I am the Bread of Life. ~ John 6:48
Our family went out to dinner at a real restaurant last weekend. (That means one that doesn’t give away toys and doesn’t have a drive-thru!) It’s a real treat for us because, with a family of six, restaurant dining can be expensive, especially since everyone orders off the adult menu now. But once we decided to splurge on the evening out, we chose to enjoy ourselves. After being seated, it was amazing how quiet our table became as we each poured over the menu items trying to decide which entrée we would choose. Delicious Pasta. Tender Chicken. Juicy Steak. Tempting Salads. With so many offerings available, it was hard to pick! But with all appetizers, features, sides and desserts, I didn’t see a single listing for bread.
Most of us live in a western culture where meat and vegetables are generally our main dishes. If it makes it to the table at all, bread is usually considered just an extra to be nibbled on until the real food arrives. But it wasn’t that way in the first century. Called ‘the staff of life,’ bread was the centerpiece of the first century diet. Typically, meat was saved for special occasions. On a regular day, they ate no breakfast, a small amount of bread or fruit for lunch and more bread with vegetables and additional fruit for the evening meal. So when Jesus fed the multitudes and shortly afterward declared Himself to be the “bread of life,” they understood the importance He was ascribing to Himself. Quickly, they clamored to Him, hoping that He would provide for their physical needs as Moses had done for their ancestors in the wilderness.
If you go back a few thousand years, remember that God provided the Israelites with bread from heaven to sustain them in while they wandered in the desert. Each morning manna covered the ground in amounts large enough to provide for their entire needs for a single day, with the promise that that more would be available to them on successive mornings. Without crops or enough herds to feed the multitudes, this food, quite literally, saved their lives. However, manna would only sustain their physical bodies.
Today, our hearts regularly throb with all kinds of appetites. Not knowing how to really be filled, we line up for most anything that promises to take the edge off our hunger for love, significance, worth or belonging. We falsely believe that the right job, relationship, achievement, or possession will relieve our longings and muffle our aching desires. But these things are no more able to fill us permanently than manna filled the stomachs of those early Hebrews.
God knew that our greatest hunger is spiritual, and can be satiated only by His Son, the true Bread of Life.
In verse 57, Jesus goes on to say “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” Part of what He alluded to in these words is the unity believers have with Him. At salvation, our lives become inseparably linked with His. John spoke more plainly about this mystery in his first epistle. He emphasized that (God) sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him (Christ). (1 John 4:9) and later reminded us that “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. (vs 15)
If we continue the food analogy a little further, our utter dependence on Christ becomes clearer. Food that is consumed becomes a part of us, and though you don’t usually think about it, the bagel you had for breakfast eventually spreads throughout your body, providing the energy you need to do your job later on during the day. In a real way, your ability to function depends completely on the food inside you. When we ‘eat’ the Bread of Life, it doesn’t only affect our spirit (though it certainly does that!) It also is intended to permeate every other aspect of our lives. The way we think, act, speak… and live… should be an overflow of Christ within us. Just as we don’t consciously put forth effort to get energy from our food, spiritually speaking, we also don’t have to rely on our own efforts to be godly or find fulfillment. We can draw on the Bread of Life within us for the energy and strength we need to sustain and satisfy us every day.
Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Col. 2:6-7