September 2018

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world”                                                                   
John 6.51 (AKJV)

At harvest time we give thanks for the fertility of the earth, for the underlying munificence of God, and for the remarkable efficiency of the modern food manufacturing industry which increasingly makes eating a reliable joy rather than a precarious necessity. 

The celebrated “I am” sayings in John deal with essentials of life: light (and presumably heat), security (the sheepfold), care (the shepherd), drink (the vine) and food (bread) as well as life itself and, of course, ‘the way’ to live. Moreover, they are the essentials of a rich and civilised life.  

Bread is manufactured: it is food which has been made for our use. Like the fruit of the vine, it speaks of a developed economy where food is made a pleasure to eat as much as a necessity. 

The Greek (artos) tells us the bread was leavened. It combines the wheat of fertile land with luxurious and juridically dubious yeast. While there are obvious parallels to the manna of the desert, this bread is eternally pleasant. It is the food of Canaan, and part of the abundant life promised in John 10:10 and delivered to 5,000 earlier in John 6. Moreover, it is not just for Jews, but food for the whole world.  

The preparation of bread takes time – mixing, kneading, proving, baking. Christ comes to us today through the processes of scripture, reason and tradition. But the reality of bread is experienced in the here and now – in the taste. This was familiar to the writer of the Psalms: 
O taste and see how glorious the Lord is (Ps 34:8)
How sweet are your words to my taste (Ps 119:103)

So God sustains us in Christ in a way which is fitted for our purposes: in being ‘made man’, God has adapted Himself to our level and so assisted us in understanding (digesting) Him.  He sustains us in a way which is fulfilling for our humanity – a pleasure not a chore. 

Above all, Jesus is encouraging us to rely on Him, to be sustained by Him, to be filled and fulfilled by Him.  Ultimately, to taste Him and receive Him into ourselves and thereby to ‘feed on Him in our hearts, by faith with thanksgiving’.