Clippesby Church and Countryside Norfolk Background-page-doubled monthly-header October-ver copy copy Sacred bread

The Sacred Symbolism of Bread

13th Sunday after Trinity                             John 6:51-58


This is the third week in succession that the gospel reading has been from the events following the feeding of the 5,000 where Jesus talks about the living bread – himself, only now he complicates the issue by talking about drinking his blood.  It is a difficult passage as it speaks in language that is strange to us.


The apostle John has recorded the conversation very carefully, not written at the time, word for word, for that would just be a feat of memory.   John has been thinking for 70 years about the words of Jesus and now led by the Holy Spirit he is giving us the essential meaning the inner significance of his words. Let us see if we can unpack what John understood from Jesus' words.

John uses the word bread 12 times in the space of 52 verses he is impressing us with the word Bread.


Bread – what is it about bread that is so compelling?

The smell of freshly baked bread is pumped out in supermarkets to entice us to buy.  It is recommended that you brew coffee and offer hot bread when your house is being viewed as it makes people feel welcome and kindly towards you.   In many countries it is part of the staple diet.   If you remember back a few years to the bread shortage – there were near riots in the supermarkets and we were rationed to 2 loaves per trolley.


Ask a farmer about bread and he will tell you about planting the seed, it has to be buried.  

And the bread of life?

Jesus said:

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone.

Jesus, God’s living seed, was prepared to come  down from heaven into the earth and eventually to die, and from that ground of Calvary our harvest springs – not just to feed 5000 but to feed the world.


Ask a miller about bread and he will tell you about taking the cut grain, pounding and crushing it  free from husks and ears until it is beaten into fine sifted flour.

And the bread of life?

Jesus too was cut down in his prime at  just 30 years old, pounded by the pride and jealousy of the Scribes and Pharisees, pressed on all sided by the people.  Crushed by indifference, betrayal and by the terrible death of crucifixion – he was ground fine at Calvary to produce the living bread. At what cost?

Ask a baker about bread and he will tell you about kneading, and knocking into shape, proving and rising, the heat of the oven and the irresistible smell of fresh bread.

But you can’t make bread without turning the temperature up.

And the bread of life?

Jesus, God’s very self was tempted, tested and suffered in the fire of earths oven; but when he rose from that baking tomb he released the very fragrance of God, the finest of bread, the fragrance of life everlasting.


Thank God he didn’t sent us a book of theology to learn about eternity – The angel came to Mary and announced that she was the chosen one to bear the word of God and to bring him to the world.  Mary carried Jesus in the womb to Bethlehem, which means the ‘House of Bread’ and delivered him to humankind.   The word became flesh and lived among us.

God sent a man, his Son, the living word, who simply says, to us all -  ‘I am the bread of life’  - theology in 6 words.


Jesus the bread of life – Jesus, God's provision for us says unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you are not really living at all.


‘Really living’ this sounds so good it must be organic!

or on special offer!

Well, here is the offer to end all offers.

In spite of the devastating production cost to himself,

God’s seed, Jesus, grain, flour and living bread is free.

Not buy one and get one free.

Just free.

Free to all who have nothing but their hunger.

We may not know what natural hunger is this morning;

But we should know what it is to hunger for the words of God.

To hunger to be filled with all the fullness of Christ. Jesus said ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, or live in me and I in them.

These words seem incredible, what did Jesus mean?


If we are to let Jesus live in us it means that we have to clean up the house – we need to give him space which means we are no longer filled up with ourselves, our needs, and our opinions.  We will have to give him time, listen and learn of him.

And what did he mean by saying we must drink his blood?  In Jewish thought the blood stands for the life.  If blood flows out of us so our life will ebb away, to the Jew the blood belonged to God, that is why a practising Jew will never eat meat which is not been completely drained of blood-Halal


Now it is clear what Jesus was saying.  You must drink my blood; means you must take my life into your life.

Jesus is opening the door to the mystery of communion with him.

At the Eucharist, we come to the table to give ourselves afresh, to receive the symbol of his love and by faith feed afresh from the living bread and drink his life.  But not just once a week, or when we feel like it.  John has no account of the Last Supper, instead he talks about a picnic on a hillside, and eating by the sea of Galilee.

It is not that be is ignoring the Eucharist but he is expanding it, so that we find Jesus at his table in the church, and then go out and find him in our world.

Ask a hungry man about bread and he will say yes please.


Jesus said I am the living bread – feed on me and live forever.

Bread ingredients Bread kneading Bread & wheat Communuon bread Wheat oven Wheat 1 Wheat 2 Wheat 3 Wheat 4 Scything wheat Wheat on fertile ground Wheat germinating Bred & wine Bread & wine 3 Bread new 2 Wheat 6 Wheat & seed