Eating Abstract Bread
Children can understand their own age: “Today is one day. When you live 365 days like today, that’s one year. And when you do that five times, you’re five years old! Got it?” But when you don your professorial hat and try to explain to a child that God doesn't have an age, that He’s always existed, that He wasn't born, that He lives in eternity—you stop when you realize the child is looking at you like a puppy with its head cocked to one side. Moving from the concrete to the abstract is difficult for children— even spiritual children, like Jesus’ disciples.
As Jews, the disciples were thoroughly versed in the Old Testament accounts of the miracle of manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16). Though it was indeed a miracle, it was still concrete; the Jews could touch and eat the bread that Moses provided from heaven. But when Jesus began talking to them about “food that endures to eternal life,” (John 6:27) neither the disciples nor the Jewish crowds understood. And when he referred to himself as the “bread of life,” they were underwhelmed. After all, Moses had supplied bread for hundreds of thousands of people for 40 years; Jesus had done it once for 5,000. Moses’ bread was truly from heaven; Jesus’ was ordinary bread. They were still focused on the concrete, and it only got worse.
When Jesus began talking to them about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, many of the Jews got offended and left. This was heretical language for a Jew! Ultimately, Jesus had to remind the disciples that physical, fleshly things have no eternal importance; it is only through the Spirit that true life is found. The words he was speaking were “spirit” and needed to be “spiritually discerned,” as the Apostle Paul would say years later (1 Corinthians 2:14). Physical bread sustains physical life, but only spiritual bread (words of truth) can sustain spiritual life.
As fleshly people who have become spiritual children, we must learn to comprehend spiritual words in order to obtain spiritual life. In other words, do we live to eat or do we eat to live?
God’s Promise to You: “If you will consume my words, you will never be hungry again.”
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