Joh 6:35 "I am the bread of life," Jesus told them. "Those who come to me will never be hungry; those who believe in me will never be thirsty.
When Jesus says “I am the bread of life” we should actually begin at a place that says: “I do not have a clue what he is talking about”.
The problem is that we forget the Jesus was speaking to Jewish people who lived 2000 years ago … and we try to understand this as if he was saying this today.
When Jesus says “I am the Bread of Life”: he is speaking as a middle-eastern Jewish man. and he was speaking to Middle-Eastern people 2 000 years ago. These were people who saw bread as something sacred. Because Bread was more than food: it represented a cycle of life:
- Bread speaks of those who planted grain – and of God who gave the sun, the rain to make the grain grow.
- Bread speaks of those who harvested the wheat – and of God who gives the strength for the harvest.
- Bread speaks of those who ground the grain, and made the bread mixture, and kneaded the dough, and put it in the oven – and of God who blessed people with water for the flour, and with earth to make bricks for the oven, and with fire to heat the oven.
So when the bread comes out of the oven, and people break the bread to eat it – this is a culmination of a long process of thanksgiving to God and to a community who made it.
Breaking bread together was a sacred moment – a reminder of everyone who had worked together to make this bread, and of all who sit down to eat it, and of God who made it all possible.
When Jesus says “I am the bread of life” he speaks of himself as holding the community together….. he is the centre of it all … he is the life of the whole community.
But I suspect that we are tempted to use a modern understanding of bread when it comes to our relationship with Jesus:
Bread, in today’s world – is a sandwich.
Bread is decorated – with tomato and cheese, or with jam.
Bread is what we eat while we wait for supper.
(I know that some of you will tell your tough times stories of how when you were little there was only bread and tea for supper).
But today’s world understands bread as a filler – something to keep you busy inbetween meals.
And this is how we understand Jesus:
We want Jesus the sandwich: Jesus as convenience food
Jesus is useful when we have nothing else to chew on: we think of Jesus in between the “real’ stuff of life.
And then when we do think of Jesus, just like a sandwich, we want Jesus to suit our tastes
We look for messages that we agree with: and when we hear a message that we do not like, we throw it away and find another one: a bit like saying – “I don’t like that sandwich filling, give me another”
We want Jesus cut to a size that pleases us
And when Jesus has difficult things to say to us?
Well we treat them like the crusts on a sandwich – we cut them off!
Perhaps we can hear this echo today too:
The invitation to make Jesus the centre of everything:
The centre of our work: so that we are prepared to share our profits with those who have nothing.
The centre of our mealtimes: so that we are willing to share our food with those who are hungry.
The centre of our friendships: so that we give time to those who are alone in life.