THE BREAD OF LIFE
T. PIERCE BROWN
About half a century ago I preached a series of sermons on the names or titles of Christ. There are enough that I could have continued the series for more than two years, though I did not. For all younger preachers, and any that want to enrich your sermons, we urge you to consider sermon topics like that.
Few of the titles yield more needed lessons than one Jesus applied to Himself in John 6 when He said, “I am the bread of life.” That could be studied in at least six different ways, but today I want to consider it in terms of His comparing Himself with the manna that they thought Moses had given their fathers. He said, “It was not Moses that gave you the bread out of heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread out of heaven” (John 6:32).
First, consider the fact that it was not natural in origin, although it had many natural characteristics. It was like a coriander seed (Exodus16:31). This is a little white aromatic seed. Though similar to the manna that came from the tamarisk bush, it was very different in many ways. The development of that one theme would produce many sermons or articles.
Jesus spoke a profound truth when He said, “My father giveth you the true bread out of heaven.” He came in the likeness of sinful flesh and looked and acted like other men in many ways, but, as the officers said in John 6:46, “Never man so spake.” Not only did no man ever speak like He did, but no man lived as He did, tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin. The bakeries of the world could never produce bread like this.
The second thing that is suggested to us as we look at the manna is that it was indispensable. It saved their lives. It was not a luxury, but a necessity. So Christ is the giver and sustainer of life. It is interesting that when He said, “I am the bread of life” He did not use “psuche,” the word we might have expected, but “zoe.” That is, He not only is bread for the soul or spirit of man, He is the source of life of all kinds. “Without Him was not anything made that has been made” (John 1:3).
Third, the manna they received in the wilderness was undeserved. They had been delivered from bondage, but had come hesitatingly, even regretting their deliverance as they hungered for the fleshpots ofEgypt. They murmured, whined and complained about many of the gracious things God had done for them. How aptly that describes our condition. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, that no man should glory.” Although we must protest the false doctrine of salvation by grace only, we should never forget that our salvation is freely given us by the grace of God. This awareness should cause us to be so grateful we never whine or complain.
Fourth, it could not be stored, but had to be gathered daily. There are those who seem to think they can take a weekly dose of Christianity and it will last all week. It is no wonder the church is so weakly, for it has so many weekly members in it. The nobility of the Bereans (Acts17:11) is still an example worthy of our following.
Fifth, the manna was suitable, sufficient and satisfying. It could be eaten raw, baked, ground, fried, boiled or almost any other way anything can be prepared or eaten. There was never any lack for those who would pick it up as authorized. It was satisfying for those who would accept it by faith without complaint. So it is with the True Bread which the Father sent. He is suitable for all persons in any walk of life, and will satisfy the needs of those who will accept Him in the authorized way.
Perhaps the most significant comparison at this point is that although it was given freely and without merit, it had to be appropriated as God decreed, not in accordance with their own suppositions, or the dictates of their own conscience. They could look at it, smell it, admire it, talk about all they wanted to, but until they picked it up and ate it, they gained no value from it. The lesson looks too simple and plain to be missed. It is a tragedy beyond expression that even some of our brethren do not seem to grasp that simple truth. If they did not have faith and picked up too much, it bred worms and stank.
Christ must be taken into the system. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have not life in yourselves” (John6:53). He is not talking about the Lord’s Supper, but about letting the life of Christ be manifested in our mortal flesh. He is appropriated into the intellectual part of man by belief. He becomes a part of the emotional system as one in loving trust and sorrow for sin repents. He becomes a part of the practical life of the individual as is united with Christ in baptism and arises to walk a new life. He is indeed the bread of life, but must be appropriated in accordance with the rules laid down.