51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Bread has always and probably will always be the main staple in the human diet. There are many different forms of bread dependent upon the culture, and the grains that form its basic consistency.
When I think of bread, I automatically think of a particular soft bread that has a gentle sweet taste to it. I won’t mention the name because I don’t think I should give advertisements here. However, I’ll bet that you have a favorite kind of bread that you had rather eat than any other. It may be a multi-grain, a sourdough, a cornbread, a wheat bread, a rye bread, your favorite home made rolls, or a particular brand name loaf of bread.
When we taste our favorite bread it stays with us, and even though we might eat other types now and then, we know what bread satisfies our taste more than any other.
But in these verses, Jesus refers to himself as bread. He offers to us his very own body, his flesh and blood, the flesh which will be stretched upon the cross for our sake, and the blood which will flow freely from his hands, feet, and side for us. He is the divine God who became incarnate by taking on flesh and blood like us, so that we may one day become like God. He is a totally different kind of bread, and to make that transference in our minds is not normal. And, the imagery of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood was offensive to many who were there that day, and to many people today. Many left him because they could not imagine eating flesh and drinking blood.
Jesus often used images that people were familiar with to help them understand God’s love for them. And his reference of his body as bread helps us understand that there is no other bread like Jesus.
Jesus, the bread of life, is all our souls need to satisfy our starvation for a relationship with God, our creator and redeemer. In Jesus we really come to know God and God’s love for us.
In Jesus, the Word made flesh, as in the sacraments of bread and wine, this Word made flesh is given a visible physical form. So, in Jesus we meet the God who has loved us even before we were born. Jesus speaks of giving us his flesh and blood, because flesh and blood refer to the whole person. In these words of Jesus we begin to recognize just what is at stake for Jesus, and just how much we are worth to him.
Even though it is hard to think of us eating flesh and drinking blood he uses this extreme language to express the indissolvable union and participation of Jesus’ life in our lives. For when we receive Jesus, the whole Jesus, his life clings to our bones and courses through our veins. He can no more be taken from our lives than last Saturday’s dinner meal can be plucked from our bodies.
This is the same promise which God makes to us when we take the Sacraments: to be one with us and for us forever, to stick with us and even in us no matter what.
Life with Jesus, means an abiding unity, a reciprocity, and oneness. It means real relationship, here and now. It is more than a remembrance of Jesus’ past life or a hope for a future life, but life lived in the moment as God’s grace upon grace. It is the bread for which our souls hunger and the only one that truly satisfies.
It makes me think of that African-American spiritual, “Give me Jesus.” The words in that spiritual express our soul’s deep hunger when it asks to be given Jesus at all times: in the morning, at darkest midnight, break of day, at death, and in song.
The words of the chorus, “Give me Jesus, give me Jesus, you can have all the rest, give me Jesus,” captures for me what it means to eat and drink the true bread of life that is Jesus. It simply says “I need Jesus for a deep, ongoing, daily relationship, nourished in Word and Sacrament, lived out in community”.
Jesus is the Bread of Life that satisfies our deep longing for a spiritual relationship with God. May you feast on Jesus!
- How do you experience Jesus as bread for your life?
- How does Jesus, the bread of life, satisfy your soul each day?
- Have you ever tried to substitute any other kind of bread for Jesus? Did it satisfy?
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.