“And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then they were all encouraged and also took food themselves. And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship” (Acts 27:35-37).
“Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand, besides woman and children” (Matthew 14:19-21).
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, eat, this is My body’” (Mark 14:22).
“Now it came to pass, as He sat at table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31).
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:35, 50-51).
Now mind you, I’m not saying that Paul had a eucharistic service on the sinking ship.
Or am I?
Paul certainly ate food and gave thanks for it (eucharist means thanksgiving). More than this, Luke records the same pattern that he had recorded in the ninth chapter of his Gospel when Jesus fed the 5000 and in chapter 24 of his Gospel when the disciples ate with Jesus after they walked on the road to Emmaus with Him. The pattern is to take bread, bless it, break it, eat it, and then give it to others to eat.
As with every other case when bread is so taken, blessed, broken, eaten, and distributed, the people on the receiving end receive God’s blessing. In the feeding of the 5000 they were given their lives, having been given bread so that they wouldn’t faint or die of hunger. In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives Himself to His disciples, just as He would give Himself to them on the Cross several hours later. When the disciples on the road to Emmaus ate bread with Jesus, their eyes were opened, and they saw Him. If that’s not a blessing, then I don’t know what is!
So here in Acts 27 when the people on the boat had not eaten for 14 days and would either die of hunger or from the sea, Paul took the God-given bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all (verse 35). Show off!! Paul made a point of giving thanks to the true God who had provided this food, the same God who Paul believed when He told him that the lives of all on board had been granted to them. He gave thanks in the presence of them all so that they would all eat and know that God was the one who had given them their lives and would now give them back to them.
What they’re supposed to learn from this was that the God who gave them back their lives on the ship was the same God who had given them life by creating them and would also give them back their lives for all eternity if they turned to Him. Just as Jesus said, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world,” so Paul says of the bread he has: “this is for your survival” (verse 34).This bread is also given to you for your life, if only you would take it, give thanks for it, eat it, and give it to others. Does this mean come frequently to the Lord’s Supper where He gives Himself to you to feed you with His heavenly food and give you life? Yes. Could it mean giving thanks for food every time we eat it? Why not? Does it mean that if we faithfully turn to Him to give us strength and life in this life that He will give us His strength and life eternally? Absolutely!
In fact, we have the opportunity to eat Jesus Christ every moment, every time we turn to Him.
“Take” – Take Jesus Christ every moment of your life. He’s not only for heaven or Sundays or four times a year: He’s your food for every moment. But you must turn to Him: you must lay hold of Him. You must break your fast every day and give up starving yourself to death.
“Give thanks”– One of the most profound but simple actions we can take, and one which, like love, cures a world of ills, is to give thanks for God’s good gifts. I thank God that culturally it is still common for us to give thanks for our food every time we receive it, for every time we receive it, it has come from God for our good. But we should also practice giving thanks for every good gift that comes from the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Those who give thanks acknowledge someone other than themselves and have less room in their hearts to grumble.
“Eat” – It’s not enough to take up the Name of Jesus Christ or to take Him into your head: you must eat Him and take Him inside of you where, properly digested with the enzymes of faith, He will become a part of you. Why do we eat? So that we may have energy and life. How does this happen? We take food which is outside of us and put it into us so that eventually it will become a part of us. And so we eat Jesus Christ so that He may be in us and we in Him.
“Give”– After we are made alive through Jesus Christ by eating Him, we must give what we have received, for it is more blessed to give than to receive. Why do you think God loves giving so much?! After we have been fed and given life, the first thing we should want to do is to feed others so that they too may live.
Don’t blow by the last few chapters of Acts like I’m prone to do: sometimes there are wonderful and mysterious symbols for us to partake of. Don’t blow by your lives: God is working in them and all around them every day. Even, especially, in that most common and necessary of activities: eating.
Prayer: God is great, God is good
let us thank Him for our food.
By His hand we must be fed,
Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Make a point to give thanks every time you eat food today, including snacks. You may even want to extend this to drink – or other things.
2. Practice giving thanks today for every thing that strikes you as being the gift of God.
Resolution: I resolve to turn from any complaining or dissatisfaction today by practicing giving thanks.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson