Thursday, November 17, 2016

Reasons to celebrate Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life

Image result for matzo bread
John 6:35 "Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."

John 6 is an ocean of truth. As the Lord Jesus Christ is seen and heard in this chapter, we find Him performing his greatest mass miracle in the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-13; 14-16). We also find Jesus walking on the water to the disciples in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-21). It is following these two back-to-back miracles that we find Jesus unveiling His identity as "the bread of life" in John 6:22-58. If we were to summarize the massive chapter of John 6, we could offer the following outline:

1. A mass miracle - John 6:1-16
2. A majestic miracle - John 6:16-21
3. A marvelous revelation - John 6:22-71

I won't expound too much more on the first two of these divisions. Undoubtedly John 6 offers so much insight that it will require future posts to touch the surface of this grand chapter. Instead, my aim today is far more modest: to simply consider reasons for celebrating the fact that Jesus is the "Bread of Life". Such reasons can be used for one's own devotional meditations or perhaps in a Lord's Supper celebration. As we consider briefly Jesus' revelation of Himself as the "bread of life", why celebrate this wonderful truth? As the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ....

1. Saves sinners. John 6:27-29, 47
We read in John 6:27-29 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 

Just as natural bread provides the staple for a diet in survival or for the nutritional needs of people to prevent starvation and ultimately death, Jesus as the "Bread of Life" is the only one who can rescue sinners from spiritual death. John records Jesus using the backdrop of God's provision for another type of bread from heaven - namely "manna". Manna was used by God to feed the Jews during their wanderings in the wilderness in the days following the Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Exodus 16; Numbers 11; Deuteronomy 8; Joshua 5:12; Nehemiah 9:20; Psalm 78:24). 

The descriptions of this manna (which in the Hebrew means "what is it") include it being sweet to taste, coming from heaven and being enough to feed the people for that particular day. We also find in the above verses that attempts to save manna for another day would result in spoilage. So much more could be written on this intriguing bread, but we must hasten to the point: Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the symbolism communicated by the manna God gave to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, and more. Unlike that former manna, salvation in Jesus Christ would never spoil. Like the Old Testament manna of course (but better), Jesus Christ came from heaven and is more than sufficient for every spiritual need. From salvation through sanctification, Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life will keep safe every believer until they're presented faultless before the throne. 

So as the bread of life, Jesus Christ saves sinners. But there is a second reason to celebrate Him as the Bread of life....

2. Sent from Heaven. John 6:32-33
Jesus describes Himself as the bread "sent from heaven". We find this phrase sprinkled nearly ten times throughout John 6. This tells us the direction of grace: from the "top-down". The bread of life is not found in the things of earth (moralism, man-made religion). Only the Bread of life from Heaven, Jesus Christ, can deliver saving benefits. But now lets notice one more reason to celebrate Jesus Christ - the bread of life...

3. Sustains the saints. John 6:35-37, 51, 53-58
Three times in John 6 do we find Jesus referring to Himself as "the bread of life", with exposition and applications following. As the Sustainer of the saints, Jesus Christ shows us three things:

a. He nourishes. John 6:35
b. He gives life. John 6:48
c. He assures. John 6:51

Implications and applications of Jesus as the "Bread of Life"
It is interesting to note that much of the vocabulary and descriptions used by Jesus in John 6 would appear again in His later institution of the Lord's table. The idea of "eating" and "drinking" the flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is typified in that ordinance.1 

In as much as the Lord's table is to be observed by believers in the local church, it is the Lord Jesus Christ pointed to by the supper that saves, was sent from heaven and sustains His people. Is it any wonder then that Jesus would later use the descriptions and word-pictures found here in John 6 to communicate His ordinance on the eve of His crucifixion? We praise Jesus, the bread of life, for the fact that...

1. He saves sinners
2. Was sent from heaven
3. He sustains saints who have believed on Him. 

1. Unlike some Christian denominations, this writer does not see the Lord's table as a literal presentation of Christ's blood and body within the elements nor such being around, under and upon the bread and fruit of the vine. Rather, the bread and fruit of the vine picture the reality of Jesus Christ's bodily presence that attends within and through God's people as they gather together to celebrate. Jesus is always with His church and He is more realized in a powerful way when the church gathers together to celebrate this symbolic, covenant meal.

I get this notion from the fact that Jesus refers to this language before His crucifixion. Jesus was obviously alive when He first used this imagery. It is His life leading to His death and then conquering death by His resurrected life that saves and sustains the believer. The imagery is striking and very powerful and we ought not divest it of its power to communicate vividly all that Jesus has done. Nonetheless, the word-picture is a picture of a true reality that has occurred and of Jesus ever being with His people by the ministry of the Holy Spirit Who indwells His church both individually and corporately. 

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