Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Bread of Life, 3rd Sunday After New Sunday
Volume 6 No. 345 April 22, 2016
II. Lectionary Reflections

Living Bread

by Jim Mueller

Gospel: John 6:35-41, 51

35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." 41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

You have to love the language of Jesus. 1/3 of the red letters of the New Testament are done in a parabolic / story form. He says profound things and we are left wondering "how literally are we to take this statement?" The Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, commoners, even the disciples themselves are often left wondering the same thing. Surely he's being metaphorical, but how metaphorical? Surely he can't mean exactly what he's saying, and yet he seems to mean exactly what he's saying. "I am the bread of life. Eat my flesh and live. I give my flesh to the world."

Let me speak from context. The Jewish people should be reminded of certain events in their Exodus history. Eating was synonymous with living. When Moses leads the people out of Egypt he takes them from a place where slavery was a way of life, but where food and water were a constant. The people of God did not have freedom but they did have breakfast, lunch and dinner. After all the plagues were finished, the people were in the desert. But with freedom came something else – "grumbling". The most powerful, deafening word of the Hebrew Bible – grumbling. Grumbling because they were tired. Grumbling because they were hungry. Grumbling because freedom had seemingly cost them breakfast, lunch and dinner. The pathetic statement of disbelief is confessed often in the desert, "It would have been better to stay as slaves in Egypt then to die here in the desert."

Was that God's plan for his chosen people? Was that God's plan for the great, great, great grandparents of the Messiah? Was God so short-sighted that he only envisioned a plan for escape without a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is the truth about fallen man: We can see miracle after miracle (plagues creating a way out, the sea opening a pathway for us, answered prayers, miracle births) but sometimes the simplest things bring out the grumbling.

Of course God had a plan. Nobody ends up dehydrating in the desert – water can come from rocks. Nobody ends up starving – manna falls from the sky. In fact, they get extra manna before the Sabbath so nobody has to exert any effort and work on the Holy day. But that's not good enough. The grumbling starts again and prayers of thanksgiving turn to finger pointing. "We're tired of this food." Tired of miracles, tired of God's intervention, tired of freedom? What exactly are they complaining about?

What shocks me about God is that he doesn't just answer the prayer of righteous people, but sometimes even answers the prayer of the grumbler. So here's your water, here's your manna floating down from heaven every day to keep you alive in the desert, and just so you know I love you, how about quail fajitas? And you would think that at some point all these miracles added together would have meant something to the people.

I know I'm guilty of the same. Clothes overflowing my closets and yet never content. Food overflowing at my table and yet I want more salt, more pepper, and bigger portions. A beautiful roof over my head and yet jealousy that drives me to want to switch with my neighbor. And in less miraculous fashion I acknowledge that all of this is given by God himself because he loves me.

In John 6:35, Jesus declares , "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. If you thought manna and quail fajitas were amazing, how about never hungering again, how about eternal life? In verse 41, his enemies react by grumbling. More grumbling from God's chosen people. The same story being lived out once again.

God's plan is not our plan. It's sad but true. In Deuteronomy 8:3-4, God is showing his love. "I fed you when you hungered to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet didn't swell during those 40 years in the desert." The hand of God was all over the people. Freedom from slavery, seas opening up, water, manna, quail fajitas, clothes that won't wear out after 40 years, even feet that don't swell. Why do we so quickly forget?

Jesus does the same thing. Just before this in the bible we read about his miraculous feedings. Taking bread and fish for a few, and turning it into a feast for thousands. He cooks fish on the shore for the disciples when they can't catch a thing; he overflows their nets when their human skills let them down. But if you stop there you would have completely missed the point. God's deliverance of His people wasn't about manna, and Jesus' life, death, and resurrection were not about bread and fish. Something better is entering into our world. God's plan is more profound than we ever could have imagined.

Verse 37 – "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Brilliant. Dead on. That is what the cross and tomb are all about. Jesus is the bread of life not because he merely feeds us and teaches us, but because he's the savior who gets us out. A savior who comes after us. Think Exodus – we're grumbling about food and he's trying to rescue us from sin, death and the devil. We're hungry and he's trying to rescue us from slavery.

When we read these words we also are reminded of the Lord's Supper. Dining with Christ at His table. When we connect with Jesus we always get forgiveness. It's a special meal with God so we need to make sure we are prepared for it. Dinner with God. Bring out the nice china. Serve filet mignon. This should be the heartbeat of the church. We spend so much time singing, and listening, and confessing, but at the Supper we commune together. With each other, with all Christians before and after us (Peter, James, John, St. Francis, Mother Teresa, even the great, great grandkids we'll never meet). We commune with God himself. I'm not just communing with God, I'm communing with you. That should change how I treat you. If you tear someone down, you are tearing down God. It tears down the love he gives. It tears down the friendships he's trying to create. It tears down the bread of life communion we're called into.

Early Christianity took the Lord's Supper so seriously that they were often referred to as cannibals. In Roman documents the threat of this religious sect that practices cannibalism by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their crucified leader produced much persecution. The language is surely graphic because the cross is graphic. Jesus died for me. Jesus is present in this meal for me. Jesus is forgiving, atoning, and changing everything about life for us. There is nothing simple about Jesus being the bread of life.

