The Bread of Life and the Christmas Story
In the book of John, Jesus gives us seven “I Am” statement that declare to us different aspects of His deity. One of these was his claim to be the “Bread of Life.” It was this discourse that caused many of His disciples to stop following Him. Surprisingly, there is a hint to us about this claim in the Christmas story – the very reason I am bringing it up this Christmas season. Let us look at the connection between the manger in Bethlehem and the teachings of Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum after the feeding of the five thousand.
“Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:32-33….
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I Am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:47-51
“So, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, 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 feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.” John 6:53-56
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63
"After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So, Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (Bible verses quoted from the ESV)
God made us so that we need to eat and drink to survive. Without food, we wouldn’t last very long! However, Jesus explained to us that we cannot live by bread (food) alone. We need the Word of God, in written form, but more importantly, the physical Word of God made flesh – Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead, the Son of God. Just as we take food into the body and it nourishes us and becomes part of our cells, we also take Jesus into our bodies through belief, and He comes in to regenerate our dead spirits and give us new hearts that will live with Him forever. This spiritual food is so much more important than physical food. Without Jesus, we experience death and separation from Him forever. Physical life will end one day no matter how healthy we eat. The spiritual life of the soul, however, is eternal. Without Jesus, we die spiritually and are separated for eternity from God. Making sure we partake of the body and blood of Jesus is of utmost importance! It is urgent that we believe on Him as Savior and allow His body and blood to be nourishment for our soul!
So now that we understand how Jesus is the Bread of Life, we can go back in time and see some insights from the Christmas story. You remember that Caesar Augustus issued a decree for everyone to be counted in a census. Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to be counted there because they were from the lineage of David. Bethlehem as the city of David can be traced back to the book of Ruth. It was in the fields of Bethlehem that Boaz and Ruth met, and eventually got married. Their son, Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David. It was, in fact, the very fields of Boaz where years later, in the fullness of time, the angels appeared to the shepherds proclaiming that the Christ had been born. Now here is the bread connection: the word “Bethlehem” means house of bread. Beth = House; Lechem = Bread. So, the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread. But that’s not all! Where did Mary lay the baby? She laid him in a manger, which is an animal feed trough. The Bread that would give life to the world was actually laid in a feeding trough! The angels told the shepherds, “This shall be a sign unto you, you shall find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” This baby, who was God the Son, would one day be wrapped in “swaddling” grave clothes and as a result, His body would be bread for the salvation of the world! What a sign! What a Savior!