Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bread of Life

Four hundred years of back-breaking, brick-making labor. Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and more blood. But this blood was the price of freedom. They stood, their backs to the sea and their faces toward the rising sun.

Across the desert they set out. Heat rose from the sand and scorched their sandaled feet. For 2 1/2 months, they trudged forward. Sure of what they were saved from, they could not yet see what they were saved for or to. Their stomachs rumbled and their mouths grumbled, "You have brought us out into the desert to starve to death!" Oh, for refreshment to come from above to cool their palates, quench their thirst, and fill their stomachs!
Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you" (Ex. 16:4).
The morning brought a fresh layer of dew upon the ground. When the dew lifted, white flakes flecked the earth. "What is it?" the people wondered. It was what they had been groaning for.


Fast forward 1,500 years. The Israelite people are slaves once again. This time their oppressors are not the Egyptians but the Romans. Crowds have gathered to hear the words of a miracle-worker who claims to be from God. Once again, the people are hungry. A quick survey of the crowd brings up only 5 small barley loaves and two small fish, a meager portion for a crowd so large. But it is enough. Jesus takes the bread, lifts it to heaven, and blesses it. Little becomes much. Everyone eats and each person has his fill.

The parallel seemed so clear to the Jewish crowd; a miraculous provision of bread and a prophet. Freedom. They rally to make Jesus king by force, but he slips away to a mountain haven. The next morning, the crowd finds Jesus on the other side of the lake in Capernaum, and ask him about the bread.
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, 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 he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6:32-33).
Bread from heaven.

It is now Passover. Jesus sits in an upper room with his disciples. He holds up a piece of bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it freely, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

That very night, Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is bloodied, beaten, and bruised. His broken body is lifted up on a cross where he hangs until, with a loud cry, Jesus breathes his last. His body is taken down, wrapped, and tucked in a tomb where it remains for three days. But on the third day, that lifeless body drew a breath. Light shot through his limbs and life entered his lungs. Through Jesus' brokenness, the world finds healing.

Do you hunger? Does your stomach long to be filled? Have you (like me) tried to quiet the ache with activities, good deeds, intelligence, attention from your spouse, or praise from your peers? This bread may slake your hunger for a meal but it will always leave you just as empty. Jesus offers you the bread of life, his body broken for you. Take and eat. Be filled. It is enough.
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).

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