Every household has its staples that can always be trusted to be on hand. A visit to Nanny’s house just wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t offered a beverage of peach iced tea! For our house, our staples are shown by the first three items on every grocery list: bread, milk and bananas.
Bananas are a great source of magnesium wrapped in chirpy yellow, while milk goes with all things breakfast and then some. And where do we start with bread? Fields of golden wheat transformed into light and fluffy sustenance – delightful!
Which leads me to the first of the seven ‘I am’ statements Jesus makes in the Gospel of John: “I am the bread of life.” Truth about Jesus in a metaphor about bread? Count me in!
A mighty miracle
The lead up to the statement begins with a famous miracle. Jesus has a great and ravenous crowd listening to him out in the wilderness when he takes a boy’s lunch of five barley loaves and some fish and multiples it to feed the hungry horde.
John records that the crowd of 5000 men ate all that they wanted. Completely filled and satisfied, the amazed crowd want to crown the miracle worker King, but Jesus eludes them and makes a night-time getaway across the water.
But the eager crowd chases him down. The meal that so richly filled them has become a memory, and with fresh hunger pangs gnawing away they clamour for Jesus to do a miraculous sign again.
But while they seek physical satiation, Jesus has bigger things at play. He tells them not to seek food that perishes but food that is eternal, telling the crowd they are only seeking him because their bellies were filled.
The bread of life
The crowd asks Jesus to give them bread from heaven always, to which we have the salient reply:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John Chapter 6, verse 35).
Jesus had filled their bellies, but he now wanted to fill their hearts. And the food he wanted to offer wasn’t physical bread from heaven, but his very body.
“I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John chapter 6, verse 51).
We celebrate and commemorate this in churches across the world when we take the Lord’s Supper, using bread and juice as symbols of Christ laying down his body and shedding his blood that we might have life in him.
My source of life
The statement ‘I am the bread of life’ is rich in theological truth, but what I really want to consider in this series is how this truth applies in everyday life.
Bread is a metaphor for food, the sustaining of life. Without food, our lives fall to the ground.
I only have to miss one meal to feel so readily the dependence I have on regular nourishment. My energy falters, my focus blurs, my tone gets sharper and my patience diminishes. The more time passes, the more my body demands its needs be met, its incessant voice rising from a whisper to a sustained yell in a matter of hours.
I feel the needs of my body so easily, but my spiritual needs, of greater importance, have a quieter voice. A voice that can be shushed and easily lost within a cacophony of competing sounds.
So maybe a way to keep spiritually refreshed is to look to my staples in life and use them as a reminder of the most important staple of all.
Jesus is the Bread of Life, the eternal source of satisfaction. Next time I reach for bread, milk or bananas, I would do well to remember to listen to what my spirit also needs.
Thomas Devenish lives in Hobart, Tasmania with his wife and two daughters. He works as a motion designer and enjoys the diverse experiences life has to offer, from chasing tennis balls to curling up with a good book on a rainy day. Thomas Devenish’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/thomas-devenish.html