Jesus: Bread of Life

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. The Feeling Of Hunger

Jesus: Bread of life. Food for the soul. The Head of our lives that not only sustains, us but fills the hunger of the soul of the world.  All of us have in some point of our lives been hungry, where our bodies have had to tell us that it is lacking sustenance.  That moment when our stomachs growl and we might begin to feel a little faint.  But even though we all have felt the pains of hunger, very few of us have had to deal with extreme hunger or hunger being a constant unwanted companion.  The type of hunger that makes you feel a sharp pain within your stomach as if its being tightly squeezed and the front of your stomach is touching your back. The type of hunger that causes irritability, dizziness, difficulty to focus, shaking, inability to sleep. This type of hunger changes life and makes it quite difficult to function in what some might deem “normal” life.  Quite often the people who feel this type of hunger are overlooked, ignored, and unseen.  And others who feel this type of hunger don’t want to share their experiences because they know that they will be pitied or looked down upon, or even ignored like others, where the rest of the world looks right through them without seeing them for who they really are.  They want to be known as the sweet, fun-loving, funny, diligent, hardworking people that you know them to be and not a statistic or a stereotype.  Quite often those who suffer from real hunger are seen as their current circumstance rather than people that they really are. We often label them as the hungry, “those people,” them, and not us – they are the people we pity and don’t always see as human beings, shaped and created by God, loved by God, and created in the image of God – people that are going through and unfortunate circumstance, but by no means defined by it.
This objectification of people for their circumstances in ways that look down upon others is something that the crowd within our scripture could relate to. We see that those within our scripture were looking for Jesus throughout the streets of Galilee.  Where is Jesus? Where Did he go? How did we lose him? Did he return to Capernaum? And if he did, how long has he been there? They had just witnessed the miraculous event of Jesus feeding the 5000.  As the people were sitting and listening to Jesus teach, they began to get hungry, and Jesus took two fish and five loaves of bread and was able to multiply enough that all could eat, and not just a taste of food, but all people present, were filled.  These people had witnessed what they saw to be impossible.  Jesus literally made something out of nothing, and they were able to witness it.  Yet somehow in the shuffle of things, Jesus had gotten away from them.  Jesus had left their location and returned to his hometown of Capernaum and the people were confused as to how this man, who performed great miracles had gotten away from them.  But as we peer into the text, if we were to take a step into the biblical narrative, we might be able to see a few things about our text.

 II. The People Looking For Jesus

These people among the crowd, who came looking for Jesus, were Galilean peasants. Many people who came from Galilee, were already cast out of the larger society.  Those from Galilee were often looked at as lesser than because they came from a difficult area, an area where those from the wrong side of the tracks resided, an area that people might be stereotyped as thieves and criminals.  These people, in the area of Galilee, were already rejected by the larger society, by those from the “big city” of Jerusalem, all because of their location.  So, if the people of Galilee were rejected by the larger society, you can only imagine what the life of the poor in Galilee might be like.  They are the rejected of the rejected.  They are the very definition of “the least of these.”  They are the people that the world had forgotten.  They are the ones that were either pitied or the ones who people saw right through without acknowledging their humanity.  These human beings from Galilee were the poor and impoverished that toiled hard for farmers and landowners.  They had worked so hard, and yet they were given scraps, just enough to keep their bodies alive.  They would like jump at the chance of receiving bread that might fill the stomach, because food was often given only to keep from suffering from exhaustion rather than to fill the belly and fully sustain the body. They were defined by their situation and not seen as human beings.  No one saw their humanity or them for who they are.  No one explored their personalities or their interests, no one considered their needs, no one saw them.  They were the rejected of the rejected. They were the “least of these.”

But for some reason as they sat on the hill with Jesus, as he spoke and taught his ministry, for some reason, when everyone else had shut out and ignored them, when they had become used to their being ignored by the world because it was a state of homeostasis of the culture, for they were the rejected of the rejected, the “least of these,” it was their “normal,” but for some reason with Jesus it was different.  Jesus seemed to see them, see them as people, see them as uniquely crafted by God, each of them.  Jesus saw them with a sense of equality.  Jesus seemed to look at them as people, when the rest of the world walked by without acknowledgement, Jesus sat with them, acknowledged them, and talked to them.  Jesus was different.  But more than that, when they were hungry, instead of Jesus ignoring their need or minimally responding to it, he made sure that their bodily appetite was satisfied.  Jesus made sure that they were filled.  Jesus gave them food that might take away some of the constant unwanted companion of hunger symptoms like irritability, hunger pains, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty to focus, shaking, and more.  Jesus gave them something that seemed to transform their whole life.  Jesus transformed the discomfort that they had assumed was a permanent regularity.  So, you can imagine that when Jesus had left them and was lost among the crowd, you can imagine why people began to search for him, because to them, Jesus was different. Jesus was affirming their being in ways that people for centuries had never done. Jesus was the only one to see them and give them more than the minimum, Jesus was the first to give them food in abundance.

