Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipas, Galilee’s rulers then, created a network of roads and large cities – Tiberius, Sepphoris and Caesarea Maritima on the sea– to export goods from Galilee to the rest of the world. The economy was doing pretty well in Jesus’ time, historians say.
Does that information help us appreciate the miracle of Jesus feeding the crowd bread and some fish, which we’re reading about in John’s gospel today and into next week? This miracle wasn’t simply about feeding the poor: Jesus was making a divine claim.
“I am the bread of life”, Jesus says, source of your blessings and everything that is. God the creator works through me. Moses asked for bread for his people journeying from Egypt. Jesus says: “I am the bread of life.”
Jesus makes a divine claim in this miraculous sign, feeding a multitude. The crowd then wants to make him king, (John 6, 15) but the kingship they see doesn’t approach the kingship that’s his. It’s much too small. Jesus rejects their plan.
It was also a dangerous time. Herod Antipas and the Romans would crush anyone threatening to interfere with their profitable kingdom. Jesus rejected their efforts.
In a wonderful commentary on Jesus as the bread of life, the early theologian Origen says that Jesus calls himself bread because he is “nourishment of every kind,” not just nourishment of our bodies. He nourishes our minds and our souls; he brings life to creation itself. When we ask “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re asking for everything that nourishes our “true humanity, made in the image of God.”
Jesus is the bread that helps us “grow in the likeness of our creator.” (On Prayer 27,2) Sometimes– in fact most of the time–we don’t know the nourishment we or our world needs, but God does. “The true bread come down from heaven” knows how to feed us.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”