Take and Eat

Description

Erin Gieschen asks what it means for Christ to offer Himself as food.

When it comes to bread, not much has changed in the Middle East since Jesus’ time. The everyday kind is still round, flat, delicious—and hard to eat any meal without. So if it’s a part of your cultural diet, you won’t feel you’ve really eaten if you go too long without it. Which is why I’ve heard that, had Jesus lived in East Asia where many countries’ word for “meal” is synonymous with “rice,” that would have been His food metaphor of choice. Every time Jesus referred to Himself as bread, His audience was hearing an Aramaic word practically interchangeable with “food.” Bread was sustenance, fuel, survival.

By eating something, you don’t merely accept it into your body: it literally becomes a part of you. Considering that Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, said he “ate” the words he received from God (15:16), it’s easier to understand why he became so emotionally charged with each message. This was a metaphor ancient Hebrews were familiar with—the Old Testament speaks of eating the bread of tears (Ps. 80:5), the bread of adversity (Isa. 30:20 NIV), and the bread of wickedness (Prov. 4:17). If you’d eaten “the bread of sorrow,” your life had become intimately acquainted with sadness.

When Jesus said, “This is My body” and tore the bread at the Last Supper (see Luke 22:14-23), it wasn’t the first time He’d spoken of Himself as bread. The disciples may not have understood that He was, on the one hand, speaking of His impending sacrificial death for the sin of the world. But by this point, they would have recognized that Jesus was also telling them to become an embodiment of Him, and to make Him their only true life-source. They’d have been hard-pressed not to think of the first time He told them to eat His flesh and drink His blood. The occasion had been a dramatic turning point at which many of His followers had actually left Him—yet Simon Peter and the others had chosen to stay (John 6:25-69).

If they remembered their shock and disappointment at that moment when Jesus’ popularity virtually evaporated, the disciples would have characterized the previous day by its sheer excitement. He had performed His largest-scale miracle yet: multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a crowd upward of 5,000. By the time they’d slept, the disciples probably figured that Israel’s full embrace of Jesus as Messiah was just around the corner. The people had been so electrified by what they’d seen that they were ready to make Him king by force (vv. 1-15).

The same crowd chased Jesus down a day after the miraculous feeding, wanting to witness something even more exciting. They ran after Him—not necessarily desiring Christ Himself, but with the thought of what they could get from Him. So when they demanded another miracle to prove who He was, Jesus replied in a way that challenged them, down to the very core of their religious sensibilities.

At the Last Supper, Jesus tore the bread and again referred to it as His body. The disciples likely remembered how their faith had surged, watching as their Lord broke the five loaves until the people were satisfied. And the Twelve would have recalled their faith being thrown into tumult as He uttered the strange words that made enemies out of former fans: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever . . . truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves” (vv. 51, 53). Not only did Jesus, the son of a carpenter, claim that God had sent Him from heaven; He also spoke of Himself in scandalous terms—as a human sacrifice.

His words made little sense to anybody who didn’t believe He was the One, the Creator, the Source. And the people wanted Him as a teacher, prophet, miracle-worker, or as their king—but not as Lord. They wanted to be given everything they thought they needed and wanted, and to be told how to be on good terms with God. But in calling Himself “the Bread of Life” (v. 35), Jesus proclaimed that He was all anyone needed, and that nothing else could fully satisfy. The metaphor aside, this is no benign claim. Jesus’ words alienated His original audience, and even today, many of us balk at the idea that we draw life only from Him. Yet, when we take part in Communion, this is the reality He ultimately wants us to feed on, so that it becomes part of who we are.

“Do not work for food that spoils,” Jesus exhorted His disciples, “but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27NIV). In saying this, He echoed the divine call from Isaiah 55:1-2:

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! . . . Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare (NIV).

From the beginning, this has always been the invitation of God to humankind, calling us to return to Him that we might receive and truly know the fullness of life He offers.

That night in the upper room, Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples as the food that is willingly torn and shared with all. This is sacrificial love to the utmost. By offering Himself as food, telling them to “take and eat,” He was essentially saying, “I will die in your place and conquer death for you, and this will bring you real life.

I will be your food, and My life will run through your veins. All who trust in Me will together become My body on earth.” In telling us to eat or, in other words, consume Him, Jesus is asking everything of us—but only after giving us everything. Surrendering ourselves to Him is to receive receive nothing less than all of Him.

By eating something, you don’t merely accept it into your body: it literally becomes a part of you.

This is what we’re doing each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper: we’re affirming and sharing in this mysterious exchange. When we take part in Communion— remembering Christ’s body, broken for us, and His blood, poured out for us—we can no longer live as though we are our own source. If we truly believe in His gospel of eternal life only through Him, we will no longer seek our ultimate nourishment from anyone or anything else.

Even in the act of eating every day—a necessity to sustain our physical bodies—we can remember just Who is “our daily bread.” And when we do, we can’t help but give thanks for what He’s given us. The life of Christ is our life. We’ve been given everything.

The article was selected from In Touch magazine.

 

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