I baked my first loaf of bread last week. It was quite the process – you have to first combine the yeast with the water (correct temperature is key!) then add the other ingredients, then knead it for 10 minutes, then let it rise, then punch it down, then let it rise again, before finally baking it in the oven. Intense!
I never realized that baking a loaf of bread was so difficult. And yet there’s nothing that smells quite as good as freshly-baked bread.
Then I got to thinking about all the ways that God uses bread in the bible. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were traveling through the desert with little to eat, so God sent manna for them (tiny pieces of sweetened bread) to collect every morning and sustain them on their journey. Later, when Jesus came around, he fasted for forty days in the desert, and afterwards the Devil tempted Jesus by telling him to turn a stone into bread. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty tempted to turn anything into bread after going forty days with nothing to eat! But Jesus confidently refused, stating instead that, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Then there was the time when Jesus was ministering – his disciples were flustered because they were supposed to feed over 5,000 people in the field with only five loaves of bread and two fish. But Jesus told the people to sit down in groups of about fifty each. Then he took the bread, broke it, and gave to the disciples to distribute. After they ate, the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of leftover bread. How cool is that! (see Luke 9).
Again, the night before He was crucified, Jesus gave thanks and broke a loaf of bread, giving it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) In fact, breaking bread and sharing communion together is one of the unifying practices among the Christian faith, across denominations. When we break bread together, not only are we honoring and remembering Jesus, but we are engaging in a supernatural practice of obtaining His life for our own.
I’m starting to realize that there’s something supernatural about Jesus breaking bread which leads to miraculous provision and sustenance. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, His body (bread) was broken for us, which has supernaturally released provision for people who follow Jesus, both then and today. Jesus even goes so far to say, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:47)
Now those are some pretty bold statements. Jesus is saying that when we trust in Him, He will be our sustenance, our life-giving force, and will supernaturally give us everything that we need. Jesus even says that His food is to do the will of God and to finish his work (John 4:34), and we should strive to be fed in a similar way. In brief stints of fasting that I have done, I have found that where I lack in nourishment, there is a supernatural grace that allows Jesus to fill me up, which nourishes me, sustains me, and even rejuvenates me. He IS our bread of life!
I’ll never look at a loaf of bread the same!