Tony Campolo tells a true story from one of his many trips to speak at conferences. He was in another time zone and couldn't sleep so he went out at 3 am and found a donut shop. In the donut shop was a group of prostitutes who had just finished a night of work. He overheard a girl named Agnes saying that tomorrow was her 39 th birthday and then hearing the others make fun of her. She responded by saying that she didn't want a cake or a party – in fact, she had never really had those before. When they left Tony asked the shop owner if they came in every night at the same time. When he found out they did, he came up with a plan to decorate the donut shop and the shop owner's wife even baked a cake.

The next night at 3am Agnes came in with her friends and everyone jumped out and screamed surprise and began the happy birthday song. When they went to cut the cake she asked if she could wait – she just wanted to take it home and look at it. When the night was over Tony said a prayer for the girl. The donut shop owner finally realized that Tony was a pastor and asked him what kind of church he pastured. Tony said, "I pastor a church that throws 3 am birthday parties for prostitutes." The owner responded, "No way, if a church like that existed I would go to that church."

What kind of church are we? The Gospel is more food-related than we ever imagined. If Jesus is the bread of life, who needs to eat? If Jesus is bringing eternal life to the world, who needs to live? So here's to birthday parties at 3am and here's to the cross and tomb of Christ the crucified. May the parties of God continue to invite, to feed, and to change.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Source: Gφttinger Predigten im Internet,
ed. by U. Nembach, J. Neukirch, C. Dinkel, I. Karle

The True Bread of Heaven

by Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Gospel: John 6:44-55

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
- John 6:44-55

Section I. On Faith And Coming To Christ

1. Now, when one comes to Christ, that is, to his Gospel, he hears the personal voice of Christ the Lord, which confirms the knowledge God taught him, namely, that God is nothing but a very gracious Saviour, who wants to be gracious and merciful to all who call upon him. Therefore, the Lord adds:

"Verily verily, I say unto you, He that believeth hath eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: yea and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world."

2. In these words the soul finds a well prepared table, at which it satisfies all hunger; for it knows for a certainty that he who speaks these words cannot lie. Therefore the soul falls upon the Word, clings to it, trusts in it, and also builds its dwelling-place in the strength of this well-prepared table. This is the feast for which the heavenly Father slayed his oxen and fatlings and invited us all to it.

Section II. The Bread Of Heaven

3. The living bread, of which the Lord here speaks, is Christ himself, of whom we partake. If in our hearts we lay hold of only a morsel of this bread, we shall have forever enough and can never be separated from God. The partaking of this bread is nothing but faith in Christ our Lord, that he is, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:30, "made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." He who eats of this food lives forever. Therefore, the Lord says, immediately following this Gospel lesson, where the Jews strove among themselves about this discourse of his: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

4. The bread from heaven the fathers ate in the wilderness, as Christ says here, was powerless to keep them from dying; but this bread makes immortal. If we believe on Christ, death cannot harm us; yea, it is no longer death. The Lord utters the same truth in another passage when he says to the Jews: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my Word, he shall never see death" (John 8:51). Here he speaks definitely of the Word of faith, and of the Gospel.

5. But one may say, as did the Jews, who took offense at these words of the Lord: The saints, nevertheless, died, and Abraham and the prophets likewise died. We reply to this: The death of Christians is only a sleep, as the Scriptures everywhere call it. A Christian neither tastes nor sees death; that is, he is never conscious of any death; for this Saviour, Christ Jesus, in whom he believes, has destroyed death so that he no longer needs to taste it and pay its penalty. Death is to the Christians only a transition of life, yea, a door to life: as Christ says in John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my Word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life., and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life."

6. Therefore, a Christian life is a life of bliss and joy. Christ's yoke is easy and sweet; the reason it seems to us galling and heavy is that the Father has not yet drawn us. and so we have no pleasure in it, neither does this Gospel lesson minister comfort to us. If we, however, rightly appropriated the words of Christ, they would be of much greater comfort to us. By faith we partake of this bread that has come down from heaven, Christ the Lord, when we believe on him as our Saviour and Redeemer.

7. In this light I now remind you that these words are not to be misconstrued and made to refer to the Sacrament of the Altar; whoever so interprets them does violence to this Gospel text. There is not a letter in it that refers to the Lord's Supper. Why should Christ here have in mind that Sacrament when it was not yet instituted? The whole chapter from which this Gospel is taken speaks of nothing but the spiritual food, namely, faith. When the people followed the Lord merely hoping again to eat and drink, as the Lord himself charges them with doing, he took the figure from the temporal food they sought, and speaks throughout the entire chapter of a spiritual food. He says: "The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life." Thereby he shows that he feeds them with the object of inducing them to believe on him, and that as they partook of the temporal food, so should they also partake of the spiritual. On this subject we will say more at some other time.

