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The Bread of Life
When the devil said to Christ. "If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread," the Lord quickly unsheathed the sword of the Spirit as found in Deuteronomy 8:1-3 , and replied, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
1. We have superiority of the spiritual man to the natural man. Shall we feed the natural, the physical man, at the cost of the decadence and neglect of the new, the spiritual man? Shall we place the body and its needs above the spirit and its needs?
Each individual is a threefold being. We have the spirit, the soul, the body.
(1) The body is made up of flesh, and bones, and blood. It demands much care to keep it in prime condition, so it can serve the whole man to the best of advantage. It must be fed. It must be exercised. It must be guarded against disease.
Man's life is wrecked when hindered by an unfit body. So "what we eat" is not to be ignored. Bread for the body may not be cast aside as a needless luxury.
(2) The mind is that part of our being that does our thinking. It is our psychical man. It is the part of ourselves through which we contact all problems that have to do with our mental being. The mind needs bread not the bread made of wheat or corn or rye, but the bread found in books, and schools, and observations. Our government plays a large part in caring for the education of its peoples. It provides bread in well manned and carefully arranged schools and curriculums. It spends out of the public treasuries millions of dollars annually to feed the mind.
(3) The spirit is that part of the man that gives contact with spiritual things. It is the spirit that has contact with God. Surely that part of our being also needs bread. We would not be so foolish as to leave untaught and unschooled the spiritual man. It is written, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby." A man who has been born of God needs to train, build up, and establish the new man.
2. We have the tactics of the devil, in seeking to entrap men. Satan wanted to make Christ do what seemed to be a perfectly laudable thing; but which, out of the will and purpose of the Father, would be very sinful. Satan urged Christ to use His powers as Son of God to feed His body, when he knew that Christ's obedience to His Father was paramount. Christ, of course, detected the devil's objective at once, and He vanquished the attack of the devil by appealing to the written Word. That word made eating bread, subsidiary to obedience; and at the same time demonstrated the supremacy of the Bread of Life.
I. THE DEEPER MEANING OF THE WILDERNESS MANNA (John 6:33 )
1. The dignity of Old Testament happenings. Little did the Children of Israel know that their hunger in the wilderness, and the manna that came down for their sustenance, carried so deep and so far-reaching a significance.
They knew of their murmurings, they knew how the manna came down each day, with a double portion on the Sabbath. They knew that they ate and were filled. They knew not that in all these things they were preaching Christ. They knew not that God could take what to them was no more than a passing desert experience, and with it preach a glorious gospel truth. They knew not that the manna from Heaven spake of the Lord Jesus, that other and that spiritual Bread that should come forth from the Father.
2. The Old Testament experiences, were New Testament truths in embryo. A young man said to me, "I preach the New Testament, and leave the Old Testament for the Jews." Little did he realize that the Old Testament gives, on almost every page, such marvelous New Testament truth. Little did he know that the great message of the New Testament, Christ Jesus, lay hidden away in the Old. The Old Testament is the New in the bud; the New Testament is the Old in full bloom.
Vainly do we imagine that Christ is not the dominant message of the Old Testament. He is always there. Not that alone, but Calvary, and the resurrection, and the Priesthood, and the ascension, and the Second Coming are also there.
Stop, then, and consider that the manna of the Old Testament is the Christ of the New. What we have said, however, refers not alone to the manna. What about the serpent on the pole? What about the water from the rock? What about the blood of the slain lamb, sprinkled on the upper doorposts, and the side posts of the houses of the Israelites in Egypt? What about many, many other events that happened by the way? They all cluster around the head of Christ and preach the story of His grace.
II. A SOUL-STIRRING STATEMENT: I AM THE BREAD (John 6:33-35 )
1. The manna came down from Heaven Christ came forth from the Father. Our Lord only once spake pointedly of being born. He said, "To this end was I born"; however, He immediately added, "And for this cause came I into the world." He spake again and again of coming forth from the Father; of coming into the world; of going back to the Father. He told the Pharisees, "Ye are from beneath; I am from above." Yes, He said, "No man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven."
Let us, hereafter, place our emphasis no longer upon His birth. Let us the rather stress His eternity with the Father, and His coming from Heaven to earth for the express purpose of dying for us, that He might bring us to God. The virgin birth is important, but the eternal Son is more important. Let children know that Christmas, with the birth of Christ, was not the day of beginnings with our Lord; he was God, the eternal God, made flesh; God, the eternal God, incarnate.
