John 6:35, 41-51
All of these gospel readings about food and about bread are making me hungry …
Maybe John is trying to make us hungry. Not hungry for food, physical bread and wine that we serve on our table, but the physical bread and wine that is the broken, blessed, and risen body of Christ.
Christ’s body was broken in the world, broken on the cross, but never abandoned by His father, our God. Christ was blessed: when Jesus arose from the waters of his baptism, the voice of God boomed forth: this is my Son with whom I am well-pleased. The descending of the Holy Spirit and that booming voice accompany each of our baptisms. We are broken. We are blessed. We are loved.
Christ is risen. We say that almost every week, but what does that mean to our lives? …
We have decided to learn how to make bread, so we gather up some cookbooks, maybe our favorite one, and we flip through the pages. We look on the internet, at food.com or pinterest … we find just the right recipe with ingredients that we mostly have on hand. We make only one trip to the grocery store for yeast, and where is that stuff? … bread aisle, no, baking aisle, maybe … ahh, here it is.
Then we mix and we stir and we sprinkle a packet of yeast on top. We incorporate those brown beads of yeast into our thin batter, and the batter foams and bubbles. Huh? It’s foaming! We add some flour, then a lot more, and we dump the dough onto the counter. There is way too much flour to add, but we follow the instructions, sprinkling, stirring, adding flour, and kneading, kneading, kneading…. It’s a good thing, we think, that we didn’t live on the prairie in the time of Laura Ingalls; this is hard work! We might have been very, very hungry.
The dough starts out sticky, then gets soft and smooth under our hands. Wow, this is kind of cool. We grease a bowl, put the dough in it, and leave it alone for awhile. The most amazing thing happens. That foamy, gooey, now smooth ball rises. More, and more, and more. It is alive! We peak under the towel, then punch the whole thing down, and let it rise again … this is really cool. Our bread is alive.
Our real bread is Jesus. The stuff that we buy in a cellophane wrapper and set out on the counter and slather with mayonnaise and fresh tomatoes, or with peanut butter and our favorite jelly – that’s not Jesus. The bread that is Jesus is alive, and it lives and grows even when we punch it down and try to contain him.
The bread that is Jesus is molded, not by our hands, but by His father’s. The bread that is Jesus is filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit, not with the bubbling holes that yeast and sugar bring alive. But Jesus is bread. Jesus is real. And we cannot contain Him.
There is not a bowl that will contain Jesus. There is not an ideology that will contain Him, nor a thought, nor an imagination, nor a living creature. Jesus has already been formed by the hands of God; He was sent to earth, and we tried to make him fit into what we thought bread should be. When we were not successful, we got more and more angry, tried to fit Jesus into our ways and into our understanding.
All we do for bread is give it the right conditions to grow: a little flour, a little something sweet, some yeast, and some warmth. Bread grows.
And Jesus, who is living? … a little water (baptism), some big promises, “I believe” and “I will continue in the breaking of the bread.” And then the analogies all fall apart.
We did not make Jesus. We cannot manipulate him, and we cannot make him who we need him to be. Jesus is living bread, not something created under our hands, even with our favorite cookbook. While we killed Jesus, it is God who made him rise from death and conquer death itself. We, the bystanders, stood by in fear, anger, denial, and finally, disbelief and amazement. We had no idea what we were doing.
Jesus is the living bread who conquers every evil, then gives us life through death itself. It is Jesus, the “turn our lives upside down, who loves us in spite of our selves” for whom we hunger. We are broken as human beings, then broken by the world. We are blessed, maybe more than we’ll ever know, by the life and love of Jesus Christ. Our Christian work and calling, remember, is to believe in Him.
So believe. Live. Fill your spiritual hunger for the only bread that there is. Thank you, God, for Jesus.