8. Now let us here notice that the Lord approaches us so lovingly and graciously, and offers us himself--his flesh and blood--in such gentle words that it should in all reason move the heart to believe on him; to believe that this bread, his flesh and blood, born of the Virgin Mary, was given because he had to pay the penalty of death and suffer in our stead the torments of hell, and, besides, to suffer the guilt of sins he never committed, as if they were his own. This he did willingly and received us as brethren and sisters. If we believe this we do the will of the heavenly Father, which is nothing else than that we believe on the Son. Christ says, just before our text: "This is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (I John 6:40).

9. It is now evident that whoever has faith in this bread of heaven--in Christ, in this flesh and blood, of which he here speaks that it is given to him and that it is his--he also accepts it as his own, and has already done the will of God and eaten of this heavenly manna; as Augustine says: What do you prepare for your mouth? Only believe, and you have already eaten.

10. The whole New Testament treats of this spiritual supper, and especially does John here. The Sacrament of the Altar is a testament and confirmation of this true supper, with which we should strengthen our faith and be assured that this body and this blood, which we receive in the Sacrament has rescued us from sin and death, the devil, hell and all misery. Concerning this I have spoken and written more on other occasions.

11. What is the proof by which one may know that this heavenly bread is his and that he is invited to such a spiritual supper? He needs only to look at his own heart. If he finds it so disposed that it is softened and cheered by God's promises and is firm in the conviction that it may appropriate this bread of life, then he may be assured that he is one of the invited; for as one believes, even so is it done unto him. From that moment on, he loves his neighbor and helps him as his brother; he rescues him, gives to him, loans to him and does nothing for him but that which he would desire his neighbor to do for himself. All this is attributable to the fact that Christ's kindness to him has leavened his heart with sweetness and love, so that he has pleasure and joy in serving his neighbor; yea, he is even in misery if he has no one to whom to show kindness. Besides all this, he is gently and humbly disposed toward everybody; he does not highly esteem the transient pomps of the world; he accepts everyone as he is, speaks evil of no one, interprets all things for the best where he sees things are not going right. When his neighbors are lacking in faith, in love, in life, then he prays for them, and he is heartily sorry when anyone gives offense to God or to his neighbor. To sum up all, with him the root and sap are good, for he is grafted into a rich and fruitful vine, in Christ; therefore, such fruits must come forth.

12. But if one has not faith and is not taught of God--if he never eats of this bread from heaven--he surely never brings forth these fruits. For where such fruits are not produced, there is certainly no true faith. St. Peter teaches us in 2 Peter 1:10 that we should make our calling unto salvation sure by good works; there he is really speaking of the works of love, of serving one's neighbor and treating him as one's own flesh and blood. This is sufficient on this Gospel. Let us pray for God's grace.

Source: The Sermons of Martin Luther, Volume III,
Published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI).
Originally published in 1907 in English
by Lutherans In All Lands (Minneapolis, MN).

Bread of The Presence

by S. Michael Houdmann

Question: "What was the bread of the Presence (Exodus 25:30)?"

Answer: The bread of the Presence (also called the showbread or shewbread in some translations) was special bread always present on a table in the tabernacle (and later in the temple). Leviticus 24:5–7 describes this bread:

"You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the Lord."

This bread of the Presence was

1) made of fine flour,
2) baked in 12 loaves,
3) arranged in two piles of six loaves each on a table of pure gold,
4) covered with frankincense, and
5) served as a memorial food offering to the Lord.

The bread could only be eaten by Aaron and his sons in a holy place and was set out every Sabbath day (Leviticus 24:8–9).

The bread of the Presence is first mentioned in Exodus 25:30. God instructed for it to be placed on the golden table in the tabernacle. The bread is also listed in the contributions for the tabernacle in Exodus 35:13 and noted as part of the completed tabernacle in Exodus 39:36. In Numbers 4 the Kohathites, who were sons of Levi, were given responsibility for the care of the table of showbread.

First Chronicles 9:32 says, "Also some of their kinsmen of the Kohathites had charge of the showbread, to prepare it every Sabbath." This bread was likely prepared on each Friday and placed in the tabernacle on each Sabbath in two piles of six. It would be replenished each week, allowing the priests to eat fresh bread in the holy place.

At one point in David's life, when he was on the run from Saul, he asked the priest Ahimelech for food. The priest gave David the bread of the Presence, since it was the only bread available (1 Samuel 21:1–6). David was not a priest, so it was technically unlawful for him to eat the showbread. Jesus later refers to this event, using it as proof that the Law was designed for man's benefit, and that Christ is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1–8; Mark 2:25–27; Luke 6:3–5).

The Old Testament showbread placed on the table in the tabernacle provides a wonderful picture of Jesus, the Bread of Life. Jesus is holy before God, He provides true sustenance, and He is always present. "Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.'" (John 6:35)

One other New Testament reference, Hebrews 9:1–2, mentions the table of showbread as one of the items in the first section of the tabernacle. Also included in that place was the lampstand. Verse 15 notes, "Therefore [Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance." The context explains that the important aspects of the Jewish law were no longer necessary since Christ has become high priest once and for all.

© Copyright 2002-2019 Got Questions Ministries - All Rights Reserved.


Malankara World Journal is published by
Copyright © 2011-2019 Malankara World. All Rights Reserved.