After 25 years a house gets old and begins to need major repairs. Living through that is an interesting experience. So as the pounding of the hammers and roar of saws and rivet guns and whatnot began to put This Girl into adrenalin overload, I escaped to the nearest quiet restaurant for peace to focus on a Bible study I was writing. Day 1 was so productive that this escape became the norm for a few days.
On day 5 as I sat in Panera enjoying my coffee, I took a deep breath, stretched, and thought how very thankful I was for my life. As a semi-retired, empty-nester I was getting to do what I loved most: research and write Bible lessons. I was digging into Revelation at the moment and 1:3 hit me with power and beauty, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” All I could think was Yes!
With my Bible open before me and a table full of commentaries and notebooks strewn all around, a strange thought came to my mind. Here you are sitting in a bread shop consuming the Bread of Life. This is your House of Bread, your Bethlehem.
I’ve always been intrigued by names and symbolism in scripture. And the Word Bethlehem is one of my favorites. From the first mention of the Bethlehem in Genesis to its distinguished spot as the birth place of Jesus in Matthew 2 and Luke 2, Bethlehem, the House of Bread, intrigues me. Many years ago in a Christmas message, I first heard my pastor speak of Bethlehem as the House of Bread. I’d never caught that before. But it dawned on me that day, the one who said, “I am the bread of life,” was born in the House of Bread! (John 6:35) Bethlehem, the place where the Son of God came to meet us and meet our evey need – how symbolic.
If you follow the word “bread” beginning in Matthew, you’ll find it a thread woven heavily in the gospels and on throughout the New Testament. One of the first mentions of bread in the NT is Jesus reminding His enemy, and us, that man doesn’t live by bread alone, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) In His model prayer Jesus prays for God’s kingdom to come (a grand thing) and for our daily bread to be provided (an ordinary thing). (Matthew 6:11) One of his many miracles was multiplying bread to feed thousands! (Matthew 14:7) He ate the consecrated bread in the temple (Matthew 12:4) and reminded the disciples not to even worry about taking bread with them as they went out to minister. (Mark 2:26 and 6:8) And in his final hours He took bread, fed His closest 12, and set up a symbol of His life with bread – “Take and eat, this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) Who knew bread was such an important symbol in God’s word?
“Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life…” But the thing that hit me that day sitting in Panera Bread was the rest of Jesus’ words in John 6:35, “…Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ ” The spiritual reality hit me heavily that morning. So many days and seasons and years of my life have been spent hungering. Hungering for that undefined, unfulfilled need to be met. Stuffing in anything to fill that hole in my heart that hungered and yearned for meaning and for purpose and for more out of life. And this day I encountered the “Bread of Life” in a new way. I realized a satisfaction and fulfilled hunger in my soul as I sat with Him “listening” to His written word and absorbing His love for me, His purpose, and His ways that are beyond my understanding.
I leave you today with a hope for you and a challenge. I hope you too will find Jesus to be the Bread of Life that satisfies your hunger. And I challenge you to dig into His word, and as Jesus challenged His disciples in John 6:27, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In your soul hunger, turn to The Bread of Life and find satisfaction living in your Bethlehem!