I am slowly making my way to one of the most famous and compelling promises from Jesus. In John 10.10 he said, “I have come to bring life, and to bring life in all its fullness.” That promise strikes at the heart of our deepest longings, and touches every dimension of the human experience.
It is noteworthy for me to remember that when Jesus made this promise, he was not introducing the concept for the first time. The vision of being fully alive already had been cast from the opening pages of Scripture, as explored earlier. The Apostle John then seized the word life as the single best way to comprehensively describe Jesus, as explored here.
John 10.10 is a particularly important verse when trying to embrace the concept of fullness of life, and I’ll get to that soon. But as wonderful as that verse is, its helpful to remember that its far from the only time Jesus linked his own identity with the idea of being fully alive. In fact, he used this imagery to describe himself quite often.
Over the next four posts I will share four different ways that Jesus links his identity to life itself. In each passage he uses a different form of imagery, with each illuminating the meaning of life in a unique way.
The first set of verses comes from John chapter 6. Here Jesus describes himself by drawing a connection between life and bread:
“Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” (John 6.35)
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which people may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6.48-51)
This connection is, in my humble opinion, the most mysterious of them all. People much smarter than me have been reflecting for centuries on the full meaning of the death of Jesus on the Cross and the subsequent Resurrection from the dead. The description Jesus gives here seems to clearly foreshadow this set of events, and it connects them to his commands to regularly observe Communion in remembrance of what he did.
I have been taking communion all my life, and you would think that the repetition would seem to make it more ordinary as I go. But I find it is just the opposite that is happening. The older I get, the more mysterious and beautiful the Eucharist has become. Somehow, someway, I am connecting to life itself when i take of the Lord’s supper. Here Jesus calls himself the “living bread that came down from heaven.” When we eat of the bread, we are remembering that faith in Jesus connects us to life itself.
One of the people that writes beautifully on the importance of the Eucharist is Richard Rohr. I look forward to the (free) daily devotionals that are emailed out through his organization, and I bookmark the ones that particularly stick with me. Below are a handful of quotes from him regarding Jesus’ claim to be the bread of life. These are really good – so helpful in helping us draw concrete lines between the imagery of life and the ways that it really affects our identity and daily life:
“It is so interesting that [Jesus] chooses taste, flavor, and nutrition as the symbol of how life is transferred, and not intellectual cognition. If you live by the momentary identity that others give you, that’s what dies when you die, and you’re left with nothing. Your relative identity passes away, but it is like the painful erasing of an unwanted tattoo. When Jesus says he’s giving himself to you as the “bread of life,” he’s saying, as it were, “Find yourself in me, and this will not pass or change or die. Eat this food as your primary nutrition, and you are indestructible.” This is your absolute and indestructible identity.”
“Eucharist is presence encountering presence—mutuality, vulnerability. There is nothing to prove, to protect, or to sell. It feels so empty, simple, and harmless, that all you can do is be present. In most of Christian history we instead tried to “understand” and explain presence. As if we could.”
“The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside of us for another presence. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for “another.” Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger.”