The Living Bread
”I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51a ESV). With these words, Jesus declares that He is the living bread that gives us life – eternal life! Today at International Lutheran Church we continue our threefold examination of this important “I AM” statement in John’s gospel. Last week we saw that Jesus is the true bread from heaven, our true daily necessity. Today we see how Jesus is the living bread – the One who gives us strength for the journey that is eternal life in Him.
We have been reflecting with the Apostle John on the theological meaning of the feeding of the 5,000 that we read about in Mark 6:30-44 several weeks ago. Last week we heard Jesus say that He is the true bread from Heaven. Today, Jesus reminds us that His life is real food – life-changing food, not just for this life but for the life to come.
Some of you may know that I, like a lot of people today, have a food allergy. We discovered a few years ago through a series of life events that not only did my father and my children need to be gluten-free, but so did I. While I have always been someone that likes to read the ingredients in my food, now I need to use this interest to screen out those things that have wheat, barley or rye. Since changing my diet, I have felt much better and so have my family members that are also on a gluten-free diet. What we eat really does make a big difference in how we feel and even the quality of life we lead. But eating a gluten-free diet does not solve all my problems. In the end, it is still only bread – gluten-free to be sure, but only bread. As good as I can feel, it still does not fix everything. The challenges of life are just too much for us to fix ourselves.
Elijah certainly experienced (1 Kings 18-19) the challenges of life and the spiritual hunger cycles of everyday life. The prophet of God had seen the mighty hand of God in action. The LORD had answered his prayer with fire, annihilated the false prophets of Baal and then poured down water on the parched land. Still no sooner had Elijah heard that Jezebel was intent on taking his life, he was quaking in his boots and running in fear of his life. In fact, the things that he was facing were so overwhelming that he was ready to have God take his life. Before we criticize Elijah, how often have we not seen how God answers our prayer and then no sooner are we facing another challenge and we are wondering if He hears or cares for us at all. We are just “like our fathers.” We see the blessings of God in the morning and by mid-day we wonder if anything will last. “The journey is too much [for us]” (1 Kings 19:7). This is why the actions of the Angel of the LORD are so important for us. God did not leave the prophet in the desert to die but fed him the very food that would sustain him for the journey ahead and bring him into His presence.
Jesus’ word in John chapter 6 is a real turning point in the gospel of John and the ministry of Jesus. The focus is on Jesus’ word that announces that the “bread of heaven” has come down in His person. But the people can only wrap their minds around their own everyday needs, and they miss the point that Jesus is making – that He, Jesus, is the real food, the only “living bread” that can give us life – eternal life. Jesus gives to us Himself, His very life to bring us into our Father’s presence. He is the only food, the only bread that gives to us the life that is His because His life was given for us on the cross. We will talk about this more next week, but Jesus is putting into “flesh” the very forgiveness of our sins - something for us to touch and feel, the very answer to all our needs. Like the hot cakes and jar of water given to Elijah, Jesus is pouring into our lives His grace and mercy, annihilating the false beliefs in our lives and bringing us into the fire of His own presence with His very word, His very self.
The Living Bread is real for you and me. What He feeds us does not cause us to hunger but gives us eternal life itself. We are strengthened for the journey ahead of us through this Living Bread even as He calls us to share Him with the world!