Some years ago when we visited Brazil I was overwhelmed with our first breakfast. Neither eggs and bacon, nor cereal and toast was set out. Instead our hosts put fresh fruit, hot coffee, Brazilian cheese and best of all,delicious smelling fresh bread on the table! I was reminded of my mother’s bread baking, with its aroma wafting out our back kitchen door. It didn’t take long for me and all my buddies to show up in the kitchen angelically begging for a small piece. In my imagination I remembered warm bread with butter melting down into its cracks and crevices!
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. John 6:35
When Jesus was here on earth it was in some way as if God had left open the window and anyone near enough could sense the fragrance of heaven. Fresh bread means not only that its aroma draws people to come but that it is not ‘day old’ bread. When Jesus said “I am the bread of heaven”, He also meant, He had come to meet our needs today. He knows exactly what we are facing right at this moment and if we will receive His words then they will speak to our struggles. Those words caused Mary to sit at his feet and for soldiers to return to their officers empty-handed saying “No man ever spoke like this man!” His hands cleansed a leper whom no one would touch and His voice calmed waves lapping into the boat. His prayer raised a dead child and His death caused a hardened centurion to believe. Whatever need, whatever injury, whatever struggle we are facing right at this moment, Jesus whispers in the depth of our souls, “I am the Bread of Life!”
Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread.
1 Corinthians 11:23
As Jesus approached the table that His disciples had prepared they little imagined what they would share together that night. What we sometimes call the last supper could also be called the first. It was the first time Jesus would share the bread as a reminder of His body given for us. It was the first cup of the New Covenant purchased with His own blood. That night they had set the table but Jesus had prepared in His plans that first link in the chain of grace which we still celebrate today. Why is it that God chooses on the night of betrayal and in the presence of enemies to prepare our greatest blessings and to give His greatest gifts?
And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” I Kings 19:7
Elijah was on a journey and like we who are facing the beginning of a new year, he only knew where the journey began. As I look back over 2014 I am in some ways thankful that we didn’t know in advance what we would pass through. Two of our closest friends were kissed good-bye for the final time, our grandson’s kidney failure continues its path unabated, and dear friends moved away to Brazil. But along with the struggles have also come great blessings such as our son finally finding a wonderful job after a year-long search. These are just a few of the many threads which God chose to weave into the pattern we can see now only as we look back .
Today we stand at the starting line of a new race. There will be many miles, mountains and valleys to pass through and one part of me is like Elijah. I just want to do the minimum and lie down to sleep again. I feel exhausted just thinking about what may lie ahead on this road to points unknown. But God has promised above all things to be with us. He will neither leave us nor fail us. He has baked bread with His own hands on the coals and brought us a cup of cold water directly from His crystal river. He is shaking us awake. We dare not sleep as the disciples did when Jesus prayed at Gethsemane. Our greatest challenges lie ahead and we will need to be wide awake and eat and drink all that our God has sent. In our own strength the journey will be too great. But God has sent His angel. God has given us living bread and the water of life, and these will give us His strength to journey all the way to the mountain of God!