2 Samuel 11:1-15
I have this lunch bag, and it has everything I need in it. Now, if you packed your own lunch, what would you pack in it? What would be the best food in the world to pack in your lunch box?
Do you think that, if you packed THAT food in your lunch box, you wouldn’t have to eat ever again—ever? Of course not. You’ll be hungry again—some of you within minutes.
Let’s think about this on another level. What do you absolutely want—something that, if you had it, you’d never ask for anything ever again?
Do you think it’s true—that you’d never ask for anything ever again? Probably not. Kind of like your dream lunch. You’ll be hungry again later. You’ll want something else—something bigger or better or newer.
So, that’s the conversation Jesus has with the crowd. He had fed over 5,000 of them with just a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. And they’ve come back to him, asking for more. He says that if we believe in him, we’ll never be hungry again. Do you think that means that we’ll never have to eat again? No. But we won’t be as focused on what we absolutely have to have to be happy—and focus on what we need to live. Bread. Water. Friendship.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you for giving us bread that changes us. Help us focus on what you’ve given instead of what we don’t have. Amen.
So, here’s the general gist of how the conversation went with Jesus. The people find him, saying, “Hey, where did you wander off to? We’re hungry again.” Jesus responds, “That’s all you want me for, but I’m worth so much more. Work for the eternal food that won’t leave you hungry.”
“Oh, what kind of work is that?” “Just believe,” Jesus says. “Great! Give us a sign so that we’ll believe—like Moses did. He gave us bread from heaven.” Jesus smacks his forehead and says, “What do you think that feeding on the mountain was? I gave you bread. You’re still hungry. Work for the eternal food that won’t leave you hungry.”
“Oh, what kind of work is that?” Doh! I suspect that Jesus, though childless, knew what it was like to have a conversation with a 7-yr-old. Or maybe Abbot and Costello.
In Jesus’ world, the people’s relationship with food was quite simple. Eat to live. Most of the time, food was simple. Bread was the staple. Cheese. Fish. Rarely was there additional meat to eat. Maybe for the special feast days. Because meat was a commodity. It was how one might pay tax to Rome. And occasionally it was the sacrifice to God. But meals were much simpler.
So, the request for bread is not an unreasonable one. If someone else can provide the bread, then perhaps this is, indeed, heaven. Then we can focus on more than work. If someone provided our daily bread, then we could make it our life’s work to worship God. We could focus on prayer. We could bathe ourselves in hymns. If what we needed was simply given to us, then we could be the faithful followers we always wanted to be—without the distractions of worldly responsibilities. If someone would just provide the bread. As if that would actually happen. No, we’d find some other reason to get distracted.
I wonder what we would ask for today. What is it you would hope for God to provide so that you could center our lives in worship and not on all this other stuff? What ‘stuff’ would that be for you? What is it that gets in your way of worshiping God fully? What would you want God to provide so that you can really focus on your faith life?
Well, I hate to tell you, but Jesus doesn’t take the bait. He tells the people that HE is the bread. Huh? “No, Jesus, you don’t understand. We want to stop doing what we’re doing so that we can focus on you and believe. How do we do THAT?” “I AM the bread you need,” he says. “You’re setting your sights too low. You think that it’s an either/or kind of problem. If you’re working, you can’t worship. And if you worship, you aren’t working. You think that bread is something only for the body and that I am your answer to this physical problem.”
And it’s no wonder we can’t wrap our minds around what he’s trying to say here. Just consider, for a moment, our relationship with food. A 2014 article on the issue hit home for me. The author recounts her own issues with food—the on-again off-again diets, the feelings of shame, the obsession with what she should and should not eat. She says “A cheeseburger doesn’t know I exist. My feelings for a cheeseburger, however, are complicated.”
There are lots of us who find ourselves in this complicated relationship regarding what we eat. Ruled by rules of what is supposed to be good for us—no bread, more veggies, no red meat. Beating ourselves up about what we’ve already consumed. Putting others in charge of what we eat when because we don’t trust ourselves. Focusing more on how we look—or don’t look—instead of how we feel and want to feel. Using food to comfort us when we’re anxious.
But people don’t just have a dysfunctional relationship with food. We can be dysfunctional with money—never enough, blow it on something we want as soon as we have it leaving nothing for what we need, hoarding it and being so frugal we never enjoy what we have.
We can be dysfunctional with other things as well—with stuff, people, even work. Can you think of other elements of life that have lost perspective? Our lives can quickly become out of focus as we strive to control those elements. Instead of eating to live, we live to eat. And you can pretty much substitute just about any of the other things in there instead.
What Jesus says to the crowd turns that all upside down. No wonder we have a hard time understanding what he’s saying. It completely flies in the face of everything we have lived by and learned to treasure. And yet, if you listen closely, you can recognize the Truth he’s speaking. You can hear the freedom of it calling, like a bell ringing from a distance, calling us out of the cave we’ve created.
“I AM the bread of life. Work for the food that endures, which the Son of Man will give you. Believe in him whom God has sent.” It’s similar to the old adage: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Jesus is teaching us to make the kind of bread that sustains. He is freeing us from the hamster wheel of focusing on the next meal, the next paycheck, the next job, the next pound lost, the next relationship. And he is opening up a new way—looking at the whole creation as a gift. Rather than something to be managed, counted, hoarded, or blown, it is simply to be appreciated.
That’s not to say that we don’t need to eat or work or pay bills. But he turns us back around—from living to eat and living to work and living to buy stuff and living to collect. He is refocusing us back on life—where we eat to live and work to live and buy what we need to live. And what about all that stuff that gets in the way of worship? When our priorities are properly aligned, everything we do is worship. Or, perhaps, when we see everything we do as worship, our priorities properly align. And then, life is no longer about just me and how I look and what I have or don’t have. Life opens into something much bigger and deeper—into bread that nourishes, and water that cleanses, and a vine that produces, and the light that shines, and the gate that opens, and the shepherd who cares. In the presence of the way and truth and life, life blossoms into resurrection—being re-created into who we are called to be.
That’s a lot to expect from bread—but Jesus isn’t just any bread. He’s the bread of life.
Pastor Tobi White
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church