Every ingredient used to bake fresh bread and the right time for adding it to the mixture is important. An expert bread maker knows the perfect way to put it all together. We have such a person at my church. Marti has been baking bread for years. Those of us who know her look forward to the times when she treats us to her outstanding bread. Last weekend I had the privilege of smelling Marti's warm bread right after it was baked. I could hardly wait for her to slice it. Eating Marti's bread is truly a heavenly experience.
As I was eating this bread, thinking it is probably the best bread I have ever tasted, I was reminded of when Jesus talked about how bread comes down from Father God in heaven. Everything we need is supplied through the bread that comes from heaven. This truth was introduced to the disciples, as we read in John 6. Jesus reminded them that their forefathers ate manna in the desert--heaven-sent bread. The Lord told Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you..." (Exodus 16:4) The people did not recognize the form of the bread, and they called it manna, which means "What is it?" However, it fed and nourished them for 40 years until they were ready to cross over into the Promised Land.
About 1,500 years later, Father God decided it was time to send bread to His people again. It would come in a form that no one would recognize. However, He gave us hints of what He was doing through the place where this bread would be birthed and the circumstances surrounding it. God carefully orchestrated the timing for each ingredient in the family line that He hand-picked. He chose a virgin named Mary, pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David, to nurture and bring forth the Living Bread. The Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary to place within her the Son of God, whose name was called Jesus, meaning Jehovah (Eternal One) is salvation/Savior. (Luke 1:27-37) Joseph and Mary found it necessary to go to Bethlehem, the town of David, to participate in a census. It was a timely visit as Mary would give birth to Jesus in the very place whose name means "House of Bread." Every detail of this story was meticulously planned to speak of what God was doing--giving us Living Bread.
God's plan would be confirmed over and over again in gatherings where Jesus would reveal His identity as "Bread." During the time that Jesus walked the earth bread would have been baked daily. It was a staple of life. Consequently, it was used in certain aspects of worship. Bread, both leavened and unleavened, was offered to God as a firstfruits or peace offering. The Bread of Presence was displayed in the temple next to the Holy of Holies. There were 12 loaves of unleavened bread (one for each tribe) as a reminder of God's covenant with His people.
Jesus multiplied bread at the feeding of the 5,000. He fed everyone with five leaves of barley bread. No one went home hungry. Some began to connect the dots and thought that Jesus could be the longed-for Messiah. In John 6 we can read how Jesus confirmed to His disciples that He is the "Bread of Life." He told them, "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world...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." (John 6:33, 35) Jesus demonstrated to the disciples how he would have to die for our salvation by breaking bread at their Passover celebration. He said, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) Indeed, His disciples did not recognize Him after His resurrection until He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. (Luke 24:30-31)
From the time when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness we can see God's intention to have us feed on "spiritual bread." Jesus tells the devil, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) And when Jesus instructed His disciples on how to pray they were told to say, "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11) In this season of Advent, let us remember to give thanks for the One who was sent by God to be our daily bread--the Living Bread--who daily nourishes our souls and looks forward to the time when we will live with Him forever.
Joan E. Mathias