May 26, 1992
Those bread making machines amaze me. Today’s high-tech baker simply measures in flour, water, yeast, shortening, sugar and whatever else is desired in the final product, presses a button and walks away. A paddle revolves and the dough is kneaded. A timer turns it on after the dough rises and the built-in oven bakes it to perfection. The same timer can also be set to delay the process so baker and family can wake up in the morning to the mouth-watering aroma of fresh baked bread.
Bread has been called the staff of life. For most people, a week or even a day does not go by without toast or a sandwich. We dip bread in eggs and fry it for breakfast, eat croutons in salads, and even bake bread pudding with milk and raisins for dessert. Whatever form it takes, buns or pita, crackers or croutons, bread is indeed nourishment for many.
Interesting then that Jesus said “Man cannot live by bread alone...” (He said it to Satan in Matthew 4:4, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, when being tempted to turn stones into bread.) While the physical dimension of life needs bread and other physical nourishment, Jesus clearly meant life is not measured entirely by the physical. He was talking about a life that goes beyond that, a life that does not depend on wheat and yeast to sustain it.
However, people who hear Jesus talk about this kind of life are often more interested in bread and in physical life. One biblical incident tells of a miraculous meal where Jesus did something even better than a high-tech bread machine could. He took a few loaves and multiplied them to feed a large crowd.
After that miracle, He told the people who gathered around that they needed to work for food that endures rather than be concerned with food that spoils. With that, He declared Himself the Bread of Life and told them they must partake of Him to live forever. But many grumbled and turned away. As Jesus pointed out, instead of being eager to receive eternal life from Him, they wanted only the physical benefits: in this case, free bread.
As already said, Jesus’ claim to being the Bread of Life was not a claim to supply physical nourishment, even though that is what His hearers wanted. For them, the idea of having someone make life easy was a good idea. They would take His offer on those terms but not on His terms.
Yet His terms include far more than such a narrow view. Eternal life, while difficult to envision, has obvious advantages over physical life. For one thing, it does not require hard work (or even pushing a button) to produce or earn. It is free, a gift from the Living God. Jesus made it clear that all who come to Him in faith will receive His eternal life.
Furthermore, all who rely on Him receive sustaining nourishment, a spiritual satisfaction that even the best sandwich cannot match. Jesus is the main course, as it were, that makes other “fulfillment” look like snacks in comparison. He invites all to come to Him, first to derive eternal life, and then to receive needed strength and nourishment to grow and maintain spiritual health and energy.
One caution as it relates to this process: hunger for God is not satisfied by quick snacks. A superficial reading of His Word and a quick “God bless today” prayer amounts to only a few crumbs on our plates. He will feed our deepest needs and give us energy to face the challenges of life — if we will spend quantity and quality time with Him.
Those ovens that makes quick, easy bread would be just fine for the physical side of life — I would not mind having one — but for spiritual hunger and sustenance, only Living Bread immensely satisfies.