This picture is from Berlin, Germany during the First World War. We see those who are waiting for bread and other essential supplies that were scarce. Many waited hours in line but only to be disappointed—to be told there was no more of what they had been hoping for. Imagine the disappointment, the discouragement, and the hopelessness you would feel. Imagine the walk home and entering to tell your wife and your children that there was no more bread. That there was no more anything. “But you were gone for hours!”
All around us are lines of broken, hungry, thirsty souls, driven by emptiness in pursuit of a bread that, at worst, perishes and doesn’t nourish and, at best, nourishes and yet perishes. They each are waiting in line for what they believe will give them eternal life, fullness of life. But they are only disappointed time and time again. The emptiness and hopelessness mounts, and yet continues to drive them as long as they think they have a shot in the next line.
“And such were some of you.” You were waiting in line, hungry and thirsty, pursuing something you believed was essential to your happiness, something in which you believed you would find eternal fullness of life. And at the end, in the end, you were disappointed and your emptiness came roaring back. So you found another line.
But then Jesus came and by his grace he chose you, he called you, he pulled you out of the line and said, “Follow me. Come home. I’ve prepared a feast for you.” He saved you and filled your heart eternally. You have received abundant life in Christ. In him you now taste and know eternal nourishment, refreshment, and enjoyment of heart. You may go on to succeed in this life, but your deepest satisfaction is Christ. You may go on to fail in this life, but your highest satisfaction is still found in Christ.
And yet Jesus didn’t save us from scarcity to give us a feast that we would enjoy and keep all to ourselves. Part of enjoying the abundant life found in Christ is sharing it with others. In fact, it’s the best part! True having is giving. We have and we know the Bread of Life. Freely we have received, freely we must give. We must now offer it, carry it, share it with our lives, even allowing God to break us open like the Bread of Life was for us.
Think of all the things that must be broken for us to receive nourishment: the seed, the soil, the sky, the wheat, the bread. Eternal life can only come from the broken body of Christ and can only get into the broken hearts of sinners. We are “the fellowship of the broken” (Ann Voskamp).
So what can we do? If we ourselves are broken within, we must come to Christ, and in him our soul, our self, will find true life. If we have been made whole in Christ, we must be listening and watching and feeling our way through our homes and streets and neighborhoods and city for the broken whose brokenness is being uncovered. This exposed brokenness may look like the poor and the homeless. It may look like the addict who is hopeless. It may look like the foster child or their parents who have lost them to foster care. It may look like those who have everything and are comfortable in life, but feel empty and sad inside. It may look like a spouse torn apart by unfaithfulness. It may look like a student discouraged by their grades. It may look like those tragically caught in the consequences of their sin and dying to get out and live again. It may look like a new friend reaching out to talk.
There is no end to the ways in which man’s eternal need for Christ is expressed, is exposed. But there’s no end to the ways in which the Broken Bread of Life can meet and fill and satisfy every gaping hole in the human heart. We must proclaim him with both our words and deeds.
There is for us a price and a cost for meeting people’s needs—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. But the greatest price and cost was the blood of Christ himself. And it has already been paid. Let us go, then, and call out, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Incline you ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3)
Picture above is © Bundesarchiv, Bild_183-R00012