From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Four, Day Two
Without bread no one in ancient Palestine would have survived for long. So it seems entirely reasonable for Jesus, in what has become known as the Lord's Prayer, to instruct his disciples to pray for their daily bread. Yet the Lord also challenged his followers not to work for food that spoils, announcing himself as the only food that would enable them to live forever.
In fact, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means "house of bread." After feeding five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish, he shocked his listeners by declaring: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). This week, as you seek to understand what it means that Jesus is the Bread of Life, ask him to show you exactly what it means to feed on him.
"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which people may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:48 - 51
Praying the Name
Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. John 6:10 - 13
Reflect On: John 6:1 - 15, 25 - 66.
Praise God: Who is able to take care of all your needs, both physical and spiritual.
Offer Thanks: For all the ways God has fed you.
Confess: Any tendency to settle for less than what Jesus offers.
Ask God: To renew your spiritual hunger.
I love the familiar story of how Jesus fed five thousand hungry people with only five loaves and two fish. A huge crowd had followed him to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee eager for miracles. But now they were tired and hungry, spread out on the grass like a great multicolored blanket. Except for a boy with five small loaves of bread and two small fish, no one had anything to eat. Taking the boy's bread in his hands, Jesus did what every Jewish father would have done at the beginning of a family meal. He gave thanks to God, broke the bread, and then began handing it out. And no one went away hungry. In fact there was so much food that his disciples collected twelve baskets of leftovers. John's Gospel says the bread was made out of barley. It was poor man's bread, not the fine wheat bread of the rich. But it filled them up and made them glad. Astonished by the miracle, some in the crowd began to make the connection. This was like the manna that Moses and the Israelites fed on in the desert. God was giving them a sign.
Surely this must be the longed-for Messiah! The rumors spread swiftly through the crowd.
Knowing what was in their hearts, that they wanted to make him king, Jesus withdrew into the mountains. But why? Why not soak up the admiration, the wide-eyed wonder of it all? Because Jesus wanted to do far more than feed bodies that were soon to perish. He wanted to nourish souls that could live forever. But the people only wanted more cheap bread. When his followers finally caught up with him, Jesus told them point blank: "Stop working for food that spoils."
"Work for the forever food that I will give you."
"The work you need to do is to believe in me."
"I am the bread of life."
"When you fall down dead, I will make you stand up alive again on the last day."
It was too much for them. The crowd couldn't stomach it. That day, many of his followers fell away from him because they weren't hungry enough for the bread he offered — "This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:51, 53).
What about you? How hungry are you?
It's so easy to stuff ourselves with the world's cheap bread — with money, success, comfort, and pleasure — that we take the edge off our spiritual hunger. We fail to realize the dangers of living in an affluent, consumer-driven society in which we can be consumed by the things we desire. So many of us are like sponges, soaking up the world's good things with no space left for God.
If your spiritual appetite seems dull right now, ask Jesus for the grace to base your life not on the cheap bread of this world but on the bread he offers. Ask him to show you how to feed on him — on his life, his sacrifice, his Word, his promises. Then, to underline your prayer, consider fasting for a day. When you start to feel hungry, start praying. Tell Jesus, the Bread of Life, that you are hungry for more of him. Then remind him of his promise — that when you do the work of believing, he will do the work of feeding you.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.