Readings for Proper 13B

You remember the famous I am sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel?  I am:

  • The light of the world
  • I am the way the truth and the life
  • The true vine
  • The good shepherd
  • The sheep gate
  • The resurrection and the life
  • The bread of life

Through the summer of Lectionary Year B we have 5 weeks on John chapter 6 with its focus on just one of these – “I am the bread of life”

Last week we had the Feeding of the 5,000 – there is lots of bread there!

Over the next 4 weeks we have readings which are so tightly drawn from Chapter 6 they overlap each other

The word “bread” occurs 18 times in this chapter

We will have the expression “I am the bread of life” or “ I am the bread which comes down from heaven” 7 times

So you will be in no doubt that Jesus is “the bread of life”

But will you have any better idea about what that means?

Let’s see what we can do.


What is bread?

Bread is the basic food stuff of the western world. It is essential for life – we call it the staff of life

A loaf is also too much for one person to eat at a sitting – so bread is shared – in the extreme in the feeding of 5,000 people

Bread needs to be broken, and when it is broken it is a little like a killing, a sacrifice and it is often blessed – especially in Judaism.

Furthermore, bread takes effort to make:

  • Growing the grain
  • Collecting the grain
  • Sifting the wheat from the chaff
  • Milling the wheat into flour
  • Mixing it with water, butter and yeast
  • Making dough
  • Kneading it
  • Baking it

It is a day’s work – and so daily bread is work for everyday

  • it is again sacrificial – that’s what sacrifice means – giving something up for the future

A Recent Church times article tells of the discovery that bread goes back 14,000 years

  • that it pre-dates agriculture – in fact agriculture seems to have developed in order to supply grain to make bread

Originally people made it from wild grain which meant that it took more energy to collect and make it than it yielded

  • it was sacrificial
  • it was communal
  • it was religious before it was food

Remember that religious has at its root ligo (to tie), like a ligament, that which ties us together

So when Jesus says he is the bread of life he is saying all of these things – he is:

  • Essential
  • Shared
  • Sacrificial
  • Bonding
  • Religious

and more …

He mentions the manna which came down from heaven –

That’s why we have that story about the grumbling Israelites with their grumbling stomachs from Exodus

In this sixth chapter Jesus is journeying around even across sea of Galiilea and the people are chasing after him: they are like the Israelites in the desert following Moses, searching for the promised land

Here they are looking for a sign

The feeding of the 5,000 is not enough for them

It is again just like the complaining Isarelites in Exodus

The Israelites were given Manna – ‘what is it’? they said

The Jews were given Christ and they said – ‘who are you?’

Jesus is more than the manna – because the manna was just about food

Jesus sustains in a different, a more comprehensive way than food – we have been given gifts greater than food

For an understanding of this we can look to our Ephesians reading

 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”

My commentary says this is the most difficult verse in the whole letter – that gets my attention!

We have already heard about the Manna which came down from heaven and which was a gift from God

That which is of the earth is temporary – it lasts just a day – like bread

But Jesus is the manna which came down from heaven and has returned to heaven – things which are in heaven are eternal

He is not food which lasts but a day, instead He who has descended has then ascended.  As such He is heavenly manna, food which lasts for ever – the bread of eternal life

This gift – Ephesians calls it the gift of grace – this gift which we have been given – is the gift of love

It is not enough to eat

It is not enough to sustain yourself with food

What we need is the grace to live with one another and for one another

To live together

To live sacrificially

To live in the community of bread


Ephesians – which is a kind of handbook on Christian living – is full of advice on this

  • Be nice to your wife
  • Be nice to your husband
  • Don’t get drunk

So far so good – so far so obvious. But then it adds this:

  • Know yourself and where you fit
  • Work out what you are good at and how you can help others by playing your part in the body of Christ

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace… 

speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

So we pray we may live, with one another and for one another, in the community of the bread of life.

Making bread, breaking bread, sharing bread,
every day,
for eternity


Sermon delivered by Chris Hancock at St. Mary’s Headley, 5th August 2018

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