✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠
Even in our age of keto, paleo, low-carb diets, bread is still a basic staple of life. Our Lord tells us to pray for our daily bread, which of course includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body. And yet we sometimes forget that the reason we eat bread at all is a result of our fall into sin. Bread is a sign of the curse. For God said to Adam and to all his descendants, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life . . . In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”
There was no bread in beginning, in the Garden. Before the Fall Adam and Eve simply ate the fruit of the trees and the vegetation which God had freely given, and which they were given to tend to. Without any burdensome labor on their part, God provided to them all that they needed to sustain their lives. There was no exhausting tilling of the fields or grinding the wheat or kneading and baking as with bread. Food was simply given to them in abundance as a gift from their Creator.
But that all changed when Adam and Eve rebelled against the Lord by reaching out for the one food that He had not given them to eat. They wanted to do things their own way, be in charge of their own lives, become their own gods. The devil promised them great things, but that promise turned out to be a lie. Instead of gaining something, they ended up losing their life with God and were left empty and famished.
We, too, know the temptation to reach for that which God has not given, to consume the things and the philosophies of this world and to trust in them to bring us happiness and contentment. Satan wants your spiritual diet to consist of satisfying your own desires, focusing not on the Lord and His words but on the pleasures and the honors of this temporal, passing world. To appease your spiritual hunger, the devil tries to sell you junk food. He hisses in your ear, “If you would just get better and newer stuff, maybe even a better and newer relationship, if you would just spend more time on self-care and recreation, if you would just buy in to the self-help spirituality of our culture, why then you would be fulfilled.” But the devil is a liar. He offers nothing of substance, nothing that lasts, like state fair cotton candy that melts away in the rain. The more we feed on such things, the more empty and famished we will become. None of these things can truly satisfy the gnawing hunger of the soul.
And the eating of bread is meant to serve as a reminder of that. Every time you choose between white or whole wheat, ciabatta or a pita, even a corn tortilla or a gluten-free wrap, you should remember that you’re no longer in paradise. You may not have to literally sweat for your bread, but you are paying for it in one way or another. You’re in a fallen, desert world that is vastly different from what God first made. Romans 8 says that all creation groans under sin’s curse and is in bondage to decay. Weeds and thistles infest the ground. Children are brought forth in pain. There is sickness and hardship, harsh weather and earthquakes. We can sometimes come up with temporary solutions to these problems with technology or medical advancements. But in the end, we are all given to eat the bread of death.
However, into this barren world breaks the very Son of God Himself to save you. For where is Jesus in the Gospel? He is in the wilderness with a multitude of people who have nothing to eat, those who are feeling the effects of the curse very concretely. Christ took on your human flesh and blood and put Himself smack dab into the middle of this fallen world in order to rescue you and raise you up. Man’s sin turned the world from paradise into a bleak and harsh place, and so Jesus entered into that bleakness and harshness as a true man in order that He might undo the curse on creation and restore you to paradise.
Jesus said, “I have compassion on the multitudes.” That word, “compassion,” in Greek has to do with your inward parts, your heart, your guts. In other words Jesus feels for you deeply in His inner being with the greatest possible empathy. So fully does Jesus feel for you in His gut and in His heart that He went so far as to make your problems His problems. Jesus cares not only for the spiritual but also the physical welfare of these people. He doesn’t want them to faint on the way. Jesus feels for what happens with your bodies. He knows what you’re going through. In His great mercy Jesus came into the world to suffer with you and to suffer for you in order to take your suffering away forever. He made Himself a part of your blood and sweat and tears in order to redeem your bodies and souls and renew the fallen creation in which you live.
That’s what is beginning to take place in this miracle of the feeding of the 4000. The curse on Adam had been, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” But here the second Adam, Jesus, reverses the curse and produces bread in abundance apart from any sweaty or tiring labor. In this moment He restores the bounty of the Garden of Eden, where food is received in overflowing measure from the gracious hand of God. Here you see God the Son beginning to break the curse of decay and death. You see a small glimpse of how it was in the beginning and how it will be even more so in the new creation of the age to come.
Jesus would complete His work of breaking the power of the curse on the cross. The wages of sin is death; and so Jesus took those wages you had coming and died your death for you. Sin’s deathly power was broken and undone in the body of Christ the crucified. And therefore, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the gift of life now streams to you from His pierced side, flowing to you from the baptismal font [as it did for young Chloe this day]. For if sin has been undone, so also are the wages of sin undone. Remember, this miracle occurred on the third day in the Gospel. That’s Easter language. Death and hell have been taken away from you, and you have been given a new life to live through the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to His disciples to set before the people. Still today, Jesus speaks His words of thanks and consecration, and His ministers distribute the blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The seven loaves were multiplied to feed and fully satisfy 4000 people. Still today, Jesus uses the smallest amounts of bread to multiply His grace and feed and fully satisfy the church with His very life-giving body. He said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
When all had eaten there was more left over than what they started with. Seven small loaves became seven large baskets. This is a sign that the Lord’s love and compassion cannot be exhausted; it never runs out. There is no sin of yours so great that His multiplying mercy cannot overcome it. In fact, not only does Jesus overcome it, He makes things better than before. The seven loaves stand for the seven days of creation. The seven large baskets stand for the even greater creation to come at Christ’s return. It’s not just that the Lord is going to restore you to what Adam and Eve knew in Eden. He is going to exalt you to something much greater and better than that. The place being prepared for you surpasses even the Paradise of Eden. For by sharing fully in your humanity, Christ has lifted you up to the very throne and glory of God. You’re not just going back to paradise, you’re going forward to a new creation.
And all this Jesus has done by turning the curse into a blessing. He takes the things that once were signs of death and makes them signs of life for you. The deathly curse of the cross is now for you the thing which brings the blessing of life. When you see a crucifix, you see your hope and salvation. And when you come to the altar, cursed bread is now for you the thing which brings the blessed body of Christ in the Sacrament. Our Lord turns evil for good to redeem you.
So as you eat the daily bread that God provides day by day, be it a dinner roll or a sandwich or even a doughnut after church, remember not only the fall into sin but especially Christ the Bread of Life who has undone the fall into sin and broken the curse. Every meal is, in that sense, a sacramental sign of God’s grace and goodness toward you. Though man ate of the tree that brought death, there is now the tree of life, the cross, from which he may eat and never die.
In the Gospel, there is no sweating to work your way into God’s favor, no wages or merits to be earned from the Father. There is only the gift of life in His Son. As you receive Him who is the Bread of Life, you are being given a taste of paradise. For heaven is where Christ is, and Christ is here for you. “The poor shall eat and be satisfied.” “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who trusts in Him.”
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