“So they said to Him, “Then what sign do You do, that we may see and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:30–35, ESV)
Continuing on the people responded to Jesus having told them that this higher food came by believing the One who the Father had sent. The crowd was not confused over who Jesus was speaking. Their response shows this. Recognizing that He was speaking of Himself they asked for proof. They asked Him what He was going to do to prove Himself to them such that they would then believe. They were expecting some new work. He had fed them once, but their fathers were fed every day in the wilderness. It seems as if once was not enough for them. Jesus having them sit down as then gave thanks and broke the bread to be distributed to each of them, and then feeding 5,000 men until they were satisfied with leftovers to boot was not enough. They wanted more. Once was not enough, and their substantiation in asking for more was the repeated day after day provision for their ancestors while they were waiting in the wilderness.
For a little bit of background we can go to Exodus chapter 16, where the people found themselves in a barren place far from the pots of food that they had been granted under the thumb of the Egyptians. Verses 2 and 3 records for us, “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”” (Exodus 16:2–3, ESV) In verse 4, the Lord God (YHWH, Jehovah) tells Moses, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”” (Exodus 16:4–5, ESV) Moses through Aaron then instructs the people as to what God had said even telling them that God would give them meat to eat in the evening. Following this they call the people to come before the Lord because He had heard their grumbling, which the people did. Verse 10 continues, “And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” (Exodus 16:10, ESV) And in verse 11 the Lord again speaks to Moses saying, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” (Exodus 16:12, ESV) And sure enough this is exactly what happened. Verse 21 adds, “Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” (Exodus 16:21, ESV)
In verse 32 of our passage in John, Jesus continued by telling them that this food was not from Moses but from God in heaven. The daily bread that their fathers had received was bread sent directly to them by God from heaven. All they had to do was to gather just what they needed for that day (except for the day before the Sabbath when they would gather double and then rest). This was a gift to them from God that they just had to receive for themselves. And the bread they were to receive was coming in the same way being sent by the Father to them. This time it was coming in the person of the Son. It was not going to be in the form of physical bread that they pick up after the morning dew, but was going to be such that it gave life. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Of course He needed still to clarify this last part as is evident by their response asking, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
As amazing as it might seem, they did not get it. Their desire to have their needs met had them singularly focused, and they totally missed what He was really saying. But Jesus led them exactly to the right point. In fishing terms we might say they took the bait and now it was time to set the hook which is exactly what Jesus did telling them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” He had been speaking about God’s eternal provision for them, and when they asked for it to be given to them Jesus told them that He was that provision. It was Himself that He had been speaking about all along, and by believing in Him they would never hunger and never thirst. Obviously Jesus was speaking about more than the physical twinge that they had felt in their stomachs the day before. He was sent to give them more than mere food and drink. He was sent to give eternal life.
It is only through believing in Jesus as the One sent by the Father that any of us are guaranteed eternal life. Matthew recorded for us from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6, ESV)