I’m about to head up again to Mt. Mitchell with a group of the Columbia District clergy. I’m going to head up first and get us some good spots for camping. We’ll be sharing together from Dietrich Bonheoffer’s book Life Together. We will be companions and colleagues as we sit around the fire, talk, and break bread together. The word companion literally means “bread with” or “breadmate.” The main Companion with us on the mountain will be Jesus.
Who is Jesus? The answer to this question has ranged from great teacher to God. We have all experienced Christ in a variety of ways. He has certainly been my friend, teacher, healer, savior, and Lord. But, Jesus is more than all of these. He is both God and human. He can identify with what we go through because He is one of us, and He can save us because He is God. With Jesus, we can have it both ways! In Christ, we can sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” He is both King and Servant.
Some people come to Jesus as the Candy of Life. I saw this especially back in the late ‘60’s and early 70’s with the “Jesus Movement.” Jesus was just another piece of candy to addictive people like me. Remember the Doobie Brothers song “Jesus is Just Alright with Me”? Jesus was just another route to a counter-culture lifestyle. It was a candy-loving group-think attitude that saw Jesus as a way to get a “natural high.” This Candy-of-Life mentality about Jesus was short-lived for many. As long as it was hip to be a “Jesus Freak,” then it was cool. When cross-carrying was introduced, a lot of the Jesus Movement evaporated.
Other people think of Jesus as the Medicine of Life. I have heard this called “Fox Hole Religion” because a lot of people come to Jesus when they’re in trouble, whether it is in a literal fox hole on a battlefield or in a hospital room. Jesus is the Medicine of Life, but unfortunately there are many who quit taking the medicine when they get well, get home, or otherwise escape from whatever their predicament is. In other words, seeing Jesus only as the Medicine of Life can dissipate when things smooth out.
So, Jesus didn’t call Himself either the Candy of Life or the Medicine of Life. He called Himself, “The Bread of Life.” Bread is more than something we need once in awhile when we want something sweet to tide us over. We can’t live off candy. A candy bar on the road can get me by until I get home, but then I need a real meal. Jesus is the Bread of Life – the real meal, the real deal. He is also more than the Medicine of Life. Sure, He wants to heal us, but we will woefully miss the richness of the life that Christ offers us if we only want Him to be our Medicine. Jesus wants us well, and to stay connected to Him. He isn’t a Z-pack or a 30 day dose that we take until we get well. He is the Bread of Life that will sustain us forever.
The late Bill Hinson, in his book The Power of Holy Habits, says this about Jesus as the Bread of Life: “I heard an Armenian describe the bread of life. He said that Westerners do not understand what Jesus was saying when he said, ‘I am the Bread of Life.’ In the Middle East, bread is not just something extra thrown in at a meal. It is the heart of every meal. They have those thin pieces of pita bread at every meal. Those strict people would not think about taking forks and putting them in their mouths. To put an object in your mouth defiles it. You certainly would not take a fork out and put it in again and go on defiling yourself like that. Instead, you break off a piece of the bread, pick up your food with it and eat it. Indeed, the only way you can get to the main dish, he said, is with the bread. Jesus was saying that the only way you can come to life is through him. That is why he was saying – I am the Bread of Life; I am the only way to come to life.”
So who is Jesus to us? Is He the heart of the meal, the all-sustaining basis for our very existence? Sure He can thrill us as the Candy of Life, and He can heal us as the Medicine of Life. But, what He does best and in the most enduring fashion is feed us “’til we want no more.”