Jesus As The Bread We Need (1/5)

Jesus As The Bread We Need (1/5)

Mark 6:30-37

Why this focus on food? What was the hunger that those disciples were seeing and being moved to see filled? Maybe it was just that it was getting on to dinnertime and the disciples were simply thinking about a meal… but maybe it was something else! Shepherdless sheep needing to be fed – something that Jesus was wanting the disciples to take responsibility for, and to get on with providing…

Mark, as the earliest and shortest Gospel, doesn’t usually include anything without having a good reason for doing so. What is his point? Why this focus on Jesus and the disciples noticing hunger? What are we to take from this? Those are some of the questions we’ll be looking at today and over the next 5 weeks, exploring what Jesus meant by describing himself as the living bread we need to satisfy our deepest and most real hunger. Today we’re looking at Mark 6, and for the next weeks we’ll be looking at chapter 6 in John’s Gospel.

Appetite or Nourish?

There is a pretty profound difference between us having an appetite for something and actually starving, being malnourished… We know that. We know that we may feel totally satiated – even bloated – after stuffing down a mass of fast food while, while actually, still being in quite desperate need of nourishment. Was that kind of what Jesus and the disciples were seeing as they looked out at those crowds whom Jesus described as ‘shepherd-less sheep?’ I wonder what exactly the hunger that they saw, mostly – and what hunger they would mostly see now as they look at us?

When it comes to the ‘hunger’ that we may be aware of in our lives – of what are we mostly aware? Are we perhaps just kind of peckish? Feel like eating something tasty? But as we allow ourselves to look a little deeper into the symbolism of this passage, I wonder for what particular tidbit of religious comfort or encouragement do we mostly have an appetite? As we all come with our ego-drenched appetite agendas, for what tasty morsel of ego-satisfaction are we hoping? Of course it’s would be marvelous to have fast-food-truck-chef Jesus catering to all our whims and aspirations – but is that actually what he does? Can that be that that is the sum total of our faith expectation – that we are all just kind of spiritually peckish, and wanting some happy snack to tide us over?Or is our hunger about something more sinister than that: a craving for not just what we may want on a whim but for what we believe we actually need – perhaps even as a substance abuser may agonizingly crave for their next fix all the while knowing how it may be the death of them? Are we wanting to be fed with what we suspect may ultimately be bad for us but we don’t care because we believe we need it?

I suspect the hunger that Jesus and his disciples sees in us has less to do with what we may feel we are wanting or even needing as with some essential nourishing nutrients that they know we are missing. It’s very interesting how we’re not told that it was the crowds who were clamoring for food here so much as the disciples who we discerning their need. I find it seriously challenging that what we are usually most aware of wanting in no way guarantees that THAT is what we are actually needing…

Scripture is just FULL of food imagery[i] – one analogy and metaphor after another. In a heavily bread culture it’s no surprise that that’s what Jesus uses to describe his place in our lives – without bread, no matter whatever else is being eaten within Middle Eastern society, the diner stays hungry… Someone once pointed out how, if Jesus had been born into an Asian country, perhaps he would have described himself as the ‘RICE’ of life… His point being that without our somehow availing ourselves of him, allowing our identities and purpose to be defined by him – our most essential selves are incomplete – and we stay hungry. How hungry are you aware of being currently? We all hunger for identity, to know who we actually are! We all hunger for purpose, to know why we actually are here! And yet we all so easily allow ourselves to be defined by eating lesser foods! What are you allowing yourself currently to feed on, believing that they are good for you, yet remaining malnourished?

For or Against?

As forward-thinking, progressive, dare I say liberal Christ followers, we so easily allow our identities to feed on/ to be defined by, what we are against: standing against racist white supremacists, climate-change deniers, homophobes… We fight for racial justice! We fight against ecology abusers! …against Covid-denying no-maskers… And yes, these are stands that we must take – to be against all of those things and many more… but essentially? We must get it that standing against stuff isn’t ultimately what feeds us. It’s only what we are affirmed by that can do that – build us up, make us strong enough to take the hard stands that we must from time to time. That’s the deep-self/true-self/soul-self building Gospel stuff that whispers Jesus’ revealed, Christ-sealed identities into our hearts. And that’s the stuff that our souls yearn to eat.

Karen referred me to a conversation she had in the Farmers’ Market last week – affirming our most essential resource as our atmosphere, which is now being so choked by smoke from literally 100s of BC fires. Air. Breath, as the first ‘B’ of Emergency Room triage, ahead of blood and bones – AIR! Breathing! Jesus is revealed in the Gospels as the essential bread of heaven as well as the spiritual air that we need for our truest selves to come alive…

Looking Ahead

Over the next 4 weeks we are going to go there… While continuing to take seriously all of the very significant challenges that remain very real to us, please join me as we reach deeply for what is the absolutely most essential undergirding bedrock of our faithful living… may we go there, and may we be very blessed as we do so. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

As we go now, may it be with some better understanding of our hunger, as well as the hunger of all those whom we may encounter. Like the crowd, go, knowing that our hunger is noticed. Go! Knowing that the bread of heaven has been broken and is given for our rising/our coming alive/ and our sharing. And as we notice the hunger in others, go, knowing that like the disciples, we are given by Christ to be the ones to feed them, whatever that may mean. The bread of Jesus Christ is not ever just for ourselves, but is given us that we may bless others. May we come to understand that more and so to be that blessing more…

Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2021.
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[i] See, for example, how the prophet Ezekiel was told in in ch 3 to eat the scroll of the Word of God. Or how the psalmist in Psalm 34 who calls out to us to: …taste and see that the Lord is good. This Jesus of Jn.6:35 who presents himself  as the bread of heaven that will never run out. Or at the Last Supper in Luke 22 where Jesus taught our remembering of him to be as we eat bread – that: This is my body broken for you to eat…