I have noticed over the years how God often gives us a physical example (or symbol) of what he’s talking about, later to be fulfilled by a spiritual reality.
As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, we are born of water (I guess meaning from our mother’s womb when her waters break), then of the Spirit in a ‘new birth’ when and if we surrender to the One who made us. The same principle applies to Israel’s restoration – the physical return to their ancient land before their spiritual eyes are opened to where their help really comes from.
And it seems this also relates to the outpouring of the Spirit. In Galilee, where Jesus fed a huge crowd with five loaves and two fish, we are told: “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:21)
Now fast-forward to the healing of the lame man through Peter and John in Jerusalem shortly after Pentecost, which prompted a spontaneous sermon that enraged the religious leaders. “But many of the people who heard the message believed it,” Scripture records, “so that the number of believers totalled about five thousand men, not counting women and children.” (Acts 4:4 New Living Translation)
This is an extraordinary parallel which I have only seen now for the first time in over 50 years of reading the Bible. The miracle in Galilee was a sign of who Jesus was, but he really wants us to feed on him, the living bread. And now, in Jerusalem, the true manna from heaven was being poured out, and the people were feeding on Yeshua himself, no longer simply with them but in them (John 14:17).
This is food for the soul that really satisfies. Remember how Jesus rebuked the tempter in the wilderness by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
As our Lord delighted at the fruit of his mission in Samaria after his exchange with the woman at the well, his disciples urged him to eat something. But he responded: “I have food to eat that you know nothing about,” adding: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)
This is now our mission, harvesting the ripe fields around us. It’s our daily food, the fire in our bones, what gets us up in the morning. It’s what fulfils, refreshes and replenishes our souls. Instead of pursuing fame and fortune or other foolish enterprises, we feed on Jesus to satisfy our hunger and drink the new wine of the Holy Spirit to quench our thirst.
The Galilee crowds mistook the message of the loaves and fishes as a sign for them to crown Jesus king, but it was really a picture of the miraculous, life-transforming change in store for those who feed on him.
He told them: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27)
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said. “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) He went even further by saying: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”(John 6:53)
But many found this hard to swallow and no longer followed him. For Jesus was speaking of his coming sacrifice at Calvary, where he took our sins upon himself, so that all who believe in him would not perish, but have eternal life.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, however, eyes were opened to Yeshua’s mission that day outside the temple. As he had said back in Galilee, “The Spirit gives life. The flesh counts for nothing.” (John 6:63)
Is it feast or famine we want? In one sense, the entire history of Israel asks this question. Joseph’s brothers had to go down to Egypt to save themselves, only to discover that the one they betrayed was their provider who lavished his love on them. Naomi was driven from Bethlehem (literally ‘House of Bread’) by famine, but returned to help fulfil biblical prophecies of the ‘Bread of Life’ through daughter-in-law Ruth’s family line.
Now, once again, in the Western world and in Israel itself, there is “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Meanwhile cookery programmes abound on television with viewers salivating over delectable dishes served to perfection as celebrities queue up to show what they can do in the kitchen. But Jesus, the greatest celebrity of all, waits with open arms to usher us into his banqueting hall. The psalmist says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)
Start helping yourselves to the fresh bread, fabulous fruit and fragrant delicacies Jesus has to offer and feed on him. For unless you do so, you will never discover “the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).
All those who have tasted his goodness are truly able to say: “He brought me into his banqueting house, and his banner over me is love.” (Song of Songs 2:4)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; To the Jew First, A Nation Reborn, and King of the Jews, all available from Christian Publications International.
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