FOOD OF LIFE
THE Lord used the simplest figures to express the greatest
and most profound thoughts of God in relation to men. "Bread" is universally
known as human food, but when we think of it as given by the Father out of
heaven to be life for the world it assumes a spiritual character of the deepest
interest. The Father has brought into this scene of death something that is
altogether new as being out of heaven, and He has brought it in that His
creatures here on earth might live on it in a spiritual way.
It is quite certain that the fallen creature, if left to itself, would never desire this heavenly Bread. It is those whom the Father gives Him who come to Him; He says, "no one can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw him" (verse 44). It is not that the Father hinders anyone from coming, but the state of the fallen creature is such that he cannot come because of his own perversity. But the Father would not provide heavenly Bread without securing that there should be some who would feed upon it. He gives some to the Son and they come; He draws and He teaches; otherwise there would be none to value what is so precious in His sight.
Jesus says that the one who comes to Him will never hunger, and the one who believes on Him will never thirst (verse 35). Coming to Him implies that He is seen in His own distinctiveness as having no possible rival. No other ever came down from heaven; no other was ever the Object to whom the Father drew, and concerning whom the Father spoke; no other ever ascended up to the Father in his own personal right. We come to Him as appreciating the all-surpassing glory which is found in Him alone. In our hearts we leave all others: we say with Peter,"Lord, to whom shall we go?" In this attitude of heart it is impossible to hunger; we are feeding upon One who infinitely surpasses every other kind of satisfaction. Believing on Him means that, as having come to Him, He is the abiding Object of our faith; we live, as Paul says, by the faith of Him. On that line we do not thirst.
If one eats of the Bread which comes down out of heaven he will not die (verse 20); he will live for ever. But with a view to this being opened to us the Lord said further, "But the bread withal which I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (verse 21). His flesh must be given; that is, He must go into death. Those whom He would bring into life eternal were in death as to their state Godward. So He must needs give His flesh to furnish the food of life for us.
"He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up at the last day" (verse 54). He adds, "for my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink." We may gather from this something of the divine value of that holy flesh and blood which can now be fed upon to life eternal. It is not here the Lords death as making atonement or propitiation to meet the holy claims of God so that we might be justified and accepted. . This is the flesh and blood of the Son of man as the food of life eternal, that by which we enter into what is wholly new, and outside the whole range of sin and death. It is the result of a divine Person coming down out of heaven and entering into the condition of death so that we might feed upon Him as having come into that condition, and by so doing acquire a life which is far more blessed than any creature had before. All believers think thankfully and adoringly of what the death of Christ has removed, but we should also open our hearts to take in what it is for us as the food of life. The Son of man being found in death is the most marvellous thing that has ever been in the universe of God.
In verse 51 the Lord speaks of giving His flesh, and in verse 53 He adds the thought of drinking His blood, and the two actions of eating His flesh and drinking His blood are spoken of three times in the following three verses. The One who caine down, out of heaven took part in blood and flesh. It was a sinless condition, for in it He was the Holy One of God, as Peter confessed Him in this chapter (verse 69). Indeed, the Fulness of Godhead dwelt in Him in that condition. So that there is an infinitude of meaning in His being able to say, "my flesh," "my blood." Yet it was that which He could give, so that His flesh can be eaten and His blood drunk by those given to Him by His Father. His flesh and His blood were most intimately together in the days of His flesh, and while they were together they could not be eaten or drunk by anyone. But the time came when they were separated, and the wonderful spiritual reality of the present time is that they are truly food and drink for us now, and we only have eternal life as we eat and drink them.
This connects spiritually with i John 4: 9. "Herein as to us has been manifested the love of God, that God has sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him." The love of God would have us to live for His pleasure through the death of His Son, but for this His flesh must be eaten, His blood drunk. His flesh and His blood must be assimilated into our moral being if we are to have life in ourselves. If the Son of man gives His flesh to be eaten and His blood to be drunk it speaks of death in an entirely new way of which I believe there is no type in Scripture. It is a new starting point in the ways of God with men, intended to bring in life according to the full thought of God. It is death as the starting point of a blessedness which is wholly of God. This takes the form of food and drink for us so that we may be nourished and invigorated and caused to live in an entirely new way. The flesh and blood of the Son of man show the length to which the love of God would go in order that we might have our part in the life in which Christ now lives as risen from among the dead, and ascended up where He was before.
The eating and drinking emphasises the intensely personal nature of the appropriationthe inwardness of it. It is Christ as in death that we feed upon, but as we feed upon Him He becomes ours in a most intimate and personal way; His death becomes ours as the God-provided way for us into participation in His life. We could only participate in His life through His death, and we take this into our most inward being as before God. On this ground we dwell in Him and He in us. But for this we must be characteristically eaters and drinkers; we must take this on as a characterising feature, and the dwelling in Him and He in us correspond. We have reached what it is to be in Christ, as Paul would say, and He is in us; we are all of one with Him. It is from Christ in that condition of death that the "much fruit" is brought forth of which He speaks in John 12 : 24. The reality of this is to be assimilated into our spiritual being. We derive all from His having been in that state of death, and this is maintained in us spiritually as we eat His flesh and drink His blood; we are to continue to do so.
But if we derive life from the Son of man having been in death it is obvious that this life is altogether new and different from any life we could have naturally. It is life according to the blessed thought of the love of God. It is the life which the Son of man has as risen from among the dead. Hence we read, "He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me and I in him" (verse ~6). If we dwell in Him His place is our place; we are brought to live in the blessedness of what He is as having gone to the Father. His saints are in Him, and He is in them, the Holy Spirit giving the knowledge of this, as we read in John 14 : 20. Indeed, we may be assured that it is by the Spirit that any are able to eat the flesh or drink the blood of the Son of man. For the Lord says, "It is the Spirit which quickens, the flesh profits nothing: the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life" (v. 63). The flesh of the Son of man and His blood are now to become, by our eating and drinking, the source of our true life. They are divine love in manifestation, but now appropriated and assimilated as the way by which that love reaches its own end. We are thus brought truly to live through and in Him. This is our abiding place; we dwell in Him; but this is only maintained as a spiritual reality as we eat and drink. His flesh and His blood must be as much our regular sustenance spiritually as our ordinary food is naturally.
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