Bread of Life
Originally scheduled for December 17
Most of the older Christians in the church
today will remember a communion hymn, “Break Thou the Bread of
Life.” The hymn itself is too patient for these rock ‘n’ roll days
but worth examining:
Break Thou the Bread of Life,
Dear Lord, to me,
Thou didst break the loaves
Beside the sea;
the sacred page
I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants
O Living Word.
From the language you can tell that this hymn
comes from the era of the King James Version of the Bible. Its
author, one Mary Lathbury, was actually better known as a commercial
illustrator than she was for writing hymns. She wrote less than a
dozen. She was part of the Chautauqua movement, and the leader of
that movement asked her to write a hymn specifically.
What may surprise you is that the hymn was not designed to be
a communion hymn, but rather a hymn to start a Bible study. If you
study it carefully you can see this; this hymn has Christ breaking
the bread “beside the sea.” The Last Supper of course was in
Jerusalem. The hymn actually refers to the time when Christ met his
disciples by the Sea of Galilee and offered them fish and bread to
In that context, then, I would have you note
that this is a meal provided by Jesus for his disciples. There are
certain characteristics of this that I would point out:
Jesus provides the fish and the
bread. He was anticipating them and had the meal ready — always a
gracious host. The character of Jesus is herein proclaimed.
Notice also that Jesus approaches the
disciples and asks them to dine. He takes the initiative to call his
disciples to him. It’s clear from the passage they would hang back,
knowing who he was but still afraid to approach him.
The 13th verse is usually
skipped over in most Bible studies, but it should not be so. This is
a preliminary to the restoration of Peter. In this we see the
concept that sometimes disputes and failures can be resolved more
easily over a breakfast table than over a negotiating table.
Communion shows us parallels to this.
Jesus provides the communion feast to
us. He tells us that this is his body; this is his blood. He is the
one who has brought the foodstuffs of the meal. And please note: the
gracious host asks for no payment.
His church — his body — approaches
you with this. This is not a matter of you qualifying to take
communion by your good works but rather the church coming to you and
offering the forgiveness of God.
Communion is a preliminary to the
restoration of fellowship with those who have sinned. We are taught
to examine ourselves and repent, then accept his forgiveness. It is
as if Christ wanted us to work our grievances out over the breakfast
The hymn we mentioned is slow and stately, deep
and profound. There is a sense of dignity to this hymn. Consider
then that the communion you are about to partake has that same
dignity. Examine yourself; repent as needed; and receive the body
and blood of Christ.