Jesus is bread.
What I love about Christianity is that unlike other spiritual paths, Christianity combines the ordinary with the extra-ordinary.
Jesus is bread!
Whilst other great leaders compare themselves to things rare and precious, Jesus, the very Son of God, is this stuff of ordinary life.
Jesus is bread!
This is because Jesus does not offer us a spiritual escape from the world, he calls us to deal with the every-day ordinary stuff of the world. It is appropriate he describes himself as this ordinary thing: bread.
The people of Jesus' day fail to understand who Jesus is, his being sent to us ordinary people as a person himself - “is not this Jesus the son of Joseph?” But this Jesus is God and man, extra-ordinary and ordinary – divine and human. He has to be... to mix heaven with earth, to bring God's Kingdom to earth, to pour the Holy Spirit out on all flesh.
We can fail to get it too, when we over-spiritualise...when we think church is one thing and the world another ….or that church is somewhere out there or up there ...when actually church is us. God is calling us to mix ourselves up with the world, like dough mixture so that we can grow the kingdom here. Enagage your faith in more ordinary ways, make it not lofty or precious – make it the bread and butter of your everyday!
...and so to reflect on two characteristics of bread – its smell and that it rises.
What might it mean for us that Jesus is the bread of life?
Firstly, the smell.
In this passage, Jesus describes how it is the Father who draws us to Jesus. The smell of fresh baking bread fills my house many evenings of the week since we bought a bread maker. It is amazing how the very smell of the bread can make us hungy and draw us all into the kitchen. It's an irrisistible smell.
It is God who had drawn you into himself, given you your faith, made you church. We often wonder whether we have a mixture of motives: habit, friends, tradition... but trust that the Holy Spirit of God is involved... it is the aroma of Christ that has drawn you to be in God. Jesus is living bread. The great thing about our God is that he always makes the first move, he draws us into relationship with him – the action is all his, even if we think we got ourselves there. We are drawn to God through Jesus as we might be drawn to the smell of baking bread. Jesus asks you to give God the glory for making it happen. God chose you. You simply responded to the aroma. He asks you whether you will go on to taste and to eat and to continue feeding.
If you choose to eat this Jesus who offers himself to you as living bread, he promises to raise you up. He mentions this three times in our passage from John's gospel. Jesus himself was raised up on the cross so that he might draw all people to himself. He was also raised to life. Jesus is a raising agent in the world and in our lives!
Drawn to the aroma, responding to God, we can be fed. If we choose to eat, then we are raised up. In other words, we are equiped and encouraged in this earthly, ordinary life that we lead. This doesn't mean we won't suffer. Jesus suffered as he was raised up but it does mean that we are being transformed, kneaded like bread, shaped to be better able to face the challenges of life because we choose to be nourished by Christ. Jesus loves us too much to leave us as we were. We might have been a lump of doughy mess, running off in all directions, but his is a promise of transformation into something greater. There will be attitudes and habits that you are giving up as you allow Jesus to shape your life.
Caught up by the smell, rising up into Jesus, what is this calling on you who are fed with the living bread?
Could it just so happen to be that you are called to be bread too as you become his body here on earth?
This is what I think it might mean. It is for us to go and engage in extra-ordinary ways with the ordinary stuff of life. The spiritual and the ordinary are not to be separated. The earthly and the heavenly mix, just as they do with Jesus – this earthly, heavenly man, this living bread who is also the Son of God.
Once we are fed, we are to feed others.
Once we have caught the scent we are to become the aroma of Christ in the world.
If Jesus has become a raising agent in our lives, transforming us, we are to be his raising agents in his world – transforming it by loving and encouraging its people.
What might this look like for you this week – Make one of the ordinary things that you do this week extraordinary. If you are having a cup of tea, invite another person around, share your life with them, give of yourself, share your faith.
If you see someone who needs encouragement – be a raising agent – remind them of their good qualities, give them a reason to feel more confident... help them.
Whatever it might mean for you – ask yourself this question – if the Spirit of God found me and I have tasted the living bread, in what way now, in this situation, can I to be the aroma of Christ for someone else?
How am I the raising agent in the mix of things?
If Jesus lives in you, people will be drawn to you despite what life has thrown at you because they are catching a whiff of something irrisistible – show them this living bread! Amen.