Carbs. Ugh! Carbs! YUM! Carbs! Not so very many years ago, I lost a heap of weight by cutting out most carbs. THAT didn’t last. Pasta! How can anyone live without pasta? And yes, I know all about spaghetti squash and zoodles and wheat pasta (major yuk) and anything else that can be substituted for the honest to goodness yumminess that is pasta. And then there’s bread! BREAD! We have three bread machines and Scott has become a true Bread Guru. Egg bread, white bread, rye bread, oat bread, honey bread, and the list goes on and on and on. And very rarely does any of said bread go to waste. We like bread.
Sadly, though, no matter how much or how often we eat bread, or pasta, or bread, or cake, or bread, we get hungry again. Our bodies crave that fuel that keeps us going. We’ve all seen the Snickers Bar commercials. Not feeling like yourself? Eat. Have something to celebrate? Eat. And hey, in SO many restaurants, what do they bring to the table as soon as you’re seated? Yup. Bread.
So, what is bread? Basically, it’s a paste of flour and water, cooked over or surrounded by heat.
According to history, the earliest bread was made in or around 8000 BC in the Middle East, specifically Egypt. The quern was the first known grinding tool. Grain was crushed and the bakers produced what we now commonly recognize in its closest form as chapatis (India) or tortillas (Mexico).
And we all of us know about manna, the bread from heaven the slaves from bondage in Egypt ate whilst they meandered in the desert looking for the Promised Land. In fact, bread is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible beginning in Genesis and continuing right through Revelation with a variety of meanings and symbolism.
So. Bread. We know our bread. Jesus even talked about bread. Several times. In the single most important sacrament we have, that of the Eucharist, bread becomes the body of Christ.
In today’s Gospel, John 6:41-51, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
So what’s up with this? What does Jesus mean? At that point in history, especially in Jesus’ culture, bread would have been understood as a nutritional necessity. Bread was one of the most accessible foods for people of all wealth and social status, even the poor had bread.
Now, for Jesus to say He IS bread? What’s up with that? Jesus is explaining to the crowds gathered around Him, and to us, just who He is. And a lot of folks weren’t exactly impressed. The Bible tells us of the people complaining, and even some of His disciples leaving, unable to understand the metaphor, or unwilling to accept Jesus’s explanation of who He is. So what DOES Jesus mean? Simply put, if we put our faith in Him, then we will have eternal life. When Jesus says He is the bread of life, He is saying that He is essential to our salvation. Salvation is essential to human existence and necessary for eternity. When Jesus says He is the bread of life, He is saying He is essential, that HE is the means to our Salvation and eternal life.
Jesus identified Himself as the bread of life, the way. He did not present Himself A source of salvation but as THE only way to salvation. Without Him, without the bread of life, there is no hope for salvation. By identifying Himself as the source of forgiveness, Jesus makes the path to repentance and a relationship with God, plain, simple, and available for everyone.
So what do we do? You say to me, “But I’m a good person. I try to do the right thing.” Well, yeah, you are and that’s awesome, but as Paul’s letter to the Romans teaches us, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
John also says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
We have to believe it. We have to live it. The Bread of Life will sustain the us, we who believe. In our daily lives, in order to continue to be fed by Him, we must pray regularly. We must study the Word.
We must do our best to live according to what Jesus has taught us. And reckon wonder, how do we do that? Love as Jesus loved. As I have said over and over and over again, ad infinitum, you are the only Bible some folks will ever read, the only Jesus some folks will ever see. And I’m gonna add a new one:
For some folks, you are the only server who brings the Bread of Life to the table.
As Jesus said to Peter in John 21:15-17: So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.””
Can we be, or do, less? Again, for those in the back, for some folks, you are the only server who brings the Bread of Life to the table.
That kinda puts a new spin on the closing sentence of the prayer, “Let us serve Him with gladness and singleness of heart.”
So let us do that. Let us “serve” Him, the Bread of Life, with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.