Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bread of the Presence/Face

“And Yeshua said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger…’” (John 6:35).  "I am the bread which came down from heaven…" (John 6:41). "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…” (John 6:51).  
Yeshua has chosen to compare Himself and the Life that He gives to “bread”.  In last week’s article, “Bread of Heaven”, we noted that, Yeshua told His followers to eat His flesh and drink His blood (see John 6:53).  Therefore, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…” (v. 51 emphasis added).  Later Yeshua clarified these ‘hard’ statements by saying that, "it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (v. 63 emphasis added).  In other words, Yeshua, His words, His message, and even His person constitute the “bread”. 
Already Moshe, in the wilderness, made the declaration: "So He [Elohim] humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of YHVH” (Deuteronomy 8:3). But one would think that this kind of spiritual reality would have eluded the Israelites. As hungry and distraught newly released slaves, what would they have understood about “living by the Word”? Indeed, they did not appear to grasp that notion. Yeshua, however, quoted some of these very words, in reference to bread, immediately upon His encounter with the adversary at the start of His ministry (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4). From then on the ‘bread imagery’ continued to be a central theme, as we have seen, during the rest of His time on earth.  He even taught His disciples to pray: “Give us this day our allotted portion of bread” (literal translation, based on Proverbs 30:8).
During the Passover meal Yeshua took the unleavened bread, broke it and said: “This is my body”.  He was reminding His disciples of what He had said to them previously, after the feeding of the five thousand.  Since they did not understand spiritual realities, He had to make His point very tangible.  Only after being filled with the Spirit of Elohim they grasped what Yeshua meant by “partaking of His body and blood/life”.
 After being immersed in the Spirit, these disciples had become the “one bread” and their communing with each other, as His body, was by “eating Spirit and drinking Life”, which each member provided.  Later on Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Messiah…” (1 Corinthians 12:27), and a little earlier: “…The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Messiah?  For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).  Obviously, the apostle was not speaking of “flesh”, or anything of this creation. He was referring to Spirit and Life, the bread which came down from heaven.
Recalling the scene of the feeding of the five thousand, where Yeshua blessed the bread and then broke it and gave it out, we can rest assured that He will do the same with us.  Blessing us as the “bread” is not for us personally, but for the sake of others. Hence it says: “In whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).  
Nourishing each other in the body of Messiah with His love and all the other fruit of the spirit will cause the body to mature. But should this not be the case, there is a severe warning issued by Paul: “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).  This statement is not speaking about a wafer and a sip of wine.  It is telling us to recognize the mystery of Messiah’s Spirit in one another, as we are bound together by the Word. 
After Yeshua was glorified, He sent the Spirit of His Father in fulfillment of His (earlier) prayer: "…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:21-22).  In John 14:8 Philip addressed Yeshua and said to Him: "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us".  Yeshua responded to him with a question: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?” He then added: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father?’” (v. 9).  Yet in chapter 1 of the Gospel of John it says that, “No one has seen [the face of] Elohim at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (v 18). In saying what He did to Philip, Yeshua was therefore declaring that He was/is the very manifestation of His Father.
As believers who have received the Spirit of Elohim, we too have become united with the Father and His Son, Who are the “one bread”.  This brings to mind another bread, the “bread of the presence” - lechem hapanim - literally “bread of the face”, which was in the Holy Place (in the Mishkan and the Temple).  And even though Elohim said to Moses, “…My face shall not be seen…" (Exodus 33:23), in partaking of Yeshua (His life), we, the twelve loaves of Leviticus 24:5, are the very bread of Elohim’s presence, or the “face of Elohim”. Quite a staggering reality! What’s more, as Yeshua’s body we have within us the treasure of His presence in our earthen vessels: “For it is the Elohim who commanded light to shine out of darkness [in creation], who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of Elohim in the face of Messiah Yeshua” (2 Corinthians, 4:6 emphasis added).Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). 

