|In the Gospel Jesus tell his hearers, "I am the bread of life. Whowever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." |
It is only as we comprehend that situation in the time of Jesus that we can really begin to undertand the importance of bread. There are so many significant theological events in the Bible that revolve around the subject of bread. The most important event in the Old Testament of course was the Exodus event- the trip from Egypt to the Promised Land. But what caused the Hebrews to be in Egypt in the first place? It was for want of bread. The wheat crop had failed due to draught, and the Hebrews had migrated to the land of the Pharaoh because there was a surplus in stroage there. It was bread, or the lack of it that initiated this whole chain of events. Later, when the Jews were on their way to the Promised Land and they were facing starvation in the bleak wilderness, God rained down bread from heaven, as it was called, in the form of manna.
When Jesus began his ministry, he went into the dessert where he was tempted. As the hot son braced down upon him, he looked out with sweaty eyes at the round white rocks, and we are told that Satan tempted Jesus to give bread to the people and end the suffering of world hunger. Yet, Jesus spurned that temptation because he said that man cannot live by bread alone.
One day Jesus was praying by the roadside when the disciples walked up and saw him. They were so impressed by the genuine nature of his prayer that they implored him: Master, teach us how to pray. It was in the midst of the Master's prayer that he reminds us of the importance of the staff of life. He prayed: Give us this day our daily bread.
In the Old Testament Lesson taken from Exodus, the food that endured for eternal life was manna. It was the food the people needed to thrive and survive. In the Gospel of John, times changed, but the food that people needed to thrive and survive was still the same - heavenly food. It was nevertheless different from the manna of Exodus. Heaven has more than one food to offer; heaven has the food we need for any kind of hunger. For example, heaven has the food for relationship with God.
Jesus had just fed thousands of people bread. The people have been fed, but with food that allows them to be hungry again. Jesus is aware of all this. "You are looking for me because of yesterday's bread," he says. "What you should be working for is food that endures for eternal life." The crowd becomes interested in the food that endures for eternal life: "What work must we do for it to be available." Jesus answer, "Your work is to believe in the one God has sent." Your work is to believe, to enter into relationship with me, with God.
Now, this is a critical statement: 'your works is to believe.' Most of us think that our work is to do good deeds, to not hurt other people, to be helpful, to make the world a better place. But this is not what Jesus is telling us. Our work is simply to believe! And God has made it easier this time: the God we are to trust, the person we are to believe, is human, Jesus. We do not have to relate to or try to remember a God who is far off in the heavens. We can relate to a God who is a human being who is always with us to the end of the age. Give us this bread, the crowd says. And Jesus reponds, come to me and get it, come and never be hungry, come and never be thirsty again. Enter into relationship and you will have it.
Do they come? some do and some do not, Just like many of us today. One would think that many would respond to such an opportunity. Come to me. Let me stop you from being hungry and so very thirsty. I will give you everything. Come, into a relationship; come, into my life; come, into my kingdom. I love you, I am happy to see you; come, let us live together, to the end of the age.
Jesus is bread, but he wants to fill the hunger of our hearts and not just our stomachs. He wants to fill the gnawing, aching emptiness that we try to fill with lesser things, to satisfy the longing or the boredom that we use substances of all sorts to quiet, to put an end to the grasping, fretting, worrying about having enough of anything that will in the end possess us, rather than allowing ourselves to fall into the hands of the one for whom we were made.
Jesus is daily sustenance. He is bread to be savored, gathered around. Bread to inspire thanksgiving, to remind us of the wonder of life, to strengthen us. And as we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we celebrate how the one whom we call the Bread of Life is broken - and given to all who are at the table - that they may eat and live. But we will gain more if we come to him as hungry beggars, open to whatever he places in our outstretched hands.
He was taken, blessed and broken. He is to be shared. The sharing of his life invites us to exercise the creativity of sharing the Good News with others, the news that in the midst of the hunger and thirst of our world there is a drink that satisfies and a bread that endures. God rains it down upon his people like dew upon the morning grass.
Each morning, food is made new. Each day, it is gathered and gives life to those for whom it is meant, all who embrace its sender and believe in his goodness. Come and be hungry no more.
from Father Michael Gittens