I unashamedly love food. I love to cook it, eat it (mostly eat it), and watch it on TV. So it was with interest that I heard my colleagues talking about Jamie Oliver’s new TV programme Jamie’s Super Food. I went onto Channel 4’s catch-up service to check it out. The premise of the programme is that Jamie travels all over the world to hunt down the world’s healthiest foods.
How does he do this? By looking at places in the world where people consistently live the longest. He keeps repeating how old the people are who he is meeting, and is surprised at how well and active they are – some several years over 100.
This seems to be the aim of the programme, to get us to live very long, healthy lives by the foods that we eat. And yet, our culture seems to give out very mixed messages about food. On the one hand is the excitement over super foods, organic vegetables and Matcha powder (I’m still not sure what that is), and on the other we are obsessed with competitively baking incredibly unhealthy foods (Great British Bake Off, anyone?), and encourage binge eating ice cream when things go wrong.
Similarly, there is much confusion about the longevity of life. Those who reach 100 years old are celebrated, and yet a large proportion of our country are pushing for assisted dying, wanting us to be able to choose to cut our lives short. I think the quality of life is what is considered important here. Jamie Oliver is not interested in centenarians who are watching Countdown in nursing homes, but in those who are out dancing all night. We want to live for a long time, but only if we can keep enjoying life. Is food the secret to this? Jesus says it is.
In John’s gospel chapter 6 we read the story of Jesus feeding an enormous crowd of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Everybody ate as much as they wanted, until they had “eaten their fill,” (verse 12), and there were still 12 baskets full of food left over. This miracle was astounding, and had many proclaiming that Jesus was a special Prophet. The next day, some of the same crowd came looking for Jesus, but Jesus knows that they are only there because of what he’d done with the food. He tells them, “Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (John 6:27).
Food to make us live forever
So there is food that can make us live forever! But what is this food that doesn’t perish, and how can we get it? In John 6:27 Jesus says that he (the Son of Man) can give it to us. Great! What’s the catch? This is what the Jews who have gathered around him are keen to know, too. They acknowledge that in the past God provided manna from heaven for their ancestors, so want to know what sign Jesus will bring them. Jesus’ response is simple, “the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33). Here, he is talking about himself, so not only can Jesus give us this bread, but he also is the bread!
A few verses later, he clarifies this even further, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (verse 51) OK, so cannibalism is the answer? Those he is addressing clearly have this worry, too, as they ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (verse 52). His answer doesn’t immediately shed much light, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (verse 54).
If we want to live forever, we must become both cannibals and vampires. Right? No, of course not. It becomes clearer later, at the last supper, just before Jesus is crucified. Luke chapter 22 tells us about this; Jesus and his 12 disciples are having a meal to celebrate the Passover together. Jesus takes some bread (verse 19), breaks it, and hands it out to them and says, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then he takes the cup of wine and (verse 20) says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
The next day, Jesus is arrested, before being tried and finally crucified. In Jesus dying and being raised to life again three days later, he defeated death, taking on the death that we all deserve for not living our lives for God, and so when we gratefully accept that, we too can have eternal life with him. It is trusting in Jesus’ death that saves us, and in churches across the world we eat some bread and drink some wine (or grape juice, or Shloer!) as a reminder of what Jesus achieved for us on the cross. It is not the bread and wine that saves us, but Jesus’ body and blood, which he freely sacrificed for us, so that we can live forever.
Do we want to live forever?
I have spoken to friends and colleagues in the past about old age, and the general consensus I’ve come across is that people want to live for as long as they are healthy and independent. As soon as these things deteriorate, to varying levels, they generally agree they are happy to go, either assuming that they will go to some fluffy-clouds-place because they are nice people, or that they will just fall asleep and not be aware of anything else. So is it worth living forever, prolonging our lives unnecessarily through this spiritual super food?
Yes! Jesus hints at what is to come in John 6:54 when he says, “I will raise him up on the last day.” What is this last day? What will we be raised to? He is talking about heaven, where all who trust in him will spend eternity. The Bible doesn’t tell us a great deal about what heaven will be like, but in Revelation 21, the apostle John shares the vision that God gave to him about heaven. He writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth and passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’”
If eternal life doesn’t involve any crying, death, pain, or mourning, and it’s a place where I get to actually be with God, then that’s certainly somewhere I want to be! Maybe I should concentrate less on sharing recipes with my friends and more on sharing this message with them, that this is what they can get through Jesus.
Written by Katie Holloway.
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