I love to bake bread; I’m not very good at it, but I do like to make it. There is something about getting your hands in the dough and working it, and getting it all over your hands. Baking, unlike cooking, is an exact science, add a little too much of one thing, and it can lead to disaster. Baking bread not long ago, I had the dough ready was preparing for it to rise. I had the bowl oiled and placed the dough in it. I put the plastic wrap on top to cover it placed it on the back of the stove. I also decided that this would be a good time to preheat the oven. Well, if you have ever introduced heat to a dough that has yeast in it you know what is coming next. I had walked away and when I returned the dough had raised, about five times its size and was into every nook and cranny of my stove. The right amount of ingredients and heat is what is necessary to make the perfect bread.
This passage today is one of the significant passages from the fourth Gospel and perhaps even the entire New Testament. There are two great lines that need to be pointed out.
First, what did Jesus mean when he said, “I am the bread of life”? It is poetic for sure, but there has to be more to this than just beautiful words. Bread sustains life and without it we cannot go on. But what life is the life that Jesus was speaking about? Apparently Jesus is talking about life as more than physical life. We have countless examples in Scripture of Jesus being concerned about a person’s physical life but what is being introduced here is the spiritual life of an individual.
For us to have the real life, we must have a relationship with God and that relationship involves a trust and obedience and love all of which we have been taught. This relationship, this spiritual relationship with God is only made possible through Jesus Christ, for apart from him no one can enter this life with God. This is to say that without Jesus we may have an existence; we may live and breathe, but we will not have a life. Therefore, if Jesus is the essential of life, he may be described as the bread of life. The hunger of our lives is ended when we know Christ and through him to God. The restless soul of ours finds rest and the hungry heart is satisfied.
We also find in this passage the stages, or the recipe if you will, of the Christian life. First we see Jesus. We see him in the pages of Scripture, the teachings of the Church, and sometimes in each other. Having seen him, we come to him. We regard him no longer as some distant far off being but as someone who inaccessible to us. We believe in Him, that is to say we accept him as the final authority on things in our lives, this is where the trust comes in, but also obedience to him and what he is asking of us.
From this process we receive life, this is to say that we enter into a new life with God and a more personal relationship with Jesus. This is an intimate friendship, and we become comfortable with this relationship and we no longer are scared of letting others know about it. The possibility of this life is free and universal. God created us as we are and loves us as we are. The only requirement is that we become the person that he wants us to be. God loves us no matter what and places only one condition on that love, and that is that we strive to be the best we can. God does not even require us to love him back; he loves us no matter what.
This needs to be said again, but the only way to this relationship with God is through his son Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, and our relationship with him this friendship with God is not possible. No searching of the human mind or longing of the human heart can fully find God apart from Jesus Christ. God provides the motivation and the desire but we have to do the work necessary. We have been called by name since before we were born he has already found us now we just need to find him.
But into this relationship comes free will. We have the option to seek this relationship or refuse this relationship, and the choice is ours. Like I just said God has called each of us by name all we need to do is listen to him. He is holding out his hand to us, and all we have to do is take it. Do not think that we are not worthy because we are not, but through him we become worthy and by seeking his life we become full of his life, the bread of life will satisfy us all.
Many years ago I belonged to a Roman Catholic Monastic community not far from here. In the chapel hung a cross and on that cross was the image of not the crucified Jesus but the risen Jesus. That cross hung there day in and day out as a reminder of what he did for us but also as a reminder of the love that he has for all of us. The figure on the cross was not bloody but was clothed in glory with his arms outstretched in a way that would draw each of us in.
I do not have children, but I do have a dog. He is a cool little guy that is my best friend. He is always there for me no matter what. When I come home after being away for a period, he runs to greet me. If I get down and throw open my arms, he will run right up and into my open arms. He knows that there is safety and security in these arms and the same are true of Jesus. Hanging there in the chapel, with his arms open wide, he is saying to us “come to me all you who are weary and find rest.” He does not tell us to be perfect; he tells us to come, to come as we are, and he will love us no matter what. But we have to come; we have to accept his invitation.
When we do this when we accept the invitation, two things happen. First into our lives enters a new satisfaction. The hunger and thirst in our lives are gone. Our hearts find what we are searching for, and our lives cease to be mere existence, and life becomes a thing at once of thrill and peace.
Second, even beyond the life we are safe. Even on the last day when all things end we are still secure. Christ brings us to the haven beyond which there is no danger.
The spiritual life is just like the recipe I mentioned at the start, if we follow it to the letter it will work, add too much of one thing, or not enough of the other, and it can become a messy disaster quickly.
The offer of Christ is life in time and life in eternity. That is the greatness and glory of which we cheat ourselves when we refuse his invitation.
In a few moments, we will take the bread of life in the elements that are presented here. It is in this action that we find our union with Jesus and also the union with each other. All over the world Christians are gathered on this day and will recall the command of Jesus to do this in remembrance. But we have to go a step further, and we have to take him not only into our bodies but our hearts. If we do this and trust me when I say this, our lives will change forever, and it will become the greatest adventure we have ever been on.