2. The manna gave itself for the life (physical) of Israel; Christ gave Himself for the life (spiritual) of the world. The manna actually died for the life of those who ate it. We mean this: The manna was chewed, swallowed, digested. Thus bread that is made from wheat is cut down in the field, it is threshed, ground, cooked, eaten, etc.
Christ, the Heavenly Manna, died for the life of His people! He was slain, His body was broken, He was buried, and all that we might live.
How thankful we should be. The Lord Jesus gladly laid down His life that others might have life, and have it more abundantly.
3. Wherein the Heavenly Manna is better than the manna of old. That manna in Egypt had to be eaten daily to satisfy. Christ said, "I am the Bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst." Think of the blessedness of never knowing hunger: always fed and satisfied in Christ. Having Him, what need we more? He is, indeed, a satisfying Portion.
Do you marvel that the people said, "Lord, evermore give us this bread."
III. HE THAT EATETH, AND HE THAT EATETH NOT (John 6:36 ; John 6:39 )
1. He that eateth not, believeth not. Christ is speaking of His having come down from Heaven as the Bread of Life. Now, in John 6:36 He says, "Ye also have seen Me, and believed not." They had said (John 6:30 ) "What sign shewest Thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee?" They said, "Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from Heaven to eat."
Jesus said, "Ye also have seen Me." Then He told them that He was the Bread that cometh down from Heaven, yet they saw Him, and believed not. They said, "What dost Thou work?" Strange, is it not, that they should ask a sign just after He had fed 5,000 men with five loaves and two fishes? Yet they believed not.
2. He that cometh unto Me, I will not cast out. Some did not believe, but those whom the Father gave unto Him, they believed. They came unto Him. Thank God, there were some who trusted; and they who came unto Him, He did not cast out. It is true at this hour, "some believe and some believe not." The number of the latter are far greater than the former. Of this we are assured, that no one ever came to Him and was cast out. "Whosoever will, let him take," stands over against "Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life." These verses emphasize the election of God, in the words, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me." They also emphasize the certainty that all who come, will be received.
3. The security of those who come to Christ. The Lord continued, as in John 6:39 , "And this is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."
What blessed assurance! What comfort! When we truly come to Him, He undertakes for us. Even as Christ prayed: "Father, keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me." Some may laugh, and some may not believe; however, the Word is forever settled in Heaven, "That of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing."
John 6:40 continues in the same assertive way, "And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
IV. DOUBTING CHRIST (John 6:41-44 )
1. They murmured. In this they were like their fathers. In I Corinthians we read, "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." Murmuring is closely allied with unbelieving. It is also akin to abused, self-centered idealism. We murmur when anything crosses our way of living or thinking.
The Jews murmured because Christ said, "I am the Bread which came down from Heaven." They were against Christ's making Himself more than mere man. They wanted no one to supersede themselves in glory and dignity.
This is the spirit of the age in which we now live. Multitudes are unwilling to accord to Christ anything that they must acknowledge as beyond and superior to themselves. In fact many would humanize Christ on the one hand, while they deify themselves. Thus the age murmurs against Christ, and seeks to undermine His claims.
2. They asserted His human sonship. He called God His Father, and they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" The statement of Isaiah, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son," meant nothing to them. In all this they are copied by many religionists of this moment. Men who profess to be leaders are quick to deny Christ as virgin born. During this, they of necessity, and quite happily, deny His Deity.
Christ was vindicated in His statement "Ye * * believe not." He had said He came down from Heaven; this they scorned. He had called God His Father; this they repudiated. He had said, "I am the Bread of Life"; this they utterly rejected.
To us, all this meant no less than a complete repudiation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The men of today who reject any or all of Christ's claims to Deity and to oneness with God, make Him no more than a willful liar, and a despicable and monumental fraud. He was either what He claimed to be, all He claimed to be, or else He was the world's greatest imposter, which He was not. He was and still is the Divine Son of God.
Christ is still saying, "Murmur not among yourselves." Let us not complain against God. Shall the thing made, say to the Maker, Why hast Thou made me thus?
3. Christ went to the bottom of their unbelief. He said, "No man can come to Me except the Father who hath sent Me draw him." Here is the reason for each rejection of Christ.
V. DEATH AND LIFE CONTRASTED (John 6:48-51 )
1. Your fathers ate and are dead; ye shall never die. What a contrast is this between the values of two "breads!" We bow our knees in thanksgiving for every benefaction from Heaven toward the physical man. We thank God for Divine healing for our bodies. This comes in answer to the prayer of faith, and by the power of God. It is good. Remember, however, that healing of the body is not freedom from death. It is only for this present time. It may carry us through a few more years among men, but it cannot give us eternal life.
