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Breaking the bread of eternal life

Photo by Ian Britton
WHEN JESUS was being tempted by the devil to turn stones to bread the Scriptures record Jesus’ response: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In John’s gospel Jesus calls himself the bread of life, whilst at the last supper Jesus offers bread to the disciples as a sign of his ongoing presence with them.

After Jesus’ resurrection the disciples on the Emmaus Road had their eyes opened to Jesus’ presence in the breaking of the bread.

Whilst for many of us when we pray “give us this daily bread” we may not be thinking of anything beyond the meeting of physical needs, it is clear from very early in the history of the church these words have been understood as having another spiritual meaning.

In the Egyptian Coptic version of the Lord’s Prayer, this line is loosely translated “give us this day the bread of eternal life” which is understood as a reference to the communion bread and the concept that Jesus is the bread of life.

Jesus, who claims to be the bread of life, said, “I am the way the truth and the life … no one comes to the Father but through me”.

Our faith revolves around the crucified and risen Jesus who in freely off ered grace and mercy brings us home into our relationship with God and so into sharing in God’s very life.

In this instance the prayer moves us into thinking about our relationship with God through Jesus and our desire to enter more deeply into that relationship – give us this day our daily bread thus comes to mean give us this day Jesus’ presence in our lives, give us this day the bread of communion to help us know and experience that presence.

It is notable that John Wesley (who might be considered the father of the Methodist Church) encouraged people to have communion as often as they could – even daily.

To ask for Jesus’ presence daily, whether spiritually or in the bread of communion, once again knits us into God’s life and the previous line of the prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done”; a prayer which again suggests the powers and structures of this world are out of kilter with God’s will. 

“Give us this day our daily bread” are words of grace, defiance, justice, and peace.

Words which have the power to transform our self-centred political and economic systems as well as remind us that it is God who gives life in all its fullness through off ering the true bread of heaven to us – Jesus.

Photo : Photo by Ian Britton