Eternal Manna

Last night I was feeling the tempting, and sinful pull of my various distractions.  I was feeling frustrated and despondent.  I wanted to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill.  I want to get out of the rut of depending on sleeping pills to sleep.  So my mind was coming up with all sorts of ways to ‘pass the time’ until I felt tired.  The passing of time is mostly just me escaping my life until my life is suitable and agreeable again … i.e. until I can go to sleep.  In the middle of one of my distractions I wasn’t feeling any better, any more sleepy and tired.  So I closed my eyes and prayed for help.  And in that moment I realized I just wanted Jesus.  So I went to the book of John and began to read.  Jesus helped soothe my mind by chapter 5 and I slept beautifully, soundly.

So when I got up this morning I felt well rested.  Rather than get up immediately I just spent some time talking with God.  I opened up the book of John to read chapter 6.  There is a section in this chapter that I have always struggled with.  So I can easily imagine the struggles the people who heard Jesus say these things had.  But as I read the passage this morning the Holy Spirit opened my heart and my mind … and I finally got it.  I finally understood what Jesus was saying.  So I want to write it down, to remember.  Who knows, it might help others who have struggled with this same passage.  Or you could completely disagree with me and the Holy Spirit can be working some other thoughts in your heart and mind.  Either way, considering the words of Jesus is never time ill spent.  So here is the handful of verses in John 6:25-59

                “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of god?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

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

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered hem, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  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.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man gives us his flesh to eat?”

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.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Now I did not grow up as a devote Jew, but I still know that cannibalism is bad.  But the crowd of Jewish people who heard this had Scripture to guide them.  There are several places in the Old Testament where God gives commands not do eat the flesh of man.  God also gives a command never to eat meat that still has life’s blood in it.  That’s not to say we can’t eat rare steaks.  But we can’t eat meat that still has living blood in it, like eating the meat off of a living animal.  The Lord expressly forbids the drinking of blood, or the consumption of life’s blood in any way.  So if I, a dumb gentile, has stumbled through this teaching of Jesus …how much more did the Jews there stumble?  The disciples themselves say that this is a hard word to understand.

Then the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the beginning of John’s book.  John calls Jesus the Word of God.  Jesus is the living, breathing, incarnate Word of God.  Jesus himself says the only reason He lives is because of the Father.  Jesus emphatically and repeatedly says He is here to do the will of the Father.  His actions, His words, and His life are nothing more than the reflected will of God.  Which brings me back to Genesis, where the Lord says we are created in His image, to be His image bearers.  God the Father does not have a human form or body.  He is wholly spirit.  And if Jesus perfectly reflects that, He is not teaching about flesh and worldly things.  He is teaching about spirit things.

So how, and why, do I spiritually feed on Jesus’ flesh?  Jesus knew He was going to go to the cross.  He knew he would be beaten, scourged, and crucified.  His body, His flesh, would atone for every sin that everything and everyone has ever committed against God since the beginning of time until the end of time.  John the baptizer calls Jesus God’s atoning Lamb.  Jesus is a burnt offering to the LORD.  The perfect sacrifice.  Jesus repeatedly says this is the reason He came.  This is the very reason for His flesh.  This is the very reason He took on human form.  The only reason Jesus needed to have flesh for us to feast on is to atone for our trespasses.  So when he taught, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  He was not telling me to actually eat his flesh, He was telling me to spiritually feast on the only reason He had flesh.  I am to spiritually consume, daily, His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross.  I will get to why I know He tells me to do this daily in a moment.  I want to talk through the drinking of His blood.

The Old Testament was taught to the Jews from birth.  They knew that the Lord required blood as the payment of sin.  God said in the garden of Eden that sin would lead to death.  And God repeatedly teaches that life is in the blood.  So the only way to cover the death created by our sin is to cover it in life, to cover it with blood.  The life in the blood would wash away the stain of death.  And as I mentioned above Jesus is the perfect, sinless, spotless sacrifice.  Therefore His blood is perfect and everlasting.  Jesus calls himself the living sacrifice, which means He lives through His sacrifice.  His blood will never stop flowing, because only death can stop blood from flowing.  Jesus’ blood covers my sin.  I must continually wash myself with His blood.  The body of Christ covers my body on the outside, my flesh, in His righteousness.  The blood of Christ covers me inside, for my own blood is inside me.  His skin is my skin.  His blood is my blood.  I cannot live without either my skin or my blood.  I cannot hope to live eternally without Jesus’ skin and Jesus’ blood.

