John 6:35, "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'" (ESV)
There is nothing like coming home on a wet, cold, dark November day to the smell of freshly baked bread. You know that there will be fresh bread and butter for supper and that your hunger will be satisfied. I'm sure that Jesus had this experience too.
Bread has been the main staple of most of the Western world from the beginning of time. There are images of workers making bread painted on ancient Egyptian tomb walls and evidence of bakeries found in archeological excavations of ancient cities. So it isn't a surprise that Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life. Just as bread nourishes our bodies, Jesus, the bread of life, nourishes and sustains and satisfies the deep hunger of our souls.
Just as our lives cannot go on without food to sustain us, our souls cannot truly live without the spiritual sustenance that we receive from our relationship with Jesus Christ. Real life is this: a relationship of love, trust and obedience with God. This relationship is only made possible by Jesus. Apart from him, no one can enter into this relationship with God. In other words, without Jesus there may be mere existence, not real life.
The hunger that the world cannot satisfy is ended when we know Christ and through him know God. Through this relationship our restless souls are at rest and the hungry heart is satisfied.
This bread of life is ours for the taking - or refusing. When we take, two things happen. First, a new kind of satisfaction comes into our lives. We stop striving for what the world deems important. Our hunger and thirst for the things of the world are gone. St. Augustine of Hippo writes in his Confessions, "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you."
When our hearts find what they are searching for, life stops being mere existence and becomes full, alive, and there is a peace that comes from knowing that we can rest our hearts in Jesus Christ. Second comes the knowledge that even beyond this life we are safe. Even on that last day when all things will come to an end, we will still be secure. Jesus guides us to that place beyond which there is no danger.
Jesus is the bread of life. That means he is essential for life and to refuse the invitation and command of Jesus is to miss life and die. The ancient rabbi's had a saying, "The generation in the wilderness have no part in the life to come." In Numbers, we read the story of the Israelites who refused to enter the promised land after the reports of the scouts. Because they wouldn't accept the guidance of God, they were condemned to wander for 40 years in the wilderness until they died. The rabbi's believed that the ancestors who died in the wilderness not only missed the promised land but also missed the life to come. To refuse the offer of Jesus is to miss life in this world and in the world to come: but to accept his offer is to find real life in this world and glory in the world to come. The offer of Christ is life in time and eternity.
That is the greatness and glory that we cheat ourselves out of when we refuse his invitation.
(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)