August 05, 2018
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:24-35
The Bread of Life Beyond All Things
The Daily Bread
Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray together; we call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” When I meditate on this prayer and visualize each line of it, I find that this prayer is so rich and clear for our faith’s journey in our earthly life.
Most of the petitions of the prayer are very spiritual sounding. They have to do with our trust in God. Even that political-sounding petition about “Thy kingdom come” is a prayer for our faith. God’s kingdom will come someday on its own for the sake of God’s final victory even though we don’t seriously seek it in our everyday life. Yet when we meditate on it, we may think about God’s kingdom and humbly submit ourselves to God’s reign.
But in this spiritual prayer, there is a mention about our physical reality: “Give us this day our daily bread.” What kind of bread are we supposed to ask in the Lord’s Prayer? Well, it can be simple bread we can bake at our home or buy at the bakery shop, or it can be anything we eat such as chicken soup, salad, rice, spaghetti, or stake, etc.
If I want to expand the concept of bread, it includes all the necessities that we need for our daily life. If I need to name the kinds of “bread,” it should be things such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, job (materials); garden, nature, neighbors, school, hospital, government (circumstances); upright spouse, good children, companionship (relationship); health, peace, vacation, safety (well-being), and the like. These kinds of bread would be far larger than we can imagine. The bread we eat or we look for is something to sustain our lives. Jesus realizes we need all those things and allows us to seek out them in our prayer. Based on Jesus’ teaching, I encourage you to go on your vacation and take rest there! What you are doing on the beach is to pray for the bread to refresh your body and mind!
But I still wonder how this physical bread has to do with God’s kingdom or God’s reign. Is it also something spiritual to deepen or strengthen our faith in God? It depends on which part you want to focus on when you seek out your daily bread? Are you willing to focus on bread itself or focus on who gives the bread?
The Bread of Life
Following last Sunday, today’s lectionary scripture from John 6 leads us to meditate on the theme, “the Bread of Life.” In today’s gospel lesson, we see Jesus dealing with the crowds who had continued to follow him; they followed Jesus because they saw his miraculous power to feed the multitudes in the desert. They challenged Jesus to show them more signs (v. 30), which means to give them more material blessings and satisfy their stomachs or desire. But when Jesus refused to show a miracle but only talked about something spiritual, they all turned away and never came back to him (v. 66).
What’s the problem with the crowds? They had seen and enjoyed all the spectacular miracles that Jesus had done for them, but they failed to see beyond those things. In other words, they were excited with all the bread Jesus provided for them but didn’t appreciate him as the source of life. I don’t want to criticize anyone in this hungry world who is looking for bread to eat. Nor do I want anyone in this hungry world to miss out on the Bread of Life. The church is available for all to experience the spiritual feast of Jesus.
In this story, Jesus was trying to lead people from the fragments of material bread to the Bread of Life, which is far better than anything else: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (v. 35). It includes everything in it and plus eternal life in God’s kingdom. Thus, the Bread of Life deserves to be our primary and ultimate concern.
Through this symbolic lesson, Jesus was trying to teach us to look beyond something temporal, put the first thing first, or build a deeper relationship with God if we want to be well enough for our daily life. Remember, Jesus says, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6:33).
Facing the Giants
This Scripture talking about the Bread of Life reminds me of a Christian movie, “Facing the Giants.” It is based on the true story of Grant Taylor, a high school football head coach. This awesome movie made me laugh, cry, clap and cheer! But most of all, this movie was so inspirational, I was moved to seek out the Bread of Life.
In six years of coaching, Mr. Taylor had never led his team to win a game in every football season. Finally, his school government was considering demoting him to the status of ordinary coach. This wasn’t the only problem he was facing; his car was breaking down, the parents were trying to get him fired, and he discovered that he is the reason that his wife couldn’t become pregnant. Almost all things in his life had failed.
Devastated by his miserable situations, Mr. Taylor was now looking for solutions. He didn’t seek out any supplies or daily food but tried to build his own relationship with God, based on the Scripture, “God is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer in whom I take refuge” (Ps. 18:2). He then, along with his boys, he created a new coaching philosophy, that is, “if we win, we will praise the Lord; if we lose, we will praise the Lord.” From that point on, he experienced lots of changes in his life: all of his players respected him and followed his direction; their parents came to trust in him; and he even got a brand new car from an anonymous donor.
Yet, the real miracle happened in the football season. His team had never won even in the regional league, but they were now starting to win games. At the final match, his team made a dramatic reversal and won the game. It was the first State Championship that his high school won in their history. But this was not the end. His miracles continued; he and his wife had two children of their own.
We are like Grant Taylor facing the giants, facing all kinds of crisis in life. When we feel like we’ve hit the bottom of life, we don’t know where to start or how to rebuild our life again. This movie reminds us that our daily (temporary) bread can’t keep us from troubles, but the Bread of Life (our faithfulness in God) has the power to restore us, fill us up, and bless all of our life.
Labor for the Bread of Life
What kind of bread do we want to seek out? No matter what it is, there is nothing free. We have to pay for all the supplies and necessities we want to have. Likewise, the Bread of Life is not free. We have to “buy” it as we seek out God’s grace and power. (next Sunday, we will talk about what we can do to earn God’s grace).
If we really know that God is the true source of our life, then, let us labor for the Bread of Life which does not perish but endures to eternal life (v. 27), through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and f