So why daily?  Because Jesus teaches me this by comparing Himself to manna.  When God brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, across the Red Sea, they had no food to eat.  They feared they would starve to death.  So they cried out to the Lord and God provided.  God gives them manna from heaven.  It dusts everything around them.  The Jews were to gather it to make bread.  Good commands them to only gather as much as they need for the day.  When a few of the Jews try to gather more than what they needed that day …the manna rotted.  God was teaching the Jews how to depend on Him daily for the very basic necessity of food.  The Lord will provide.  Yet all those Jews who ate this life giving bread in the wilderness still died.  None of them are still walking around today.  That’s because the manna was a gift of bread and life.  It was not an everlasting gift of bread that would lead to an everlasting gift of life.  Manna would rot after only a day.  The Jews could not depend on manna to live.  They needed to depend on the LORD.

That is why Jesus taught, “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.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Manna was never living.  It was a powder like substance that could be molded by human hands and turned into bread.  Eternal things are of God.  We cannot create eternal things.  We cannot alter, mold, or shape eternal things.  We are not little gods.  Jesus is saying that the Father is living, eternal, undying.  Jesus lives as the Father lives because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father.  Jesus is eternal.  Jesus died, but He did not stay dead.  That is why we do not know where He was buried.  Jesus isn’t there any more.  Jesus is the true manna from heaven, the ever living, ever eternal manna.  And just as the Jews at the manna to live in the wilderness … I must daily consume Jesus’ atonement for me in the wilderness of this world.

I know this might be a ‘no duh’ moment for some of you.  While these are things I have known, I have never really connected them to this very hard word.  I couldn’t see past the cannibalism I thought Jesus was calling these people to do.  This was one of those passages where I thought Jesus to be a little mean by giving such a hard word to the people.  But these were supposed to be godly Jews, who went to Synagogue every week.  They were to memorize the Old Testament.  These should have been things they knew.  They just didn’t have proper teachers.  Then there is the fact that Jesus is the perfect teacher.  He does not wish me to be a parrot of facts.  He does not want me to simply remember that  1+1 = 2.   He wants me to know why, and how that addition works so that I can apply the same idea to  2+2 to come up with the answer of 4.

So this was my ah-ha moment.  I no longer stumble over this piece of Scripture.  For that I am eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit took the time to teach me this morning.  And I find myself content, and at peace.  In this moment I feel completely loved by the LORD (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  And I am so grateful that They take the time to come spend a morning with me for a little Bible study.  I am no one doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.  But to God I am His daughter, and Jesus has time for all His children, and there is never a place the Holy Spirit cannot go or find.  Which makes me perfectly special to the LORD.  And that is a miracle I would like to never get over.

Strugging with being led

“(1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  (2) And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

(3) Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’

(4) But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

 

Then Jesus was led.  Led.  My Almighty Savior and Lord was led.  He followed someone else.  Jesus was subservient to another person’s will.  He was submissive in walking second in line rather than first in line.  And Jesus lost none of His strength, none of His dignity, Jesus didn’t become less valuable in doing so, and He certainly didn’t become any less God.  These four words are some of my favorite in the Bible because they justify me as a submissive woman and they challenge the world’s long held beliefs on what it means to be submissive.

These four words also challenge me by what follows them.  Jesus did not just submit to any Tom, Dick, or Harry.  Jesus Christ followed the will of the Holy Spirit.  If you are going to follow anyone, the Holy Spirit should be it.  And that is where I am challenged.  Before I became a Christian I was really good at following various Dominants, or Masters/Mistresses.  I was a fairly obedient submissive.  I know how to follow physical instruction well.  Go here, do this, come back.  I follow baking and cooking instructions perfectly too.  And I am actually really good at putting together furniture from the complicated instruction things you get from stores.  If you gave me directions, or a map, I can find my way anywhere.  I am pretty good at following.

But then I became a Christian and the one thing I was really good at was challenged.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus, and I am to be like Jesus, which means I need to be led by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is the Holy Spirit doesn’t come with a map, an instruction manual, or a Google webpage of ‘How To’s”.  Or at least not a reliable one made by a sane person.  Instead I have to get to know Him.  And that meant recognizing the fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Him.  Then I have to begin to recognize His voice among all the other noise going on in my head and heart.  I needed to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit.  At this point I realized this would take time.  This made me realize that Jesus didn’t just come up from being baptized in the Jordan, introduce Himself to the Holy Spirit, and follow Him perfectly immediately.  Jesus had spent years, probably His entire life, getting to know the Holy Spirit intimately and personally so that when this day came He could follow the Spirit into the wilderness easily without getting lost.

