Bread of life
”For Christians, faith and food are inseparably linked.” | Read: Luke 24:28–35
You can’t tell the story of the gospel without talking about food. Jesus was born in Bethlehem—literally “house of bread.” His first bed was a feeding trough or manger (from the French “to eat”). In contrast to the austere, ascetic lifestyle of John the Baptist, “the Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19). Indeed, Jesus was notorious for “eating with sinners and tax collectors” (Mark 2:16). It is surely no accident that the central petition of the prayer he taught his disciples (and teaches us) is “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11, Luke 11:3).
Jesus’ first miracle, as recorded in the Gospel of John, was turning water into wine (John 2:1–12). His most famous miracle also involved food—the feeding of the multitude is reported in all four Gospels. In fact, Matthew and Mark each mention two such events. In the Gospel of John, not long after the feeding of 5,000, Jesus delivers a sermon on the manna God provided to feed the people of Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:1–36). He offers a new interpretation of the story, saying, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. … I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (John 6:48–51).
If food is such a central, vital part of Jesus’ ministry, shouldn’t we celebrate the feast that he prepares for us each time we gather in his name? Just as faith and food are inseparably linked in the Gospels, Word and sacrament are inseparably linked in Christian worship.
“Gracious God, we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your mouth. Make us hungry for this heavenly food, that it may nourish us today in the ways of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, the bread of heaven” (Book of Common Worship, 1993, page 90).
Study: A resurrection meal
When we think about Jesus and bread, we most often remember the bread he broke with his disciples before his death. This is erroneously called the “Last Supper.” But Jesus broke bread with his followers again—after he rose from the dead. In Luke 24:13–35, the risen Christ meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He walks with them awhile, opening to them the meaning of the word of God. They don’t yet know that this is Jesus, but already their hearts are burning within them. Then he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them—and at last their eyes are open to recognize him as the risen Lord. (See also Mark 16:14 and John 21:9–14.)
And Jesus still breaks bread with us—the supper continues! This story from the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel establishes the pattern for our worship each Sunday or Lord’s Day, when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We open the Word and break the bread—and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the risen Lord is with us. We enjoy a foretaste of the feast we will share with him in glory, at the heavenly banquet.
To learn more about Jesus’ ministry of feeding in the Gospels, look at the consistent pattern of action that emerges each time Jesus shares a meal with his disciples. A set of four Greek verbs appears over and over, signaling a eucharistic event: taking, blessing (or giving thanks), breaking and giving. You can trace this distinctive pattern of action through Jesus’ life (in the feeding of the multitude), in the events surrounding his death (the Passover supper) and after he rises from the dead (resurrection meals). Download a simple study guide to lead you through these passages.
Remember: John 6:35
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ ”
Live: Feed others
When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we pray, “As this bread is Christ’s body for us, send us out to be the body of Christ in the world” (Book of Common Worship, page 72). Consider how you might participate in Christ’s ongoing ministry of feeding, sharing God’s abundant goodness and grace with your neighbors who hunger and thirst.