“Our daily bread[i][ii][iii]” for which Jesus taught us to pray is what we need for our support, but what exactly is “our daily bread”? We think of sustenance, as in literal bread; we think of more figurative applications like food, resources, maybe even money, shelter, etc. It certainly can mean that, but Jesus did not mean that – at least not just that.
In fact, He certainly meant more than that, and not just more than that; the real and significant meaning is precisely more than that.
We need bread for our physical bodies to live on a regular, ongoing basis, no doubt. We need support, shelter, clothes and other basic necessities. All of those things are supplied by God, ultimately. He sustains and maintains the universe and everything in it. It is all from God and sustained by God. But there is more.
After Jesus fed the 5000 with a few loaves of bread and fish (Jn. 6:1-13), He crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The next day the crowd, realizing where Jesus had gone, jumped in their boats and caught up with Him on the other side. Jesus knew they had followed Him because of the signs He performed and the food He provided. (Jn. 6:26) In that context, Jesus said to the crowd:
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal[iv] life, which the Son of Man will give to you….” (Jn. 6:27)
The people related these words to the provision of manna in the desert, by Moses they said. Jesus pointed them to the Father “who gives you the true bread out of heaven.” (Jn. 6:32) And because they were not getting what Jesus was saying, He got to the point:
Jesus, Himself, is the bread of life! (Jn. 6:35) Jesus is the Living Bread! (Jn. 6:51) “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.” (Jn. 6:57)
To His disciples, Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (Jn. 6:63) Jesus, of course, is also the Word. (Jn. 1:1-11)
We cannot mistake what Jesus is saying. For the believer, God the Father, Jesus, God the Holy Spirit are the real sustenance that we need. The words Jesus spoke the crowd echo what Jesus responded to Satan when He was tested in the wilderness:
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Mt. 4:4 (quoting Deut. 8:3))
We must continually, daily, regularly go back to God, read His word and seek Him in prayer and meditation. When the crowd asked Jesus what they must do to “work the works of God”, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Jn. 6:29)
There is nothing we can do, like the Israelites in the wilderness, to manufacture what we need. What we need is to go back continually to Jesus, the source of life, our daily bread, and be filled each day with the bread of life. It is an understatement to say that we need anything more critically in our lives but the daily bread that is God’s word and God’s Word.
[i] 740/ártos – literally, bread; (figuratively) divine provision; the full sustenance God supplies to yielded believers to live in His preferred-will (cf. 2307/thélēma). Christ Himself is the bread (ártos) of life, so all true provision (bread) comes by knowing Him, through faith (Jn 6:35; 1 Cor 10:17).
[ii] The phrase “daily bread” is emphasized in the Greek. The emphasis of the sentence is on “daily bread”, meaning that the focus and crucial elements of the sentence are in those two words.
[iii] The original text conveys an emphatic contrast, i.e. an opposite idea (what is emphatically not intended) that should (mentally) go “in the box”. [The “opposite” idea can mean: “Not just a little!” (when expressing an intensification like “God is great!” = very, very great . . . not just a little!] Contrast-emphasis re-directs to the opposite of what is literally (actually) said. In doing so, it intensifies the meaning. In this case, meaning not just some days, but every day.
[iv] The emphasis in the original sentence is on the word “eternal”.
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