I know this is true because it says in various other places in Scripture that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit.  They knew one another that well.  Right now I don’t think the Holy Spirit would want to fill me.  I have too much stuff inside of me still that would completely offend Him.  Stuff I am working on with the Holy Spirit to clean up His living quarters inside of me.  So I can be filled and led.  But right now I am not there.  I feel the Holy Spirit’s urging me, or His guiding hand sometimes.  But it is never with the distinction of being led.  Or maybe I am just making up the distinction, but from the world I come from…when you submit to someone….there is a distinct difference between being guided by them….submitting to their urging…and being led.  Being led is like being blindfolded, hands tied behind your back, and completely trusting the other person to get you to the place you are going.  I can’t say I have that sort of trust yet with the Holy Spirit.  I still buck and ask too many questions, and demand to know too many answers.  And I know I don’t know the Holy Spirit well enough, yet, to perfectly hear His leading direction.

With those thoughts in mind I continue forward in my swimming in verse one to read where the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus to the nearest five star hotels.  The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus on the easiest and safest road.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness knowing Jesus had no tent, no food, no camping gear … nothing.  And what amazes me is that Jesus followed, knowing They were going out into the middle of nowhere with nothing on hand.  I know I wouldn’t have that kind of faith or trust.  I know that if the Holy Spirit began to lead me out into the mountains or the Cascades I would be like…..um no.  I would claim the Holy Spirit’s voice as me losing my mind.  I would turn my back and go home.

Jesus doesn’t do that.  He continues to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into dangerous and unknown territory.  He knows the Holy Spirit well enough to trust Him.  Jesus doesn’t worry about His comfort, or His stomach, or His safety.  He trusts completely, wholly, and without reservation.  Jesus, instead, looks forward to this time to be alone with His Father.  He doesn’t worry about spending one day gorging on all His favorite foods before this fast.  He just follows the Holy Spirit, who leads Him into nowhere land, and says……Hey let’s fast and pray for 40 days and 40 nights.  And Jesus is okay with that.  He would rather spend time communing with His Father and with the Holy Spirit…..than eating, than sleeping in a bed, than hanging out and partying with His friends.  God is His priority.  In a way I can’t comprehend.  In a way I admire in awe, and with great humility.  Because this Man, this Jesus, would then come away from His time with God to be tortured, beaten, flogged beyond recognition, and then hung on a cross to bear the weight of my sin, the sin done against me, and all my shame.  And He followed God, and the Holy Spirit there, willingly…again.

Now I believe it is the book of James that says God does not tempt us to sin.  Only Satan, the world, and our flesh tempt us to sin.  But never God.  So I know and trust that completely.  Which makes the end of verse one hard for me to really grasp because the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Verse two tells me the tempting was not the only reason; there was communion with the Father as well, prayer, fasting, and by Jesus’ answers I am going to assume some Old Testament Scripture study occurred during those forty days and forty nights.  And I guess I struggle with this because I have this ‘world’ view that being a Child of God means God will lead me away from pain and suffering and only onto good paths away from bad things.

But if I were to read my Bible I would know differently.  Jesus tells me I will suffer if I follow Him.  Jesus warns me that if I follow the lead of the Holy Spirit I will be attacked by the devil, by people who hate Jesus and therefore hate will hate me, and that the storms will come.  Jesus actually prays for my protection in this world because the only way I will ever follow a safe path led by the Holy Spirit is outside of this world.  Apart from this world when I am in heaven.  And I want to rail against that, denying that claim saying no no no no no no…..my world will be perfectly safe, and a model of a little heaven with a house and a yard, and picture perfect.  The problem is when I do that I buy into the world, I invest into this world and this life and put it into the place of most importance….and I tell my Lord and my God and my Holy Spirit…..sorry you need to lower down on the list because I don’t agree with you.

In this little snippet of Scripture I am shown the right away.  What is wonderful about Jesus is that he doesn’t just tell me the way to do it, but He models this for me.  He doesn’t ask me to do anything He did not do in all His humanity rather than in His divinity.

After forty days and forty nights Jesus is hungry.  It seems like a no brainer statement, but I think a lot of us need to hear it.  I know I need to hear it.  Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  He rose from the dead.  He is my God.  So in my mind I tend to forget Jesus is also human.  He got hungry.  He needed to sleep.  He was fully human with all the weaknesses of our bodies.  I doubt not eating all those days was something easy for Him.  I am sure He had stomach cramps and pains.  I doubt He got cranky and testy like I would have, but it is a question I plan on asking Him.

