenly bread daily, Jesus on only one or two occasions.
Why is bread a fitting symbol for Jesus Christ?
The word for ‘bread’ in Hebrew is ‘lehem’ as in Bethlehem which literally means the ‘house of bread’.
The word ‘lehem’ also generally means ‘meat’ or food of any type. So, when Christ declares that He is the Bread of Life, he is saying that we cannot live, either physically or spiritually without him.
John 6: 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.
J Reuben Clarke Jr wrote:
“The bread and water that Christ, our Lord gives, are the spiritual food that can bring salvation and exaltation to every human soul…How blessed are we to have this never dimming, always glowing hope, and the eternal knowledge that belongs to us, to comfort us and to urge us on through life, that we may add to God’s declared work and glory by gaining for ourselves, and for all believers and doers, the priceless destiny of immortality and eternal life.” (Behold the Lamb of God [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 128.)
Will ye also go away?
Jesus’ hard doctrine had the desired effect of sifting his followers:
¶From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? (John 6:66-67)
Jesus, watching them walk away, turned to the Twelve, and said, “Will ye also go away?”
Elder Neil L Anderson said:
In my own mind I have answered that question many times: “Absolutely not! Not me! I will never leave Him! I am here forever!” I know you have answered the same way.
But the question “Will ye also go away?” makes us think about our own vulnerability. Life is no spiritual picnic. The words of the Apostles from another setting come quietly into our mind: “Lord, is it I?”
We enter the waters of baptism with joy and anticipation. The Savior beckons, “Come unto me,” and we respond, taking His name upon us. Not one of us wants this journey to be a brief flirtation with spirituality or even a notable but finite chapter. The road of discipleship is not for the spiritually faint of heart. Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
As we follow the Savior, without question there will be challenges that confront us. Approached with faith, these refining experiences bring a deeper conversion of the Savior’s reality. Approached in a worldly way, these same experiences cloud our view and weaken our resolve. Some we love and admire slip from the strait and narrow path and “[walk] no more with him.” (General Conference, Oct 2010)
We see that Peter has grasped what the Saviour is teaching when he replies with this noble declaration:
Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:68,69).
Ted L Gibbons summed it up:
There are many places to go to eat food, and many places to go to feed the intellect and the heart and the ego. But when we want to feed our souls, when we want the bread of heaven, when we want the words of life, we must stand with Peter and say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”