Interestingly, even after Yeshua’s resurrection He continued to remind His disciples of His legacy and their calling, by feeding them with “bread”.  Shortly after His resurrection, two of the disciples were on their way to Emmaus when they suddenly noticed a man walking alongside them.  It was only after He broke the bread and blessed it, when they were sitting around the table, that they recognized Him. In their report, “about the things that had happened on the road”, they emphasized “… how He was known to them in the breaking of bread” (Luke 24:35).  Yeshua will also make Himself known through us when we become His blessed and broken bread.  Another episode that took place after the resurrection was upon Yeshua’s arrival to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There He prepared a meal for the hungry fishermen. “Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread…  Yeshua then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish” (John 21:9 and 13).   I wouldn’t doubt that this took place right where it all started – when the five thousand were fed…  

Bread of Life

In chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, it is recorded that multitudes of people were following Yeshua because of the miracles that they saw Him perform.  One day, for example, five thousand people gathered around Him.  Yeshua approached Philip, one of the disciples, and tested him regarding their ability to feed the people. Philip, for his part, was only able to perceive the situation from his natural perspective, suggesting that not even two hundred denarii would suffice to give each one present just a small amount.  (Is there a lesson in this for today, that no amount of money will be able to feed the spiritually hungry people of this world?) Just then Andrew noticed a boy with five loaves of bread and two fishes. Yeshua turned to the disciples and told them to have the multitude sit down.    He took the fish and the bread, blessed them, broke off some and gave it to the disciples so that they would distribute the food to the people. When all had finished eating, they took up twelve baskets-full of leftovers.

This story sets the stage as to what Yeshua was going to reveal about Himself shortly.  After some of His followers wanted to take Him by force and make Him king right there and then. He departed from the scene while His disciples got into a boat and took off across the sea.  Amazingly, Yeshua arrived, somehow, on the other side and greeted them upon their arrival.   How he got there so fast astounded everyone.  The next day some of the same people were looking for Him to perform more miracles, but Yeshua discerned their true motive, and said: “"Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). Is this another warning sign for today’s followers of Yeshua?
Following the ‘feeding scene’, Yeshua was now ready to take his listeners further and reveal to them hidden truths regarding that miracle. And so He states: "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life…” (v. 27a).  Just as when He met the Samaritan woman at the well and told her about the eternally thirst quenching water that He gives (see John 4:14), so too now, Yeshua speaks of the bread that gives everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give… because Elohim the Father has set His seal on Him" (John 6:27).  Notice that He does not directly point to Himself right away, but leads them on to asking more questions. "What shall we do, that we may work the works of Elohim?" (v. 28), they respond.  The Messiah’s answer really sparks their curiosity:  "This is the work of Elohim that you believe in Him whom He sent" (v. 29).  One would think that their next question would have been, “Tell us whom has Elohim sent?”  But the trained Jewish mind does not necessarily commit itself so quickly. They figured that this man just might be referring to Himself and they were not about to acknowledge that fact. So they tested Him: “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?” (v. 30).  Apparently they did not recognize the multiplication of the bread as anything significant, and in a way they were actually belittling Yeshua, as seen in their further comment: "Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He [Moses] gave them bread from heaven to eat’" (v. 31). 

 Yeshua is now going to counter their statement: “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of Elohim is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (vs. 32-33).   Later He will remind them that their fathers ate of that bread and died. 
The inquirers, like the Samaritan woman at the well, responded based upon their ‘natural’ understanding. Completely missing the point they reply:  "Lord, give us this bread always" (v. 34). Yeshua is now ready ‘to drop the bomb’ and let them in on the secret: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (v. 35).   This statement really got to them and they began to murmur and complain. Although Yeshua knew that they did not believe Him, He went on to press the issue, “…this bread is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world…  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh” (v. 51b,a).  This was more than they could take; enough is enough - “eating human flesh?!”   Everyone knew that this was an abomination before Elohim, and is totally repulsive to any Jew or even non-Jew.  Did Yeshua truly believe what He was saying? 

The Jews began to quarrel amongst themselves saying: “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (v. 52).  Relentlessly Yeshua continues to ‘rub it in’: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (vs. 53-56)Wow!  This is beyond anything any man has ever said.  What blasphemy!  Even Yeshua’s disciples were offended by these statements.  However, Yeshua’s intent was to get their attention and at the same time separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak.  Can you imagine? These things He said in the synagogue in Capernaum!  It is amazing that they did not take Him to the water and drown or stone Him. 
The Messiah’s next statement to His offended disciples was going to be the key that unlocks the mystery of the bread of heaven:  "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?” (v. 62).   
Yeshua is now revealing to them that He was with the Father in the beginning, and is now manifesting His (the Father’s) presence (see John 14:8-9).  He then goes on to clarify His previous statement, referring to His “flesh and blood”: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). 

Many of the disciples left as they could not accept what Yeshua was about Himself. So it is today, many will fall from the faith for the same reason. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever" (vs. 57-58).  Is Yeshua asking us the same question that He posed before the twelve: “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). May our response be as emphatic as Peter’s: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Messiah, the Son of the living Elohim" (vs. 68-69).