On my kitchen counter, I have a bread-making machine that’s not been used for a long time.
My late husband, Chuck, and I got the bread-maker as a Christmas gift one year. We used a couple of mixes and Chuck even made bread from scratch in it.
It was fun to watch and wait for the bread on a Saturday night. We’d pull out the loaf and eat it with butter.
It was a treat.
I lost the directions on how to use the bread maker and haven’t used it since Chuck’s death.
But one of these days, I plan to do some internet research and see if I can make a loaf of bread in it.
I started thinking about the bread-maker after reading a devotional in “The Book of Mysteries” by Jonathan Cahn.
The book, which I got as a Christmas gift, is written from the perspective of someone taking a journey through a desert and learning about the treasures and mysteries in God’s word.
It tells the Hebrew meanings of words found in the Bible.
One of these words is “Bethlehem.”
Many people know Bethlehem is the place where Jesus was born.
Bethlehem is the combination of two Hebrew words. The Hebrew word for House is beit. And the Hebrew word for bread is Lehem.
Thus, Bethlehem means “The House of Bread.”
Why is this important?
Travel with me to the New Testament to the book of John, chapter six.
Here we find the account of when Jesus performs the miracle of feeding a crowd of 5,000 from five loaves of bread and two small fish.
After this, Christ sends his disciples in a boat across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum and goes to a mountainside to pray. It’s dark when he later performs the miracle of walking across the water to them.
We don’t often hear the rest of this story.
The next day, the bread-eating crowd notices that only one boat is gone. They know Jesus got his disciples into the boat and they left without him.
So where’s Jesus?
The folks pile into other boats and head for Capernaum in search of Christ.
Why look for Jesus?
Did they just want another free lunch?
They’ll find Jesus.
And he’ll basically say they came looking for him — not because of the signs he performed (which demonstrated God’s mighty working power) — but because he fed them and filled their stomachs.
Then Jesus warns them not to work for food that spoils, but for that which endures to eternal life.
And that’s what he can give them.
They still don’t get it.
So they ask: What work must they do to get this?
Jesus simply says for them to believe in him.
Doesn’t that sound easy?
But as if the feeding of 5,000 people wasn’t enough of a sign, these folks want more.
“What sign will you give so we may see it and believe you?” they ask. “What will you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness.”
Then they quote Scripture telling how God gave them bread from heaven to eat.
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What are they talking about?
They’re referring to a time after Moses led about 2 million of their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt into a desert. Their ancestors headed toward the land that God promised to give them.
But when these folks got out in the desert, they were really hungry and they complained to Moses.
So God covered the ground with white flakes that tasted like wafers made with honey. The Israelites named it manna, which means, “What is it?”
The Israelites ate this bread for 40 years in the desert.
Centuries later their descendants are asking Jesus for a sign so they can believe in him.
Those poor people.
They had the answer right in front of them.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus says. “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Just like bread gives us the life-sustaining nourishment that we need, Jesus can give us the spiritual, emotional and mental sustenance we need to get through each day.
And he can supply our physical needs, too.
Think of all the things we try to fill our lives with — hoping we’ll feel better than we do right now.
We try filling our houses with possessions, our time with entertainment, our lives with dreams of what we think would make us happy — if only we had them.
Dreams aren’t bad, but how many of us suffer with the “I’ll Be Happy When” Syndrome?
We know we’ll be happy when we finish our education, get married, buy a house, have children and grandchildren, get healthier, retire … if we get these opportunities at all.
And it doesn’t seem fair when other people get them and we don’t.
But things aren’t always as they seem.
Years ago, when I was a single mom, I remember looking at a couple of women in my church.
They seemed to have it all — nice kids, husbands, houses — the works.
Their lives seemed so easy.
Then I got to know them.
I learned that neither had good childhoods. Both had serious health conditions. One had a miserable marriage.
After I found out what their lives were really like, I started wishing that something good would happen for them.
Some good things did.
And so did some really sad, tough stuff.
One woman’s marriage ended in divorce. The other woman lost a precious child. Both continue to have health problems.
Who has helped them?
The same one who’s helped me all these years — Christ Jesus.
He can handle our questions, hurts and hang-ups. He is well-acquainted with pain, grief, loss and struggle. He understands and can help us get through challenges in ways we never imagined.
Jesus really is our sustenance.
He is the bread of life.
So is it any surprise that Jesus was born in Bethlehem — the House of Bread?
I love what reassuring words Jesus said after he shared his bread of life message.
Jesus says that all those whom the Father gives to him — he’ll never drive away.
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day,” Jesus says.
These are the life-giving words of a Savior who understands sustenance and bread like no other.
And unlike me, he doesn’t need to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to make it with bread machine.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.