The Universal Food Problem
W. Fraser Naismith, Kilmarnock
In that interesting story of the prodigal son recorded in Luke 15, the young man as he served by the swine troughs confessed that in his father's house there was bread enough and to spare;, yet he was perishing with hunger. Our Father has given us One who is "the bread of life", and who is capable of supplying all who come to Him, for He alone has the sustenance that the soul requires. But we are in the place of starvation, with no personal resources from which we may draw. What we may do is to "arise and go to the Father", and then every need will be fully met.
There are numerous references to the "Bread" in John 6; an examination of them will prove helpful.
The Origin. The origin of this bread is announced in verse 32, "the true bread from heaven". He came down from the heights of transcendental glory into this scene of sorrow and woe. Had He remained alone forever in that granary on high, that would not have fed the world, nor would there ever have been a harvest to reap. We remember His own words, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit", John 12. 24.
The Dignity. The dignity of this bread is next declared. In verse 33 our Lord alludes to it as "the bread of God". This may refer to the exhibition bread which was placed by the priests on the table of Jehovah in the holy place of the sanctuary, and on which God fed for seven days. This remark does not mean that God literally left the holiest of all where He had His throne in the midst of His people to lift up the bread on the table of the holy place and to partake of it there. He had fed on that throughout the seven days in which it lay there. That bread spoke of God's Son who is ever before His eye as most precious. God found fullest satisfaction in the Son of His love. He opened heaven to indicate His good pleasure in His Son, and He never tires of hearing Him well spoken of by His people.
The Character. The character of the bread is emphasized in verse 35, "I am the bread of life", and associated with its character is its ability to satisfy. The Lord continued "he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst". Christ is the Bread of Life, the portion of all who come to Christ, and to whom life has been imparted. This life which has been bestowed is sustained by the provision to be found in Christ. In verse 48 of this chapter the Lord affirms with emphasis "I am that bread of life". While the fathers were in the wilderness they ate the manna, but they all have passed away; here is bread which if a man eat thereof he shall never die. It is not the thought of physical life that is before us here, but that of spiritual and divine life.
The Issues. The issues are important as indicated in verse 51, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever". This statement is again affirmed in verse 58. In verses 53 to 57 the Lord explains the meaning of eating this bread. These verses do not allude to the Lord's supper, for primarily the subject matter here is not the supper but what underlies and precedes it. These words were not spoken in the upper room but on a previous occasion, and they consequently take precedence over what He said on that night in which He was betrayed, and when He instituted the supper. We do not come together to the supper to obtain life: that is the place for those who already are in the enjoyment of life everlasting, and John 6 precedes the institution of the supper. The statement of verse 51 refers to an initial partaking; while that in verse 56 is continuous. Those who partake of the supper should, however, be able to say as they rise from such an occasion, "His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed". This would signify that we have been able to enter into the spiritual meaning of the Lord's death and all that it unfolds. Corporally, we have been partakers of bread and wine, but spiritually, we have fed on Christ. The sceptical Jews said, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?". The Lord ignores their carnal ideas and states in verse 63, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life".
The greatest food problem is that of a needy world; and the only One competent to meet that need and satisfy the human soul is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.