Jesus-Christ: The Bread of Life

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world. They said therefore to Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:32-35).

The sufficiency of Christ for our lives compels us to view the rejection of Christ as a self-condemnation which has been conveyed from the Garden to the Flood to the Tower of Babel to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the to the rebellious history of Israel to the resistance of the Remnant of Israel. Despite this long trail of constant enmity between the Almighty and the human race the magnitude of His love is the fuel that is keeping the breath of man burning. No one can survive a fraction of a heart beat without the Creator. To defy this truth is to resort to nothingness. It is beyond medical science to grasp the survival of a human being deprived of food and water for a period of 40 days: “Then the LORD said to Moses, Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:27-28). Be mindful of the word ‘bread’ purposefully used by the author in place of ‘food’ which ought to catch the reader’s attention for it adds a symbolic meaning to the encounter between the human (Moses) and the divine (God). As the topic unfolds, we shall expose the nature and purpose of ‘bread’ in the life of fallen man.

Man had to comply with a single commandment that warned him against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That tree represented the key factor by which man can exercise his free will—the unreserved freedom to obey or disobey. The perfect love of God granted man the right to accept or to reject while the cost of rejection would be detrimental to his well-being. God explicitly warned His cherished creature of the consequence associated with disobeying His command. Both the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life have significant purposes: To eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would lead man to eternally damnation but to avoid it would grant him everlasting life (Genesis 2:17).

The fruit of the tree of life was the sustenance of everlasting life maintained in Adam and Eve making it impossible for man, although created in the image of God, to be inherently and independently immortal. The Lord allowed man to freely eat “…from any tree of the garden…” (Genesis 2:16) amongst them the ‘tree of life’ which served a specific purpose. In light of John 11:25-26, we can certify that Christ, Who is the Life, was symbolically represented by the ‘tree of life’ placed there solely to sustain life in the first family. Adam and Eve’s disobedience widely opened the door for sin to enter and destroy every created element of earth and they were thus refrained from accessing the ‘tree of life’ lest they become immortal sinners (Genesis 3:27). To become immortal sinners would mean endless misery for humanity, a state which would not have been pleasant to mankind. This is not the type of life God designed for man to live. There was only one way to repair the lost eternal longevity of man—the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Giver and Sustainer of life.

When we analyze the story of creation, we discover that the menu offered man on the sixth day was already implanted on the third day. However, two distinct commands were given man: [1] A global meal which covers earth’s dry land (Genesis 1:29) [2] A specific menu from within the Garden (Genesis 2:16-17). Food has always been a vital element for the survival of man. Since the birth of civilizations every culture always had some form of bread whether leavened or not, whether made from whole grain or not, incorporated into its daily diet making it invariably the most important food group known to man. The presence of bread in almost every dish, from breakfast to lunch to dinner, makes it seem as if man’s survival depends on it just as the recipient of ‘eternal life’ depends on the ‘Bread of Life’.

The power of hunger is so strong and unbearable it has provoked man to shamelessly sin against His creator in exchange for his ‘daily bread’—prostitution, birth right surrender (i.e., Esau), stealing, lying and many more. When a man’s belly is empty the brain receives a signal from the stomach telling him of the need to replenish the body with more nutrients. What about ‘spiritual hunger’? Isn’t sinful man able to feel emptiness, emptiness for spiritual things, emptiness towards the issues of life, emptiness during the determined desire of temptations leading to sin, an emptiness which causes a craving for the love of God, an emptiness which prompts man to love his neighbor? How does man feel the necessity for the ‘Bread of Life’? Is a belly full of rice and beans, macaroni and cheese, cake and puddings sufficient for the well-being of man? In reality, does man possess an intrinsic ability to detect ‘spiritual hunger’? Unlike physical hunger which is initiated by the recipient (belly), spiritual hunger is initiated by the food source—Jesus the ‘Bread of Life’—“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). The sinner who ‘opens the door’ is in deed confessing his ‘spiritual hunger’.

