10th Sunday after Trinity John 6:35. 41-51
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
May these written words lead us to the living word Jesus Christ.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said, not once but twice. “I am the bread of life.” When was the last time you ate the bread of life? I’m not talking about the Eucharist because I don’t think that is what Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel. Of course I am not denying that the Eucharist can be and is bread of life as I said last week, but maybe it is just one slice in a larger loaf of bread. Maybe the bread of life is the Eucharist and more than the Eucharist. Maybe you and I are to become the bread of life, just like Jesus.
Think about all the people, relationships, and experiences that have fed, nourished, and sustained your life. Think about a time when someone else fed and nourished your life and I mean more than that they cooked your supper. I’m talking about the kind of people that spend their time with us. They love us, teach us, care for us and encourage us and our lives are fed and nourished by them.
Think about someone who offered you wisdom or guidance, who listened to you or spoke a word of hope or encouragement that nourished and sustained your life. They were bread for you. Or maybe there was someone who helped you discover meaning or purpose in your life. Perhaps it was someone who said, “I forgive you” and you were strengthened to move forward. Maybe someone believed in you when you weren’t so sure about yourself. Our lives are nourished and fed by others in many different ways.
What if that’s what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of himself as the bread of life? Throughout the gospels we see him feeding and nourishing lives in so many ways and circumstances: through his love, presence, guidance, and teaching; through his healing, forgiveness, and mercy; through his generosity, compassion, and wisdom. This is the bread that feeds the soul.
What if those qualities are not unique to Jesus. They can be ours as well. It is the way God shares his life with us. We both eat that bread of life and we become it. As Christians we believe the Holy Spirit dwells within us with all the qualities needed to sustain us and feed others. The question then is when have you been bread in someone else’s life? When have you fed and nourished them? When have you strengthened them? We so often hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life,” and we assume he is the only loaf in the basket. But what if he is teaching us what bread of life looks like in order that we can become that bread for another?
Have you ever been given a starter batch of sourdough? It has all the potential to become bread, to feed and nourish. What if Jesus is the starter batch in us? What if rather than making an exclusive claim about himself Jesus is giving us the recipe to become as he is, to become the bread of life for the hungry. Could you believe that about yourself?
That is the problem that the religious leaders and authorities have in today’s gospel. They begin complaining because Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” The issue is not that they don’t believe that God provides or that God feeds. The issue is that they know Jesus and his mum and dad. They know where he is from. He is the kid from Nazareth; he could not possibly be bread from heaven. They have made Nazareth and heaven mutually exclusive. We don’t have that problem. We know Jesus is the Son of God come down from heaven and we know he came from Nazareth.
We have been in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel for the last three weeks. It’s been three weeks of feeding, three weeks of bread, and we’ve got two more to go. Something is going on here. Jesus begins it with the feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. Last week Jesus talked about the difference between bread that is perishable and bread that is imperishable, and now we have the bread that lasts, the bread that endures, the bread that never runs out, the bread that never gets stale or mouldy.
The reality is that there is a lot of bread in this world. If you look through scriptures you will find references to all sorts of bread: the bread of adversity, the bread of tears, the bread of affliction, the bread of mourning, the bread of wickedness, the bread of idleness, and the list goes on. . For Jesus, however, the only bread that matters is the bread that endures, the bread of life. Basically there is really only two kinds of bread; the bread of life that feeds and nourishes and sustains, and all the other bread that leaves us hungry and malnourished. What kind of bread are you eating today? Does it fill and nourish you? Or does it leave you hungry and malnourished? Is it sustaining and enduring or has it become hard and dry?
The bread we choose to eat says something about our appetite and what we hunger for. What’s your hunger? What’s your appetite? Do you need a change in diet, to choose a different bread? Let’s not forget the old saying, “You are what you eat.” If we want life then we need to be eating the bread of life. If we want to bring life to another then we need to be the bread of life to them. What kind of bread will you eat this week? What kind of bread will you be for another this week?