Bread of Life

Bread is a daily delight, a culinary pleasure awaiting each bite. A basic part of our everyday nourishment, its goodness fills our bellies and warms our hearts. Oven-fresh bread takes hold of our senses, capturing us and stirring our hunger. Toasted for breakfast, our mornings may, likewise, include flaky pastries. Bread lingers to bring joy at lunch, crafted into hearty sandwiches. By suppertime, we’re delighted to share in dinner rolls gracing our tables, sometimes hot from the oven.

Decades upon centuries, we’ve savored its flavor and subtle sweetness from paupers to kings, from wheat buns to buttery biscuits. Earth’s own bakery worked the dough of our human history, of our lives in time’s gentle whispers. Our collective memories rise and bake within its hearth. Today, rituals linger where breaking its crusty goodness helps foster connection and commonality. Bread, such wealth of life it brings—a treasure from God, through which He grants us riches beyond our worldly things.

In the days of Israelite bondage, the Almighty commanded His people to bake bread without using yeast. Why? To rescue them from the unending lash of slavery and usher in a newfound era of freedom and redemption. The loaves will not rise in time, in a hurried escape so soon, fast food for a faster exit. Israel needed to seize the moment, fleeing while God’s fortune still favored their path.

So, they took bread unburdened by yeast, packed with care, and stowed, to preserve their edibles unspoiled. Not airy fluffiness, but heavy, heated denseness, which can keep for two years. Of course, the Israelites didn’t bring such large amounts of bread since they rushed away, only hauling what they carried.

Israel, now wilting in desert hunger, thirsts and cries out to the heavens. Discontent builds to its fever crescendo, lamenting life and desiring death, wishing God left them to die in Egypt. The Lord listens to their plight and sends word through Moses. From on High, He will bring forth His sustenance.

God now transforms those badlands into a bread shop, delivering His ceasefire from hunger. Dew falls and evaporates, leaving behind a “fine, flaked thing,” silvery as icing on the ground. An elixir of nourishment, God’s holy grace, should turn their despair into joy as they feast on bread from Heaven. Not so, the people sight a curious form, their minds full of query—Man hu—what is this?

The Almighty’s command rings through the air, a decree for everyone to heed. Every morning, gather whatever you need to feed your family for the day—nothing more. Well, you needn’t be a genius to foresee what happens. A few dared to break the rule and hoarded the manna, discovering their baskets squirming with maggots and stench.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. So, Jesus must begin a new journey for this to happen, who grows and develops in His mother’s womb. At birth, He takes His first breath, soon drawing nourishment from her breast. Tiny fingers reach out, His toes wriggling on fallow ground. The omniscient God, in humility, explores an unknown world in a mystery wrapped in human form.

After maturing into adulthood, His hands became calloused by carpentry work, and He gutted fish for food. Today, He reminded His fellow people—God’s mighty hand brought Israel their bread, not Moses. God blessed their lives with manna raining from above each day, but only Jesus is the bread of everlasting life.

The Father provided eternal life through the bread of His Son, standing before them, Jesus Christ, who proclaimed, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. Here is the bread descended from eternity, so someone may eat and not die, for I am the living bread of heaven. The one who eats this bread shall live forever. The bread I will give for the world’s life is my flesh” (John 6:48-51).

Eternal life abounds in Jesus, not only in its promise. So, He does more than nourish His people with His heavenly fare. Your Lord is the life-giving, living, and breathing bread. More than teaching the proper path to life, Jesus is the pathway, since He Himself is life incarnate.

So this can be, He must bleed and die from His wounds affixed to a killing Roman cross. Lifeless and gray, His body will dwell inside a borrowed tomb, rising with life anew on the third day. These saving deeds He did as a mortal man, present in His flesh and frame, at home on the earth He formed.

Don’t assume Jesus is gone, as though estranged from us. Both God and human, He reigns over His creation, closer to us than our skin. Through the raw materials of our tangible world, such as water, bread, and wine, He washes, feeds, and bids us drink the materialness of redemption.

