Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” John 6:4-5
As we look at the bread in the rugged hand of this carpenter turned rabbi from Nazareth, John wants us to make the connection that the one holding the bread is more than a miracle-worker. He wants us to see that what bread is to the body, Jesus is to the soul. When you are starving and you eat simple carbohydrates you are on your way to a restored life.
John is saying that is true about believing in Jesus. He drops a bread crumb clue that The Jewish Passover Feast was near. That isn’t just a time-stamp reference; that is John’s way of pointing to the meaning of the miracle. These meals are connected and the bread and Jesus are connected.
The Passover Meal was the central event in the life of the people of Israel. They marked their calendars by it. When Israel was in bondage in Egypt and Charlton Heston came to liberate them, they sprinkled the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorpost of the home so the Angel of Death would “pass over” that home. That act forever burned into their memory that they could be rescued by the death of an innocent third party sacrifice.
Also, tied to this Passover Meal was the bread God provided for them as they wandered in the barren wilderness. It was called manna, literally meaning “What is it?” It lay on the ground each morning for them to gather. It was the first Wonder Bread.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 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 he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry …vs. 32-35
Jesus is speaking to thousands of impoverished people who consume half of their caloric intake per day on barley bread—poor people food. Quite literally most of these people on the hillside went to bed each night with stomachs rumbling. And Jesus has the audacity to say to perpetually hungry people, “I will feed you in a way that you will never be hungry again.”
How can he say that?
Jesus knows there is a hunger that is deeper in and further down than all of our physical hungers, thirsts, and social cravings, that is why he declares, “I am the bread of life.”
Maybe a great magnet pulls
All souls towards truth
Or maybe it is life itself
That feeds wisdom
To its youth
Has always been ~ K.D. Lang
There are two common words for life found in Scripture: “bios” and “zoe.” Bio refers to that which is physically alive, whereas zoe refers to a quality of life. Vines Bible Dictionary describes the difference this way, “Bios is life extensive…while zoe is life intensive.”
Jesus is saying that behind every biological hunger is a spiritual hunger and that is what I have come to satisfy. Behind every physical and social craving is a spiritual longing that only Jesus can provide.
What are you hungry for? Your constant cravings are clues to the kind of zoe/life God has designed for you.
A popular commercial these days has Larry the Cable Guy pitching a new kind of acid reducer. In this commercial he asks this question, “Why make a flavored heartburn pill? Because this is America, and we make things you want and things you didn’t know you wanted. Like a spoon made into a fork, spray cans of cheese, and jeans made from sweat pants!”
Jesus stood on that hillside and made a meal they wanted that pointed to a meal they didn’t know they wanted. All of our cravings and longings are aches for God: His love, mercy, grace and presence in our innermost being.
As a pastor, I can tell you many people have full stomachs and emaciated souls. Because you are what you eat. Listen to your hungers, to the rumblings in your own life right now. Go to Jesus to satisfy your deepest longings.
I have trained for and completed three marathons. As I stood at the starting line of my first marathon with my best friend, I was nervous. Did I have what it takes to run 26.2 miles? My friend saw worry etched on my face and leaned over to me saying, “Two things, big guy: 1. Trust your training. 2. I will be on your left shoulder every step of the way. Together we can do this.”
At some point you have to discipline yourself to trust Jesus and believe that He is going to be with you every step of the way.
There are some verbs in verse 11 that are important: Jesus “takes” the bread, gives “thanks” for the bread and “gives” the bread away. Takes—thanks—gives
At the last supper, same pattern…
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
Something mysterious happens when I come to the Lord’s Table with a broken heart over my efforts to satisfy longings apart from Jesus, and with an open heart full of gratitude and willingness to love God, love others and serve the world.
I saw a white apron one time with bold and black letters that said: “Life is too short to eat bad food!”
May I change that to say, “Life is too short to eat good food thinking it is going to satisfy your constant cravings?” You are what you eat…so come to the table, take—give thanks—and give your life away to Jesus and to the world.
Joe, this is the best and fullest explanation of the Eucharist I’ve heard outside the Catholic Church. Thank you!
Thanks for reading and commenting, Katie. I really appreciate it.