Bread is a gift for sharing

At Nazareth Village museum a cook demonstrates traditional bread-making. A piece of dough she flattened is baking on the metal dome over fire behind her.

Bread was so important in the ancient world that the word often simply meant “food.” Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt from Canaan because there was “no bread in all the land” and famine resulted (Genesis 47). Their descendants escaped Egypt to the desert, taking bread with them. When that was gone they were in danger, and God sent manna.

Isaiah said bread-sharing is what God desires from faithful people. “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?” (Isaiah 58). Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” If you had no bread, you starved.

Literary clues and archaeological evidence give a glimpse of how people made bread. Israelites could bring bread offerings “baked in the oven” or “prepared on a pan or on a griddle” (Leviticus 7:9). The latter involved a convex dome of earthenware or metal, with fire underneath. Cooks placed flattened pieces of dough on the hot dome to bake.

Ingredients often were just flour, water, yeast, salt. Bread sometimes included legumes and various grains, as in this recipe from Ezekiel: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself” (Ezekiel 4:9). Bread usually was sourdough, containing wild yeast that formed when dough was exposed to random yeast in the air.

Why did Jesus refuse to turn stones to bread in the wilderness (Matthew 4), when he later multiplied loaves to feed thousands? Perhaps because the devil included bread-making in a series of manipulative taunts: If you are the Son of God, make bread! If you are the Son of God, throw yourself from the temple! These kingdoms are yours if you worship me!

God does not deal with Jesus or with us on a do-this-and-I’ll-give-you-that basis. Like life itself, bread is a gift from God. Perhaps the devil was trying to get Jesus to use bread-making to manipulate crowds. Our Lord later thought crowds in Galilee would try to make him king by force because he fed them (John 6).

God wants to be more than our bread-making machine. The Creator wants relationship, and the Lord’s Prayer reflects such intimacy. We hallow God’s name and pray for God’s reign to come on earth. We seek forgiveness and promise to forgive. We ask to be spared of temptation. In the middle of these relationship-building prayers, we ask for our daily bread.

Jesus offers himself as the bread of life, indicating that relationship with him and with God is as essential as physical bread to a hungry person. Jesus is the “bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Does that make you want to be in relationship with someone who so satisfies our deepest hunger?

© 2019  J. Nelson Kraybill ****************************************************************

Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a Journey of Hope tour to Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019:

https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ ).

In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus Fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth.

We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation, including justice issues of Israel and Palestine, as we travel and worship together.

A second Journey of Hope tour on June 10-20, 2020 can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/

In trouble for speaking the truth

Nazareth Village synagogue JNKcr

At Nazareth Village museum, pilgrims approach a replica of the first-century synagogue. Across the city at top center is a long dark hill from which, by tradition, locals wanted to hurl Jesus.

Don’t expect to be popular if you advocate Sermon on the Mount values at a time when even prominent Christian leaders schmooze politicians who trumpet greed, nationalism, racism, and adultery.

Alone in the Judean desert after his baptism, Jesus endured a test that showed he was not trying to improve his ratings (Luke 4). Jesus refused crowd-pleasing strategies such as turning stone to bread, would not worship the devil even if that would give him rule over kingdoms, and dismissed publicity stunts such as leaping off tall buildings. Instead, Jesus resolved to honor God alone. He headed to Galilee to teach, heal, forgive, cross boundaries, and proclaim justice of the kingdom of God.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor . . . release to the captives . . . sight to the blind . . . and freedom for the oppressed.” With those words Jesus read to his home-town folk at Nazareth synagogue when someone handed him a scroll of the book of Isaiah. Then he took the congregation through spiritual whiplash with a short sermon.

Friends and family at first swelled with pride when the young rabbi, already well-received in other Galilee synagogues, graced the home pulpit. Local-boy-made-good announced that Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled in their presence. “How well the man speaks!” they said. People of Nazareth knew that Jesus had performed healing in other villages, and now expected a good demonstration at home.

But Jesus was no showman, and his sermon flipped to confront racism and elitism. Remember Hebrew prophets Elijah and Elisha? he demanded. Elijah would not help widows within Israel, where people had a sense of entitlement, but helped a widow across the border at pagan Sidon! Elisha would not heal lepers in Israel, but instead restored a foreign military officer!

In one bold move, Jesus showed that his Spirit-breathed movement would involve caring for those in poverty, freeing prisoners, fighting oppression, and showing compassion even for foreigners. He would give sight to the blind, and now people of Nazareth abruptly had eyes opened to see their own prejudice and elitism. They drove Jesus out of town with intent to kill.

Today at Nazareth Village museum there is a replica of that first-century synagogue, a few blocks from the probable ancient location. Pilgrims emerging from the replica can look across the city to a steep hill from which, by tradition, Jesus nearly got hurled. What price would we be willing to pay to speak and act like Jesus regarding poverty, inequality for captives in our prison system, rejection of immigrants, racism, and the sense of entitlement that plagues comfortable churches and societies?

© 2018  J. Nelson Kraybill *****************************************IMG_0410 (4)

Come with Ellen and me on a Peace Pilgrim walking tour in the Galilee and Jerusalem! Dates are May 14-25, 2018, and the pace will be moderate. We will walk parts of the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum, and hike at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus took his disciples on retreat in the foothills of Mt Hermon. At Jerusalem we will walk the city walls, trace the triumphal entry route on foot, and travel by vehicle to see more. Contact TourMagination immediately if you wish to join. See https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/holy-land-peace-pilgrim-walk-jesus/

For a conventional Holy Land tour in 2019 that includes biblical sites in Palestine, Israel, and Jordan, and is less physically demanding, see https://www.tourmagination.com/destination/the-middle-east/