Friday, November 23, 2012

Bread of Life

Freshly baked bread loaves
Did you have a good Thanksgiving?  I hope it was filled with family, friends, gratefulness, and prayers.  One thing I'm sure you had a lot of is food.  One of my favorite things to do on Thanksgiving is to swipe little bits of food before the meal is served.  My Grandma still gives me a mock glare when I do it, but I can't help but snitch a little ham when I can.  One of the easiest things to "sneak" is the bread.  With apologies to my paleo friends, I could never be on a low carb diet.  I love bread of almost any variety.  

God likes bread too.  That sounds a little funny, doesn't it?  But have you ever noticed how many times bread is mentioned in the Bible?  God uses bread over and over in the Bible to teach us little lessons.  Several of these lessons we can see in the lives of Biblical ladies.  It was a main player in the story of the widow of Zarephath. There was a famine in the land, and this woman was planning to make one last morsel of bread for herself and her son and then await starvation. Instead, the prophet Elijah comes and tells her that she can share her bread with him because her flour and oil jars will not run out until the rains fall (I Kings 17).  In this story, God uses bread to remind the widow and us that in the hard times, he will provide for us.

I wonder if Elijah taught the widow about God's provision?  This wasn't the first time God had provided miraculous bread.  The prophet could not have helped but compare the flour and oil jars for one family to the bread from heaven that God provided for the entire nation during the exodus.  During the whole forty years of Israel's wandering, the people were able to gather manna from the ground.  No matter where they were, the children of promise were able to eat their fill.

Jesus recalled this manna from heaven too when he called himself the "bread of life" in John chapter 6.  In that one chapter, He tied himself to the whole history of the Jews and the future of anyone who would have life through him.  "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6:33).  In case it wasn't clear to those listening, Jesus spells out exactly who that bread is. "I am the bread of life; he comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst."  In a beautiful metaphor that even his disciples didn't fully understand until later, Jesus ties it all together.  "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:48-51).

 Jesus is the embodiment of God's provision.  The manna from heaven simply met their physical need to eat for another day, but our lives are so much more than food.  Jesus' provision is about allowing us to have eternal life with Him.  We even commemorate this when we take communion each week.  In fact, Jesus alluded to this very thing. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:53-54).

So, when I say God likes bread, I don't really mean that we should be filling up on leftover crescent rolls.  I mean that bread serves as a reminder of God's provision.  We can remember that God provides for us like he did for the widow and the wandering Israelites.  When we take the Lord's Supper, we can remember that Jesus is the bread of life, and he gives us a chance to live in heaven with him forever.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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