Beginning in about John 6:27 Jesus begins a discussion with those with whom he is conversing that carries through most of the rest of the chapter about himself being the bread of life sent down from the Father (John 6:32-35) that man might eat of this bread and have eternal life. There are many, many descriptive terms used in reference to Jesus in the Bible of which the bread of life is but one.
In the book of John alone Jesus is described as the Word (John 1:1), the Light (John 1:9), the only begotten (John 1:14), the lamb of God (John 1:29), the Messiah (John 1:41), the Son of God (John 1:49), the bread of life (John 6:48), the light of the world (John 8:12), the door through which one must enter if he is to be saved (John 10:9), the good shepherd (John 10:11), the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), the true vine in which one must abide or be cast out and thrown into the fire (John 15:1,6), and the king of the Jews (John 19:19) and this list is not exhaustive of every term found in that book that in one way or another is descriptive of Jesus. “Nave's Topical Bible" lists a full page and a half of names, appellations, and titles given to Jesus in the scriptures. Each descriptive term provides a lesson in itself on who Jesus was and is.
In the John 6 passage we see Jesus describing himself as the bread of life, a description we find appealing. We see Jesus as one come down from God the Father to man to give unto man a bread which if he will eat of it gives life everlasting (John 6:50-51). The language is figurative and the words spoken are spirit. “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. " (John 6:63 NKJV) Jesus said, “The bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. " (John 6:51 NKJV) For you and I to eat of this bread, keeping in mind the language is figurative and spiritual, means simply that a man must be willing to take advantage of Christ's death on the cross for the remission of man's sins and by faith and obedience to the gospel surrender his life to Christ.
It means we allow ourselves by following after Christ to be remade in the image of Christ. “But we all (speaking to Christians – DS), with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. " (2 Cor. 3:18 NKJV) As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. " (Gal 2:20 NKJV) Emphasis should be place on the phrase “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. "
One eats of the bread of life by obeying the gospel. I am not a Greek scholar but one who is has said that the word “eats" as in “eats of this bread" in verse 51 and the verbs “eat" and “drink" in verse 53 as in “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood" denote a once for all action thus a reference to initial gospel obedience (see Frank Pack, “The Living Word Commentary – The Gospel According to John, Part 1, " page 112). Having said that he goes on to say that in verse 56 the phrase, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" denote in the Greek continuous action thus is an ongoing action in a person's life.
I do not believe one has to be a Greek scholar to understand eating the bread of life begins with surrender to Christ in gospel faith and obedience nor do I think one has to be a Greek scholar to understand that if one later chooses to quit feeding on Christ spiritually he will also die spiritually. In fact, the parable of the vine and branches deals with this very thing. A branch cannot bear fruit if it does abide in the vine which is Christ (John 15:1). If a branch does not abide in the vine it dies, is cast out, and is gathered to be cast into the fire (John 15:1-6).
To feed on Christ (John 6:57 in the NKJV and the ESV) is to allow him to direct our lives by his word and example. “He who says he abides in him ought himself also to walk just as he walked. " (1 John 2:6 NKJV) How did Jesus walk? He said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. " (John 6:38 NKJV) Whose will are we here to do – ours or God's? Whose will do we end up doing? Jesus said, “I always do those things that please him. " (John 8:29 NKJV) Are we walking in the footsteps of Jesus? Are we feeding off his life? Is our will as Jesus’ was when he said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me. " (John 4:34 NKJV) To read and study the New Testament and obey its teachings is to feed on Christ the giver of the same.
Today many people in what is called Christendom feel as though one is being a legalist who emphasizes strict obedience to keeping God's commandments and they somehow feel as though to do so is unspiritual. If that is true what do you do with Jesus? Has there ever been a stricter legalist if commandment keeping is your definition of being a legalist? Think a long time about that before answering. Was Jesus a legalist and unspiritual? Is that what a man is today if he follows in the footsteps of Jesus trying to obey every commandment of God?
Paul told the Corinthians, and thus you and me through them, to “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. " (1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV) In John 13:15 Jesus said he had given the disciples “an example, that you should do as I have done to you. " (NKJV) This was said in reference to a specific act, that of washing the feet, which means being one who is humble enough and servant enough to do the lowliest of jobs to be of service to others. Peter spoke of Christ being an example when he said, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth. '" (2 Peter 2:21-22 NKJV)
To eat of the bread of life, to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood, is to become a faithful dedicated Christian wholly committed to Christ, to his teaching, to his commandments, to following his example in living life, it is to imbibe his spirit, and become as much like him as is humanly possible. It is to make God's will our own personal will in that we want what he wants. Our goal in life is to please him even to the extent of becoming obsessed with doing so. Was not Christ obsessed with pleasing the Father?
In closing it needs to be repeated for emphasis sake that it all begins with gospel obedience and contrary to the thoughts of the denominational world that does include not only faith and repentance but also baptism as well. It is only in baptism that we die to sin for it is there where we were crucified with Christ being baptized into his death (meaning the benefits of his death). Read carefully Rom. 6:2-8 and then read the conclusion of the first gospel sermon ever preached to man – Acts 2:38. If the people of Jesus day were guilty of rejecting the counsel of God against themselves not being baptized with the baptism of John (see Luke 7:30) of how much greater sin do you think he will be guilty who rejects the counsel of Jesus to be baptized for the remission of sins?