John 6:30–34 (ESV)
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.”
The crowds want to see a confirming sign, even though they saw Him feed the 5,000 just yesterday. They’re not impressed by miraculous food production. Moses did that six days a week for decades.
So, Jesus sets them straight. That wasn’t Moses (which should be obvious anyway since it was bread from heaven and Moses was down here.)
But their big error isn’t misunderstanding where the bread comes from; it’s misunderstanding what Jesus means by bread. He makes the distinction clear by adding the word true. He’s talking about the true bread from heaven.
That true bread from heaven is Jesus Himself. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Sounds good to them, so they say, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Okay, except for their saying, “always.” Do they want a daily ration of the true bread from heaven?
This word “always” appears in other translations too. The word in Greek is “pan-tot-eh,” which is defined simply as “at all times.” So, this can’t be explained by some obscure idiom in the original language. They simply wanted this to be given to them at all times.
That means they don’t understand what Jesus meant when He said, in verse 27, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
They want Him to give them this bread “always”—over and over. But this bread is the food which endures to everlasting life.
You only need to receive this bread once.
The “always” issue is how we know that this passage is not a reference to communion. In some ways, it sounds like a reference to communion, and later passages will sound even more like communion.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. — John 6:56
But we receive communion over and over. It represents the body and blood of Christ, but it’s only a representation.
The food which endures to everlasting life does not perish. You don’t need to receive it over and over.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.