It would not be a gross exaggeration to say that the Bible is a culinary manual, concerned from start to finish with how to eat, what to eat, when to eat. Food is the first way the Bible shows that God intends to provide for humanity…
Thus begins Lauren Winner’s excerpt in Image Journal titled Bread. She observes that the biblical writers discuss God’s relationship with His people in nourishment metaphors. Even the dietary codes reveal God’s interest in the details of their lives. “Food accompanies hospitality,” she writes pointing to Abraham in Genesis 18 as a first mention.
“Food carries memory and food becomes sacramental vessel”
Jesus instructs his friends and followers to eat a ritual meal in his memory. And finally there is God’s own self as food: “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink,” Jesus tells his baffled audience in the Gospel of John.
That description—flesh, blood, real food and drink—is startling and graphic. (In fact, in the first centuries following Jesus’s death, pagans who overheard Christian worship and teaching accused Christians of cannibalism.) There is a decided strangeness about the metaphor—but at the same time, the pair of foods that God most preeminently is seems almost unremarkable. Wine and bread. The fruit of the vine; the staff of life.
In calling Himself “the bread of life”—and not, say, crème caramel or caviar—Jesus is identifying with basic food, with sustenance, with the food that, for centuries afterward, would figure in the protest efforts of poor and marginalized people. No one holds caviar riots; people riot for bread. So, to speak of God as bread is to speak of God’s most elemental provision for us.
This may mean more to those who live in hunger than for those like Lauren who confesses that she has “never been hungry for more than thirty-five minutes” (sound familiar?). We take nourishment for granted, and often forget to credit God for His attention to it.
So for me (and maybe for you), the image of bread as provision can be a bit of a corrective, showing me how insensible to my dependence on God I really am. But instructing me in my hunger is not all this image can do. Bread is basic food, but bread nonetheless contains meanings beyond sustenance.
For the full article see Lauren Winners essay “Bread.”