The "Bread from Heaven" gives eternal life. Eating of that Bread, we shall never hunger. Christ said, plainly, "I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever."
Now, pause and weigh values. Shall we make our main quest for the bread of which, eating we shall hunger and die; or shall we seek the Living Bread, of which, eating, we shall never die? Put differently, shall we as Christians give our attention to providing for men the bread that gives temporary relief, or to providing the Bread that blesses throughout all eternity?
We do not decry the bread line of the great City Missions of our land; we do say that the daily bread line is not enough. We thank God that the City Missions where we have had the privilege of speaking, have always made the earthly bread line only a steppingstone to that Bread which brings life eternal.
2. Where did Christ place the stress? He went about doing good and healing the sick. He fed the multitudes with bread which gave only a temporary blessing, but He majored always in that other service which meant eternal life. He came to seek and to save the lost. All else was secondary. Paul commended Philemon because he refreshed the bowels of the saints. Paul, however, like His Lord, made salvation his chief ministry. He said he was all things to all men that he might gain some; or save some.
VI. A HARD SAYING (John 6:60-62 )
1. Should Christ have refrained from statements which the people would not receive? Our Lord's words concerning Himself as the Bread of Life gave deep offense. He had made statements which stirred the Jews to the depths. He said, "The Bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." The Jews therefore strove together saying, "How can this man give his flesh to eat?"
Christ did not withdraw His words He made them stronger, saying, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you." Then He said, "My flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed." He made His Word plain by adding, "As the Living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me."
When the Lord had thus spoken, "Many therefore of His disciples * * said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" Did Christ unsay His words? Nay, He quietly replied: "What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before."
Beloved, our part is to preach the Word, whether men hear or forbear. We are not to weigh our message in the light of human receptibility. We are to preach the preaching that He bids, and let no man despise us.
2. What do we know of His so-called "hard saying"? Did He not take the bread and break it and say, "Take eat: this is My body, which is broken for you"? Did not He say, "This cup is the New Testament in My Blood"?
Indeed we eat the bread, and drink the cup in remembrance of that very thing which He taught on that day, which made the Jews strive against Him; which made many of His disciples turn back from Him. Shall we also turn away? Shall the saying prove too hard for us?
Nay; we believe that His body was actually broken for us; that His Blood was actually shed for us. The eating and the drinking are so truly related to His flesh and His Blood that the Spirit said that some who failed to discern the Lord's body were sickly and not a few had fallen asleep.
If we deny His Words, we deny the truth, for He said, "The Words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
VII. JUDAS THE APOSTATE (John 6:64-71 )
1. The defection of many. John 6:66 tells us, "From that time many * * went back, and walked no more with Him." These must have been numbered with them who followed for the loaves and the fishes which they ate. They followed because of the miracles which He wrought. They left when the first persecution began to kindle. Of some such the Spirit said, through Paul, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" Of such the Spirit wrote through John, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us."
Even so it is today, as it is written, "Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended."
2. The apostasy of Judas. There are some who think that Judas was a regenerate son of God. Against this we have some definite statements in this chapter.
(1) Judas did not believe. John 6:64 reads: "But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him." Even so, Judas did not truly believe on Christ. When Christ saw many leaving Him. He turned to the disciples and said, "Will ye also go away?" Peter responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the Words of eternal Life." Judas did not say this, nor did he feel it.
(2) Judas was a devil. When Peter made his declaration of fidelity, the Lord said in reply: "Have not I chosen you Twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the Twelve."
If Judas was of the devil, he was not of God.
3. Did the apostasy of Judas grieve the Lord Jesus? Did He care? Of course He did. He loved the professors who left Him; He loved Judas who believed not. When, at last, Christ saw Judas coming to Him in the Garden, He spoke with all compassion, saying, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" Yes, Christ was grieved. And Christ is always grieved when men are lost. He would that all might come to repentance.
In speaking of bread, we think of how it is written:
"Man shall not live by bread alone," Our illustration shows the folly of that which is not bread, and how the true Bread, Christ and His Gospel satisfy.
An Englishman in a Portuguese prison, while undergoing a life sentence, was visited by a fellow countryman, who subsequently sent the criminal some novels with which to relieve the monotony of his existence. These books brought him no relief, but between the leaves of one of them he found what had been left there by accident a sermon preached by C. H. Spurgeon in Exeter Hall, entitled, "Salvation to the Uttermost." This was blessed to the prisoner's soul, and on being visited by another Englishman, he sent a message to Mr. Spurgeon telling him how different things had been since his perusal of the discourse. "Give attendance to reading" (1 Timothy 4:13 ).
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on John 6". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany