“I am the bread that came down from heaven.” I wonder how I would have reacted when Jesus said this. If someone declared that at a lecture or a conference I sat in on, I likely would have declared them crazy. It is quite the statement, especially when one thinks of the first century view of heaven. For those people, Jesus would have had to break through a firmament high in the sky. I think the statement might have been phrased to generate much of the reaction it received. Eyes and ears would have been at attention awaiting a response to their criticism. I am the bread come down from heaven is a statement that demands attention.
It is a statement that describes whom Jesus is, the Son of God. It describes His mission to lead Gods people back to heaven. It also describes Jesus method, He feeds and nourishes us on our journey. Jesus also challenges us, the evidence is the statement made. Challenge is also evident in his use of parables. He challenges us to look at our life and our world differently. Jesus turns life on edge and he turns things upside down. Jesus’s methods and message is radical. He is not another prophet as described in the past, and He is not like the other messianic leaders that have come and gone. The disciples had expectations for who Jesus was, and they were wrong. He is the bread of life, sent down from heaven, to nourish us and guide on our journey.
In Jesus defense, He mentions the manna from heaven that the Hebrews ate on their journey. Jesus also states that those people ate that bread and died, and then declares that His is “the bread that grants eternal life.” The manna did not come from Moses, it came from God. Jesus’s Father ! If declaring” I am the bread of life” is shocking, Jesus certainly must nourish their faith to carry them through the events to come; His crucifixion and resurrection. This is the statement that will sustain them on their journey and that journey will be challenging. If this statement gets His disciples to look at their relation to God a little differently, the crucifixion will challenge them more, and they will see a crucified Christ as the victorious Son of God.
The proof is the disciples 2000 years later, the twenty first century Christians. The bread of life did sustain the Apostles, it is radical yet true. Think of that bread of life at Eucharist. To Christians it should still bring amazement. To non-Christians it still brings out the cynicism that was present 2000 years ago. It is Jesus Christ we receive, the bread of life. That is not a casual event, but one of wonder and amazement. It is an event that should open our eyes and our ears. It should cause us to look at life differently, we should see life through and in Christ. It nourishes us for the trials and tribulations of today. There are many.
The bread of life. “I AM,” don’t forget those first two seemingly insignificant words. If the bread of life references to Moses and the Hebrews in the desert calling to be nourished on their journey, “I AM” is Moses at the burning bush. He asks God what should I call you, and God responds “I AM.” I am the bread of life points to the father, a heavenly king and not an earthly one. The destination is a heavenly one, not simply a land. Jesus disciples are both nourished and challenged. They are called to journey, to open their eyes, ears, hearts and minds to something new. That is not easy, it is something I still struggle with today.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time