Bread and Its Spiritual Significance
"Let's Break Bread Together"
Bread is not just a natural food to satisfy your physical body, but it is also a spiritual food for a person's spirit as well. It is a symbol in every religion because it is both a way of sustaining the body and a reminder of basic blessings.
Often, the word "bread" is used to be more than just a piece of bread. It includes the entire meal. How many times has someone said to you, "Let's break bread together?" Surely, the meal was not limited to just bread.
Bread: The Staff of Life
Bread is called the staff of life because it is the very basic food that supports life. When people can't get other foods, a small piece of bread will provide nourishment.
According to Loaves and Fishes, Joseph A. Grassi says, "To eat bread is to taste the very source of all bread and nourishment which is God Himself because it was God who created the earth, plants, and especially wheat as the staff of life."
Bread in the Old Testament
Most people know that the Israelites were fed manna in the wilderness because they were traveling and were unable to plant gardens. "Manna" is simple bread from heaven. As soon as they reached the promised land, the manna ceased because they became self-sufficient in one place and could build houses and plant their own crops.
In Deuteronomy 8:3, the scripture about bread has deep symbolism: "A person does not live by bread alone but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
The creative word that God spoke concerning bread makes all of life, bread, and nourishment possible. That's why it is so appropriate to say a blessing over the food you eat. That is to acknowledge that God is the ultimate source of the nourishment you are about to receive.
In the gospels, Jesus said grace and pronounced a blessing every time He fed the multitude a meal consisting of bread and fish. He did the same thing when He distributed the bread and wine to His disciples at the Last Supper.
Bread serves many purposes in the Bible that we should transfer to our daily life. In the Old Testament, covenants were made by the sharing of bread. Peace was also established by disagreeing parties who broke bread together.
In the book of Proverbs, God personified bread by inviting us to eat bread and drink wine at a special banquet. God says, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed" (Proverbs 9:5). Jesus used these same two elements at the Last Supper with His disciples. Churches all over the world follow the same procedure when they celebrate the Lord's Supper, also known as Holy Communion.
"Give us this day our daily bread." (Matthew 6:5)
Bread in the Gospels
Bread is a primary theme in all four gospels. Matthew centers his discussion around Jesus being the giver of bread and on the nourishing role of Jesus' teachings, such as "Give us this day our daily bread" found in what we know today as the Lord's Prayer.
Mark establishes centrality by placing bread and its meaning not only in a long middle section of his gospel but also at the end. Mark taught that Jesus was bread for the whole world. Not only was Jesus the giver of bread, but Jesus was the bread Himself.
Luke, the only Gentile writer of the entire Bible, had something to say about bread. In fact, some people refer to his writing as the "gospel of bread." That's because he wrote so much about bread and its importance throughout his gospel where Jesus is recognized in the breaking of bread with people. Jesus even ate with sinners and tax collectors where they broke bread together.
Luke carried the theme of breaking bread together over to his other book, The Acts of the Apostles." The gospel writer emphasizes the spiritual significance of bread along with its physical qualities.
John did not write a synoptic gospel. Instead, he wrote about the person of Jesus where Jesus is referred to by seven "I am" statements. Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life in the gospel of John.
John's gospel, like the other three gospels, points to a special meaning concerning bread. The disciple of Jesus treats bread as a source of nourishment for the whole world both physically and spiritually.
There are many types of bread today in the grocery stores. People also have been making their own bread for many years. In some households, especially in country homes, learning to make bread from scratch is a right of passage for young girls.
Bread comes in all shapes and sizes. There are breads for everyday eating and breads for special occasions. Since there are so many varieties of bread, no one should have a problem finding one that satisfies his needs at any time.
It is no wonder Oprah Winfrey says she loves bread in a Weight Watchers ad. She has so many to choose from.