Felicity O’Brien, August 16, 2012, St Andrew’s Plimmerton. All rights reserved. PDF
It’s such a basic thing, a staple food, a meal in itself. Most of us will eat it every day. The people Jesus was speaking to would have understood bread as representing the most basic sort of food, and they were reminding Jesus about the manna God provided in the wilderness, a sort of bread. They wanted to see a miracle, so asked Jesus, in their skepticism, to provide bread, just as their ancestors had been provided for.
But Jesus isn’t just talking about physical bread you can eat, he’s talking about something that will nourish his audience, and us, in every way – a spiritual food. And this bread will not just give calories to get us through the day, but will go on forever – it will give eternal life. He then goes on to explain that He is the bread of life, that whoever eats of this bread will live for ever. It’s a parallel to living waters, that whoever drinks of the living water will never thirst.
Jesus is saying that by partaking of him, we too can live forever, that he will nurture us, spiritually. That’s why we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection when we take communion together – we are symbolically taking Jesus into our flesh. Some believe that the communion wafer actually physically becomes the flesh of Jesus as we consume it, but it’s about more than physical food, it’s a food for our spirit. Just as bread feeds our bodies, so Jesus’ spiritual food feeds his body, that is, the church. That’s us too, and all of us who gather in Jesus’ name are nourished as we partake of his spiritual food in this way.
Eating of this bread, as Jesus puts it, does not just mean swallowing a communion wafer – it means believing in Jesus, knowing he is the Son of God, who died, and rose again, and who will come again.
I love to bake bread. I like the way the yeast makes the dough rise, the way it changes from crumbs to a cohesive dough when I knead it, and above all I love the smell of it when it’s just come out of the oven. Oh, and I also love to put butter on it when it’s hot, and eat it. And as I bake the bread, the smell wafting through the house draws the kids in from school, and my son’s teenage friends seem to appear – the smell of the bread baking is very attractive, like a magnet!
What is the smell of the bread of life? What is there about a Christian life that is attractive? We, the church, are the body nourished by the bread of life, and do we give off the promise that there is nourishment here? That there is something good, and comforting, and satisfying? As Christ’s earthly body, all his church has this responsibility to show Christ to the world. The bread of life cannot help but be attractive, if we let the aroma waft out.
When they are ready, I put my Chelsea buns on the cake rack, wafting the hot, yeasty promise of something delicious. I don’t hide them away, where they can’t be found or shared. Well, maybe I should, so they last a bit longer! But I mean bread is for sharing, for nourishing each other.
Can we share the bread of life that we have received with those around us? And let’s share the best bread, not the dried-up crusts, knocking around in the back of the bread-bin, the ones that are starting to get interesting green spots on them. Dried-up bread might be a metaphor for relying on what we learnt of Jesus a long time ago. And the green spots? Maybe our understanding of a message we received way back might be not so helpful for today’s situation.
Let’s share the fresh bread of life, and that means going to its source daily. We need to be fed every day, by reading the Word, and by talking and listening to God in prayer. There is always something new in God, and in this way, we have the fresh bread of Jesus, with a delicious aroma, promising satisfaction.
Let’s share it.