Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reflecting on Bread

I recently spoke at a Lenten dinner at a church down the road from me.  I really enjoyed it and I loved the passage I got to reflect on. Here is what I had to share that night before we spent some time in silent meditation on the passage.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”[1]
            We had some great food tonight.  I love great food!  I have heard people joke that potlucks are the third Presbyterian sacrament after baptism and communion.
I love that we get to talk about this passage right after a meal because this passage follows right after a story about a big meal: the feeding of the 5000.  Jesus had just miraculously fed Five THOUSAND people with just a tiny bit of food right before giving this speech about the Bread of Life. The people had bread on their minds and they seemed to be following Jesus around to see if there were any more yummy miracles happening.
That big miracle He just did only gave temporary nourishment, but He came to give an everlasting nourishment.
This is an important thread in Jesus’ teaching too. He talks about bread like this in other places too. “Man does not live on bread alone.” And “Give us this day our daily bread.” 
Bread was important, it kept people alive. We tend to think of bread as an add-on or something you should avoid if you’re trying to lose a few pounds. The people Jesus spoke to saw it as a staple though. 
It’s like how you can’t have a Thanksgiving meal without the turkey. 
Back then, you couldn’t have a real meal, or even life without bread.
The reminder of the Mannah is a reminder of how God keeps people alive. Mannah was bread offered in the wilderness when there was no other food. Every day as the Israelite people wandered around the desert, God gave them bread from heaven to keep them alive.  They could take only what they needed for the day as a reminder that God would provide every day.  They had to rely on God’s daily provision.[2]
Bread, food, isn’t a one-time fix. Bread gets used up and more is needed.  It sustains life, but it doesn’t give permanent life. Only the Bread of Life: Jesus can do that.
This complete, ever-filling Bread sounded interesting to the crowd, so the people asked. . . “What do we have to do to get this food?” They still hadn’t quite caught on to what Jesus was saying.
Have you heard the old saying, “singing for your dinner.” The crowd wanted to know what song they had to sing to get their meal. What did they have to do in order to get in on this?
Jesus  startled them when he said it wasn’t what they did that earned them this eternal food. Through faith they had access to it, but God gave it as a gift. There was no laundry list of good deeds that they had to check off.
This all sounded too good to be true, so the people asked Jesus to prove it.  “Give us a sign!” They were ready to believe as soon as they saw the proof, but God doesn’t work that way.  It is after one believes that he or she can really see.[3] If faith is based first on seemingly miraculous signs, it is a faith in danger of falling for tricks or illusions.[4]
We often ask Jesus, who just so happens to be the bread of life, to feed us.  But He has already. Not just yummy turkey, but Himself. We have been offered eternal sustenance if we will just reach out and take it. Instead of looking first for physical bread that will get eaten up in order to keep our body moving, let’s remember the Bread of Life: Christ who brings eternal life to all who will take and eat.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 6:26–40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). Vol. 2: The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (295). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[3] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). Vol. 2: The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (295). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Jn 6:22). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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