“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believe in me will never be thirsty.’… ‘I am the bread of life.’”John 6:35,48
Bread makes up a significant part of the daily diet of people around the world; it is a staple food item for many. Every culture seems to have their own unique take on bread: baguettes, pitas, naan, pan dulces, challah, matzo, tortillas, biscuits, focaccia…even mass-produced, pre-sliced, American white bread lining the grocery store shelves in branded cellophane.
But with the variety of breads available and the diverse ways we might eat bread, bread is not a boring food, despite its common nature. Consider these excellent bread-meals… The perfectly toasted onion bagel with a schmear of cream cheese and lox—delicious! Tearing off a chunk of that still-warm sourdough to sop up the last bit of clam chowder from your bowl—perfect! A thick slice of brioche French toast with real maple syrup—heavenly! And let’s not kid ourselves…people might think that the toppings are what make the pizza, but if you have a bad crust (bread)…you aren’t going to enjoy that pizza much, no matter what is on top.
Perhaps because of its ubiquity, bread symbolizes our need of sustenance, and thus bread features regularly in the Story of Scripture. The Israelites in Egypt, instructed to bake their bread without yeast at the Passover as God saves them from bondage (Exodus 12). God providing the Israelites with manna—bread from heaven—as they are wandering through the wilderness (Exodus 16). Future-king David, on the run from Saul, eating the Bread of the Presence from the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 21:1-6). Ezekiel baking a most-unusual bread while in exile, demonstrating God’s judgment on his people, but also his provision for their needs (Ezekiel 4). Bread demonstrates God’s love and care for his people: God knows what they need, and God provides for them, no matter their circumstances.
Jesus uses bread in his teachings, parables, and miracles. When tempted by the Devil to turn stones into food, Jesus responds by quoting scripture: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:1-4). When teaching his disciples to pray, he includes the phrase, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:5-15). One of his amazing miracles involves breaking five loaves of bread and two fish, and providing enough food for 5,000 men (Luke 9:10-17).
And…here in John 6, Jesus refers to himself as bread: “I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus—God in human flesh—knows our physical and spiritual hungering. Jesus knows that we need bread for sustenance: the Bread of the Presence, Our Daily Bread, the Bread from Heaven.
When we are hungry, bread satisfies. God provided bread for his people throughout their history, supplying for them in their need and when they could not provide for themselves. Perhaps, then, it should be no wonder that at the last supper, Jesus speaks to his disciples—and to us too—“This is my body…take and eat.”
What are you hungering for? Are you looking for the Bread that will truly satisfy?
Prayer: Father, you are a good God who gives your children what they need. Give us today our daily bread—the sustenance for physical strength, and spiritual strength as well. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, the Bread of Life, who satisfies our hunger. Amen.