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“I am the bread of life”
Curtis Shelburne

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35).
Five little barley loaves and two little fishes. That’s all Jesus had, you know. And even those were sort of borrowed that day by the Sea of Galilee.
But the Lord who turned water into wine at a wedding feast took those loaves and fishes and turned 5000 hungry people hoping to see miracles into 5000 well-filled people whose bellies were rounded out by a miracle.


Now, when you’re hungry, about all you can think of is being hungry. But when you’ve been filled up with a miracle meal just a few hours ago but are well on your way to being unfilled and hungry again, what next?
Well, if you’re like the folks in John 6, you form a committee, take a hike to find the miracle worker, and start planning to force your feeder to become your free food king. Who knows? Maybe if he plays his cards right and gives away enough “Make Israel Great Again” caps, he just might amass enough power to take over as king and kick out those sorry Romans! At the very least, well, did I mention free food?


When they find him on the other side of the lake—by the by, how in the world did he get there?—Jesus says, basically, “I know what you want, and what you want is not nearly enough.”
“Oh, Rabbi, that free food by the sea . . . we liked it, don’t you see?”
“Oh, I see. But you should want food that’s better than free. Food that isn’t a few hours away from leaving your belly hungry again and your soul still starving. You should want more. Food that doesn’t spoil. You should want more. Food that gives real life. You should want more. You filled up with free food, but a day later what hadn’t turned into dung had turned into rot. You should want more! Food that’s not only free but frees your soul and fills it up forever. You should want more.


Now the wheels in their “bargain basement bread heads” were already turning. But this Rabbi’s words are a wrench tossed into their mental machinery.
Free food forever? Rot-free food that doesn’t route through your belly to fill your soul?
Oh, they could get pretty religious about “free,” but somebody tosses out a religious question. “You say God says “really free.” But our real creed, ages old, is as modern as tomorrow. ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ So what do we have to do before God does bread “free”?


Jesus answers, “One word. Believe. God’s work is this: believe in the One God sent.”
But one word can’t be enough, can it? “Let’s just get back to that old time religion, the kind we like that talks a lot about God and centers a whole lot more on us. We had a redeemer once named Moses who gave our ancestors manna to eat in the wilderness. Free food’s fine, and your barley loaf bread was mighty fine, but a really good sign would be . . . let’s see . . . You know, the old preachers said that when Messiah, the second Redeemer comes, he’ll bring not just bread, he’ll bring manna again. That’s the ticket! Show us a sign, and we’ll sign up! Show us some manna!”


I think they were disappointed in the answer.
“Manna was a miracle, and Moses was a great man. But you should want bread that’s better than manna, and you need to look a lot higher for a Redeemer. Even then, way “back when,” your Redeemer-Bread Giver wasn’t Moses; your Redeemer-Bread Giver was God. I warn you! If you keep on looking for life in stone-cold law that will never be bread, your bread will rot, your souls will rot, and you will very religiously rot trying to be your own redeemer. Do you want the real Redeemer? Do you want real bread? I AM the bread of life.”


“Is there work to do? Oh, yes. The work of believing. And even that is God’s work in you.”
“So, Lord, how do we get that bread?”
It’s still our question. And this is still our Redeemer’s answer.
“Believe. Receive. Take and eat.”
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