Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bread of Life

In my Bible studies the other day, I ran across the verses from John 6: 26-35. Jesus is speaking to a gathering of folks the day after feeding the 5,000. Here’s the NIV account:
“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

I was really taken by the words Jesus offers here. First of all, he lets the people know that he’s more than aware that they haven’t come to worship Him because of who He is, but rather they were interested in the bread. Then His words remind us that we shouldn’t spend our time focused on working for food or things that will just spoil and fade into oblivion.

Then he tells what we must do to do the works God requires – Believe in the one he has sent – Jesus.

Jesus goes on to remind them of their heritage and that God, not Moses gave the people manna in the wilderness and that it’s God who will give them the true bread of life. Of course, the people want this bread and Jesus tells them how they can have it – by coming to Him.

Bread has driven people for centuries and this verse is proof of that. I found it interesting enough to do a little study on bread and quickly came to realize that people have long depended on bread to sustain their lives.

At one time, being a baker of bread was such an honored and special profession that a Baker’s Guild came about in Rome around 168BC. Bakers and their children were to stay unto themselves as a separate profession. Bakers received special privileges and were the only truly free craftsmen in Rome – all other trades were conducted by slaves. Bakers were forbidden to mix with ‘comedians and gladiators’ and from going to performances at the amphitheater, so that they wouldn’t be contaminated by the vices of ordinary people.
Bakers worked hard to keep their trade a mystery so that not just anyone could be a baker. If someone wanted to become a baker, they had to serve a lengthy apprenticeship – 7 years.

A person’s very economical status was judged by the color of bread they ate. The whiter flours were expensive. They were more refined and harder to produce. Poorer folks ate darker bread. Now a days we see the reverse and the heavier grained breads are more expensive and considered far healthier to consume.
Some other interesting facts about bread:

Jewish people eat only flat breads during Passover, to symbolize their flight from Egypt when there wasn’t time to allow their bread to rise.

The Muslims once didn’t allow bread to be sold, but gave it away or traded it. They believed bread was a gift from Allah.

Early Egyptian writings urged mothers to send their children to school with plenty of bread and beer for their lunch.

Bread is closely tied to religious expression and communion. Hot cross buns commemorate Lent and Good Friday, Greek Easter breads are set with eggs dyed red to denote the blood of Christ, and Jewish families celebrate the coming of the Sabbath on Friday evening with challah.

Superstitions include:
If you put a piece of bread in a baby's cradle, it will keep away disease.
It is considered bad luck to turn a loaf of bread upside down or cut an unbaked loaf.

Scandinavian traditions hold that if a boy and girl eat from the same loaf, they are bound to fall in love.

In Russia, bread is a symbol of welcome.

Old wives tales maintain that whoever eats the last piece of bread has to kiss the cook.

But always I come back to those verses in John.
“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” May you eat exceedingly from the bread of God and know a full and rich life. Jesus offers us the means to never go spiritually hungry. He offered us this bread freely on the cross and continues to offer it to us today. So dig in.

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