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Friday, December 3, 2010

The Meaning of Bread

I was making bread this morning, and it brought to mind the meaning of bread in the Bible.  Sometimes in the Bible, bread just refers to our daily living needs.  In Genesis 3:19 (KJV) Adam is told that he will eat bread by the sweat of his brow all the days of his life.  Bread means food, but it is taken to mean all the things we need to survive. 

When God called Moses to take the Children of Israel out of Egypt, he gave them instructions for a symbolic meal that represented their salvation.  They were to take a one year old male lamb and keep it and feed it for four days.  For four days the children could brush it and feed it.  For four days it was a pet and they loved it.  Then they were to kill it and roast it and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs and wine.  This meal was meaningful and it was intended to sustain them for the journey.  They were to reflect on it and remember this night. 

Leavening in the Bible is considered a contaminant.  The bread being unleavened symbolized that they did not have time to wait for it to rise, but it also symbolized that this was from God untainted by human efforts.  God delivered them from Egypt.

In the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness, their bread came from the manna which fell each night.  It was small, white pellets about the size of a coriander seed.  They gathered it and ground it like grain and made bread from it.  It sustained them for the forty years they meandered around in the desert. The day after they went into the Promised Land, the manna ceased to fall.  Manna was the provision God made for them to sustain them during that barren time.

Throughout his ministry, we see examples of Jesus eating bread.  On the night before his crucifixion he shared a Seder meal with the disciples.  When they finished eating, he took the bread and broke it and gave it to them.  He said it symbolized his body and they were to eat of it; they were to eat of him, actually, to be nourished on him, to be sustained by him.  Then he gave them wine and assured them this was his blood for the remission of their sins.  

Remember the lamb that was fed and petted for four days?  Jesus was the lamb.  Now his blood would be offered on the altar, poured out and sacrificed for their sin and for our sin.  And now the bread would nourish them and us for the journey and the life he called all of us to.  We should feed on him everyday.  But now we have to see a symbolism again.  We feed on him by reading his words and obeying his command to love others as he loved us.  This is how we are strengthened and sustained.

When we take communion, we remember the symbolism of bread.  His body is our bread.  His words nourish us.  His acts are sustenance to us.