Do you have a favorite name for Jesus, our Messiah? He is identified in so many ways: Immanuel (“God-with-us”, one of my personal favorites, for sure), Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, and, another all-time favorite for so many believers throughout the centuries, “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). Envisioning our Savior as the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 brings us so much comfort, both for our daily well-being (“….Your rod and your staff they comfort me….), as well as for the life to come (“….and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”)
This feeling of comfort brings us to today’s text: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” (John 6:35) Jesus does not say that he will give us bread from heaven, but he says, “I AM the bread of life. Our Lord and Savior as bread—what a comfort! Because isn’t bread one of the most satisfying, most sensory, of all comfort foods? One of my strongest, loveliest memories growing up is those Saturdays when my mom would bake bread for the family. The house would be filled with the aroma of those loaves baking, and the minute they came out of the oven, we would beg for the crusts, cut nice and thick, then slathered with lots of butter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and finally enjoyed in all the contrasts: the crunch of the crust, the softness of the center, and the sweetness of the cinnamon-sugar syrup dripping down our chins!! What a feast for all the senses!
In other words, Jesus as the bread of life brings us comfort and joy, even as it makes our faith so very real, so tangible, so practical for daily living. It means that we must go to Him every day, in Scripture and in prayer (“Give us this day our DAILY BREAD…”), in order to nourish our soul and our mind, to draw closer to Him, even as we purpose to live in accordance to His will, to be “Jesus with skin on” to everyone we meet along the way. In so doing, we also purpose to draw others to him. (Like those days when I would bake bread for my family, and several children from the neighborhood, knowing that Tuesday was bread-baking day at our house, would appear at the patio door, politely hoping for a slice or two of the still-warm loaves.)
May this Advent be a time to feast, not on the commercialism with which we are bombarded everywhere we go, but on Jesus, “…the bread of God that comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”