Bread and water are life-sustaining… but only if eaten.
My favorite local bakery is La Farm in Cary, where the smell of French breads and pastries can literally make the mouth water – never mind the soups and sandwiches and fresh-brewed Counter Culture Coffee. This is the kind of place where you have to arrive early if you expect to see, let alone sample, the full day’s selections.
It opens at 7:00 every morning of the week. By 9:30 on Saturday mornings, the stacks of scones, croissants, tarts etc. have severely dwindled and there is nary an empty chair in the house.
(Yes, I know it’s Lent, when people are abstaining from delicacies, but trust me. I am going somewhere with this!)
As much as I enjoy simply being in this place and taking in the aroma, being there is nothing if I don’t have something to eat. The beautiful breads and carefully-crafted pastries are a feast to the eye, but La Farm bakers intend their work to be eaten and enjoyed.
I am happy to oblige. For bread or water to do me any good, I have to take it in. It’s not enough to surround myself with it. Nourishment comes from eating and drinking.
In the book of John, crowds were following Jesus around because he had miraculously fed them. He confronted them about being more concerned about filling their stomachs than about being spiritually nourished. They didn’t get it. They reminded him of the manna from heaven their forefathers ate in the desert.
Jesus replied: “I am the Bread of Life.” Then he explained:
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who feeds on Me will live because of Me…. He who eats this bread will live forever. (see John 6:53-58 for full text)
They were talking natural bread, a one-time meal that would need repeating to address their continual hunger. Jesus took it to a spiritual, eternal level.
To experience true life that never ends, He said they needed to do something more than just passively stand in the crowd and look, listen and wait for a bread basket to come their way.
Jesus says life is experienced by the one who: Eats, Drinks, Feeds. These are verbs, action words. Seems to me, He essentially is telling a bunch of spiritually starving people:
Look, you are following the only truly life-sustaining Bread there is, but you haven’t been eating. If you want life that does not end, you have to act. You have to take me in. I have to become a part of you. I have to nourish you from within.
The problem with church-people, I think, is that many of us are habitually coming to God’s House of Bread and leaving hungry because we aren’t eating.
We enjoy the aroma from the oven and the sound of living water as the Bible is taught and worship songs are sung. But we aren’t really ingesting Jesus’ words and allowing Him – the Living Word – to transform us from the inside out.
Some of us are just following Jesus for the loaves and the fishes – for the quick fix to a material and sometimes momentary need — when He wants to fill us up with Himself so that we are never hungry again.
I wouldn’t dream of leaving the local bakery hungry. (I always eat plenty at La Farm and usually take a little something home for later!) Think about that next time you’re in church… and be sure to eat.