Tuesday, May 3, 2011

From the House of Bread comes the Bread of Life

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

If you have ever studied much language or paid attention while reading all the names (that people typically skip due to pronunciation issues) in the Bible, you will know how important it was in Biblical times to have a name that meant something. Most people were named for certain reasons, or their names ended up predicting some sort of life behavior. Samuel’s name was chosen by Hannah because it meant “heard from God” because she cried out for a child and she was finally granted one from a closed womb. God often renamed people after life-changing events, such as Abram (exalted father) becoming Abraham which means “father of many.” This is why Abraham is celebrated as the Father of Nations because the great Hebrew nation began with him and his covenant with God. All this information leads up to something because I recently completed a Bible study about the Old Testament book of Ruth. In this study, I came to know that Bethlehem means “house of bread.” That is the literal meaning of the traditional Hebrew word. This fascinated me because Bethlehem has been an important location in the Bible since the beginning. It was a place of great famine (Ruth 1:1) and a place of the birth of a Savior (Micah 5:2). We mostly recognize the name because of the Christmas story, where Mary and Joseph go up to Bethlehem for the census of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:4). This is where Jesus was born of a virgin in a stable and thus began the most amazing and important event in human history. God went to great lengths to perfectly time the birth of Christ since this was not Mary and Joseph’s home. They were there for the census, and God knew before time that they would be in Bethlehem at the exact moment of the birth as it was foretold in Micah. So out of the House of Bread comes the Bread of Life. God has such a wonderful sense of humor for foreshadowing if we just pay attention, and He willingly shares much of His wisdom and intentions. If you cannot find examples of God’s amazing providence and divinity throughout history, you are not looking very hard.

We are born into sin, with a true hunger for relationship. God knows that our sins divide us from Him but we often do not realize just what it is that we are “hungry” for. Just like a bodily craving for some food and being unable to put your finger on it, we are born with the same craving for a relationship with God. Satan does his best to distract our hunger through worldly possessions and other people, but we will never receive true satisfaction and satiation through anything of this world. We may move from person to person, or job to job, or house to house to try and fill these needs, but they will only leave us feeling empty and dissatisfied. The devil smiles every time we turn to one of these and away from God for our satisfaction and purpose in our lives.

As Jesus was teaching and feeding the crowds in John 6, they came to him looking for more miracles saying “our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (31). But Jesus goes on to tell them that their life here is not merely about sustaining their flesh, and Moses did not truly give them the bread from Heaven but the Heavenly Father who sends the bread from Heaven. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Then the people exclaim that they want this bread! “Then Jesus declared, ‘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. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:35-36). The people conveniently wanted to follow Jesus around and receive all of their meals for free, and they were so blinded by the actual provisions that they missed the intention of Christ.

In all of the gospels, Christ refers to the bread as his body at the Last Supper. “And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘this is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19). As we re-enact this event today in our churches all over the world, we recognize that Christ gave up his flesh and spirit so that we may believe and have eternal life. He came down from Heaven as the Bread of Life to be consumed by humanity for the salvation of its sins. Jesus serves as a sacred sacrifice for each one of us so that we may not suffer the wrath of God but understand that the only way to never hunger again is through Him. God may have cursed man in Genesis (3:17-19) that we would have to toil and labor for our food to sustain our bodies on earth, but He freely gives us the Bread which will sustain our souls for all eternity.

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