Did you ever wonder what it would have been like to be part of the crowds who saw Jesus do miracles and heard him teach? There are several events that I would have liked to have shared. One of those is the miracle of feeding 5,000 with just five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6: 1-14). They saw Him break the bread and multiply the food. Amazing! But can you imagine what it would have been like to spend the entire day listening to him? Today we often get edgy when our pastor goes over 30 minutes on Sunday morning. That night He walked on the water and the next day the crowds found Him again on the opposite side of the sea. It was there that He called Himself the "bread of life" and the "living bread". The context was probably obvious to His listeners who had seen His miracle the previous day. Just as God had provided bread in the wilderness for Israel, so Jesus had provided food miraculously when it was needed and little could be found. But He was talking about more than earthly bread which sustains our physical life. He only is the One who will provide and sustain our spiritual life when we trust Him. He alone can satisfy our spiritual hunger. The hymn, "Break Thou the Bread of Life," came out of the Chautauqua Movement of the late 1800s. The Chautauqua Movement was founded in 1874 on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York State by a Methodist layman, Lewis Miller, and a Methodist pastor, John Vincent. Known originally as the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, it was intended to be a summer training program for Sunday school teachers, but quickly expanded to include a wide variety of classes and entertainments, even Broadway plays, operas, and would you believe, movies. Mary Lathbury (1841-1913), a commercial artist, enjoyed visiting Chautauqua during the summer. John Vincent asked her to write a hymn to be sung at the Chautauqua Bible studies. Mary wrote it originally to honor Jesus as the "bread of life" and the "living Word" of God. It is a fitting accompaniment to Bible studies, because it prays that we will be able to move "beyond the sacred page", meaning the Bible, to the "living Word", Christ himself. Verses 3 and 4 are credited to Alexander Groves, a grocer, an accountant as well as a trustee, auditor, and actuary for Henley Savings Bank. He also served as the organist for the Henley Wesleyan Chapel. I am afraid today that many regular church goers no longer have a burning hunger for the Bread of Life. Often they come to a Sunday service primarily to meet friends, to enjoy the music and the musicians, and to hear a brief devotional from a talented speaker. And then they leave to take on the coming week's activities with no change in their spiritual life or no new passion for the Lord and the Word. Oh may we have a passion to see Jesus and hear His truth revealed. Maybe the words of this hymn should serve as our personal prayer as we worship Him.
(1) Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!
(2) Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord, to me, to me,
As Thou didst bless the bread by Galilee;
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
And I shall find my peace, my all in all.
(3) Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
Give me to eat and live with Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.
(4) O send Thy Spirit, Lord, now unto me,
That He may touch my eyes, and make me see:
Show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
And in Thy Book revealed I see the Lord.
Listen to it here. LISTEN