You are what you eat

John’s Gospel records Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life,” and “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The invitation to ingest Jesus is an invitation to obedience and imitation of Jesus’ example.

You are undoubtedly familiar with the expression, “You are what you eat.” When we take in food, our bodies take whatever is useful from the food to build up our bones, our blood, our skin, our organs. Vitamins, minerals, proteins, sugars, fats are all needed daily. Unhealthy food also contributes to our bodies – leading to health issues such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Unhealthy food also prevents us from eating what our bodies need leading to weakened bodies, and weakened immune systems.

Jesus is speaking to a crowd who had just eaten their fill of bread and came looking for more: more bread, more miracles.

They reminded Jesus of the first bread from heaven – manna – which God provided for their ancestors when they were in the wilderness, far from any sources of food.

“Very early on manna became a metaphor for seeking life with God by following God’s word. There were rules about gathering and storing manna. Partaking of this life-giving food required Israel to follow God’s word.” (S.E. Hylen)

Jesus told them, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.” Ingesting Jesus – abiding in Jesus – means becoming like Jesus. Paul writes in Gal 2:19b-20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” This is often referred to as dying to self. When we let Christ live in us, we have to first give up putting ourselves first.

Jesus lived to serve and gave his life as a sacrifice for others. When we ingest Jesus, we join in his mission, pouring our lives out in loving service to God and to others. This is a hard teaching – many of Jesus’ disciples left him because they could not accept it.

Jesus commands obedience: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. And those who follow the command are drawn to the life that comes from living according to God’s word.

The result of dying to self in order to live for Christ is, ironically, the way to real life. Abundant life, a life that goes on and on forever replaces a life of slavery to our wants and desires.

The invitation to eat the Bread of life is an invitation to eat what will lead to life, health, and well-being. Try it – I think you will be satisfied.


Nancy Frey serves as pastor at Listowel Mennonite Church.

Nancy Frey