Sunday, August 02, 2009

By Bread Alone?

Jesus said, "Man does not live by bread alone".

In this one sublime statement Jesus surpasses all philosophizing, all books on meaning and reality ever written, all debates that take place in the blogosophere as we, with our tiny minds and sinful hearts, grope after reality and grasp after meaning, hurtling together through space and time -- headed towards -- well, that's the question, isn't it?

Bread represents all this material world is, and offers. The philosophy of materialism bumps its head against the wall of materialistic limits and cannot punch through it; indeed it maintains there is nothing "there" to punch through to. "By bread alone" might well be the materialist's creed.

In this one simple statement Jesus dismissed the philosophy of materialism. He brings it up, and finds it wanting. He explicitly rejects it -- and does so in such a sublime, yet accessible manner.

But this leads to two questions. If man indeed does not live by bread alone, what does he live by? And, if living as Jesus understands and defines it does not consist of bread (a metaphor for all this life offers, including possessions, wealth, etc), what does it consist of?

Jesus went on to say, "but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God". This brings us into the realm of revelation, of revealed truth, revealed wisdom. Jesus says that man, i.e., men, women and children, need this word to truly live, to be truly alive. And here is the materialist's/atheist's dilemma. We can see bread. We can analyze bread. We can put it under a microscope. We can assess its chemical elements. We can bring it under our control.

But we cannot do this with the life Jesus is talking about. We cannot microscope it, telescope it, DNA it. None of our materialistic investigative tools can bring us to the life that Jesus is talking about -- and those who try to bring the tools of science to this task are bringing the wrong toolset to the party. In effect, Jesus says that the greatest questions in life are not answered by science. And since science might be considered man's greatest invention, that is a humbling statement.

Fortunately for us, Jesus who says that we live by revelation is himself the revelator, he himself is the word of God that he said was necessary to be truly alive and living.

What then does he mean then by living and live? There are clues.

* Jesus said, "the words that I speak to you are spirit and are life". The life that Jesus is speaking of is life in a spiritual (as opposed to material) dimension, or with a spiritual, as opposed to material, quality. Moreover, he claims that his words are the sufficient cause of the spiritual effect. This means that persons can experientially enter into the life Jesus is talking about. It is not imaginary, and it is not a life that is believed in through sheer dogged persistence without the evidentiary value of personal appropriation and experience.

* Jesus said, "I am the life". This is even more startling. Not only is Jesus the word of God by which man lives, Jesus himself is the life he is talking about! This implies that those who have Jesus have life, and that those who do not have Jesus do not. Instead, they must, no matter how clever or successful or powerful, settle for the consolation prize of bread crumbs, i.e., the riches and successes of this life.

* Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, he that believes in me shall never die". Another startling claim. This cannot mean physical death, since we all die, and so, by corollary, the life he is talking about cannot be mere physical life. So, it must be a different kind of life.

* Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life". This implies that the life that Jesus talks about is not entered into by birth into the world of bread, but by a second, resurrection birth into a new quality of life (typified by the Greek word "zoe"). And central to this life is the Bread of Life. Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life".

So, the central and deepest hunger of man is not met in bread, as the materialist maintains, but in the Bread.

"Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God".

In this one sentence Jesus demolishes the philosophy of materialism, asserts the reality of the existence of God, asserts that God has in fact spoken to mankind, and establishes the gate through which man must enter to find the life and meaning and purpose and destiny he is made to seek -- believing the message about Jesus.

* * *

I worshipped this morning, along with others seeking the Bread from heaven, at St. Matthew's -- the Glass Church -- Jersey, Channel Islands, pictured above. Now I'm off to Oxford for a week of study and reflection and who knows what kind of internet access. I hope everybody has a great week doing whatever your pursuits lead you to.

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"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"