Our initial reaction to Jesus’ words above might be disbelief—sorry, Jesus, but we must labor for the food which perishes, otherwise we’ll starve to death! And yet, what Jesus means is that laboring for earthly food cannot be our primary goal in life. It is one of our goals, to be sure, but not the first. Above everything else, we must seek the Bread of Life, Jesus Himself, who feeds us with His own Body and Blood, which will bring us eternal life.
In this chapter, Jesus discusses at length that He is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven to give life to the world. He says, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have my life in you.” Many understand Jesus to be speaking here about the Lord’s Supper, wherein the faithful receive His incarnate presence. What in life could be so important that it would come before our reception of Holy Communion? It is a blessing that weekly communion has been restored to many of our Lutheran churches, providing us with the opportunity to receive this food which endures to eternal life not just quarterly, or monthly, but week in and week out, as daily food and drink.
This does not mean you should stop working to put food on the table, but that this must be seen in its proper perspective. Bread for eternal life comes first, then bread for the household table.
It is a useful and salutary discipline during Lent to receive the Lord’s Supper as frequently as possible—more than usual! It refreshes and renews us, as well as keeping us focused on Christ’s real presence in our midst. If you only receive communion once a month throughout the year, during Lent, try to receive every week. If your congregation doesn’t offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, ask for it! It will indeed help you to reset your life priorities!
Lord God, thank you for the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ our Lord, who feeds us with His very presence; through the same, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.