I don’t know about you but I love freshly baked bread. In fact baking bread was one of the things that Jeff and I liked to do when we were dating. Recent health issues have forced me to curtail the amount of bread I eat, but I still love looking at the artisan breads on display at the Farmer’s Market.
A good bread “sticks to your ribs” as my grandmother used to say, but bread, like all food, eventually passes through your digestive system and you need more.
Spiritual bread is of a different nature. It does not come from a field of grain that has been milled into flour which is then mixed with water into dough and baked in an oven. In John 6:26-69 Jesus has a lengthy conversation with His followers about bread, specifically the manna of Ex 16:1-31. Jesus says that while physical bread is valuable to the physical body (in that it nourishes and sustains a person), it only has temporal results (v.27). He also notes that those who have come to see Him have given Moses the credit for providing their ancestors bread in the wilderness. In reality Moses was as dependent on God to provide this bread as the people he was leading (v.32). Like any other bread, the manna was a temporary fix. Jesus tells them that there is a “Bread” which is far more satisfying than bread that falls from the sky; the Living Bread (v.51) and that those who eat this bread will live forever.
The people’s response is predictable. After all, we’ve all heard some product claim it is the answer to all our problems and have thought, “I need to get that!” And that is exactly what the people say (v.34). However, the supernatural bread that Jesus spoke about referred to His own body. Although Jesus would be crucified and die He would also rise to live again. As the Bread from Heaven, Jesus gives life to the world (v. 51). His bread eternally nourishes those who receive it (v. 57). One’s spiritual hunger is satisfied by its sustenance. The Psalmist wrote, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! His mercy endures forever!” (Ps. 34:8) Jesus admonishes us to make sure that we are not only fueling our physical body with bread, but that we are also feeding our spiritual needs with the Living Bread.
If a Hollywood producer was turning this story into a screenplay at this point everyone would realize the error of their ways, repent and turn to the Living Bread. But Hollywood is not real life and in this scenario, the opposite occurs. Verse 60 tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples (not the inner circle of the 12, but those who gathered to hear His teaching) claimed that this teaching was “a difficult statement”. They failed to see the metaphor and focused on the literal idea of “eating flesh and drinking blood” (v. 54-56). Sadly many of those who’d seen His miracles and heard Jesus speak turned away from Him at this point (v.66). Jesus turned to the 12 and asked them if they wanted to go as well. Peter’s response is beautiful but bittersweet. “Where could we go Lord?” he asks not knowing that he eventually would desert Jesus as well. But for now Peter proclaims the truth, “You alone have words of eternal life” (v. 67).
You and I are no different than the crowd. We have no trouble with most of Jesus’ teaching. We love that He is always with us (Mt. 28:20), that He wants us to come to Him with our troubles (Mt. 11:28-30), and He cares for us like a tender Shepherd (Jn. 10:11-15). But what about the “hard sayings”; the ones that speak of sacrifice and dying to self (Mt. 16:24-27; 18: 7-9; 19:16-26; Mk. 8:34-38; 10:17-27; Lk. 9: 23-27, 57-62; 10: 25-28; 18:18-27)? Most of us would prefer those to remain on the panty shelf like a box of crackers untouched and unopened! Most people recognize that if they stop eating food, they will eventually starve to death. Likewise, the problem with ignoring the harder sayings of Jesus is that we are then denying ourselves of the benefits of the Living Bread. How is your spiritual diet? Is it giving you the spiritual nutrition you need?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 11/20/2016