How long is the present? How long is forever?
Can the magnitude of the things in the present be diminished when compared to the things of forever?
In the book of Exodus, Moses led a population of people being repressed, out of the land of Egypt.
As refugees, Moses and his Israelite community travelled through the desert for 40 years. Many challenges were faced during this time and one of them was hunger. They felt like they could not go on. Some looked to the past, when they had food and many could not think about the future.
But God was with them in the present.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day,” – Exodus 16:4 (NASB)
And just like that, a substance called Manna rained from the sky and was gathered up each day by the people to eat. It was white, resembled coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.
The people were hungry in their present time and God provided them with substance.
Now let’s leave that present time and jump ahead, a thousand years or so. (Their future. Our past.)
Jesus and his disciples were near the sea of Galilee. A large mass of curious and believing people had begun to follow him. The crowd became very large in size. Well over 5,000 people that had come to see and hear the man rumored to have healed many and performed miraculous deeds.
Jesus moved up a mountain side to be visible to all that came to see and listen. Looking at the enormity of the crowd, Jesus tested his disciple Philip and asked where they could purchase enough bread to feed all of the people. Philip, looking at the here and now, knew they did not have enough money to purchase anywhere near enough food to feed over 5,000 people. Another disciple named Andrew noted that, out of the entire crowd, there was currently only one young boy with food. Five small loaves of bread and two fishes.
Jesus had the people sit down on the grass and took the bread and fish and offered a prayer of thanksgiving. He then handed out the food to those that were seated. After all, 5,000 plus had their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers remained.
The people were hungry in their present time and Jesus fed them.
The next day a crowd again surrounded Jesus and his disciples. Many of them had been fed by Jesus with the loaves and fish the day before. It was at this present time, that Jesus said something that was far more important than either the manna or the loaves and fish. Something beyond the past, present and future.
Jesus said to them;
“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” -John 6:26-27 (NIV)
What did Jesus mean by not working for food that spoils? What did he mean when he referred to food that endures to eternal life, that he the son of man, will give us?
When we think of food, we may often think of nourishment. I’m sure a lot of us think about our favorite dishes. We think about taste and comfort. We may think about a meal we had. We may think about a meal we going to have. But here, Jesus tells us there is much more than what we have eaten or are going to eat. Here, Jesus wants us to think about our eternity.
It isn’t every day that we discuss the topic of eternity. We do not often talk about life beyond this one.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. -John 6:35
In just this passage, it seems that Christ is sending us a message more important than our next meal.
But can we grasp the idea of eternity?
So many of us get caught up in the here and now. The idea of forever is often distracted by what we see before us in the present time. We pray for things in our immediacy and fail to imagine what lives beyond the present.
For many of the Israelites, their thoughts were only on their next meal. For the people in Galilee, the focus was on the loaves and fishes. For many, thinking about life beyond this one has its challenges.
In saying “I am the bread of life,” Christ informs us that the miracles we just read about are infantile in comparison to the true meaning of a savior. Feeding someone who is physically hungry is one thing. Feeding someone who is spiritually hungry is another.
The food that was given to the Israelites in the desert was temporary. As was the food that fed the 5,000 in Galilee. Both of these events were merely a shadow of what Christ is doing for us. Just a miniscule example of things happening to us when we allow Jesus Christ into our lives.
In both of these stories, God is sending us a message. Like food for the stomach, Jesus is for the soul. We need food for our bodies to survive. We need Christ for our soul to survive. The manna and the loaves were the bread for the day. But Christ is the bread for life. Through Christ, our souls will always be nourished and will never die.
For many, faith in Christ is conditional and measured by our experiences in the present.
We think Jesus loves us only when we see immediate things in our lives that confirm it. When we have happy days. When we love our job. When we are financially stable. When we are in good health. When we are treated well by others. When are bellies are full. When we see the manna or the loaves and fishes.
We often question Christ’s love when we are sad or hurting. When we are depressed and cannot seem to shake it. When we hate our job or lose our job. When we can’t pay the bills. When we are sick. When others treat us poorly. When we are hungry. When we don’t taste honey wafers or see loaves and fish.
There will be times in this life that we will hunger and even experience challenges. But can we believe that Christ is with us even beyond what we immediately see? Can we think about our eternity?
On the night before Jesus would be crucified and give his life for all, he shared a meal with his disciples. He knew this meal would be his last before being sacrificed for the sins of all. In just thinking about the present, Jesus knew there was going to be great suffering and even a feeling of abandonment.
But Jesus thought beyond the short term of here and now. He was able to think beyond the present. He knew that by allowing himself to be killed, he would defeat death itself. He knew that, by dying, he would open up the kingdom of the afterlife. He knew the death of his body, would mean life for the souls of all.
On that night, he knew of his love for us all. And he knew his love was far greater than that of feeding some people that were hungry for a day. He knew the true bread we all hunger for. The bread of eternity.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” – Luke 22:19-20 (NIV)
Today, we can observe the act of communion as a way of remembering Jesus in the past.
We can remember the sacrifice that was made for us all. We can remember when Jesus called himself the bread of life. We can remember that Jesus is far more than a simple meal at a table.
We can also observe the act of communion by thinking about the present.
We can think about the bread and wine or juice we are given. We can think about what we see and taste. We can think about the people in our lives. We can think about our current blessings and challenges. We think about Christ in our lives, here and now.
We can also take communion, and think beyond the past or present and explore our thoughts of the future, even far beyond.
When we practice communion, we can know that Jesus Christ has opened the door to eternity so that none of us will ever truly die. That with Christ our souls are fed. We can know that whatever happens to us now, cannot be compared to our life eternal.
We can find soulful, eternal strength, even when we experience weakness in the here and now.
When we take the bread and wine at communion, we can know that Jesus is with us and that Jesus will always be with us. That Jesus cares for us and will always care for us. We can know that Jesus is the Christ; the savior of all, now and forever.
In communion, we can think about the past, the present, and the future.
We can think about the bread we eat, and we can think about the bread of eternity.
We can know that Jesus Christ loves us for ever and ever and ever.
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” -John 6:50 (NIV)