"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path". Ps 119:105
SAYINGS OF JESUS
"I am the bread of life""And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." [John 6.35]
It has been said that reading the Bible is like peeling an onion; every time you unpeel one layer, you find another one underneath. In other words, there are often several different levels of understanding to be found even in such a simple statement or verse. With this statement from the Gospel record of John, Jesus stirred up the Jews, causing no small amount of dissent, yet what did Jesus mean by it? "Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" [ John 6.60]
Why did Jesus choose the symbol of the bread? Well, bread was a staple food for the Jews, just as it is today. Everyone understood bread was essential to life and hunger was something experienced by most people in those times. At its simplest, this quotation of Jesus means that just as bread is vital to mortal life, so Jesus is essential to everlasting life. We can see then that the hunger referred to, is a spiritual hunger and the thirst, a spiritual thirsting. These represent our longing to understand, to make sense of this life.
JESUS THE SACRIFICE
What else can we deduce from these words? What happens to bread when it is eaten? It is consumed. Thus you could say that the bread must be consumed, in order for us to live. In the same way, Jesus died, so that we may live. This imagery is even stronger when we consider an animal sacrificed to provide food. Jesus is often depicted as the Lamb of God. Some may say that food is not consumed but rather converted into energy when it is eaten. But even then, the imagery is appropriate, because following his death, Jesus was converted into a spiritual being, but more of that later.
Jesus phrased his message in strong language, which to some people may suggest cannibalism in its imagery - something that is still an abhorrent thought, even in this Godless age, let alone to Jews living under the Law with its strict dietary requirements. "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." [ John 6.54] Yet the imagery fits the concept of one life being consumed to benefit other lives.
Still greater meaning is borne out for us when we consider some other words of Scripture. "And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." [Luke 4.4] In this scripture, where Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, we have the same distinction made between temporal food - food for this life - and spiritual food, namely the Word of God. Then look at this next scripture...
JESUS THE WORD
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." [John 1.14] These words, as everyone would agree, refer to Jesus the Word being made flesh and dwelling amongst us. Here is a well known scripture from the account of the Last Supper. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body." [Matthew 26.26] This reinforces the imagery we have already considered. It is an easy thing to say, yet difficult to understand. We see again the link established between Jesus, his body and the bread:
"Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." [John 6.54-58]
With these words, we see a further link, the link between bread, the Word, Jesus and flesh. We also see that by eating the `bread', we can enter into a special relationship with Jesus and through him, with God. Jesus lives by the Father and we live because of Jesus.
Jesus is represented by several symbols in Scripture, the Lamb, the Good Shepherd and the Rock, to name some of them. The eating of bread, that symbol of the body of Christ, is something that discerning disciples of Christ do regularly in obedience to his command:
The bread does not literally become the body of Jesus. Since his ascension, Jesus has a spiritual, incorruptible body. Also, Jesus was the once and for all sacrifice for sin. [Hebrews 9.26] He is not sacrificed daily for us, once was enough. But by eating the bread, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus; we remember what he did for us; we remember his sacrifice was an atonement for sin. Without the sacrifice and the resurrection of Jesus, then to become our mediator, we would have no access to God and therefore no route to salvation:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." [Acts 4.12]
GOD IS LOVE
What does this sacrifice tell us about Jesus? Simply this: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." [John 15.13] What does this sacrifice tell us about God? Simply this: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' [John 3.16]
Most people could quote the scripture `God is love', even if they were not sure where it came from [1 John 4.8]. It is interesting to see the whole verse - "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." God is also a God of righteous anger when appropriate, but His love for us - despite all our failures, permeates throughout the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
In the beginning, God created Adam in His own image and offered to him the wonderful prospect of everlasting life on earth. Yet Adam rejected this opportunity and sin entered the world through one man. God could have washed His hands of the Human Race, either destroying them completely or at the very least, leaving them without hope, destined to live a few short years and then die. But God did not do this. Even in mankind's darkest hour, when Adam and Eve disobeyed the simplest of instructions through their desire to obtain the knowledge of God - in other words, not being content with what God had given them; even then, God had a plan to remedy the situation. This plan, we know as `the Word' and it was with God from the beginning. Yet it was only when the Word became flesh that the plan was put into action. Why did God do all this, if not for love? Why did Jesus, knowing what would happen to him if he went to Jerusalem at Passover, continue on regardless? Why else, if not for love?
Thus the simple symbol of the bread, used by Jesus to describe himself, prompts many thoughts. However, one thought, one image, one impression that comes through more strongly than all others, is the love of God and of His Son Jesus for you and I.
Our ultimate destiny is dependent on how we individually respond to that love.