Man cannot physically live very long without food and water. Four to six weeks without food is about the physical limits for most. Three to five days without water under even ideal circumstances is about the maximum for most. There are extraordinary stories of lengthier situations: (1) Lawrence McKeown of Ireland lasted seventy plus days on a hunger strike in 1981 (www.mostoftenasked.com). (2) Andreas Michavecz survived in an Austrian holding cell eighteen days without either food or water in 1979. They supposedly had forgotten that he was there (Guinness Book of World Records, 1998). (3) Mitsutaka Uchikoshi of Japan reportedly survived twenty-four days on a mountainside without food or water before being rescued in 2006 (BBC News). The Bible tells us that (4) Moses (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:18), (5) Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), and (6) Jesus (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1-2) all fasted for forty days. Yet, even these six examples remind us that man needs food and water. He cannot go very long without these things.
Aron Ralston understood this. In 2003, while hiking alone in Utah’s Blue John Canyon, a giant boulder fell pinning his right arm to the canyon wall. He eventually, after six days of being stuck, willfully snapped the two bones of his forearm and cut off his own arm with a pocketknife in order to free himself.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Similar words are said to the woman at the well (John 4:10-14). In contrast with food and drink which temporarily sustains the physical body, Jesus is offering “everlasting life” (John 4:14).
Furthermore, He said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die” (John 6:48-50). The children of Israel, in the wilderness received manna from God to eat. It nourished their bodies. It temporarily sustained their physical lives. However, they did eventually die. Jesus and His words have power to spiritually nourish us (John 6:27, 63), and provide us with eternal life (John 6:67-68).
What are we to do? (1) We are to come and believe (John 6:35). Note: This certainly is not speaking of mere mental belief (cf. Luke 6:47-ff; cf. Acts 11:18). (2) We are to eat of this bread (John 6:50-51). How do we do this? Compare John 6:50-51 with John 8:51 which reads: “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” We eat the bread by consuming and living the teachings of Jesus. Indeed, Peter got it correct when he said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus taught, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). We must take His words and consume them.
Too many have their priorities wrong. Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27). This is a relative negation. He certainly isn’t telling us in an absolute sense not to labor for physical food (cf. Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). What he is doing is emphasizing the need to work even more diligently in the spiritual realm. It is even more important. Let’s remember that He is the bread of life.