Thursday, 26 April 2012

Jesus As the Bread of Life

Throughout the New Testament, references to bread take on a parallel to Christ himself. Jesus is born in Bethlehem, (translated “House of Bread”). Jesus is laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.

Jesus even refers to himself as the “Bread of Life” in the Gospel of John, and He tells us that unless we “eat His flesh and drink His blood, we shall not have life within us.”

So when Jesus refers to himself in this way, and when we pray for “Our Daily Bread” in the Our Father, are these references an encouragement to consume grains?

I’d say that these references are not meant to be a nutritional directive, but rather to reveal important theological truths. As I mentioned above, there are many references of grain consumption during times of trial and famine.

Bread was consumed during fasting and times of trouble or sacrifice. These references are sprinkled throughout the Old Testament and would have been understood by the Jews during Jesus’ time.

Since Jesus became man to become a sacrifice for our sins, these parallels remind us of the sacrificial role Christ will take on.

Jesus also refers to himself as the “Lamb of God” in the Gospel of John, and these two titles taken together have a lot of meaning. As was foreshadowed in Old Testament Passover, the lamb was slain so that the angel of death would pass over God’s people.

Christ’s sacrifice, the last one needed, offers redemption as He dies for our sins.

Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples at the time Passover traditionally would have been celebrated by the Jewish people. The Last Supper takes place on the feast of unleavened bread, when the sacrificial lamb was typically consumed. Though, the lamb is noticeably absent from the Last Supper.

At the Last Supper, Jesus holds up the bread, saying, “This is my Body, which is given up for you.” At this central moment, Jesus links the two titles he has called himself, the “Bread of Life” and the “Lamb of God.” The “bread” becomes the “Lamb”, which is to become the sacrifice for all mankind.

The next day, Jesus is crucified and dies at the hour that the sacrificial lamb is usually killed during Passover. All these connections would have had deep meaning to the Jewish people who would have recognized their references in Scripture.

Jesus, as God incarnate, was both the “Bread of Life” sustaining His people in times of trouble and trial, and the “Lamb of God” that takes away the sins of the world.

The references connecting Jesus with “Bread” are very important to the message of His Sacrifice for us. They are not ever presented as a dietary guideline or a mandatory command to consume grains.

Just as vegetarians can avoid meat without worrying about not following the references to meat-eating in the Bible, a Christian can certainly avoid grains without worrying about not following a Biblical directive. Jesus drank wine and his first miracle was turning water into wine, though I’ve never seen anyone argue that it is wrong to avoid drinking because Jesus drank wine.

More importantly, as Christians, we believe that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and should be nourished and treated as such. (“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body,” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)).

For this reason, it is worth considering, for a Christian, if grains in their modern form should even be consumed for those trying to live as healthy as possible out of respect for a body made in the image and likeness of God.

In my opinion, grains certainly can be avoided, and often should be!