Every Day We Need Our Bread and His
This sermon series on prayer has two goals. By God's grace, producing people who pray, and getting them to use the Lord's Prayer once a day rather that looking to the poverty of their own heart for their prayers. Tonight's petition proves the Lord gave us this prayer for daily use because He directs us to ask for daily not weekly or monthly bread. However, this petition doesn't move you to pray daily, does it? It's too simple. You need much more than daily bread. Well, you're right, but not the way you think.
Jesus understands exactly what you need for daily bread. Jesus knows what it means to be tired, hungry, thirsty. In the Passion reading, we see Jesus over hours of time. He is bound, slapped, spat on, and never offered food, drink, or so much as a seat. Have you ever noticed how thirsty you get in tense situations? Ever noticed how drained you feel after a tense situation eases? Ever noticed the headache that comes when you skip a meal or don't get enough sleep? Jesus knows what it means to need the daily bread of drink, food, and rest.
But you say, "I need more than rest, food and drink. Of course you do, and Jesus knows this as well. You have need of good friends and faithful neighbors. Don't you think in tonight's Passion reading Jesus keenly missed these? Don't you think Jesus sharply hungered for the bread of friendship and companionship? Yet, His best friend had just betrayed Him to arrest, blows, slaps, spit, and to a trial for His very life. And His most faithful supporter denied Him with curses and oaths.
I could go on. I could tell you how Jesus knows how you feel when you're all upset with church or state leaders. Don't you think Jesus hungered for honest clergymen? Don't you think He longed to have a fair judge? I could tell you Jesus knows how important a good reputation is to you. He was arrested as a common thief. False witnesses ruined His reputation. I could tell you Jesus knows how important good weather is to you. Not even the weather cooperated with Jesus on the night of His betrayal. It was cold that night. Slaps sting more, fear is sharper, you're mood is bleaker when you're cold.
Jesus knows what you need for daily bread because He needed these things too. He needed food, drink, rest, good friends, faithful neighbors, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good reputation and good weather. But Jesus didn't get His daily bread on the night He was betrayed. No, God withheld all of these from Jesus as if He was the most evil person ever. He withheld daily bread from holy Jesus, so Jesus might purchase it for us evil people with His blood, sweat, and tears.
Wow! Did you catch that? I said that daily bread was withheld from holy Jesus so that He might purchase it for us evil people. This is what we say in our catechism we are praying that we might realize. That's right; more than praying for this or that item of our daily bread, when we pray this petition we are praying "that God would lead us to realize that He gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people." Yes, our greatest need is not for daily bread to keep this body and life going but for the grace to realize that God gives daily bread without our prayers even to all evil people.
The very last words Luther wrote were on the last day of his life. The last sentences of those words are these, "We are beggars: this is true." This is the realization we are praying for in this petition for daily bread. We remain beggars of God all our days. It is all up to Him whether He gives or not and what He gives when. We can't move Him to give by our prayers, by our sufferings, by our piety. Before God our proper position is one of hands ever stretched out and mouths ever opened wide.
Peter wouldn't do this. The Lord had tried to preserve him from the test he would fail. He had told the disciples in the upper room that they couldn't come where He was going. He had made the soldiers in Gethsemane let Peter and the other disciples go. But Peter wouldn't listen to Jesus' warning and wouldn't take the freedom Jesus gave him. No, he would do something for Jesus rather than remain a beggar. And do something for Jesus, he did. He denied Him; he betrayed Him; he fell away from Him all the way to the hell Judas went to.
When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we are asking that we might realize we remain beggars of God all our days. Beggars not choosers. We pray for our daily prayer, not someone else's. Not everyone gets the same daily bread in the same amounts. Not everyone's spouse, children, or workers are devout. Not everyone has their health. And what about peace and self-control? Some are obsessed; some are plagued by worry and fear; some people's thoughts run away with them. We are beggars of God for daily bread, not choosers of what bread He should send. We are to receive our daily bread like we do sunsets. I don't know anyone who sees a striking sunset and says, "Lord that's nice, but put in a little more yellow, less red, and a bit more orange." Yet, I know this is what I do with my daily bread, how about you?
