Go Forth, Find Bread
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Yatza mawtsaw lekhem. Three Hebrew words which mean, ‘Go forth, find bread’. This was a mnemonic device I used to remember the definition of these words when I was learning Hebrew. It seems that I would remember foreign words better if I had a use for them. You see, the word for ‘bread’ can also mean ‘food’ and food is important to everyone, especially if they are hungry. And, also, I like bread.
Bread is not as popular these days. It seems to have fallen from grace as a mainstay in our diets. Bread has been branded as one of the main foods that makes people fat. This is because our bodies can efficiently turn bread into sugar and, as everyone knows, when the body doesn’t burn off the sugar it gets stored as fat.
Yes, bread has been around as long as man has walked the earth. Bread is first mentioned in the third chapter of Genesis and is mentioned hundreds of times throughout the entire Bible. In Genesis chapter three, God declares that human kind would no longer live a life without toil and God rules “[By] the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”. [Genesis 3:19] To this day, we all must go forth and find bread.
When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, being tempted by the Devil, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3,
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. [Deuteronomy 8:3]
This was Moses reminding the children of Israel of how God, the Creator of all things, provided for His people.
Our Old Testament reading in Exodus tells the narrative of God’s providence. God not only rained bread from heaven, but he also gave his children quail so that they did not live on bread alone. Most importantly, God gave His people His very word.
For centuries, the Israelites lived on the promise of the word of God. This blessed people did not starve or die out. Generation after generation lived on the promise of God’s word. One thousand four hundred forty-four (1,444) years later, the promise of God became the Word made flesh.
This was the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thirty-two years after his birth, Jesus provides for his people with bread, with healing, and with forgiveness of sin. Just as God the Father provided manna from heaven to feed His people so that they would live, God now provides from heaven the bread of life in His only Son.
God so loves His creation that He could not bear to see us die for lack of food. Our Father in heaven so loves us that he did not wish to see us die eternally for lack of the bread of life, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” [John 6:33]
Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried. The third day he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. This he did so that all who believe in him and the one who sent him will be saved.
The people who followed Jesus to Capernaum were searching for a ‘Bread King’. Jesus knows this and tells them that they are not looking for him because they now believe in him as the Son of God and their only way to salvation, but because they had eaten the bread he had provided and were filled.
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” [John 6:27] Jesus tells them. What is the work that God requires? “To believe in the one He has sent.”[John 6:29]
There it is, plain as day. Believe in the living Word of God. We cannot through our own works enter the kingdom of heaven or be saved.
Before Jesus Christ was born into the flesh and blood of human kind, bread was so important to the people that the Romans, about 168 B.C., created a Bakers’ Guild. This group was regulated by the government in order to make sure the bread to feed the people was of the best quality. It was such a special group that they were the only craftsmen who were freemen of the city, all other trades being conducted by slaves.
Their work was so valuable that members of the Guild were forbidden to mix with 'comedians and gladiators' and from attending performances at the amphitheatre, so that they might not be contaminated by the vices of the ordinary people. Bread was sacred to them and the bakers were their priests.
When making bread, a person takes flour and water and yeast in such quantities as to make as many loaves of bread desired. All that is necessary is the yeast from a small portion of dough to be spread out through the rest. Christ himself compares the kingdom of heaven to the making of bread:
Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” [Luke 13:20-21]
After making as much dough as the baker needs, he or she pinches of a small portion of that dough and sets it aside. This is the yeast and cumulative taste needed to make the next batch of bread. Once one has a starter or ‘mother’ dough, one can continue to make new batches of bread indefinitely.
In 1327 people in a small town in England would bring their dough to a public bakery to have it baked, as not everyone had an oven or the means to cook their bread. The bakers who ran the place had secret openings made in the molding boards, and when the people's dough was placed on the boards, one of the bakers would secretly pinch off piece after piece from the uncooked loaves for their own benefit.
As children of God, we are provided our daily bread whether we follow His commandments or not. His bread of life never runs out. We do not starve because we disobey Him. We do not have to steal the bread of life from our neighbors. Jesus Christ is the bread of life from which we all are fed.
What must we do to receive this bread? Believe in him. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ has directed us to bring the life giving water of Baptism to all people. Those who partake of this water will never thirst. To those who hunger we are to bring the Bread of Life. Jesus declared:
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty… For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” [John 6:35, 40]
The Apostle Paul states our calling this way:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. [Ephesians 4:1-7]
Until that Last Day, we surely are prisoners for the Lord. We have been called by Christ to bear with one another in love and maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit. We may tire of the bread our Lord provides for our daily needs but we will not hunger or thirst while in his one baptism and one faith.
And when we lie down to rest, only to be commanded to rise again and feed his people, understand that this is God’s grace given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
As we partake of the Lord’s Supper this morning, give thanks for this gift of forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus. Let the sweet aroma of the bread of life overcome the acrid odor of this sinful existence, knowing, that when you awake in the body of Christ, you will be filled with eternal life.
Through the bread of life that is Christ Jesus, all who come to him will live in him. We need not go forth and find bread because he has come to us to feed us in this life and the next.