OUR LORD AS BREAD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-12-87 10:30 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus the Bread of Heaven, Our Lord As Bread. It is an exposition of the central part of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. John 6; and I am reading several of the verses beginning at 31, John 6:31. The Jews say to our Lord:
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
Jesus said… but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
I am the bread of life; he that cometh to Me shall never hunger;
and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
I am that bread of life
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and never die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
This is that bread which came down from heaven…. he that eateth of this bread shall live forever.
You could not deny it is an amazing passage, and the symbol of it is somewhat strange to us: bread, flesh, blood, and our eating and drinking. Bread is made of grain that is crushed and ground beneath the upper and nether millstones: a symbol of His cross. It is baked in an oven: a symbol of His intensest suffering, the bread of God. Over and over in the passage, He came down from heaven to be the bread of the Lord, that we eat His flesh and drink His blood. The purpose was avowed in heaven. As the Revelation says, “He is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world” [Revelation 13:8]. It was purposed in heaven that He come down for lost humanity and die for the sins of the people.
Whatever other purpose God had in creating this vast universe and this verdant earth, whatever the might and majesty and mystery of the syllogism of suns and systems, where every star is a burning blazing light spelling the letters of His name, whatever purpose God may have cherished in the creation of this visible universe, this is one of the purposes: in heaven God purposed that His Son come down into this world to die for a lost humanity. The heartbeat of the Father issued in the heartbreak of the Son.
Our Lord did not come into this world from heaven just to be a social reformer. He did not come in order that He be a temporary apparition in the flesh. He did not come just to be an exemplar. He did not come to bring to us the transitory bread that perishes. But He came to be the saving hope of a lost people. He came in purpose, in goal, in aim, to suffer and to die. His language is one of the altar, it’s one of the sacrifice, it’s one of blood and atonement: His very nomenclature is always one of expiation.
The grace that takes our sins away presents us faultless before the glory of the presence of the great Judge of all the earth. Our Lord came down from heaven, heaven’s bread. Our Lord came down from heaven to take upon Himself our nature, to live our life, to bear our burdens, to share our troubles and sorrows. In all who were afflicted, He was afflicted. Do we agonize in prayer? So did He. Did He find Himself a suppliant before the face of the Father? So [did we]. Was He rebuked and slandered? Did He cry? In all ways, He shared our lives. “The chastisement of our peace is upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5]. This is the heart of the gospel message. God does not demand twice payment for a debt. He paid the debt. He suffered in our stead.
One of the beautiful laws of the Old Testament legislation—the sinner brought a sacrifice to the altar and placed his hands upon the head of the sacrifice [Leviticus 4:29]. He identified himself with the suffering animal, and the animal became identified with him. And when the sacrifice was slain and the blood poured out, it was his suffering, and his sacrifice, and his blood, and the crimson of his life. They were the same. So our Lord, coming down from heaven, assuming our nature, living our life, crying our tears, feeling the burden of our wrong; He died for us, the bread of heaven. We are encouraged to eat His flesh and to drink His blood.
I counted in this little passage here, from verses 50 through 58, seven times, seven times are we encouraged to eat of this bread of heaven. Eat. Eat, “Except you eat, you have no life in you” [John 6:53]. Eat. Eat, “He that eateth Me shall live by Me [John 6:57]. He that eateth of this bread shall live forever” [John 6:58]. We are encouraged to eat, to partake of the bread that God hath sent down from heaven that we might live forever.
It is a strange thing, human nature. There is in us a soul hunger for God that is imperishable, undeniable, always attendant to human existence. It is true that we are a degraded and a fallen humanity, but there is in this earthen vessel a treasure from heaven. We are still made in the image of Almighty God, and as such, the husks of the swine’s trough and the garbage from the dog’s kennel does not satisfy our souls. No matter where the man is or how degraded his life, there is still in him a hunger for immortality, for God, for life, for heaven. And in answer to that image of the Almighty in which we are made, God hath provided a glorious thing.
In the desert it was manna from heaven, baked in the ovens of glory. Manna, fresh every morning: it tasted like a wafer dipped in honey [Exodus 16:14-15, 31]. And it was abounding and abundant and sufficient for all. “Eat, eat.” Thus it is that God says in the Psalms, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8]. Calling it angel’s food [Psalms 78:24-25], no one need be hungry or unsatisfied, eat; there is an abounding, abundant plenty for all. And the soul’s highest, noblest work is to eat, share.
What do we eat? On what do our souls meditate, contemplate, feed upon? His great doctrines? Yes. The beauty of His life in the flesh? Yes. The marvelous works that He did? Yes. His precepts and principles? Yes. But mostly upon the Lord Himself. We are to feed upon Christ Himself. ‘Tis a wonderful thing, the presence of the Lord in our hearts, in our lives, in the quietness of the night, or in the pilgrimage of the day: feeding upon the Lord Himself, His presence.
