Bread of Life (Exodus 16:2–5, 11–18, 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, 15–17, & John 6:32–37)
Rev. David French

One of just about everyone’s favorite smells is the smell of freshly baked bread. The fragrance fills the house, instantly creating the desire to find its source, and we do. Bread is very common daily food staple. We enjoy it at breakfast with toast, bagels, or even a danish. We enjoy it with sandwiches at lunch and rolls at dinner. Bread is as important today as it has been throughout history. To have bread is to be rich. To be without it is to be poor. Bread is one of God’s promised treasures.

Before God set His people free form Egypt, they were told to make unleavened bread to take with them on their journey. It had no yeast in it to cause it to rise or spoil. Still, it wasn’t long before they began to run out of what they had brought, as we see in this evening’s first reading. The people of Israel were wondering and grumbling about their need for food. 

The Lord told Moses that He would rain down bread from heaven for them. God kept His Word. The next morning there was a layer of thin flakes on the desert floor for the Israelites to collect every morning to feed their families. They were also told to only collect only enough for the day and nothing more. For those who didn’t listen, the next day it would be foul smelling and full of maggots.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. He reminded the people that it wasn’t Moses who gave Israel bread every day; it was God. God sustained their lives day by day for forty years with what they called the bread from heaven, or manna.

Jesus reminded all who listened to Him that God sustained all people with physical bread. And only He can give the bread that brings eternal life, that the Father provided eternal life through the bread from heaven who was standing right in front of them. As Jesus, the only begotten Son of God said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:48–51).

Clearly the Bible doesn’t simply equate bread with physical life. As you just heard it teaches that Jesus is the bread of life, the only source for spiritual life. That’s why St. Paul said Israel was led by Christ in the Old Testament, “Our fathers … all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:2–4). The final and only true source for all the manna the Israelites ate and all the water they drank was Jesus. And Jesus still leads and sustains His Church. He will feed you with the bread of His Holy Word and the bread of His Holy Sacrament until the time your earthly life ends and you enter heaven.

Did you know that Jesus was quoting Moses when He told Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)? St. Augustine, a faithful Early Church Father, once described teaching the Bible like breaking open a loaf of bread. You see, it doesn’t matter how God’s Word comes to you: through Scripture readings, a sermon, a poetic hymn, a devotion, or a passing thought. It’s all bread for your soul pointing you to the One who is the bread of life, Jesus our Savior. And as we know, Jesus has promised with the bread of His Holy Sacrament to feed and sustain His Church until the day He returns. 

Just a few verses after Paul’s words about manna, he begins to teach what the Holy Spirit has revealed about the Lord’s Supper, He writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17). 

The bread you eat from this Table at every Divine Service is not just bread. No, when Holy Communion is administered as Christ commands, Jesus is giving you His true body to take into yours. In ways we can never understand, but by grace, we do believe. To partake of this bread is to take Christ’s true body into yourself.

Like the Israelites of old, we journey in the wilderness of this life. We live in this sinful world under the heat of sin with death bearing down on us each day, just like the desert heat beat down on the Israelites. We are heading to our promised land. Not Canaan, but heaven. No matter how crazy or bad things may be right now, as you live in the wilderness of this world, you have not been left to wonder, “Where does your help come from?” It comes from the word of God. 

True help is found where the Gospel is taught in its purity and the sacraments are offered according to Christ’s command, that is in His church where we hear His Word and receive the Holy Supper from this altar. And so, we are fed the way God chooses to feed us—through His Means of Grace, that is His Holy Word and sacraments.

Dear children of God, I pray that the bread in your life always reminds you of His rich love and bounty for you. Bread is certainly a promised treasure. Not only does bread remind you of Jesus, who gave up His life on the cross for you, but it reminds you of who you are now. 

As God revealed, just as numerous grains of wheat grow and are ground up to make one loaf of bread, we, although many, are made one people by taking the bread of Christ at His Altar. You are forgiven, and as the Church, we are a new loaf, a new creation. It’s good to remember that daily bread, bread that sustains life, is here today and gone tomorrow. It’s better to remember the bread of life, who is Jesus our Lord, lasts forever. And now, may you, until the day you are called home by our Lord, always long for the bread that was prepared for you.

In His name, Amen.