By Bob Bunn
In Urbana, Ohio, on the campus of The American Pan Factory, you’ll find the Bundy Baking Museum, which also includes the official Baking Hall of Fame. But before you ever reach the museum, you’ll probably want to spend a minute or two at the loaf of bread outside.
Now as you might expect, this is no ordinary loaf of bread. In fact, it’s the world’s largest replica of a loaf of bread. While internet pictures are abundant, statistics on its length, height, and weight are harder to find. Suffice it to say, it’s a big loaf of bread.
But as impressive as this loaf might be, the steel-reinforced fiberglass construction won’t do much to calm a growling stomach. For that, you’d need something like what Brazilian baker Joaquim Gonçalves created in 2008. His real loaf of bread weighed nearly 3,500 pounds and has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest loaf of bread ever baked.
The distinction between these two loaves of bread is pretty clear. The Urbana loaf is basically for decoration. It’s a welcome sign and a photo opportunity for tourists. The Brazilian loaf offered sustenance. It was made from actual ingredients, and it could provide nourishment.
This tension between real and imitation provided the context for Jesus’s debate with the Jews in John 6. Many of them experienced Jesus’s miraculous feeding of a large crowd, and the next day, they came looking for more.
Jesus understood their desire for another helping of physical bread, but He also knew they had a much deeper hunger that only He could satisfy. Even if He gave them more bread to eat, they would still have an aching in their souls that required something genuine, something real.
So instead of giving what they wanted, Jesus shared what they needed. He offered Himself. He urged them to get past what went into their mouths so they could deal with what was in their hearts.
Using the illustration of their ancestors in the wilderness, Jesus reminded them that Moses wasn’t the one who provided for Israel’s needs. God’s the One who sent the manna from heaven (Exodus 16:1–12). He was the true source of what His people needed to be truly satisfied.
In the same way, God again sent provision from heaven: Jesus, the bread of life (John 6:32–40). The people could go on trying to find satisfaction in the temporal pleasures of earthly stuff. Or they could embrace the One sent by the Father and experience a greater joy and purpose than they could have imagined. They could reject the imitations and accept the real thing.
Advent is a great time to reflect on how we address this same choice in our lives. In a world filled with loud voices and cheap substitutes, it’s easy to get distracted from what’s true. Jesus calls us to find genuine satisfaction in Him. He’s the bread of life. He’s the only One who provides meaning for our lives today and hope for lives throughout eternity.