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Next up-date: 30 September 1996 (God willing)
What did Jesus mean when He said, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man (or woman) eat this bread, he (or she) shall live forever. And the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world"? John 6:51.
The figure which Christ used was a familiar one to the Jews. Moses, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had said, "Man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." Deuteronomy 8:3. And the prophet Jeremiah had written, "Your words were found, and I did eat them; and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Jeremiah 15:16. The rabbis themselves had a saying, that the eating of bread, in its spiritual significance, was the study of the law and the practice of good works; and it was often said that at the Messiah's coming all Israel would be fed. The teaching of the prophets made plain the deep spiritual lesson in the miracle of the loaves. This lesson was what Christ was seeking to open to His hearers in the synagogue. Had they understood the Scriptures, they would have understood His words when He said, "I am the bread of life." Only the day before, the great multitude, when faint and weary, had been fed by the physical bread which He had given. As from that bread they had received physical strength and refreshment, so from Christ they might receive spiritual strength to eternal life. "He that comes to Me," He said, "shall never hunger; and he that believes on Me shall never thirst."
The Jews were about to celebrate the Passover at Jerusalem, in commemoration of the night of Israel's deliverance, when the destroying angel killed the firstborn of Egypt. In the passover lamb God desired them to behold the LAMB of God, and through the symbol receive Him who gave Himself for the life of the world. But the Jews had come to make the symbol all-important, while its significance was unnoticed. They "discerned not the Lord's body". 1 Corinthians 11:29. The same truth that was symbolized in the passover service was taught in the words of Christ. But it was still undiscerned. Now the rabbis exclaimed angrily, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" They pretended to understand His words in the same literal sense as did Nicodemus when he asked, "How can a man be born when he is old?" John 3:4. To some extent they comprehended the meaning of Jesus, but they were not willing to acknowledge it. By misconstruing His words, they hoped to prejudice the people against Him. Yet Christ did not soften down His symbolical representation. He repeated the truth in yet stronger language: "Verily, verily (truly, truly), I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat (or food) indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, dwells in Me, and I in him."
To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ is to receive Him as a personal Saviour, believing that He forgives our sins, and that we are complete in Him. It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature. What food is to the body, Christ must be to our spiritual life. Food cannot benefit us unless we eat it, unless it becomes a part of our being. So Christ is of no value to us if we do not know Him as a personal and daily Saviour. A theoretical or historical knowledge will do us no good. We must "feed" upon Him, receive Him into our heart, so that His life becomes our life. His love, His grace, must be assimilated.
As our physical life is sustained by physical food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the written word of God, the Bible. And every one is to receive life from God's word for him or her self. And as we must eat for ourselves in order to receive daily nourishment, so we must receive the word for ourselves. We are not to obtain it merely through the thoughts of another's mind. We should carefully study the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit for His guidance, that we may understand His word. We should take one verse, and concentrate our mind on the task of finding the thought which God has put in that verse for us. We should dwell upon the thought until it becomes our own, and we know "what says the Lord."
The living bread:
1. A description of Jesus and His purpose.
2. A statement which shows that the life of Jesus must also become ours.
3. A warning that we need to study for ourselves.
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