In the gospel of John 6: 24-35, one of the lectionary texts for this week, we encounter the familiar phrase “I am the bread of life.” In preaching and teaching to the crowds, Jesus used this phrase to describe who he is, why he has come to earth, and what those who follow him can expect to experience. Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” While it is a simple concept, many of us fail to recognize its meaning in our everyday life.
In the ancient world, bread was known as sustaining nourishment. Bread filled the stomach, warding off hunger pangs if not starvation. A feeling many of us rarely know. Yet, while we may not easily associate with the emptiness of not having physical nourishment, I do believe we can easily associate with the emptiness from lack of spiritual and emotional nourishment. And this is what Jesus promises to fill.
The bread of life, the bread of heaven, is that which fills the emptiness and provides us the nourishment to go on. I would venture to say many of us have “bread of life” moments all the time. We just fail to recognize them for what they are--“Jesus moments”. Moments when Jesus is showing up in our lives, providing us encouragement, assurance, and sweet small reminders of God’s promises.
These moments of grace seem to come down from heaven, unexpectedly, to give us the sustenance to carry on for that day or for that moment.
What do these “bread of life” moments look like?
Perhaps it was when you were experiencing a particularly difficult time in your life. A time when it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Then out of nowhere, a friend or a loved one reached out just to let you know they were thinking of you and wanted to share with you how much you matter to them. Ah, the bread of life.
Perhaps it was when you were awaiting a test result or a prognosis, convinced this was the end. Then, unexpectedly, the test came back negative, or a course of treatment was laid out, and you realized hope was not lost; your health could be restored. Yes, the bread of life.
Perhaps you were experiencing brokenness in a relationship, and you wondered if the damage of words said or unsaid, actions done or actions undone were too severe to be mended. Then something shifted, perspectives changes, understanding and forgiveness were offered, and together a new path was forged. This, the bread of life.
The bread of life can be seen and experienced in such “Jesus moments”. For they are reminders that the Spirit of God is at work in our lives to remind us we are not alone; we are not without hope; we are not without the sustaining power of Christ to fill us, to carry us, and to guide us onward. Jesus IS the Bread of Life and as he declares, “whoever” follows him will experience the sustenance and the power of His life in theirs.
Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister