(This is part one of a three part series. Part two can be found here.)
Growing up, I would estimate we ate cornbread with at least four meals a week. I bet I ate more cornbread than actual bread. On special occasions we would have biscuits (usually in addition to the cornbread). And we ate sandwiches, of course. But we weren’t really bread eaters in my house.
Bread was the means of getting something else into our mouths, like butter or cheese or gravy. We were never the kind of folks to go out and get a rustic loaf of artisan bread. And we absolutely were not the type of folks to make our own bread.
I would appreciate it more, then, if Jesus had said, “I am the barbecue of life,” or even, “I am the cornbread of life.” I could have gotten behind those phrases. But, “I am the bread of life…” How can I discern meaning from that when the only bread I’ve known has been Sunbeam and Bunny Bread?
The word bread is found in 285 verses in the Bible. In John’s Gospel, the word shows up in 20 verses, second only to Exodus. In John 6, the word “bread” is said 17 times in 14 verses. Maybe we should learn a bit about bread.
Anthropologists have claimed that the baking of bread got us to stop killing each other and stealing one another’s food and finally settle down and get along. For most of human history, bread has been a foundation of our diets. Called the staple of life, bread has kept us as a species alive for thousands of years.
I think God taught humanity how to make bread. It’s a process that I just don’t think anybody in their right mind would have come up with on their own.
First, you have to grow this grass. Next, harvest the seeds from this grass. Then, crush them with something heavy, like a huge stone, until they are a powder. Next, mix it with some water and salt, but not too much. Mix it, stretch it, fold it, turn it, stretch it again, over and over and over, until it stops being a sticky mess and makes a stretchy, gooey mess. Then, set that gooey mess aside and just let it sit there all day and all night. It’s going to inflate like a balloon, you might have to punch it down and stretch it out again, otherwise just let it sit there. Finally, you have to bake it in a really hot oven.
I just don’t think we would have thought of that on our own. It’s too bizarre. I believe God taught us how to make bread.
I believe bread is an everyday miracle.
Do you know what the problem is with an everyday miracle? It becomes commonplace. Routine. Typical. Even a miracle, if it happens every day, fades into the background and becomes just another part of the scenery of our lives.
We have taken this everyday miracle, this gift from God that has fed us for thousands of years, and gotten bored with it. We stick it in little plastic bags and line our grocery store shelves with it, so that what once was holy bread is now just Wonder Bread.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life… I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Jesus is a miracle. He is God’s one and only Son, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the one who is worthy, the one who is seated on the throne, come down to us, to be near us, to love us and die for us and rise again for us. This is miraculous.
At the same time, Jesus has become an everyday miracle for so many of us. Like bread, we take Jesus for granted. We use Jesus to get something else into our mouths. We acknowledge that Jesus is essential to life, but we just want a little nibble of it here and there. When an emergency hits we might run to the bread of life like a southerner hitting the bread aisle before it snows, but the rest of the time we are content to let the holy bread sit in a Wonder Bread bag on the shelf.
Folks, Jesus is a miracle.
As a miracle, we have no right to him; miracles are the exclusive property of God. Jesus is the bread of heaven, the bread of life- he is holy bread- and we cannot just go to Food Lion and pick up a little Jesus to get us through the week. No, Jesus himself said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me…” In other words, not only is Jesus a miracle, the fact that you can come to Jesus is a miracle.
If you are reading this, it is a miracle. If you are hearing the name of Jesus Christ, if you are receiving the good news of Jesus Christ, it is a miracle, because God has chosen you to hear it, God has called on you to receive it. Do not take this for granted!
We are given Holy Bread, bread that comes down from heaven, the bread of life. Those who eat of this bread shall hunger no more. Jesus said, “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Don’t take this for granted. It is an everyday miracle, meaning that God has made it available to you every single day, because it is God’s pleasure to feed you on this bread, to give you life eternally and abundantly.
Don’t let it become so commonplace that you lose sight of the miracle.
Jesus is the bread that has come down from heaven, a gift from the Father. Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is the bread that gives eternal life. All that is required is that we receive it for what it is, for the miracle that it is: the forgiveness of our sins and the making righteous of all who believe and receive. This is the holy bread. Be amazed.