In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” The word we all know as “daily” is one of the most difficult words of the entire New Testament. It is unique to the Lord’s Prayer and even in the rest of known Greek literature it is only used once. Depending on how one breaks down the underlying Greek word epiousios there can be any number of definitions. The translation “daily,” known by every English-speaking Christian, is certainly valid, making this a request that God supply us today the needs of the day—food, clothing, house, protection, and the rest. Another understanding, very much connected is “necessary, or needful for existence”—“give us this day our the bread we need to survive.” A third, very much plausible translation is “supernatural bread.” (D. Scaer) The prefix e0pi/ means “over” and ousion means nature or essence, so combined the word could mean something to the effect of “over the natural essence.” This word, combined with the word “bread,” would mean “a bread that seems to be bread but is much more than that.” Where do we receive bread that is more than mere bread? In the Lord’s Supper! So this petition can also be a request for the Sacrament to be given to us, with all its blessings and benefits.
What does all of this have to do with John 6, today’s Gospel reading? It shows us that God provides abundantly for all our needs of body and soul. No matter what e0piou/sioj means, God gives us to us daily bread that is necessary to preserve both this life here in time and there in eternity. He gives it to us without any merit or worthiness on our part, knowing full well that we will forget to be thankful and may well abuse what He graciously gives us. Nevertheless, He gives it because He loves us. He knows that one day we will understand perfectly how He kept us in all things and no thanks can be given to our efforts.
For example, we may work to earn a paycheck which buys food, pays for electricity and water, pays for a house, and all the rest, but all of those things really come from God. Our talents that earned the paycheck are given by God for us to use in service of our neighbor. But ever since the Fall, we have been tempted to laziness. It showed up in the Old Testament Reading—Moses told the people to gather only what they needed for the day, but some didn’t listen. They thought maybe they could take a large amount one day and sleep in the next morning and not gather the manna before it melted. Throughout the rest of Scripture we are encouraged to work for what we need. God didn’t intend us to sit at home and have someone else pay for our life or do our work for us.
But that’s exactly why the crowd followed Jesus: they saw His signs and wonders that He performed on the diseased and thought He could do something amazing for them, or at the very least, do something entertaining. After Jesus fed them, something done to strengthen faith, they wanted to make Him their bread king, someone who could feed them so they could sit at home and do nothing. That is why Jesus leaves immediately and goes on the mountain alone. He knew their true motives.
But who doesn’t want a miracle-working king? How great would it be if someone could erase our bills, or turn debt into credit? Or, when the stress in life seems unbearable they could make it all disappear with the wave of a hand? Maybe even, when trials and tribulations and temptations come, they could just take it all away or even make sure you can give in without consequence?
We all want a king who can do our bidding. We’d rather pray “my will be done.” We’re guilty of having our prayer life devolve into a conversation with God where we tell Him what is best for us and when. This isn’t the prayer of faith, but selfish demands. It’s an abuse of daily bread, seeking not just what we need to get through the day, but the demands of a perfect day and even more left over for tomorrow. And we also get bored with God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, not satisfied with the comfort they give because our idea of comfort is different than God’s. We want a pain-free life where God promises, not necessarily to remove the pain, but to help us bear it.
We all must repent. Repent, and the Lord will have mercy on you. Our God abundantly pardons! He has not promised us a life free from suffering in this world, but He has promised to be with us in all our sufferings. He who bore the cross bears all our crosses with us! He is with us to teach us that God’s will is always best. He is with us to teach us to trust in Him alone. He shows us that in His will is mercy and good, that is to say, our salvation.
Here in this life He gives us not just miracles, but signs. The signs God gives always points to something else. The manna in the wilderness was there to teach the Israelites that God is gracious and provides abundantly, even when the circumstances seem dire. And by it He taught them that life is about more than bread. In the five loaves and two fish that fed five thousand men and then filled twelve baskets with the leftovers, He shows us that His mercy knows no limits, He can only give superabundantly, lavishly, in a way that doesn’t make sense. So it never was about the bread or the fish or the full bellies.
He did the signs, not just for the people who received them in the New Testament, but for you as well. Just like Jesus never cured leprosy or blindness, disease or paralysis without forgiving and strengthening faith. It’s the same with the signs today. Bread and wine aren’t about eating and drinking to satisfy hunger or thirst, but they are about the Body and Blood of Christ, given for you, for your forgiveness, your faith, your salvation, and your eternal life.
This sign in Body and Blood point you, each time you eat and drink of them, to the cross from which they came. They reveal to you who Jesus truly is. On the cross, in suffering, in prayer for the whole world, in His promise of paradise, in His death in your place, you see how abundantly God gives. That death is truly a supernatural one, being far different from what meets the eyes, because in that death is life, life for you, life for all who believe.
And the tomb is supernatural, too. It’s not just about Jesus being raised from the dead, but about raising you from the dead. It is about making you a child of the promise of a life beyond what this world can offer, a life with a perfected body, living forever in the presence of God. It promises you an eternal joy, a restoration of Eden’s communion with God, walking with Him in the cool of the day.
So when you pray for your daily bread, remember that it’s so much more than food. The daily bread God gives you, bread you could never deserve and beyond any sensible measure, is food He loves to give. He loves to give you food and clothing, house, and all the rest, but more than that He loves to give you a Food here that prepares you for life everlasting. Through that Food of His Body and Blood, your priceless Treasure, He gives you peace within, the strength to bear whatever this life may give you, and the open doors of heaven.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).