The people of Judah abandoned God in favor of Baal causing them to starve spiritually and physically. Several of them had no choice but to migrate from Bethlehem to the country of Moab in search of their ‘daily bread’. Bethlehem, which literally means ‘the House of Bread’, is also the birth city of Christ, ‘The Bread of Life’. How ironic for Bethlehem to be the source of physical and spiritual bread but yet its inhabitants were starving for both! To engage in the core of the topic we must assemble all the essential elements that shall be used to present Christ as the “Bread of Life.” What is it about bread that makes it a relevant representation of Christ in relation to the Everlasting Gospel?

1. God referenced ‘bread’ as man’s meal while pronouncing the consequences for Adam’s sin: “ By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken…” (Genesis 3:19).
2. The Savior multiplied ‘bread’ to feed both multitudes—5,000 and 4,000: “He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them;”(Mark 6:41) “He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them…” (Mark 8:6).
3. ‘Bread’ is one of the key elements of disciples’ prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
4. Jesus tested the faith of the Canaanite woman by informing her “It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26).
5. There is no Lord’s Supper without ‘bread’: “And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, take, eat; this is My body.” (Matthew 26:26).

‘The Bread of Life’ claim, being an everlasting trait of Christ, is symbolically revealed through both covenants from Genesis to Revelation. We shall analyze it throughout the feeding of God’s people, the feasts, and the first and second covenants.

1. After relentlessly murmuring against Moses for food, the children of Israel symbolically ate the ‘Bread of Life’ for 40 years. What a blessing it was for the chosen people of God to be fed directly from heaven. The pure, simple and nourishing manna was given them as their ‘daily bread’ which they never even prayed for as we are commissioned to do so (Matthew 6:11). The manna was free of pesticides, gluten, preservatives, artificial flavoring, vacuum sealing for preservation etc. After a while, it no longer interested them. They murmured against Moses for having been dependent of it for so long. How absurd that the creatures rejected the best meal given them by the Creator? Till this day a sheep is still chewing their original one course meal: plain old grass. Their taste buds have been refraining from seeking gourmet meals. In place of the manna, Israel was begging for the dead flesh he use to gulp down in Egypt—meat!

What were the implications for refusing to continually eat the ‘bread of heaven’? The Bible emphasized that, when the people of Israel got tired of the manna, they were in fact tired of God himself; when they rejected the manna, they were in fact rejecting God himself: “…the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you” (Numbers 11:18-20).

This radical rejection of the Lord by the people of Israel is repeated more universally in the trailing verses of John 3:16—the well known and comforting verse of the Bible. As John 3:16 defines the unprejudiced love of Christ, John 3: 19 reveals that this love is not reciprocated by the majority: “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil”.

2. The sanctuary, which gave the tribes of Israel a glimpse of the salvific sacrifice that Christ had to endure for the righteous, included a variety of emblems representing the Saviour amongst them the ‘bread of the Presence’ (Exodus 25:30). The ‘bread of the presence’—old covenant—is nothing more than a symbolic replica of Jesus Christ in the flesh—new covenant. While detailing the emblems, their functions, and their proportions, God applies an extra coat of attention to the purpose and use of the twelve loaves of bread: “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for Him a most holy portion out of the LORD's food offerings, a perpetual due” (Leviticus 24:5-9).

3. Only ‘unleavened bread’ was to be used during the various feasts of Israel:

a. The children of Israel had to celebrate the Passover Feast by eating the flesh of a lamb “… roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs…” (Exodus 12:8).
b. “…one bull of the herd and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil …” were used during the ordination of the priests (Exodus 29:1-2).
c. All grain offerings were comprised of “… unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil” (Leviticus 2:4).
d. The Feast of Unleavened bread consisted of eating unleavened bread for seven days (Leviticus 23:6).
e. The consecration ceremony of the Nazirite included ‘unleavened bread’. “And this is the law for the Nazirite, when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall … bring … a basket of unleavened bread …” (Numbers 6:13-15).

