Speaking of Life
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I love the smell of fresh baking bread. My wife sometimes puts the ingredients into our bread machine last thing at night, so that we wake up to that wonderful aroma. It certainly helps me to thank God for ‘Our Daily Bread’.
Have you noticed how often bread is mentioned in our everyday clichés and idioms? For example, we talk about “taking the bread out of someone's mouth,” meaning to deprive them of their livelihood. To break bread means to eat a meal, especially in companionable association with others. And to “know which side one's bread is buttered on” means to be aware of those things that are to your advantage.
Today, in our modern world, when we have dozens of varieties to choose from, it’s easy to take bread for granted. But for much of history, bread was so essential to human survival that it was known as the “staff of life.” This is why it made such an effective analogy in the Bible.
It’s an analogy that’s easy to miss if we don’t read the scriptures as a connected story. When we read it piecemeal we can miss some of the long and beautiful threads that run through the Old and New Testaments.
You probably know the story of how God fed the children of Israel in the wilderness with miraculous bread that fell from the sky each night. They called it “manna” and it was their staple diet for the many years they wandered in the wilderness. Then, as they prepared to enter the Promised Land, the manna ceased.
There is an interesting statement in the Book of 2 Baruch, which is part of the Apocrypha. Those are books that are not a part of inspired scripture, but Biblical scholars consider them to be of historical interest. 2 Baruch 29:8 reads: “And it shall come to pass at that self-same time (in the days when the Messiah comes) that the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years.”
That gives a new level of meaning to the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000. Perhaps it was what the crowd had in mind when they said, “Surely, this is the Prophet who is come into the world.” (John 6:15). They thought Jesus had given them manna, like Moses.
The crowd followed Jesus, wanting more of the miracle bread, but Jesus explained that they had missed the point. Manna was only an analogy of a much more important source of nourishment. He told them, “…it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33).
Jesus was, of course, referring to himself. We need bread to sustain our physical existence. But as he said, we cannot live by bread alone. Even the best bread – like the loaves my wife makes - is just an analogy, to remind us that what we really need is the true bread from heaven – the life that comes from our relationship with God. That is bread that can sustain our lives forever.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.