The month of July 2021 was a bit of a whirlwind in my life beginning with a three day trip to New York City with my Dad and sisters. A few days later my entire extended family got together for our annual family reunion weekend, which is actually becoming more of a week and we had party after party visiting, celebrating, and of course eating! The weekend not only included a Star Wars themed party where we all dressed in costume, but also an all day long bbq complete with a corn hole tournament, a giant wiffle ball game, and even a pie contest – first place won by yours truly. I also baptized my nephew on the following Monday and then a couple days later my husband Denny and I and the kids went off to the City for the day then up to the Adirondacks for a week of fun and family time. Hiking, kayaking, card games, swimming, camp fires, mini golf, etc. But that’s not all, I came back just in time to prepare for and officiate a wedding of a young woman who used to be part of the youth group I had led. If that wasn’t enough I also was able to baptize her, her fiancé and their daughter the day before at the rehearsal dinner. It was a crazy three weeks, but awesome, and full of blessings!
One of things I noticed, as a common thread through all of this was the eating. I mean a party is not really a party unless there is food right? You can’t go play mini golf without an ice cream cone afterwards and you certainly can’t have a birthday party or a wedding without cake! Food has a special way of making parties and events even better.
But aside from these more lavish treats, our bodies need food to function, especially when we are hiking, swimming and walking all over the City. We need energy to keep us going. We need good food to give us nutrients in order to be healthy. We need water to hydrate our bodies after a long day in the sun or a hike up a mountain. But no matter how much you drink or how much you eat, eventually you thirst again, eventually your stomach growls and you’re hungry and you need to eat and drink again. That’s just the way it is, the food that we eat and the water that we drink is eventually broken down and we are left wanting.
This is something every human being experiences, no one really can avoid hunger and thirst, which is likely why Jesus uses this example as a way to teach.
In John’s sixth chapter Jesus says, “I am the bread of life, those who come to me shall not hunger and those who believe in me shall not thirst.”
Jesus is known for using parables and metaphors to share a theological message and in this case he is using one to make a bold statement about himself. This statement, “I am the Bread of Life” has to do with Jesus being all that we need, all that fulfills that which we long for, the spiritual nourishment that feeds one’s hungry and thirsty soul. Jesus promises that those who come after him and believe in him will not only be nourished, but satisfied eternally. Where bread only calms our hunger for a little while, Jesus the bread of life, fully and completely fulfills our spiritual hunger. Jesus hinted at this in a more private way back in John chapter four when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. If you recall that story he tells the woman that the water he gives is water that will keep one from ever being thirsty again. It truly satisfies the soul.
So, that’s the theological basis for what Jesus is trying to say – but perhaps looking at this a bit more practically we can even better understand what it means to believe that Jesus is the bread of life.
First, let’s look at a contrast between bread or any food for that matter and Jesus. Bread eventually spoils, it gets stale, crumbly, moldy. Just hours after it pops out of the oven it already starts to decay. With food too, there is only a limited amount. A loaf of bread is only so big. In contrast, Jesus says he is the “living bread” (John 6:51), meaning that there is no decay, no end, it’s an everlasting bread, it will never run out, the supply is immeasurable. So, if we think of Jesus in this way we can believe that he is saying, “I am living, eternal, I have a full supply of mercy, grace, love, peace, goodness, compassion, forgiveness and no matter how many times you come to me and how much of me you need I will never stop giving you what you need.”
In John 6:35 Jesus says, “those who come to me shall not hunger, and those who believe shall not thirst”, and it is important to note that the verbs come and believe in the Greek language indicate an ongoing, continual action. Not just a once and done event. Jesus is inviting and encouraging us to constantly go to him, believe in him – meaning abide in him, have a relationship with him, take him in, seek him, grasp him, look for nourishment and love from him, always, forever.
I mentioned above that I had won the pie contest and I was so excited! This is my fourth year trying and up until this year I hadn’t even placed in the top 3. But this year, I kept it simple and made an old fashioned traditional peach pie, complete with a lattice woven crust. I carefully measured out each strip of dough and made sure it was all eventuality placed. It was quite beautiful! After the contest was over, people could go around and taste the pies and I remember noticing how quickly my picture perfect pie was reduced to a crumbled mess. It’s kind of the same when it comes to life, we strive to create a perfect life based on our own effort just to at times watch it crumble, but the gifts from Jesus, the spiritual life he kneads together is perfect and can withstand all this life can throw at it. That’s the bread we should be striving for daily.
Jesus is the bread of life, he is our daily bread, that which we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Yes, we do pray and thank God for the actual food he gives us but we also pray for Jesus to nourish our souls each and every day. This goes back to those words “come” and “believe”. It’s a continual receiving of the finest bread, Jesus himself, nourishing and satisfying our souls.
When we continually receive Jesus, the bread of life, we become part of something bigger. Just as the many bits of grain that make up one loaf come together, so the body of Christ is made up of many individuals, each of us joined together into one.
This became especially real to me when I officiated that wedding. As part of the ceremony the couple added to the regular vows with their own. When the bride said her vows she said that the two came from different worlds, different cultures even, but their mutual love of Jesus has brought them together and united them regardless of their differences and now they move on into life as one. Her words. It was beautiful and the perfect example of what it means to be part of the body of Christ, who is the bread of life.
Christ not only nourishes us but he unites us as one bread, one body and when we come together around the table for communion we take in that nourishment from Christ in a very tangible way, we fellowship together taking in Christ, who unites us as one and who satisfies our spiritual needs and hunger. Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven to fulfill every longing of our soul and those who seek the lord will never be hungry, nor will they be lonely as they join together as one in Christ’s holy church.