Holy Writ never shrinks bread or its loaves into mere nourishment for physical life. Those same hallowed texts point us to Jesus as our unequaled sustenance and savor, our life and eternal Savior. Brood over St. Paul’s words, speaking of Christ leading Israel in ancient times: Our fathers ate and drank the same spiritual food and drink. How? God’s chosen partook of the spiritual Rock traveling with them in their wanderings, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:2-4).

So, Christ is the source of the Israelites’ life-saving drink and manna. Today, He guides and defends His Church, Himself as the Bread descending from eternal heights. Eternity awaits, and in the meantime, the Lord still provides, nourishing us by His sacred Word, blessing us in His holy Sacrament.

Jesus quoted Moses to Satan: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word coming from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Oh, such goodness and generous grace, never to run dry. Our Father keeps us within His care, with unfailing mercy to supply. Can things be otherwise?

Forgiveness is now ours through the suffering and death of His Son. So, a reserved room awaits us in heaven, where divine delight forever shines, where eternal joys will never cease in Christ’s celestial gift of peace! By Jesus’ words, we become God’s dear children, and everything else fades beneath its glory.

Our Lord, likewise, uses the bread in His sacred Meal to feed and sustain His people until He returns. A few verses following St. Paul’s mention of manna, he moves to discuss the Lord’s Supper. “The cup of blessing we bless, is this not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). After, Paul mentions the bread, which he says is us taking part in Christ’s body.

So Communion is a co-union with Christ since we who are many become, in Him, one body. In the Sacrament, we partake of the one Bread Himself, Jesus. Our gracious Savior pours out His love, pouring Himself into us to wash away our sinful woes. How amazing our Lord is, the Bread of Heaven!

In John 6, Jesus teaches that He does more than feed His disciples with His wholesome utterances. By His own declaration, He offers Himself to them with grace beyond measure, dripping with divinity. In His life-giving words of eternal life, He imparts everlasting nourishment, speaking life, sustenance, and hope into our hearts. Should this be otherwise?

The Word of God became incarnate: embodied and blooded for our redemption. So, why should we think things strange if Jesus delivers Himself in a blood-and-bodied Meal so we can feast upon Him for our salvation? Is this not another form of incarnation? Those who feed on Him, as He says, will never again go hungry or thirsty, meaning His banquet gives us eternal life! The Lord Himself nourishes us.

The bread we share in worship is no ordinary fare, but extraordinary. No simple sandwich loaf, but a heavenly gift making Himself present at our Table. The True Bread from on High, Manna-become-Flesh, Jesus, descends, drink for the thirsty and food for the famished.

Of course, we shouldn’t stand with mouths agape in disbelief as the ancient Israelites did. “What is this?” Oh, we realize what—or shall we put forth who—this manna is. Why, He is Jesus, strengthening us when weary, nourishing us with hope when we wallow in our spiritual despair. No other nourishment can sustain us to reach the banquet halls of heaven.

Akin to God’s chosen in forlorn ages, we voyage forward in the wilds of life. Sin and death in its relentless desert heat scorch us on our journey. Each day lays other burdens, heavy upon our souls, no different from the wilderness-wandering Israelites. The Land of Promise awaits us, too, not an earthly Canaan but the heavenly one.

Never should you doubt, “Where can I find help?” Where Christ breaks open His Word and offers holy food at His altar. Be fed the way God ordains to feed us—through His own Word and Sacraments.

May bread, God’s promised treasure, always remind you of His rich love and bounty for you. Bread brings Jesus to mind, who sacrificed His flesh on the cross for you, while reminding you of who you are now. Many grains of wheat together form one loaf. So, with us, smaller pieces joined to make a larger whole. By the Bread of Christ at His Altar, we become one people because He is One, into a new loaf and creation.

Let your heart yearn for the heavenly bread provided by God’s only Son, who brings us life amid earthly death and dread. Daily bread is here today and gone tomorrow. Ah, but the bread of immortal life, Jesus Christ, lasts forever. Amen.