fresh bread: people won’t live only by bread

In one of his shticks a well-known comedian, Jim Gaffigan, pokes fun at us over our love for bread. If you’re a Gaffigan fan you’ve likely got the dialogue nearly memorized.

“When I go out to dinner, suddenly I crave bread! ‘Bread? They’ve got bread here? We should have bread at home! We’ve got to get the recipe for bread.’ … You ever eat the whole basket of bread and you still want more? It’s kind of awkward asking the waiter for seconds on bread. ‘Yea could we have some more of that free bread? Can you cancel my entree? I’m just gonna load up on the bread. Are there other free things here? I prefer the free stuff more.'”

Bread. It’s the staff of life. Or is it? Jesus said:

“People won’t live only by bread.” (Luke 4.4)

We likely recall the occasion that prompted that statement: his temptation in the wilderness.

Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.” (Luke 4.1-4 CEB)

We understand Jesus’ point: bread can sustain the body, but only the words of God can sustain our spirit. Have you noticed though, how the rest of the entire chapter (Luke 4)  functions as something of a running commentary on that thought?

  1. Jesus consistently responds to the remainder of Satan’s temptations with nothing more, nor less, than direct quotations from God’s word (vs.8,12).
  2. Having repulsed the devil, Jesus leaves the wilderness and returns to Galilee to do what? To teach God’s word in the synagogues (vs. 15).
  3. In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus reads the words of the prophet Isaiah to those assembled and tells them those words are fulfilled (vs.16-22). [Don’t you just love this scene with the Son of God looking up the Word of God in a scroll?]
  4. After Jesus recounts another story from God’s word, the congregation becomes enraged and tries to kill him, but he eludes them (vs.23-30).
  5. Upon his escape from Nazareth, Jesus goes to Capernaum and resumes what he had been doing before, teaching the word. Power accompanies his teaching and both demons and disease fall before his words (vs.31-41)
  6. Coming full circle, the chapter concludes with Jesus again seeking out a deserted place (vs.42) and then going on from there to teach God’s word in synagogues, but this time in Judea (vs.43-44).

All of this is Luke’s way of conveying what God’s Spirit moved him to emphasize for our hearing: like Jesus, our entire life must revolve around God’s words to us. We need to constantly take them in, digest them, and let them give us strength so as to live them out. This is what keeps us going and is our reason for being.

How familiar are you with the words of God? Do you crave it and devour it, memorizing it and using it for every good thing? How familiar are the others you encounter with his word through you? Do you live it and share it? May you crave this bread and load up on it. May others look at your life and think, “There’s bread here for living.”

Father God in heaven, in Jesus’ name, give us bread for today, food for ourselves and food to share. May we not hoard it just to throw out tomorrow, but use it today to your glory, we pray. Amen.

ct: a cross-shattered church

(Reflecting on Matthew 5.1-12 and 1 Corinthians 1.18-31).

Nothing could be more reasonable, nothing could be more powerful, nothing could be nobler, than the salvation wrought in the cross. Thus John Howard Yoder’s claim: “The cross is neither foolish nor weak, but natural.”

“Natural?” What an odd claim. … What could that possibly mean? For example, we think nonviolence names an ideal, a possibility that requires we ask how to get from here, a violent world, , to there, a world of nonviolence. The form of the question suggests that nonviolence must be “unnatural,” irrational, and that is why we have to work so hard to secure peace in a violent world – peace among even the people in the church … Yoder suggests, however, that Jesus’ cross challenges questions that ask how to get from here to there. The apocalyptic transformation of the world named in the cross means that the challenge is how the present world can be tramsformed to the reality that it already is. Thus we are not asked to love our enemies in order to make them our friends; but “we are called to act out of love for them because at the cross it has been effectively proclaimed that from all eternity they were our brothers and sisters. We are not called to make the bread of the world available to the hungry; we are called to restore the true awareness that it was always theirs.”

Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross is not simply the revelation of God’s power and wisdom – the cross is the power and wisdom of God.

Stanley Hauerwas, A Cross-Shattered Church: Reclaiming the Theological Heart of Preaching, p.75