21st April 2013

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.’”
John 6:32-33 (NIV UK)
 

I love the smell of fresh 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 everyday clichés and idioms? “Taking bread out of someone’s mouth”, “Breaking bread”. 

Today 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.” That’s why it makes such an effective analogy in the Bible. But this is easy to miss if we don’t read the scriptures as a connected story. Read it piecemeal and we can miss some of the long and beautiful threads which run through the Old and New Testaments. 

There’s the story of how God fed the children of Israel in the wilderness with miraculous bread that fell from the sky each night. Manna 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. 

Then here’s an interesting statement in the Apocrypha. Not a part of inspired scripture, but still Biblical scholars consider them to be of historical interest: “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…” (2 Baruch 29:8). 

That gives a new level of meaning to the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000. Perhaps that’s what the crowd had in mind: “Surely, this is the Prophet who is come into the world” (John 6:15). They followed Jesus, wanting more of the miracle bread, but he explained that manna was only an analogy of a much more important source of nourishment. 

Jesus was referring to himself. We need bread to sustain our physical existence. But we cannot live by bread alone. Even the best bread—like the loaves my wife makes—is just an analogy, to remind us that we really need the true bread from heaven, the life that comes from our relationship with God. That’s bread that can sustain our lives forever. 

Prayer
Majestic Father, in the events of that week 2,000 years ago what is of importance to you is what was achieved—that Jesus by his sacrifice and resurrection rescued humanity. For that alone we praise, bless and give you glory. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen
 

[Technical note: 2 Baruch, The Apocalypse of Baruch the Son of Neriah, is not part of the Western Apocrypha but is considered a Jewish pseudepigraphical text of the 1st or 2nd century AD, written after the destruction of the temple. It is included in the Syriac Orthodox tradition, and is found in their bible, The Pershitta. JDS]

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joeandtammyAbout the Author:
Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA.

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