Like so many, during the first Covid lockdown across Northern Ireland, I found myself baking bread at home. Not that I really needed to, rather that it seemed “the thing to do”.
I was pretty happy with my soda farl to be honest and posted pictures to the family (then) scattered in Liverpool, Glasgow and Jersey.
At one level as the Covid pandemic broke across the world, I am very grateful that I did, everyday, have bread on the table.
Many folks might be familiar with this week’s Gospel reading where Christ challenged as to who He is (John 6 v 30), turns to one of His “I am” sayings “I am the bread of life”. by way of an explanation.
But an explanation, I feel, I need to re-visit to understand and further appreciate.
Might I invite you to join me?
The Gospel reading.
The next day the crowd that was left behind realized that there had been only one boat, and that Jesus had not gotten into it with his disciples. They had seen them go off without him. By now boats from Tiberias had pulled up near where they had eaten the bread blessed by the Master. So when the crowd realized he was gone and wasn’t coming back, they piled into the Tiberias boats and headed for Capernaum, looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
The Bread of Life
27 “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
28 To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”
29 Jesus said, “Sign on with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”
30-31 They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32-33 Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”
34 They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”
35-38 Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own agenda but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.
There is a lot of activity going on in this Scripture reading. Indeed the Gospel story preceding Christ’s self proclamation as the “bread of life” (John 6 v 35) with the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6 v 1 to 24) sees activity, or we might say “work” occur…there is a lot to take on board….
John 6 v 1 to 24.
Christ journeying across the Sea of Galilee. Climbing a hillside and a large crowd joining him. Christ and his disciples (despite some doubts) feeding the large crowd. Christ and His disciples heading down the mountain then across to Capernaum when a storm blows up and Christ is seen walking on the water.
John 6 v 25 to 35.
The large crowd set off in search of Christ. Manage to catch boats from Tiberias. Engage with Christ in Capernaum with a string of questions as to who He is and what He stands for.
Let’s think of the “crowd” for the moment.
As much as they are upbraided (you might say) by Christ as in their focus being on the wrong thing, “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that (John 6 v 27 – the bread that was miraculously shared on the hillside a day or so earlier) the crowd, let us be charitable for a moment, had at least worked hard at seeking Christ out.
And yes they wanted bread.
And yes they wanted healing and miracles.
And yes they needed to understand much more as to Christ’s mission.
However, I don’t really blame the crowd for not entirley “getting” who Jesus was.
Undoubtedly, many of those who worked so hard at seeking Jesus out were indeed hungry. Subsistence agriculture was the daily norm for so many in first century Israel.
And whilst it may be easy to cast doubt on the crowds working hard to see Jesus and experience some form of miracle, my guess is that good news and “miracles” were in short supply in a country brutally oppressed by a superpower and over seen by a religious hierarchy that sought to codify every aspect of daily life.
As much as I want to know Christ as “the bread of life” that “nourishes…lasting life” (John 6 v 27), I cannot but help come to Him alongside and sometimes through my everyday needs, hopes, fears, relationships, emotions, set backs, joys.
I need bread…that builds life in the wholeness of my being.
And I for one need to continue to work at seeking Jesus, understanding Jesus amidst the “everydayness” of life with its search for bread, miracles and purpose.
And not take for granted “Give us this day our daily bread” physically or spiritually.