Ever had that situation where you’re hungry but don’t quite know what for and so you begin opening the cupboards and fridge, hunting for something that will satisfy that urge to eat? For me, when the breadbin is empty, it usually ends up with something that’s not particularly nutritious like salted peanuts, cake or crisps. Bread is such a staple. When it’s not there we notice it.
The context to our reading from John is that the crowd have had their physical appetites fed by Jesus with the miracle of the two fish and five loaves. The magnitude of this event must have seared itself into the memories and imagination of those present and because of it many are now following Jesus and his disciples around the countryside, eager to see what he might do next. Jesus understands their interest is in a free meal but emphasises the need to understand that our spirits need feeding just as much as our physical bodies. You know what I’ve done .. but do you know who I am?’
‘I am the bread of Life’ is one of seven ‘I am’ statements in John’s gospel that relate to the identity of Jesus. Each in their unique way shows us a precious insight into the life that God has prepared for us. A life of fullness, prosperity, love and hope. Jesus shows us what true life looks like and invites us to step into it. He reminds the crowd that God understood the needs of their ancestors receiving the manna in the desert - bread in the morning and meat in the evening; but just enough for their daily needs. They couldn’t stockpile the blessing. They were to rely on God as their daily provider. God wanted to be so much more than a heavenly slot machine – his desire was for a living relationship with the people, that they might trust him and seek him for help and sustenance rather than rely on their own strength. Jesus reminds them that physical food will sustain them for a short while only. What is needed is ‘living bread’ that will last forever.
In a hungry world, many do not have enough to eat. Our bodies require food to remain healthy and to survive but Jesus reminds us that our spirits also require feeding and if they are neglected they will also die. It is through accepting who Jesus is and what he has done for us that secures our eternal life. Although, ‘food poverty’ is increasing at an alarming rate in western countries, even those who enjoy a satisfied stomach are desperately hungry but don’t even know what they are hungry for. So many billions are working harder and working longer and desperately feeding themselves with what the world has to offer yet remain desperately malnourished, dissatisfied and disillusioned with life. Is this all there is? And Jesus cries out to the crowd then and cries out to the world now … No. You have heard of what I’ve done, but do you know who I am?
What the world is offering isn’t enough and never will be. Jesus says, if you’re hungry and want real satisfaction, then feed on me, discover who I am and experience LIFE. But just like the crowd we so often want to experience God’s power but not the person. We want the miracles but not the man. We want the crown but not the cross; the blessing and not the perceived burden of a relationship with the only one who could ever make sense of our existence.
For those who do not yet know the fullness of Jesus in their lives, Jesus is the bread of life. For those who do know the fullness of Jesus in their lives, Jesus is the bread of life. He says: take me in, trust me, know me, enjoy me, experience me for I am for you. You are the reason I was born, and you are the reason I died and rose again. Know me and know LIFE. Jesus satisfies every need we have, ever have had or ever will have. No matter what your personal need is right now … forgiveness from the past, freedom for the present or hope for the future; Jesus says: ‘I am the bread of life’ – take me in. Why not take Him at his word?
With the Lord’s blessing.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale