Monday, January 20, 2014

BETTER BREAD (Matthew Chapter 14)

Much of the news in our day is focused on issues related to health care and the economy.  People have questions related to the “Affordable Health Care Act” and how it is going to affect them.  The news is reporting how the number of people in poverty in our country has been steadily increasing.  Nevertheless most of us have plenty to eat and have access still to quality health care if we need it.  Even so, we occupy much of our time with concern over such matters.

It was different for the people of Jesus’ day.  There were no supermarkets from which they could go to purchase items for their next meal.  They spent much time caring for crops and animals which would provide food for their families.  There were no hospitals or knowledgeable physicians (at least not akin to the kind that exist in our day).  Many sicknesses and illnesses simply ran their course leading either to recovery or death. 

In many respects the people of Jesus’ day are like the people I’ve had opportunity to visit in the Masaka Region of Uganda.  They live off of what they grow or tend.  Access to quality medical care is not readily available.  Some pastors ask about such matters: “What are we to say to our people?  We have great needs—we are poor, uneducated, and without doctors and medicine.  We speak to our people about Jesus, but what about these other needs?”  Good question!

A great multitude followed Jesus and gathered to Him in a desolate place.  “He felt compassion for them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14).  It got late.  Jesus took five loaves and two fishes from a lad and fed 5000 people.  He miraculously multiplied the loaves and the fishes such that every person was “satisfied” (Matthew 14:20).  There was even some left over. 

That miracle said something about Jesus.  It declared Him to be the Divine Son of God (John 20:30-31).  But the people didn’t see it.  They rejoiced in the healings and were glad for a free meal—but they failed to comprehend the true nature of the greater Miracle that stood in their midst.  They deemed Him to be “The Prophet” and wanted to take Him by force to make Him King (John 6:14-15). They sought after Him—they even crossed the sea to get to Him (John 6:24).  But Jesus knew of their deeper need and confronted their confused priorities: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs (lit. “attesting miracles”), but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.  Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal” (John 6:26-27).

Good news!  There is a “food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).  Jesus went on to explain, saying: “I am the bread of life”…”I am the living bread that came down out heaven”…My fresh is true food”…”he who eats this bread shall live forever” (John 6:48, 51, 55, 58).  He spoke of His pending sacrifice: “And the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51).  He offered eternal life: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47).

Bread is important.  Good health care is important too.  In Christian love we should do all we can to help those in need (1 John 3:16-17; James 2:14-16).  But there is a hunger that mere bread can’t satisfy and a need for a healing that no doctor on earth can provide.  You can’t find “the Bread of life” in the bread section at the supermarket, but He can be found by anyone anywhere.  There is a hunger which Jesus alone, “the Better Bread,” can satisfy.  He came to satisfy that very need (Cf. John 10:10-11)!

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