How to eat the Bread of life

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. . . If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” His audience of devout Jews grumbled. So did his disciples, so much so that some of them stopped following him (John 6:66). It’s still a disturbing thought, but for the Christian, the obvious application of this metaphor is communion. Jesus said the bread is his body and the wine is his blood.

Jesus compared his claim to the manna in the desert, except that everyone who ate that food eventually died. Yet Paul makes it clear that the manna was spiritual food, as well as physical food. We know the people ate it every day. We do not take communion every day, but we pray for our daily bread.

Less immediately obvious than communion, but also important, we eat and drink Christ when we read, hear, or think about Scripture. New Christians, baby Christians, receive it as the pure milk of the word. As they become less carnal and more spiritual, the same word becomes solid food. If we look at this meaning of eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood, we can learn some important new aspects from his comparison with manna in the wilderness:

  • The bread comes from heaven. We can do nothing to produce it.
  • We have to eat it every day. We cannot get a week’s worth at church on Sunday.
  • We cannot store it up or hoard it. Study it, memorize it, to be sure, but yesterday’s Bible study or meditation does us no good today. We need to gather it afresh to get today’s nourishment.
  • We do not fast from eating it. God wanted to underscore the importance of the Sabbath, so he provided no manna on that day. The day before, the people collected two day’s worth. Any other day, the extra would rot, but God did not intend for the people to give up eating for the Sabbath.
  • By the same token, church on Sunday does not absolve us of the daily duty to feed upon the word. It’s easy to be there in body but not mind or spirit. If something in the service touched you, meditate on it later in the day. If nothing did, open your Bible and eat something.

Whether we consider Jesus being the bread of life from the viewpoint of communion or Scripture, we must still eat. And spiritually as well as physically, we are what we eat.

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