One of the striking things as I read, in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, of the transfiguration of our Savior on the mount: His face shining above the brightness of the sun, and Moses on one side and Elijah on the other side, talking to our Lord, and the voice from God the Father in heaven, “This is My beloved Son” [Mathew 17:5]. In the awesomeness of that moment, Peter, James, and John fell down prostrate before the glory of the Almighty. And the Lord went over and touched them. And when they lifted up their faces and opened their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only; just He, Jesus, just the Lord [Matthew 17:6-8]. As Paul said in Philippians, “All of these things that were gain to me have I counted loss for Christ, that I might know Him” [Philippians 3:7, 10]. Feeding upon the Lord Himself: a companion, a fellow pilgrim, a sympathizing fellow sufferer, a friend, Jesus Himself.
I one time heard of an old saint who was dying, and a neophyte—a young preacher—was by his side, seeking to comfort the pilgrim. And in his speaking, the young pastor quoted 2 Timothy 1:12, and said it like this, “For I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” And the old saint touched his hand, put his hand on his arm and said, “Young, young, young pastor—young pastor, say it just as it is in God’s Word, ‘I know whom I have believed.’ Young pastor, I would not have even the smallest preposition between me and my Savior. Not, not‘I know in whom,’ but ‘I know whom I have believed,’ Jesus, He alone.”
“And they saw no one, but Jesus only” [Matthew 17:8], feeding upon Him, fellowshipping in intimate closeness with Him. ‘Tis a remarkable thing. He brings God to us and brings us to God. For the faint, He is courage. For the polluted, He is purity. For the irritable, He is patience. For the unknowing and uneducated, He is wisdom. For the dead, He is life. Feeding upon our Lord, He is all in all—not upon a fancy, or upon a phantom, or upon a dream, or upon a symbol—but a live God-Man, Jesus Himself.
There are two tremendous ordinances in this Holy Book; one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. And both of them portray in vivid form the life of our Lord and our fellowship with Him. In the Old Testament, it is the Passover. And the Passover was fundamentally a lamb roasted; slain, and roasted over the fire. And the commandment of our Lord was all of it is to be eaten, all of it. No part of it to be left behind: all of it eaten, and if a family were too small to eat the whole roasted lamb, the neighbors were to be invited in and they share that feast together [Exodus 12:3-6, 8-11].
In the fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul says, “Jesus our Passover is sacrificed for us” [1 Corinthians 5:7]. The whole family is to be gathered round our suffering, atoning Lord. And all of us are to share in His love and His grace: the feeblest and the strongest, the youngest and the oldest. All of us are to share in that feast. And it is in the eating that we find strength for the way. All of us, not just looking, not just observing, not even discussing or philosophizing, but eating, partaking. It is an essential to our life that we eat as a sharer in the feast.
Could I make an aside here? It astonishes me how many, many, many people in schools, in academic communities, in differing groups, will discuss and philosophize about the Lord and about the Christian faith, and never partake, never find in Jesus a close and precious friend and a dear companion for the pilgrim way. Eat. Eat. Eat, God invites you to eat.
The other ordinance is in the New Testament; it’s the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Our Savior says here in verse 63, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” [John 6:63]. When He says, “Eat of the bread of heaven, eat My flesh, drink My blood,” the Lord says the words are spirit and life. They are transferred from the actual food, from the actual bread and the actual food of the vine, they are transferred into the relation of the soul to Christ. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” [1 Corinthians 10:16]. The cup which we drink, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? As Paul says in Ephesians, “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones”[Ephesians 5:30]. We are actual members of the body of our Lord. He is we and we are He; we’re together, we are one.
It’s a beautiful thing that God has opened the door for us, that we are thus in intimate communion with God. And God is as near to us as our breath, as our hands, and as our feet. We are identified with Him, and He is identified with us. Our Lord looks through our eyes. He hears with our ears. He speaks with our tongue. He loves with our hearts. He works with our hands. He walks on our feet. And He witnesses with our testimony. The Lord is in us, and we are in Him—“members of His body, and of His flesh, and of His bones” [Ephesians 5:30].
A last observation from this glorious text: over and over and over will our Lord say that in eating and drinking we have eternal life. The life of God is in us, and God is eternal. And if we are in Him, we also are eternal. We pass from this life into heaven, living forever. We shall never die [John 11:26]. He says we shall live forever, and when we go to that ultimate and final moment and hour, it’s just to pass from this earthly existence into the wonderful world God hath prepared for those who love Him.
Look at this, listen: there is a predetermined and predestinated ultimate in the life of every child of God, namely, an eternal embodiment, an eternal immortality. Let me say it in the opposite way. It is not the purpose of God in Christ that we be wandering spirits, that we be happy ghosts, that we be disembodied. As I have said so many times, in the same way that nature abhors a vacuum, so does the Christian faith abhor disembodiment. All of those ancient religions believed in the immortality of the soul. It was the new faith, and the new doctrine, and the new revelation that, in Christ, there was also immortality of the body: that the body also would be raised up and immortalized, glorified, transfigured [Acts 4:2], that there was the whole purchased possession in the atonement of our Lord.