So there Jesus was, unbelievably hungry, with the vague possibility of being cranky, and physically weak from lack of nourishment.  The Bible doesn’t tell us He was barely able to move, or that He was crawling, or unable to walk.  Jesus had His mind about Him.  He was standing with the devil on the pinnacle of the Temple.  I have seen people come out of a week long fast and they are almost like zombies.  They are completely drained.  Jesus, however, doesn’t seem to be like that at all and He fasted for forty days.  Which leaves me to believe there is some real truth to the words He speaks to the devil.  So real truth to that Scripture He quotes that I don’t always take advantage of.

First of all the devil challenges Jesus’ identity by saying ‘if’ He is the Son of God, as if Jesus might be unsure of who He is.  The thought seems ridiculous in the context of Jesus..but it is common place in the context of me.  I know I struggle sometimes with the identities the enemy wants to put on me to replace the identity Christ put on me.  I am in Christ.  I belong to Christ.  I am a Child of God.  I belong to Jesus.  I know this, but then little whispers in my ear bring up my past.  They tell me I am a sinner, I am a whore, I am a victim, I have been raped, I have led other people down into the pit with a smile on my face.  Sometimes I give in to those lies.  Sometimes I reach out to put on those identities again and cover up my true identity in Christ.  Jesus is the only identity that counts any more.  All the others have been washed away.

Jesus models how I should respond to this type of badgering.  This type of lie.  He doesn’t even acknowledge it.  It doesn’t affect Him.  Jesus is so secure in His knowledge of who He is He brushes the attempt away easily.  It doesn’t get to Him.  It doesn’t bother Him.  Which I think it is a very important point.  I know that when I respond to an identity being pinned on me it is because there is some small part of me that fears it is true, so I feel I have to defend my true identity.  The truth is I don’t need to defend my true identity.  My identity in Christ it the truth, and nothing can change the truth.  No matter what anyone says, Jesus has a hold of me and nothing will make Him let go.  I need to remember that.

Then Satan tries to get Jesus to perform on command like a dog trick or a pony.  Jesus will turn water into wine.  He will feed thousands upon thousands with a child’s lunchable.  If he wanted to, he could have done what the devil said.  He could have turned the rocks into magnificent feasts to eat.  Jesus doesn’t take orders from satan.  He doesn’t perform on command for His enemy.  He doesn’t need to justify Himself, or validate Himself, to anyone … much less a fallen angel who knows exactly who He is and what He is capable of.  And that is exactly what a lot of non-Christians want me to do.  They want me to perform on command for them so that they might believe or see Christ.  When they really have no interest of seeing Christ at all, they merely want to make me dance.  Jesus doesn’t perform on command for His enemies, for the Pharisees, to make them believers.  Neither should I.

The last part of this section is Jesus’ answer to Satan.  What I love about this is that Jesus answers a non-believers question with Scripture.  He quotes text from Deuteronomy.  Men don’t live on bread alone, they are sustained by the words of God.  And Jesus is proof of that.  Forty days he didn’t have food and he came out of that with His mind intact.  He wasn’t feeble.  He wasn’t falling over.  He wasn’t near death.  Jesus fed His soul, which in turn fed His body.  Which is something that goes against science.  I am, by no means, encouraging people to not eat.  I don’t even think people should go out and fast for forty days and nights without seriously talking to their doctors first.  They aren’t Jesus.  We aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have that sort of relationship, but it has been done in the past by others.  So it is doable.  But it is just something for me to think about.  I eat three meals a day and what not to feed my body.  Am I reading enough Bible, or doing enough study in God’s word, to feed my soul?  Or is my soul starving?

Back to my original thought, I love that Jesus answers this question with Scripture.  I know a lot of people argue non-Christians with science and everything else.  They do combat on academic worlds and planes.  Jesus quotes Scripture.  The perfect book that God wrote is enough.  People may ridicule me for quoting Scripture to them, but at least I know that the source is good and Holy and right.  The point of teaching I get from this is that Jesus didn’t quote Scripture to Satan to convert him.  Jesus knew it was impossible.  He knew there is no forgiveness for Satan and his minions.  Jesus quoted Scripture because it is the truth.  So when I discuss religion with people and my only book source is the Bible….I am not trying to convert them or win the argument.  The only agenda I have in the conversation is sharing the light of Jesus into their life for whatever amount of time they will allow me.  What happens to those seeds afterward is up to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus spoke Scripture because it was true; and not simply because He wanted to be right.  I need to repent of wanting to be right, or to be understood.  I simply need to share what is true and let the Holy Spirit have His way.  Which goes back to that leading thing.