The only pan left in the oven held two loaves of French bread. Nine people sat around the Christmas tree poking at presents, ready to eat. On the timer: twenty minutes.
Ashley hadn’t started the bread early enough. The glazed ham glistened and the goblets on the table caught the light of the tree. Stomachs were growling, eyes were drooping, blood sugar was dipping to dangerous lows.
And mom made us wait for bread.
I don’t know what it is, but homemade bread will bring crowds, and homemade bread is more special than most things that emerge from our Whirlpool oven. Frankly, I’m not sure why this is. All I know is that I was famished from playing Santa Claus all morning (Hey, you probably burn thousands of calories bending and stooping to get all those presents distributed!).
French bread hot out of the oven is something miraculous. Crunchy and brown on the outside, soft and white on the inside. Covered in butter, it’s way too easy to forget one’s plans to withstand the temptations of those seductive little carbohydrates.
Web 2.0 didn’t know I was outlining a blog post about bread in my head when I googled “French bread.” But either way, the affable Internet presented me with links to everything from Wikipedia’s entry on “bread” to YouTube videos with cheery bakers shaping baguettes to stories about the history of the loaf. These links told me some interesting facts about French bread:
- It’s the most frequently-eaten food item in France
- It usually comes in a baguette shape, which came about in the 20’s, as French law restricted bakers from baking before 4 am and they needed a speedier version to whip out for customers
- French LAW (yes, law!) dictates that the bread should only be made of combinations of flour, yeast, salt, and water
- The bread only stays fresh the day it’s baked
- France isn’t even its origin – it’s Austrian. The French copied steam ovens used by the Viennese to make their bread
So there you have it. A short history on French bread. I wasn’t sure what made French bread unique from other breads. Now we both know.
And the only reason I’m blogging so extensively on bread this morning is because I read about bread in the book of John this morning, as I sipped coffee and turned the pages of my Bible.
John 6:35 – Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus says this to a crowd of starry-eyed fans the day after they saw him serve bread to 5,000 – out of thin air. (I always wonder, what kind of bread was it? Did Jesus whip up some French baguettes, or maybe some nice sourdough, or was it some nutty, healthy wheat variety? Whatever it was, it was probably delicious and warm.)
(You don’t think God served his bread warm? Come on! This is GOD we’re talking about!)
These villagers are impressed. So they go on a manhunt. Consequently, they find Jesus across the lake. As they noticed his boat is still tied up on the other side of the lake, they’re confused.
And they’re like, “Jesus! How’d you get over here without a boat, man?” It probably never crossed their minds that he walked over… on top of the water!
Jesus knows its the glitz of yesterday’s miracle, and his new celebrity status, that brought them out this morning to the lake, messy-haired, robes askew. He realizes they just want to see him conjure up a meal for them again. And he tells them, “Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”
But they respond like this: “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
In other words, what else can you give us, Jesus?
And don’t we ask the very same thing? We so desperately look to be filled – what will satisfy us? We see what we might perceive as miracles, but we’re not convinced. Do something else, God. Prove that came from you.
We ask this, as Jesus’s disciples did, because we constantly want to be filled. In any typical day, you and I seek satisfaction via our work, our personal accomplishments, our pursuit of knowledge. From our hobbies, travel, television shows. From checking items off the bucket list. From volunteer work, even. Friendship. Family.
And sometimes, these things satisfy our little hunger pains, and we think maybe Jesus doesn’t offer enough to make him worth it. We reason, if we’re going to buy into this Christianity thing, Jesus better really do something for me that’s bigger than all the other things I fill my life with.
And sometimes, we don’t expect that he will.
Jesus’s response to the crowd gives me chills.
“I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
And they say, “Sir, gives us that bread every day.”
Behind the miracle of the manna was not a supernatural Egyptian outcast named Moses. It was a mighty God who cared about the Israelites enough as they wandered through the desert to give them their literal daily bread, which kept them alive.
Behind the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 was not just a good teacher or a radical hippie who wanted to create a stir in Galilee by handing out free food. It was a powerful God who loved people enough to be born in Bethlehem as a baby, feed them real bread, and die a brutal death on a cross so he could give them eternal life.
The French bread that Ashley made yesterday was delicious, but today it’ll be stale. Yesterday I was stuffed full of Christmas dinner, but today I woke up hungry. Every day, we all wake up famished – mind, body, and soul.
What bread are you reaching for?
I hope – I pray -that it’s the bread of life Jesus offers you. Because nothing else will satisfy your hunger.
Nothing else can.
** Header photo credit: steamykitchen.com