Wednesday, August 28th
John 6:32-35 (NRSV)
Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
When we eat wholegrain breads we receive so many beneficial nutrients and fiber. Leah Dowling writes that eating multigrain bread provides good dietary fiber, and also lowers our risks of weight gain, heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, and some cancers. Dietary fiber prevents constipation and feeds the “good” gut bacteria. Wholegrain bread contains the entire grain, and so it supplies the B and E vitamins, along with minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. It’s a source of carbohydrates, protein, unsaturated (good) fats, as well as three types of fiber: soluble, insoluble, and resistant starch.¹
On the other hand, eating white bread offers NO nutritional value, and may even lead to the health troubles that wholegrain breads work to prevent. But oh, that white bread! I mentioned earlier this week that I have trouble turning down the warm and buttery white rolls that often arrive at our table when dining out. I love their soft, smooth texture, their “easy to swallow” consistency, their buttery sweetness, and the swiftly satisfying fullness they bring. Wholegrain breads provide much more nutrition, but their fiber, grains and seeds make their texture less smooth, soft and consistent. They are somewhat denser and chewier and may take longer to eat.
Jesus tells us that he is our bread of life. He promises that in him we have everything we need. He is our source of spiritual nourishment, he sustains and strengthens us, and he offers us fullness of joy and abundant life. But do we look to Jesus, our bread of life, as more like white bread than wholegrain? I wonder if I do…
~I welcome the words of Jesus that are easily swallowed. I happily partake of his words, “Peace! Be still!” to the storms around me (Mark 4:39), or “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:30), or “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9), or especially his words on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). But I could politely decline such words as, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matthew 5:41), or “You will be hated by all because of my name” (Matthew 10:22), or “I have come not to bring peace but a sword” (Mathew 10:34). These are much more difficult to swallow!
~I can be tempted to believe I obtain enough nourishment with a swift, comforting and self-satisfying “white bread” prayer, without bothering to linger and chew on the deeper mysteries and complexities of Jesus’ life and words. I find it easier to savor and swallow the pure and smooth consistency of his self-giving love and obedience to God, more than the irregular and unexpected roughage of his sometimes confusing or contradictory words and actions toward people.* I understand that each gospel writer had different intentions and the cultural ways of that time were different from ours, but it’s easy to put off researching a Bible passage, examining its context, content and culture, and seeking the bigger picture or deeper meaning.
We may wish to have ‘white bread’ Jesus (“He said it, I believe it, that settles it!”) instead of the nutritious, surprising, fulfilling, challenging, ‘wholegrain’ Jesus. (Come to think of it, how many paintings have you seen that portray Jesus as a white person?!) But Jesus comes to us as our ‘wholegrain’ bread of life. If we are to ingest and absorb all of the beneficial and good things he offers for our spiritual health, we must slow ourselves in the partaking. We need to meditate, reflect, chew on, and discover everything that comprises Jesus, the bread of life.
Like the whole grain, we need Jesus in his entirety. The easy and the difficult. The love and the correction. The longing and the fulfillment. The tenderness and the roughage. The sweetness and the fiber. The clarity and the mystery. The yeast and the seeds and the grains. We need every part of Jesus to live in spiritual health and sustenance. We need all of Jesus, our wholesome and complete bread of life.
Pass the bread!
See you tomorrow.
¹://www.inverse.com/article/54095-which-bread-is-healthiest-for-you-multigrain-whole-wheat-whole-grain. (Leah Dowling, The Conversation, 3/17/2018)
All Bible verses are from the NRSV version.
*Examples: Why did Jesus immediately heal two people (Matthew 9:18-26) but wait two days to bring his friend Lazarus back to life (John 11:1-6)? Why did he say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), but initially ignore the desperate Canaanite woman, even saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:21-28)?