Bread of Life

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Jesus said in John 6:35: “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” He affirms this again in verse 45. Throughout my time in the Fit For Life Forever ministry I have observed time and time again a link between spiritual hunger and overeating. What follows is a meditation sparked by this beautiful ‘I AM’ saying of Jesus.

Malnutrition used to be viewed as a Third World phenomenon, but today within the UK and other Western countries health experts are observing an increase in malnutrition even among the obese! A recent government report estimates that there are at least 2 million malnourished people in the UK a problem which, in the vast majority of cases, is not due to a shortage of food, far from it. In fact, people are understood to have been better nourished under the food rationing which existed in Britain during and just after the Second World War, than they are today!

Overfed and undernourished – I wonder, could that not be a summary of the state of many Western Christians today? We live in an age when we have more access to books and messages than ever before: we can search just about any version of the Bible online for free and there is no shortage of sermons from Christian celebrities we can listen in to on God TV. Yet for all this so many believers remain unsatisfied. They are “spending money for what is not bread and wages for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2) Sadly, many Christians are seeking to exist on ‘that which is not bread.’ Some are unaware that they are malnourished and fill their bellies with poor quality produce, whilst others, recognising their inner hunger, are prepared to spend much time, energy and money, running hither and thither seeking for spiritual food they hope will meet their deepest needs.

Since Jesus referred to Himself symbolically not only as ‘the Bread of Life’ but also as the ‘true bread that comes down from Heaven’ let us take a look at the humble loaf as a way of drawing together these two parallel thoughts of both physical and spiritual malnutrition. You can eat this on whichever level you choose!

There are 12 million loaves of bread produced daily in the UK. Of these, 75% are white, 9% are brown and 12% are wholegrain. Although white bread is by far the most popular, it is also the least nutritious as it contains only the soft, energy-packed endosperm of the grain. The fibrous husk and the wheat-germ kernel, which is the life-force of the grain, have been totally removed. The modern process of milling strips the grain of 25 nutrients, leaving it so devoid of goodness that certain elements now have to be added back by law.

Commercial considerations have brought changes, too, to the way in which loaves are produced. Today 95% of bread is produced by a method known as the Chorley Wood process. It replaces traditional slow-baked methods, producing bread that uses low-grade wheat flour, fats, improvers, emulsifiers and conditioners and ascorbic acid to prolong its shelf life and is prepared much quicker. This mass production makes the bread cheaper to produce, cheaper for us to purchase and lasts longer but it does not contain good quality nutrients. These added chemical agents may be the reason why some people feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating bread.

Modern milling is specifically designed for white bread production and is driven by the consumer demand for a soft, white, cosmetically-appealing appearance which is easy to digest and constitutes 75% of the market. It has a lighter texture than whole wheat bread and rises more. Although it is produced through a much faster method than the traditional stone-ground flour, the heat generated in the process negatively affects the nutritional quality.

As in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Popular religion today is producing ‘white bread Christians.’ They feed on aesthetically-appealing messages which are light and easy to digest. Such messages comfort and entertain us; they fill our spiritual bellies and may give us a momentary high but, like white bread, they leave us hungry again in no time at all. Thus, Jesus, our Bread of Life, has become a consumer-driven commodity – someone who will shower us with health, wealth and happiness at no expense to our Adamic ego. This substitute bread offers freedom without responsibility, promises without conditions and resurrection life without a cross, but is actually unhealthy, unsatisfying and unbiblical! The fibre, which provides inner cleansing and the kernel of a personal relationship with the living Lord, are all removed and the end result is a pseudo-spiritual experience which leaves us dying of malnutrition.

What passes as ‘brown bread’ often isn’t much better. It is basically made from white flour with some of the bran re-added to give it a browner, healthier appearance. Nutritionally it is marginally better than white bread, but it still has chemical additives, emulsifiers and the like and many nutrients remain missing. Those who buy this kind of bread, believing it to be the real thing, are being deceived! They are still spending their money on a mass-produced, commercial product which, sadly, ‘is not bread’ in the purest sense.

Spiritually-speaking this speaks to me of hungry, sincere, Bible-believing Christians who are doing all the right things. They dutifully read the Bible most days, often using daily notes; they pray, tithe and attend church meetings; they seek to follow Jesus as their example, are active in church work and long to live a life of faith and fruitfulness. However, even when they have done all this to the best of their ability, there yet remains an aching void inside which seems never to be fully satisfied. From time to time they have tasted something different, enough for them to know that what they dream of really does exist, but for most of their Christian life such spiritual fulfilment has eluded them. In the end many such famished souls simply settle stoically for second best, and wistfully long for the life to come, when they know that they will see the Lord, be changed into His likeness and worship and serve Him for all eternity without any veil or distraction to sully their enjoyment.

Now let us remind ourselves that Jesus said that He was the true and living Bread and that those who ate of Him would never hunger. His promise is to feed us daily on the finest of the wheat; He invites us, one and all, to draw near to Him and to partake of His life, without money and without price. Is this really possible?

Here we need to consider a third type of bread which we haven’t really discussed yet. This is whole wheat or wholemeal bread and it is compositionally and nutritionally far different from commercially-produced white or brown bread. When Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Bread of Life it was this kind of bread He was speaking about, for as yet no other, inferior forms existed. Let’s take a look at it….

Firstly, whole grain flour is stone-ground – a slower, traditional milling method which ensures that no nutrients are lost. This flour comprises the soft endosperm centre, which might be compared to traditional doctrines, Bible stories and the promises of God, but it contains also the fibre and kernel. Spiritually, the fibre represents the hard sayings which aren’t always easy to digest, but which are so necessary for our health and inner cleansing, whilst the kernel or wheat germ comprises the nucleus of our spiritual life, which is our personal relationship with the Lord.

For traditional bread-making there can be no chemical additives or injected gases to speed up the process. No, the dough is kneaded and proved for several hours, allowing the natural ingredients to do their necessary work. The resulting loaf may not look as flashy or perfect is its commercial counterpart, but for both taste and nutrition it is streaks ahead of the rest and it satisfies for much longer as well.

To my mind there can be no substitute, naturally, for home-baked bread made with stone-ground whole wheat flour. And spiritually, there can be no substitute for a deep, personal relationship with Jesus. Can we exist on less? Certainly! Will it satisfy the deepest longing of our souls? Never! Jesus alone can do that.

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