Sir, please give us this bread always – a devotional message from Bishop Lester Priebbenow
[Jesus said] 33 “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6:33-34)
There are times in the Scriptures where a person makes a statement which has a far deeper meaning than they realize.
One such occasion is when crowds follow Jesus after he miraculously fed 5000 people. They ask for a miracle to prove he is sent by God. They recall the time when God gave his people manna from heaven. Jesus answers, “the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” To that the people reply, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Do you think they really knew what they were asking? The conversation that follows suggests they didn’t, but it is a powerful prayer nevertheless, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
It is a powerful prayer for us too. In the rough and tumble of our daily lives, it is easy to lose sight of the promise of Jesus that, “the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
In times of prosperity, we can easily live as though our greatest needs are the things that this world has to offer. In Jesus’ words, we can find ourselves working for ‘food that spoils’ rather than ‘for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give’ us (John 6:27).
In times of loss or anxiety, when our earthly food does ‘spoil,’ we can easily conclude there is nothing left to live for.
We can live that way in the church as well, as if our security and safety rest in buildings, budgets, programs, numbers, what the world thinks of us, and so on.
It boils down to one question, “What is it that we really need most?”
That question has but one answer, “the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
The ‘bread’ upon which our security rests, both now and forever, is a person – he who comes down from heaven. Our greatest need is a fully restored relationship with God. Jesus has come down from heaven to give it to us.
The ‘sign’ of that restored relationship is the cross, upon which our Saviour gave his life in payment for our sins.
Have you noticed how, in the Lord’s Prayer, immediately after we have prayed for ‘our daily bread,’ Jesus teaches us to remember and pray for our greatest need – the forgiveness of sins?
In that prayer we find assurance that Christ has perfectly paid for our sinful inclination to put our trust in ‘food that spoils.’ As we pray, “forgive us our sins,” we pray that we may rest and live with our greatest need fulfilled.
In that prayer we also find the freedom that grace gives to genuinely pray the words that the crowds spoke to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” The freedom not to seek security in ‘food that spoils’ but to look to heaven for ‘the food that endures to eternal life.’
So, let us make the words of Jesus our confession, “the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
And let us make the prayer of the crowds our prayer, “Sir, give us this bread always” – knowing full well what it means.
Pastor Lester Priebbenow
District Bishop, Victoria and Tasmania