Jesus Christ declared to a great crowd of His listeners, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). These words were spoken at one of the early Passover seasons of Jesus’ ministry (v. 4). They puzzled His hearers then and they have puzzled many others since.
Christ went on to enjoin His followers, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (v. 51). As we approach the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, it is very important that we should deeply understand the message that Jesus Christ was conveying.
In Exodus 12, God commanded the Israelites to observe the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread forever. Prior to the Days of Unleavened Bread they were to remove leavening and leavened products from their homes (vv. 15, 19). Throughout this entire seven-day festival they were to avoid eating leavened products (v. 15).
However, this was not the “Feast of No Bread at All.” It was the Feast of Unleavened Bread! There was a replacement provided for the leavened bread that was customarily eaten (v. 20). It was a bread made without yeast. Yeast is what causes the giving off of carbon dioxide during the bread-making process that makes the bread dough puff up or expand. The ancient Israelites used sourdough to put yeast into their bread dough. Today we most commonly use packages of dried yeast in baking, or we produce the same result with the use of baking powder or baking soda.
Passover is the fourteenth day of the first month and therefore not one of the seven days of the Unleavened Bread festival (Leviticus 23:5–6; Numbers 28:16–17). Yet at the Passover service, both anciently and today, only unleavened bread is to be used (Exodus 12:8). There is an important reason. At His final Passover supper with His disciples, Jesus Christ explained that the unleavened bread which He blessed and broke was symbolic of His own body (Matthew 26:26). The Passover, centering on the lamb anciently and upon the bread and the wine today, points toward Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
The Apostle Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 5:7–8 that since Jesus Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us, we are to keep the festival which follows in its true spiritual significance. We are to understand that unleavened bread is illustrative of sincerity and truth. This, of course, points us once more right back to Jesus Christ. After all, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
As we approach the Passover season, we should not only be focused on getting rid of the leavening in our lives, but also upon the necessity of feasting on the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. At the Passover service and for the seven-day festival which follows, we are to be reminded of Jesus Christ by the unleavened bread that we put into our mouths.
We must feast on far more than mere physical bread products that are made without leavening agents. We must be spiritually feasting on what it symbolizes, Jesus Christ Himself. Seven is God’s number of completion and perfection. A festival of seven days reminds us that our partaking of Jesus Christ must be complete. This physical practice is to remind us of what must be part of our lives now and forever.
The metaphor of eating the Bread of Life points to the fact that we must become filled with Jesus Christ. How is this possible? A starting point would be to examine some of the purposes for which Jesus Christ said that He came.
Introducing His Ministry
In the fall of the year, about the time of His thirtieth birthday, Jesus Christ came to where John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing (Luke 3:23). This was in an area of the Jordan River about twenty-five miles from Jerusalem. A few weeks after being baptized, Jesus withdrew into the wilderness for forty days of fasting prior to beginning His ministry. At the end of that time, Satan came and tempted Him. Christ resisted Satan’s blandishments.
In the aftermath of this, Jesus continued choosing His disciples. He introduced His public ministry in Jerusalem during the Passover season following His baptism. He taught in the temple, performed miracles, and, most dramatically, cleansed the temple. “And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple... And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise’” (John 2:14–16).
The religious leaders were stunned. Yet Jesus proceeded to perform miracles that they couldn’t gainsay.
One of those very leaders, Nicodemus, came privately to Jesus and acknowledged, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher sent from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). After John the Baptist was put in prison in the late spring, Jesus and His disciples returned to Galilee. He began His Galilean ministry on Pentecost in His home synagogue in Nazareth.
Standing up to read, He opened the scroll of Isaiah to the section He wanted and proceeded to read the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18). He went on to tell His hearers that scripture was fulfilled that day (v. 21).
This section of scripture sets the tone for the rest of Christ’s ministry. It also sets the tone for today, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). To be filled with Jesus Christ means to be filled with the same message that He spent His time proclaiming. As we partake of the Bread of Life, we are being nourished by Jesus Christ and those things which He offered His hearers. Let’s briefly examine what Christ announced to the synagogue in Nazareth at the beginning of His ministry.
The Gospel to the Poor
Fundamentally, Jesus Christ came with a message. That message was the good news of God’s coming Kingdom (cf. Mark 1:14). It was a message of hope in a world where things looked very hopeless. Judea was a province of the mighty Roman Empire. In addition, the despotic Herod family exercised direct rule under the Romans. The people were ground down by oppressive taxes and harsh rulers. There was no relief in sight.
In the midst of poverty and hopelessness, Jesus of Nazareth came with a message of hope. There was coming a world government that would displace the Romans and the Herod family. It was the same Kingdom that was announced by the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. The time was at hand for people to understand what that Kingdom was all about. Jesus explained to His hearers that they could actually inherit the Kingdom as children of God, God’s very heirs. His message went far beyond anything the religious leaders of the day understood.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained the kind of character that was required of those who wished to be the heirs of that Kingdom. Throughout the rest of His ministry He expounded those same points over and over in different contexts.
To partake of Jesus Christ means to partake of the hope that He came to proclaim. His whole life was built around the reality of the Kingdom of God. It was the “pearl of great price” whose value far outshone everything else. In fact, He exhorted His listeners that they should be prepared to give up everything in order to achieve an inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:44–45). How real is that Kingdom to us? How brightly does it shine in our mind’s eye?
The Apostle Paul was one who truly feasted on Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. “But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ... that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8–11).
