By Julie Wardell
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger (John 6:35).
The Bread of Life
A typical day in the village of Nazareth, where Jesus lived, began at sunrise, with each family probably eating a simple meal of bread and curds (what milk first turns into when it is made into cheese). Bread was the main part of each meal. After eating, the father and mother began their daily work.
The mother and her children walked to the well near the marketplace for fresh water; she carried an earthenware jar to hold it in. On the one or two days of the week that farmers and merchants sold their goods there, she did her shopping.
Returning home, the mother started her most important task of the day—making the bread. Wheat or barley kernels were taken from a storage pot and ground between two stones. The coarse flour was put into a bowl, and water was mixed in. Small pieces of day-old dough were kneaded into the mixture for leavening, which is what makes dough rise.
After the dough had risen, a bit of it was saved for the next day’s bread, and the rest was shaped into round flat disks. They were then baked in an earthenware oven that had been heated during the night. Soon the delicious-smelling, golden brown crusted bread was ready to eat.
Bread was important to the people of both Old and New Testament times. When the ancient Israelites fled slavery in Egypt, they did not have time for dough to rise, so they made unleavened bread to take on their journey. To remind them of their escape to freedom, the Israelites ate only unleavened bread during the Festival of Passover each year. (See Ezek. 45:21.)
At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated Passover with his Apostles. He used the unleavened bread to represent his body when he instituted the ordinance of the sacrament: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and brake it, and blessed it, and gave to his disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you” (Matt. 26:26 [see footnote b]).
One of the miracles performed by Jesus was with five loaves of bread and two fishes. Many people had come to the desert to be healed and taught by him. When evening came, the disciples were worried about the lack of food for the people and suggested that he send the multitude back to their villages.
But Jesus told his disciples, “They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
“And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
“He said, Bring them hither to me.
“And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
“And they did all eat, and were filled. …
“And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.” (See Matt. 14:13–21.)
The next day the people sought Jesus out again and asked him for a greater sign to prove that he was the Messiah than feeding the 5,000. After all, they said, their ancestors had been fed daily with manna from heaven.
Jesus answered them, “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
“For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. …
“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (See John 6:22–35.)
Jesus wanted the people to know that Heavenly Father had given their forefathers the manna and that, like all ordinary food, it sustained only their bodies. But now, through Jesus himself, Heavenly Father was offering them the eternal bread of life, which would sustain them spiritually.
The next time you see bread, remember the importance it played in the Bible not only as a life-sustaining food for the body but also as a symbol of Jesus Christ and all that he did for us.