He died not only that our spirits might be purified, but He died also that our bodies might be resurrected. And in the Christian faith, there is always that promise of a new, and better, and transfigured, and immortalized body. We shall be a whole personality, not, I say, a wandering spirit or a happy ghost. We will be people. God made us this way: a spirit in a body. And in the great ultimate purpose of our Lord, we shall be transfigured, not only in our souls, but in our human frames. We shall be people. You will be you, and I shall be I, and we shall be we. As our Lord lives, gloriously resurrected and raised, we also shall live with Him. They even identified Him by the scars in His hands and by the thrust of the spear in His side.
Those little personality traits that make you you will be in your resurrected life, You will still be you. I see that so many times as I read the resurrected life of our Lord. When Simon Peter and when John ran to the tomb, Peter just ran right on in, and John, being more hesitant, finally followed his older friend into the sepulcher. And do you remember what he said? When John saw the napkin folded and in a place by itself, he believed that Jesus was raised from the dead. What that means is simply this: Jesus had a little idiosyncrasy way of folding up a napkin. He did it in a certain way. And when John saw that napkin folded up in just that idiosyncrasy way that Jesus folded up a napkin, he believed He was raised from the dead, that He was alive [John 20:3-9].
In that same story, do you remember the Lord? In the garden where He was laid to rest, Mary Magdalene thought He was the gardener and asked where His body had been placed. And Jesus called her name, “Mary.” He had a certain way of pronouncing her name. And she turned and said, “My Lord” [John 20:14-16]. The little idiosyncrasies, personality that made Jesus, Jesus.
Or take again, when the two were walking on the way to Emmaus, a stranger came and walked by their side, and He opened unto them the Scriptures. And their hearts burned as they listened to this stranger. And when they came to the home, they sat down for that evening meal, and He asked the blessing. And they recognized Him in the way that He said the blessing [Luke 24:27-31]. Jesus had a certain way of saying thanks before He ate, and they recognized Him in the way that He said the blessing.
We are going to be that way. There are certain little characteristics that make you you, and make you you, and make me me. And when we are raised, when we’re transfigured and glorified, we’ll still be you and you and me. That’s what God says. May I read to you in this brief passage? Four times—four times—look at the conclusion of the verse in 39, “This is the Father’s will, that all which He hath given Me, I will lose nothing.” Now the concluding, “And I will raise him up again at the last day” [John 6:39]. Look at the next verse, “This is the will of Him that sent Me: that everyone that believeth on Me will have everlasting life.” Now the conclusion, “And I will raise him up at the last day.” Look again at 44, “The man that comes to Me comes because the Father that sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Look again at 54, “Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life.” Now the conclusion, “And I will raise him up at the last day.” The very heart of the message of Christ is this: that He will redeem not only our spirits, our souls, but He will redeem these bodies. And we will be raised up in the likeness of His own glorious resurrection.
A dead corpse doesn’t need bread. And a dead cadaver doesn’t need Christ, but I do for I’m alive in Him. Bread to eat, and that’s My Lord; and Christ to love, that’s my Savior. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, that a man may eat and live forever [John 6:50-51], the fellowship, the comradeship that we have with Him in our pilgrim way. May we pray?
Wonderful and precious Lord, what a beautiful, wonderful, incomparable, glorious salvation You have brought to us. Would God we had the voice of an angel to proclaim it. Would God we had the burning of the Spirit to describe it. O Christ how full and how wondrous is the salvation You have brought to us who are dead in trespasses and in sins but made alive in the grace and atoning goodness of our Lord Jesus. And our Father we pray that God will bless the appeal this morning with a sweet harvest of souls, trophies of grace to bring to our living Lord.
And with our heads bowed, somebody you give himself to Jesus, make that decision in your heart, “Pastor, today I am accepting the Lord for all that He promised to be.” A family you coming into the fellowship of our dear church or answering the call of the Holy Spirit in your heart; and our Lord as God shall lead and bless, may there be a beautiful response from our people in Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we stand and while we sing.
I. Jesus came to die
A. Purposed in heaven (Revelation 13:8)
B. Came to be the
saving hope of a lost people
C. He shared our lives (Isaiah 53:5)
D. We are encouraged to
eat this bread of heaven (John 6:50-58)
II. Our appropriation of Him
A. Our inward souls
hungry for God (Psalm 34:8)
B. What do we eat?
“angels’ food” (Psalm 78:25)
2. His doctrines,
3. On Jesus
Himself (Matthew 17:5, Philippians 3:7, 2
III. The two great symbolic ordinances
A. In the Old
Testament, the Passover
1. All of it was
to be eaten (Exodus 12:10)
2. All of us are
to share in it (1 Corinthians 5:7)
B. In the New
Testament, the Lord’s Supper (John 6:63)
1. Words are spirit
2. Act of eating,
drinking transfer from body to soul (Ephesians
IV. Hath eternal life
A. In eating and
drinking we have eternal life
embodiment and immortality