By John Blase
I love bread. This is no writerly exaggeration. When I’m at a restaurant and the waiter asks if I’d like bread before my meal, I think to myself, “What planet are you from? Heavens yes, I want bread! Bring it hot, and bring it fast!” From cornbread to pumpernickel to brioche to tortillas—man, I love bread.
I love Jesus. This, too, is no exaggeration. Jesus is, as Updike wrote, the “tall friend of my childhood.” I’ve loved Him since I was a boy, wooed to His side by the King James Version of His love, faithfully proclaimed each Sunday by my father’s pastoral voice. And here, around fifty years of age, I love Jesus still.
One of the many things I adore about Jesus is the trick He often used when speaking. I do not use the word “trick” in a belittling sense at all. Jesus would fill the air with common words attached to a startling idea. He was, and is, a master of this. For example, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). To take this most common, and let’s face it, universally beloved thing—bread—and when the hungry people said, “Give us this bread” (v.34), to respond to them: “It’s me!”? Genius. Absolutely genius.
And while on that day such talk presented good news, full of ripe possibility, it also challenged the ears on which it fell. The text indicates that many disciples heard His words and found them tough, if not impossible, to swallow. Jesus was proclaiming bread with bones in it—His own. The people could understand the manna that Moses provided and how it sustained their ancestors in that wilderness time. But to make the jump from that to this son of Joseph, this son of Mary? Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.
Not much has changed. The Son of Man still stands before us, pointing to all the things we love, not to diminish those good gifts in any way, but to point to the better gift—Himself—and say, “All those things will leave you still hungry, still restless, still aching. But take Me and you will live forever, and never hunger or thirst again. I am the Bread of Life.” And while this message still strikes the mind as utterly unprovable, it endures a pleasure to the ear. An absolutely hopeful pleasure.