Jesus illustrates his mission with the metaphor “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
Bread is so very basic. This baked mixture of flour and water was a dietary staple in biblical times. It’s daily sustenance was a mandate in every household. The baker ranked among the oldest professions and was essential to village life. Field after field of wheat existed for the grinding of the grain to ultimately bake the daily bread.
Although many of us have a more varied diet today, bread still holds a foundational place in our daily nourishment. We butter it, toast it, broil it, dip it, fry it, and make it into every kind of sandwich imaginable! And who can resist pausing when catching a whiff of baking bread??
So essential and ubiquitous is bread that Jesus chooses it skillfully to symbolize our most basic need. Sustenance. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray using it “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). He miraculously feeds thousands by multiplying bread. He even uses the breaking of bread as a symbol of his death.
For a moment, consider the alternative to daily food provision.
Hunger. The emptiness of stomach and viability.
Most of us browsing the internet today have never faced life-threatening hunger. Beyond the stretch of a few hours, we reach for the overflowing food pantry.
Some have experienced hunger, however, and have shared their stories of desperation and heartbreak. When the need for food grows to wretched proportions, it becomes the sole motivator in life. It turns even the most upstanding citizen into a thief in the night.
Starvation steals life … and with it, hope.
In his metaphor, Jesus takes the ordinary and declares the extraordinary. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…” (John 6:35) Hope.
What is this bread that when consumed, we will never go hungry? It is the sustenance required for our famished human soul: Jesus Christ himself. As when he offers the Samaritan woman the living water and declares “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:13), Jesus reveals his divine call and mandate and his very being. He alone satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst.
Often, though, we seek to satisfy our hunger not with the bread of life but with the junk food of the world. A job promotion, my child’s accomplishment, a new car, or trendy clothes tends to satisfy…until the job grows mundane, my child struggles, the car rusts, and moths munch.
How then might we look to the Lord for sustenance? Just as we need food daily, so we need Jesus in our lives. Truly. Reaching for him regularly through prayer, studying his letters to us (the Bible), trusting in him (faith), and being with his people (the church) will satisfy our spiritual hunger.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
It is a metaphor for abundant life.
As you ponder Jesus’ statement “I am the bread of life,” consider how you are partaking of your daily bread…
Are you reaching for the Word daily?
Do you spend time in prayer daily? Hourly? Constant conversation?
And…are you able to be content with your daily provisions or do you seek more than one day’s manna from heaven? Allow him to be your portion this day.