 III. The Larger Lesson

But as they reached Jesus, he had to let them know that they missed the larger lesson that he was trying to show them. They had missed the point that he was trying to make.  The people had been so focused on the physical hunger that they missed the larger implication of who Jesus was.  See in the ancient tradition when the people of Israel were hungry and left out into the desert to die, bread was provided from heaven to feed the people.  Moses told the people to go out and pick up manna from heaven so that the people might be sustained.  So, if this man Jesus, could provide sustenance the same way that Moses did, than he must be connected to God.  But what they did not understand, is that the bread did not come from Moses, but from God.  And the bread from heaven they were seeking was not the physical bread, but a type of bread that changes and transforms the whole world.  Because the bread that they were looking for was Jesus, the bread of life.  That feeling of being filled by food was just a momentary feeling.  But what Jesus can actually provide is something that can change their very being and the world around them.  Because in Jesus Christ all people are affirmed as human beings regardless of race, creed, color, or gender.  In Christ the people who experience poverty are affirmed and helped.  In Christ the cast out are lifted high.  In Christ the hungry are fed. In Christ the unloved are met with love and compassion, because Christ taught us to love one another.  In Christ all things are made possible.  In Christ we are saved.  In Christ we as sinners were cleansed from our sin and released from death.  It was Christ who suffered death on cross that we might be reconciled back to God.  And it is in the resurrection of Christ that we find new life and redemption.

In the midst of a world left hungry, Jesus is the bread of life that not only sustains, but fills the world with his love.  The world is hungry when many are suffering from poverty and ignored and overlooked as human beings.  The world is hungry when we value pushing through to uphold structures rather than taking care of our own mental health.  The world is hungry when we show each other less than love.  The world is hungry when we shut one another out for things that are beyond our control.  The world is hungry when we cannot unite as the people of God.  The world is hungry when people have trouble feeling the love that is present in Jesus Christ.  And what is the response to the hunger of the world? Jesus and Jesus alone.  Jesus the bread of life. So, what we must bring into the world is Jesus, because Jesus is the only sustenance that can leave the world not only satisfied, but filled.  So, we believe in the salvation of Christ, we believe that Jesus is not just a prophet who fed the physical appetite of people and performed miracles, but he is our salvation, he is God himself, and we must share him with the world.  Because he is the bread of life that brings sustenance to the world.  Because when we believe in him and share him with the world, we love one another, we serve people in poverty, we visit the sick, we pray with the imprisoned, and we help one another.  Because in this, the world is changed. In this the world is transformed, because the world is able to experience God’s love in action.

 IV. The Bread We Need

One thing we have to remember is that sometimes sharing Christ with the world is uncomfortable and not desirable.  Sometimes the things that Jesus tells us challenge our way of living and make us uncomfortable.  Even for the disciples, the teachings of Jesus Christ had challenged the traditions that they, their parents, and grandparents had grown up in.  Sometimes digesting Jesus, the bread of life is not what we want or desire, because it just feels foreign or uncomfortable.  But the ways of Jesus Christ should make us uncomfortable because they should not only sustain us but transform our ways of life. And transformation is not always the most comfortable thing.

Sometimes the thing that is most needed, is not the thing that is most desired, so we push it away.  We see this in the people of Israel.  The people were in the desert and God had given them what they needed to sustain them.  God provided manna from the Lord’s table and after having it for a while, even though it met their need, the people of Israel complained about the manna on their table.  They wanted something more.  They were uncomfortable with what God was providing even if it met their need, it sustained them in the desert.  It can be the same way with extreme hunger.  When hunger is extremely bad, and someone has not eaten for a while, they can’t have something heavy like fillet mignon or the more luxurious things.  Instead, they need to put something softer on their stomach like bread, so they don’t get sick.  And it is the same to take in Jesus, the bread of life that meets the hunger of the world.  Because it may not be the thing we always want, but it is the thing that we need.

So, I say to you this morning, take in Jesus, the bread of life. The bread of life that shows us how to love.  The bread of life that brings justice to counteract injustice.  The bread of life that feeds the hungry.  The bread of life that brings meaning to all those people who feel rejected. The bread of life that bring us salvation.  The bread of life that transforms the world. And even if it is not what you want, or it makes you uncomfortable, I can assure you that it is the bread of life that you need. Jesus, the bread of life.  So, take and eat, because this is Jesus Christ, the bread of life that was broken for you. So, partake the bread of life and share it with the world. Amen.