The Bread of Life: A Teachable Moment – Dr. Brian Clardy

A Homily Delivered by Dr. Brian K. Clardy

August 8, 2021 St. John 6:35; 41-51

Guide me, O thou great redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
Hold me with thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more. 

May I speak to you this morning in the Precious and Powerful Name of the One True and Living God +Father Son and Holy Spirit+ Amen

Over the past few weeks, the Church has indulged in a homiletical exercise of John 6, often called the “Bread of Life Discourse.” It began with a careful study of the Miracle of the Fishes and the Loaves, and continued with an equally dramatic miracle as Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee, to the amazement of His Disciples. True to form, Jesus later continued his teaching exercise by drawing attention to the fact that He was the Bread of Life and that any one who believed upon His Person, would be saved and become a part of God’s Royal Family.

Throughout the course of John’s Gospel, Jesus often repeated His notable “I AM” statements to draw attention to His Messianic Credentials and that He was linked directly with God. The phrase, “I AM” had a special significance to the People of Promise because this is the manner in which God addressed God’s Self to Moses on Mount Sinai. Add to that, Jesus’ invoking of “Bread” to identify Himself had pregnant meaning to His Jewish listeners because not only was bread an important part of the diet of first century Palestine, but Bread had important historical and theological meaning to the Jews from the Wilderness wanderings to the present moment.

So, it was no wonder that Jesus’ audience somehow took umbrage of the use of the metaphor of Himself as “The Bread of Life” and His direct identification with The Divine.”

“Is this not the Son of Joseph? Is this not the Son of Mary? We know them! They are from ‘around here.’ They are not from Heaven, so who does this fellow think that He is telling us that He is Bread from Heaven, much less inferring that He is ‘the Great I AM’?” 

To Jesus’ listeners, this bordered very heavily on delusions of grandeur at best, but blasphemy at worst.

But what they failed to understand is that Jesus was only reporting the facts.

Moreover, Jesus responded to his detractors by taking them directly to their history and their prophetic tradition. That Jesus’ mission and purpose had been spoken of by the Hebrew Bible writings: His efficacious death would mirror the Sacrifices in the Levitical Offerings, thus fulfilling what the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews would call a “shadow” of things to come. 

More to the point, Jesus directly quoted from the Prophet Isaiah:

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.

Jesus was not indulging in either “fake news,” illusions to grandiosity, or engaging in buffoonery. Rather He was stating clear and incontrovertible facts.

Jesus could have easily taken the snarky route. He had often done so to address His detractors in the past. He called the Tetrarch of Galilee a “fox.”  He compared the overly pious religious leadership to whitened tombs that covered rotted bodies. And He even dropped a withering comment to would be followers “let the dead bury their own dead.”

Being One Hundred Percent God and One Hundred Percent Human, Jesus was unique and He could have easily pulled proverbial rank and insulted his haters clear into the next week. He could have quoted the ultimate snarky take down that the eminent scholar, Dr. John Henrik Clarke used when the African American history professor debated his mostly white colleagues on the demographic and racial identity of Ancient Egypt. Dr. Clarke said, “I debate my equals……all others I teach.”

However, Jesus was far humbler in this moment and used it as an exercise in Loving Instruction.

Jesus recited to His Listeners a litany of their own history as God’s Chosen and how God provided for their ancestors in their darkest hour of need……. daily feeding them in the desert with manna……food that kept them alive throughout their earthly sojourn as they made their way to the Land that God had promised to their ancestors in ages past. However, the manna that Jesus offered was more than just biological sustenance.  Rather, it was food for eternity….it was food that would mend a broken relationship with the whole of humanity to an All Wise God. 

On the Cross……Jesus alone would cancel the sin debt.

On the Cross………. Jesus alone would move humanity from its desperate position in the First Adam to a powerful position of eternal strength through the sacrifice of Himself…. the Second Adam.

On the Cross………. Jesus would take upon Himself the penalty to which Humanity should have endured, but His Love created a new reality.

On the Cross……. the power of Satan would be broken.

On the Cross…………Creator and the Created would become one in intimate relationship.

And all that was needed was a belief that such love and grace was possible.

By eating of this bread, and believing this truth, salvation was indeed possible.

Thus the Cross presents us with the most illuminating truth at the heart of our faith: That through grace God alone provides the solution to the sin problem and seeks to restore humanity to position in holiness, wholeness, and divine intimacy.

That Eternal Bread served on God’s Loving table is available to us today.

This offer of love and divine completeness has not changed these last two millennia, as evidence of the fact that we shall come to this table in a moment to commemorate Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Way of Salvation. 

This offer of love and divine completeness stands by to offer hateful, cynical and broken world an alternative. 

This offer of love and divine completeness only requires a simple act of faith. That despite our doubts, our angst, and our pessimism, that God offers God’s total and self-sufficient self to see us through our darkest journey and to lead us to a life full of purpose, meaning and definition.

The only questions before us are simple: are we willing to eat of this Bread and live forever………. or are we willing to reject this loving offer and stumble in unnecessary darkness?

In the final analysis: the answers are up to you.

Knowing this…..let us all the more give Thanks and Praise to a God who Offers God’s Self to Us in love……who knows all of life’s possibilities……who reminds us that we are special and unique……and who seeks that none of his creation ever hunger again.