An Offer of Healing
Healing was a big part of the ministry of Jesus Christ. It was tangible evidence, not only of God’s power, but also of His grace and compassion. In fact, Christ explained to His disciples at His final Passover meal with them that the bread which He blessed and broke symbolized His body, broken for us (1 Corinthians 11:24). Many years later, the Apostle Peter explained that our healing was made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. His body was broken and beaten in our behalf, “...by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
The miraculous healing of our physical infirmities and ailments is a wonderful blessing. It is, however, a temporary physical benefit, for this physical body is temporary.
In His statement in Nazareth, Christ emphasized a side of healing that we don’t always focus upon. He talked about healing “the brokenhearted.” This term, “brokenhearted,” means literally those who are crushed or bruised in mind or spirit. Jesus Christ came not only to heal the outward ailments that could be seen by others—as He demonstrated throughout His ministry—but also to heal the inward infirmities of the heart and mind. The word for healing in the Hebrew language comes from shalom. It carries the connotation of peace and wholeness.
To partake of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, includes partaking of the release that He offers from the inner hurt and turmoil that debilitates so many of us. We live in a world of fear, sorrow and pain. Significantly, the first place those words are mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 3, where God explained to Adam and Eve the consequences of sin. Healing, whether physical or emotional and mental, is evidence of God’s power to forgive sin and to ameliorate its aftermath.
Many different things in our lives have contributed to the inner hurts and pains that we’ve all suffered. The good news is that we can have release. Christ announced that one of the reasons for His coming was to heal those who were crushed and bruised in their inner being. To feast on the Bread of Life leads to being filled with the inner peace that confidence in Jesus Christ and His love makes possible. The faith that flows from the deep realization of Christ’s love and power is what makes healing of every sort possible.
While pain and sorrow won’t be totally and permanently banished from this world until the time of the New Heavens and New Earth spoken of in Revelation 21:4, we can experience a foretaste now. An inner peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7) is available to us in this age. The Apostle Paul, though languishing in Roman imprisonment when he wrote Philippians, had come to be filled with that inner peace. He was filled with peace and wholeness because he was first filled with Jesus Christ. His life was one of feasting on the Bread of Life.
Gaining New Sight
John 9 records one of the most remarkable of Christ’s many miracles, the healing of a man who had been blind from birth. This event, which took place on the Last Great Day (cf. John 7:37), symbolized the time when spiritual blindness is going to be removed from all mankind.
Physical sight is very important, but spiritual sight is far more so. It is what enables us to see the truth of God. We live in a world of spiritual darkness, but Jesus Christ came as the Light of the World. It is that Light which makes spiritual sight possible.
To perceive ourselves accurately, as well as to perceive God and His purpose properly, we need the gift of sight. It enables us to properly perceive and make sense of everything around us. Without the gift of spiritual sight, we can’t even begin on our spiritual journey which leads to the Kingdom of God. If we are feeding on Jesus Christ, we are being filled with the source of sight and perception. The perfect example of His life and the clarity provided by His teachings combine with His indwelling presence to give the believer guidance in a world that is deceived by the Prince of Darkness.
Recovery of sight is only possible for those who are feasting on the Bread of Life.
Deliverance and Liberty
Freedom has always had a special allure for human beings. Jesus Christ said that He came to proclaim deliverance to the captives and to set at liberty those who are oppressed. What is the captivity from which we need deliverance? What is it that has oppressed us and robbed us of liberty? In one simple word, the answer is sin!
Deceived theologians often seek to picture God’s law as an enslaving shackle. They claim that Christ came to free us from the law, which they picture as a yoke of bondage. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The Apostle Paul deeply understood the deliverance and liberty that Jesus Christ came to offer. Notice his explanation given in Romans 6:16–18: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.”
Clearly, sin is the enslaving factor that has made captives of us all. But Jesus Christ came to triumph over sin and pay the penalty in our stead. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
There is only one way out from under the death penalty exacted by sin. We are reminded of that one way every Passover when we partake of the symbols of our Savior’s sacrifice. No amount of future good deeds on our part can ever atone for sin. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can do so.
The whole world is held captive by Satan the devil, that wicked spirit who works in the children of disobedience. However, Jesus Christ triumphed over Satan and overcame the world (John 16:33). Through Him, we may experience the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
To feast on the Bread of Life includes partaking of the forgiveness made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. He has made it possible for us to be delivered from sin’s hold on our lives.
If we are truly feasting on Jesus Christ, then we are being filled with hope, with inner healing, with clarity of vision, and with deliverance and liberty. We are being filled with that which will nourish and sustain us now and forever.
As we partake of the bread which will be offered to us at the Passover service and throughout the seven days of the unleavened bread festival which follows, let’s be deeply conscious of what we’re picturing. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him,” Jesus said. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me... He who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:56–58).
“Feed on Christ” Through His Inspired Word
Obviously, one of the primary ways we must prepare to become full sons of God is to “feed” on Christ by genuinely studying and saturating ourselves with the very word that He inspired. Many of us in the Church do “a little Bible reading” every day—or at least most days. But how many of us consciously try to carefully read, meditate on and “drink in” the very mind and heart of God and “feed” on Christ by profoundly studying the Bible with heartfelt intensity and accompanying prayer? How many of us cry out to God as we study, “Teach me your ways, O God, and lead me in Your paths”? How many of us try to regularly meditate on God’s word, on His law—and on His Plan—and try to truly have the very mind of Christ in this way and to reflect Christ’s mind in everything we think, say and do? Remember, Jesus inspired the Apostle Paul to write, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). —Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, March/April 2011 Living Church News