That's why when we pray "give us this day our daily bread," we're not only praying to realize that God gives it to us for Christ's sake, but we're praying that we might receive it, such as it is, with thanksgiving. How does the Lord enable the great miracle of thanksgiving to occur in our fallen hearts? I think of a story from the old Lutheran book Narratives on the Catechism. An old man sits down to his fare of a single piece of cheese, a crust of bread and a glass of water. He exclaims before praying, "All this and heaven too!"
How does the Lord enable us to receive our daily bread, however meager it might be, with genuine thanksgiving like this? By giving us not just our daily bread, but His. The Lord doesn't just give us daily bread "that has to do with the support and needs of the body." The Lord also gives us Himself, the Bread of Life, which is Bread not only for today but for tomorrow.
There is a double entendre, a word with a twofold meaning, in this petition. The Greek word for "daily" in daily bread can either mean bread for today or bread for tomorrow. Luther in his Exposition of the Lord's Prayer says, "This petition means to say, "Father, give us the supernatural, immortal, eternal bread.none other than Jesus Christ our Lord Himself." Church fathers Cyprian, Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine also understood bread here as a reference to Christ.
In praying for daily bread we ask for the support and needs of the body. Most of us have adequate food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money goods. Most of us have a devout spouse, devout children, and devout workers. But then the list becomes "iffy." Do we have devout and faithful rulers and good government if we have abortion on demand and the protection of such perversions as no-fault divorce, homosexuality, and pornography? Is this drought to be thought of as good weather? Do our agitated minds need no more peace? Do our sick bodies need no more health? Do we ever have enough self control, good reputation, and faithful friends and neighbors?
This is not a matter of our sinful flesh wanting more, better, different. These are legitimate daily bread things we can rightly want more of and can pray for, but we might never get them. But if we have Bread for tomorrow, if we have Jesus, the Bread of life, who feeds us till we can want no more, then what we do have changes from "just this" to "all this!" The crowds in John 6 deserted Jesus when it became apparent He would not be an earthly bread king. Jesus then asked the 12 this heartbreaking question, "Do you want to go away as well?" Peter is once more the first to answer, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Friend, this is a crucial, crucial point. Apart from having this Bread for tomorrow, you will despair of the bread you have for today regardless of how little or much it is. Look at Judas in tonight's reading. Judas thought he had no Bread for tomorrow because he went to church leaders who didn't have it themselves. He became convinced his wretched sin of betraying his friend, an innocent Man, the one He had confessed to be the Son of God, had forfeited His share of the Bread of Life. So he despaired of his daily bread. He despaired of all that God was giving him to support this body and life. And Judas took the life that he had no right to take. It was his by grace not right. He was beggar, but he acted like the Lord of life.
Peter in tonight's reading is equally destitute of bread for today. He too looks into the abyss of sin and sees nothing but blackness. But for all his sinfulness, Peter is still where the Lord is. He is still where the Lord can see Him. He's not at the temple Jesus Himself had called a den of thieves. Peter is where the true Temple is. Peter is where Jesus is. And even though Jesus was covered with spit, bloody, gory, and all but crucified, Jesus wanted to save Peter more than Himself. With a look Jesus recalled Peter to the Bread of Life and of eternal tomorrows so that Peter could face the poverty of daily bread he saw before him in this moment of crisis.
This is where we are. Sometimes the devil, our conscience, or others do to us what they did to Judas and tried to do to Peter. They try to make us despair of our daily bread. "Your sins are causing God to hold out on you." "What you have is not enough." And it's not enough, if like Judas you only look at what you deserve. But if like Peter, you look not at your sins, not at your daily bread, but at Jesus, He leads you to repentance and to Him, the Bread of Life. Having the Bread of Life today in Words, Water, Bread and Wine, redeems our view of our daily bread. To be sure, beggars are never to be choosers, but beggars of God can be satisfied with and thankful for their bread for today such as it is because they have the Bread of Life for all the tomorrows to come. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Midweek Vespers III (20060315); 4th Petition Lord's Prayer