I want to start a new series called "Deep Diving Biblical Precepts", in which I will be doing an occasional investigation into Biblical doctrines that we all are familiar with, but which we take for granted. In other words, I want to take a deeper look at common teachings that cross denominational lines, and that are theologically accepted as valid principles, but which we may only have a surface understanding. The first of these topics will be the understanding that Jesus is our Bread of Life.
There is a fascinating passage in John 6:22-59 where Jesus is approached by the crowd after feeding about 5,000 men (not counting the women and children that accompanied them) with five barley loaves and two fish. The people were astonished by the miracle they had witnessed, and Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king (John 6:15), so He withdrew to the nearby mountain. The crowd then saw the disciples depart in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum on the other side. The next day they were mystified by another miracle they struggled to understand -- There had been only one boat at the shore when the disciples departed and Jesus had not been with them, but yet here He was in Capernaum with them [they did not know that He had walked on water the evening before to join them in the boat]. So, they question Jesus... "Rabbi, when did you come here?"
Jesus reprimands them because they were more concerned about mundane things and didn't recognize the miracles that came from the Father, and were only seeking Him because they had all been fed from the few barley loaves. Jesus tries to explain that they are more concerned about doing works for food that perishes than they are about eating the food that endures to give them eternal life. Jesus says the only work they need to do is believe in the One that the Father has sent, referring to Himself. So the crowd challenges Him... what miracle [sign] do you do that we can visibly see, and then we'll believe. And they made it clear that they were seeking a miracle like the manna from Heaven that appeared by the hand of Moses.
Jesus tells them that it was not Moses that did the work, but God who provided what they needed to survive. He reminded them that their ancestors had eaten the manna in the desert and they died. And here is where I gained a new understanding of the "manna miracle", as we will call it .... In reality the manna was provided by God sending the dew [or more likely rain] from the 1st heaven (our skies and atmosphere) to cause the manna to grow on the ground in the wilderness. We find this scenario in Exodus 16:14-15 where Moses instructs them to gather it because "this is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat". God was the Giver through natural means. But this time Jesus was giving them the true bread from heaven [the 3rd Heaven where God resided and Jesus had come from] that they might never hunger or thirst again.
I believe this passage has been so misunderstood in our life time! The manna the Israelites received in the wilderness was physical bread. It was like coriander seed and they ground it in their mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it (Numbers 11:7-8). It had a "shelf life"; it molded and could not be counted on to sustain their flesh and bodies after a period of time. But Jesus is true bread; a spiritual bread that is everlasting and sustains their souls and spirits. He is the bread of LIFE! He states in verse 51, "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."
Of course, this confuses them again ... "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "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. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." Then He qualifies exactly what He means in this strange discourse by repeating what He had said earlier, "This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever."
First of all, any serious student of the Bible understands that if something is restated in a passage, then it is an important concept that God wants us to comprehend. When Jesus repeats that He is the bread that came down from heaven, [and He is not like the bread the Israelites ate in the wilderness], He is making a distinction between being fed spiritually and being fed physically. Also, there is the principle that the physical bread can't keep you from dying, while the spiritual bread gives you eternal life. Furthermore, I know that there are some denominations that teach that when we take communion, we are literally eating Jesus's flesh and drinking His literal blood. But this passage is not to be read as a literal translation at all. Instead, His words symbolize His action of sacrificing His flesh and blood for us.
Again, He is making reference to His flesh as true food in a spiritual sense, and His blood as true drink; again referring to that which feeds us spiritually. In no way, does He suggest that we are to physically eat His actual flesh or blood. That would make us zombies and vampires! Instead the sacrifice of His flesh and blood, which resulted in His death on the Cross, made way for us to restore our relationship with our Heavenly Father -- something all mankind had been starving and thirsting for since Adam's fall in the Garden! That's the essence of verse 35: He is the Bread of Life! Whoever comes to Him will not hunger, and whoever believes in Him shall never thirst -- our eternal life will be a spiritual one, sustained by His power in us.
Did you notice the two different sets of circumstances in that last sentence? You must come to Him and you must believe in Him. It is the only way to satisfy what your soul and spirit hunger and thirst for. Come, eat of the Bread of Life and partake of the Living Water. It is eternal and nothing will ever taste as sweet!
Matthew 5:6 Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.