Sunday, December 16, 2012
Bread of Life
God never does anything by accident. From the things that we "get" right away, to those that make us scratch our heads in wonder, to those things that escape our notice completely. Take for instance the setting for the birth of Christ. He came into this world in a lowly stable, and His bassinet was a rough feeding trough. As for His death, He left this world writhing in agony on a cruel wooden cross. In between He was raised in a working class family, and spent His ministry years as an itinerant preacher, with no possessions save those He wore or carried with Him.Yet He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and Savior of the world. God's ways are indeed not ours.
Quite often, though, if we consider His ways, we will find the reason for them, and the message intended for us. I love to ponder these things, and if I am not too distracted, Holy Spirit will lead my thoughts, not on a rabbit trail, but along a path dotted with "oh, now I get it" moments. As He does with all whom He indwells.
This morning I watched a sermon on television. It focused on the birth of Christ, and of course mentioned the circumstances of His birth, including the feeding trough that was His crib. Got me to thinking how even at the very beginning God chose to put Him on display in a way that spoke of His being "food". Not, obviously, as fodder for those animals that may have been present at His birth, but as spiritual food, healing sustenance, meant for mankind to partake of.
Scripture tells us that there is more than a physical life, and a physical food that we require to "live". We see it first in Deuteronomy Chapter 8, and Jesus repeats it again when He is being tempted by Satan in the wilderness:
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘ MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
In John 6:35 Jesus puts into a few words the truth that He alone can give eternal life. He states it again in John 6:51:
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.
Here His offer is twofold: first He offers that supernatural, eternal life that God alone can give, that life that overcomes death and hell and the grave and brings us to an eternity spent with Him. Jesus goes on to say that this offer of Himself includes the giving up of His physical being, His very flesh. Nothing is spared here; the gift is infinitely sacrificial.
Jesus continues to offer food in other instances. In John Chapter 6 He feeds the crowd of more than 5000 with five barley loaves and two fish. Another time He does the same with seven loaves and "a few small fish" (Mathew 15:34).
Once more He uses bread, and this time wine also, to represent His body and blood at the last supper:
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."
And again, after His death and resurrection, he offers bread and fish to His disciples at the beach where they encounter Him:
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead. (John 21:12-14)
The most dramatic instance of Jesus offering Himself up is His sacrificial death on the cross at Calvary. Here He becomes the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin, far overshadowing and outweighing those countless animal offerings that led up to that one perfect and perfecting redemptive act. Here He fulfills His promise to give His life for the life of the world.
At this time of year, food is an important part of the way we celebrate the season. We bake, buy and bring scrumptious treats. Workplaces abound with goodies, families gather 'round sumptuous feasts, and we wrap up chocolates and homemade potions to be given as gifts. It is a time, more than any other in the year, when we share with others what we have been blessed with. It's easy to do, because most of us are blessed with much. But the greatest blessing we can have is to be in Christ, and He is the greatest gift we can offer to others. We have more than enough physical food, but many are starving for that Living Bread. He was meant to be shared. And He is more than enough to go around.