Unleavened bread was nonetheless in used before the prescribed Jewish ceremonies. The book of Genesis presents the first mention of ‘unleavened bread’ which Lot baked for the two rescuing angels (Genesis 19:3). What is the significance of ‘unleavened bread’ in correlation with the “Bread of Life’? In order for bread to wholly represent Christ it must be pure and holy just as the lambs used in the sacrificial system of the sanctuary for the Lord rejected all offerings done with blemished lambs where the blemish is representative of the bread’s leaven:

1.    A Leader “shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish…” (Leviticus 4:23).

2.    A common person “shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish…” (Leviticus 4:28).

Christ, the “Bread of Life”, who knew no sin, can only be represented by unleavened bread for leaven is synonymous with sin and defection. When leaven reacts with dough it causes it to rise and inflate (pride and ego) while the unleavened dough stays flat (humility). Paul illustrates this apparent reality to the pride filled Corinthians: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Jesus always surprised His followers by his radical teachings but sometimes it happens that, as follows, these teachings can reach an unexpected climax. What was the purpose? Was it done for His unpopularity? None of the above questions relate to the reality the Messiah needed to bring to His followers’ attention. If Christ's every miracle, every disappearance from the crowd, every parable, every spontaneous answer to the deceitful questions of His adversaries was an attention getter, what can then exceed their mysticism? How was Jesus able to magnify the commission demanding His disciples to carry the cross daily or better yet, the command to love one’s enemy? The following declaration of the “Bread of Life” was the final unreserved truth that served as the dividing sword between two distinct groups that were following Him—His determined disciples versus His superficial ones:

“Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' 32Jesus then said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' 34 They said to him, 'Sir, give us this bread always.' 35 Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, 'I am the bread that came down from heaven.' 42 They said, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?” 43 Jesus answered them, 'Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me- 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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. 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' 53 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. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.' 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.' (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.' 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' 68 Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God'” (John 6:31-69).

A detailed study of this passage can easily extend beyond ten pages, however it is wiser to substitute it with an emphasis applied with the italicized word while taking into account verses 50 and 51 which affirm the equality of Jesus (‘Bread of Life’) with the ‘Tree of Life’ (Genesis 3:22); for whoever eats of either one shall inherit eternal life.

The truth, as told in the above passage, was done in preparation for the Last Supper which can only be taken wholeheartedly under the knowledge and acceptance that Christ is the living ‘Bread of Life’ slain for the salvation of whosoever believes. It is one thing for someone to say ‘I believe’ in the Lord but it is another when that same person is demanded to prove his or her belief by accepting to eat the flesh of the ‘Bread of Life’. This is the solemnity associated with the Christian Holy Communion that is contained in no other religious ceremony.

To show the seriousness of what He spoke in John 6, Christ repeated the necessity to eat His body at the Last Supper: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’.” (Matthew 26:26) The zeal of Paul extends the seriousness of the Communion service by revealing then rebuking the irreverent disposition of the believers of Corinth which certainly applies to today’s partakers of the body of Christ:

“When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (I Corinthians 11:20-30).

The key Scripture that informs man that his ‘daily bread’ must be supplemented by the ‘Bread of Life’ lies in the Messiah’s answer to the devil’s dare: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’” (Luke 4:4). Due to the presence of the ‘it is written’, the people of Israel must have been accustomed to this essential truth long before Jesus pronounced it in His incarnate state: “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Just as Israel ate manna while traveling the wilderness and ceased to do so upon entering Canaan as spiritual Israel, we are commissioned to eat the ‘Bread of Life’ symbolically (the Holy Communion) and scripturally (the Holy Word) until we enter the gates of heaven. “The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan” (Exodus 16:35).

As a malnourished child develops Kwashiorkor (swollen abdomen), the followers of Christ who constantly skip their spiritual meals will eventually suffer from ‘hearonlyritis’ (they hear the Word but don’t practice the Word). All of our spiritual growth can only occur when we tenaciously feed on the ‘Bread of Life’:  “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation if indeed you have tasted that the ‘Bread of Life’ is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:2-5).

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" Matthew 4:17