“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” – John 6:48-51
Have you ever eaten something so mind-blowingly delicious and then tried to explain it to someone before? Hard, isn’t it? You try your best, and emphatically so, to explain why it was “sooo goood”. But even your linguistically artful and most nuanced self usually utterly fails to put together a proper explanation that seems anywhere close to adequate for the explosion of beautiful flavors, mixtures of contrasting yet complementing textures and temperatures, and aesthetically pleasing plating that you experienced in that dish. It’s pretty common that most of us always find ourselves saying at the exasperated end of our string of frustrated fragments, “Gah, you just gotta try it and then you’ll just know“.
See, this is precisely what the Psalmist meant when he said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Today’s devotion comes from John 6 (which you should read, because it has been, always will be, and is better than this post… in fact, please read that and please do not read this until you’ve read that first), where Jesus is speaking about how He is the Bread of Life. Many of us most likely grew up hearing a lot about Christ, but for those of us who are Christian, I’m absolutely sure that we can all pinpoint times in our lives where we truly tasted and had our eyes opened to the good Lord. And similar to the situation above, when we give our testimonies and try to explain the goodness to people, we then become so starkly aware of the limitations that these twenty-six squiggles have in describing the wonder and glory of encountering the transformational love of the real God. At least for me, I always feel like saying at the end of my testimonies, “Gah, but what’s it to you- please, you just have to try Jesus for yourself and then you’ll know”.
“I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died…If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” – John 6:48-51
So now, my fellow Christian brother or sister, I ask you to consider this Word. Here, Jesus is reaching back to the stories of the Old Testament – namely, the story of manna (which can be found in Exodus 16); but at the same time, notice that this story of manna is sandwiched in between two statements about how He Himself is the living bread. So this is what I think that Jesus is saying here – many of us are stuck in the middle. We see the filler and try to live off the filler, instead of remembering that the sandwich itself cannot exist or make much sense as a dish without the bread. Putting off this getting-strange metaphor, what I’m trying to get at here is that many of us seem to be stuck in this Old Testament way of thinking about God. We somehow get ourselves in a place where we presume that like the Israelites, we must simply trust the Lord that He will eventually provide our daily spiritual bread, that we must go to sleep every night in eager expectation and nervousness to see if God really would keep His Word and provide the necessary spiritual bread every single morning, and that we must seek this bread for ourselves.
NO! Past-tense all of that! God has already provided our daily spiritual bread (John 6); God has already kept His Word (John 19:30); God has already sought it out and has already sorted it out (Romans 5:8)! How? By already giving you a taste of JESUS CHRIST, THE LIVING BREAD though grace! So in light of all of this, the question it begs is not, “Has the Lord given it?”, but rather a burning, “Do you believe it?”.
Because if you look earlier in this passage, Jesus says in verse 29, “The Work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” Jesus never says here, “The Work of God is to be the most faithful person to ever exist.” Insert whatever qualifier you want there, but Jesus was clear. The Work of God is believing the gospel. Because so many times I meet people of God who put an emphasis on how guilty they feel for not “doing more” for the Lord. And this is not at all to discount their struggles in trying to be faithful and also not to disclude myself from this group, but what I find myself asking them and asking myself is not how to “do more”, but how my eyes have diverted from the heart of the gospel, who is Jesus. In Revelation 2, Jesus says, “You have forsaken your first love”. That hits the problem right on the head. We get so wrapped up in the “do” before we remember that the “do” is only possible because of the “did”. We get wrapped up in the “more” before we remember the “enough”. I think what Jesus is getting at in verse 29 is basically that we must remember that we have life abundant because we have eaten the One who is life abundant. He means that we must remember that at one point, we were all once standing before the Cross, but by His great mercy and love, we were kindly coaxed to kneel in the pool of His cleansing blood, where then Jesus’ nail-pierced, healed hand met with ours, we are now in ascension with Him on the path to home.
So believe it! And never stop believing it, because second, if you believe it, then you simultaneously receive it. And if you receive it, then you need to give it. See, the other aspect to this is that once we have the Bread of life, what do we do with it? Well, let’s look to when Jesus fed the five thousand (Mark 6). I believe that Jesus gave the bread basket to the disciples to make exactly this point – He is the Bread, but we are the basket-carriers and must offer to all who are hungry. We don’t give the Bread of Life back to the Bread of Life, but the Bread of Life gives to us to then give to those who need the life found incarnate within the bread. Carry the bread and give the bread faithfully, in obedience to Him, flowing from the love we have received by believing the gospel. He does the rest. Because remember, the point was never just to be blessed, but to be a blessing. You’re never equipped to look shiny and nice, you’re equipped to get your equipment dirty and mangled. You’re never given anything just for the sake of having it, but to give it.
So my dear reader, if you belong to the Lord, always remember what you have tasted and seen. The goal then is clear that we do not need to taste over and over again, like the Israelites in the desert did, but rather to enjoy the process of digesting the truth of the gospel for the rest of our lives. I’m a firm believer that when you become a Christian, what God promises you is the fullness of Himself alone. To my understanding, the covenant is never, “I give you me, therefore enjoy the things I give you”, but rather, “I give you me, and I am the greatest thing you will ever get – so know that I am enough and enjoy me”. Truly, those who belong to Christ have tasted, seen, and have the everlasting life that the Bread of Life gives!
And if you do not yet have a relationship with Christ, I bid you beloved neighbor, come to the table to taste and see that He is good!
Photograph above by Hannah Park.
Roren Choi is the Youth Pastor at Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington in McLean, Virginia. She is currently pursuing an MA in Public Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary. She loves adventuring with Jesus, people, and food.