From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Four, Day Four
Without bread no one in ancient Palestine would have survived for long. So it seems entirely reasonable for Jesus, in what has become known as the Lord's Prayer, to instruct his disciples to pray for their daily bread. Yet the Lord also challenged his followers not to work for food that spoils, announcing himself as the only food that would enable them to live forever.
In fact, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means "house of bread." After feeding five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish, he shocked his listeners by declaring: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). This week, as you seek to understand what it means that Jesus is the Bread of Life, ask him to show you exactly what it means to feed on him.
"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which people may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:48 - 51
Praying the Name
Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." John 6:53 - 58
Praise God: The source of all life.
Offer Thanks: For your daily bread.
Confess: Any tendency to live as though this world is all there is.
Ask God: To give you life everlasting.
I know someone who is dying, though you wouldn't know it to look at her. Her cheeks aren't sunken or sallow. She laughs frequently, sleeps well, has a hearty appetite, and tries to exercise regularly. She has two small children who drive her on alternate days either to delight or distraction. From the outside her life looks good. But she's dying, wasting away. Her body is deteriorating, wilting toward the earth that will one day swallow her whole. Still, you wouldn't know it if you passed her on the street. On a good day she might even be whistling. Even her friends don't know just how limited her days are. So how do I know she's dying? I know because the person I'm talking about is me.
But don't pity me, please. I've learned to deal with it, at least on some level. Most of the time I don't even think about it. In case you're wondering what I suffer from, I'll name the condition. It's called mortality, and it's an unstoppable epidemic.
The other night I dug out an old family movie and showed it to my children, who are considerably younger than I am. There was Uncle Tom, Aunt Betty, Uncle Warren, Grandpa and Grandma Spangler, Grandpa Dunbar, my dad, my cousin Judy, my sister Sue. We were water skiing, ice skating, blowing up balloons, grilling out, running races, kissing, unwrapping gifts, playing with the dog. The memories were warm and rich. But all at once they were tinged with grief as my children began asking: "Who's that? Is he alive? What happened to her? Is she dead?" Nearly every time the answer was yes — two of the children and all but three of the adults on the film, gone a long time ago. I thought of the psalmist's words, "As for mortals, their days are like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more" (Psalm 103:15 - 16).
Humanity is like the soon-wilted grass. We are up to our necks in "grassness." But unlike grass, we bear the tragedy in our hearts, knowing how short life is.
So what can we do about it? Rather than trying to dodge the truth, why not take time today to deal with it head-on? Think about the ways death has already affected you. Then reflect on your own impending death. Let it sink in. Shed some tears if you must.
Then look at Psalm 103 again. Notice that it continues on a note of hope: "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him" (103:17). The psalmist cannot resist the qualifier. He says but, because there is more to the story, mitigating circumstances concerning our "grassness." The New Testament fills it out beyond his wildest imagination. In Jesus, God becomes flesh — everlasting love stretching across the widest of chasms — across death itself — and reaching toward us.
Remember today that Jesus is heaven's bread. He is the answer to our grief, the solution to our problem. Believe him. Listen to him. Feed on him so that his life will reverse death's curse. Then proclaim with the great apostle Paul: " ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55 - 57).
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.