For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Jesus and his disciples had fed 5000 plus people on the other side of Lake Galilee and he and the disciples had gone to the other side of the lake, but these people followed Jesus and kept wanting him to do more signs for them. They wanted signs that might be more food, healing their sick, maybe other nice things of life or promising to be their king, so they could be prosperous. In the conversation before the three verses above, some in the crowd had reminded Jesus of the sign of manna that Moses fed their ancestors in the wilderness. Then Jesus explains to them that that the bread from heaven was by God, not by Moses. He then shared the good news with them that he is the bread from heaven and any who will come to him will never be hungry or thirsty. He of course is speaking of spiritual hunger and thirst, rather than physical bread. He is teaching them that things on earth do not need to be our goal of life. Our deepest need is to seek God first for our spiritual hunger and well being.
This reminder makes me realize that I don’t want to get to the end of my life and carry an anguishing regret that I have wasted my life on things that do not matter. Just recently, I cleaned out a closet in a spare bedroom so that my grandson could live with me for a year and go to college here. I am so delighted that he wants to live with me as he begins his college years, but it meant that I had to get rid of lots of things, things like books, book shelves, old TVs I had not disposed of, extra clothes that I no longer wear, and a variety of other pieces of furniture that I no longer needed. It made me stop and think, why was I holding on to all those things. I asked the church librarian, our summer intern and our pastor to come gather up any books they could use. That cleared out two large book shelves. I gave one of the 3 TVs to another person, and put two TVs out on the curb, which were picked up by people that same day.
It also reminded me that I don’t want to get to the end of life and leave a house full of stuff when I could be sharing it now with those who can use them. If we are more worried about surface beauty, or things, the houses we live in, or cars we drive, than about those who are brought to faith by what God leads us to share of his love, then we are missing the real bread of heaven that Jesus wants to give us so we can also share with others.
Perhaps as you and I seek to follow in the way of Jesus, part of our discipleship path must mean
asking ourselves hard and important questions about what is important earlier rather than later. I mean, I know that we physically need the ‘food that perishes.’ Jesus knew that too, he fed that hungry crowd of 5,000 plus because of their physical need. Even so, I also know that if that is all there is for us? We are already perishing in ways that matter most of all. Jesus has come to give us life, which is more than food, or things.
- What do you think Jesus is getting at when he contrasts food that perishes with that which endures
- for eternal life?
- What examples of each come to mind?
- What experiences have you had regarding holding on to stuff?
- How are we called to ‘balance’ our need for the ‘food that perishes’ with our greater need for that
- which ‘endures for eternal life?’ What does this look like for you in your day to day life?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.