Gospel of John 6:48-58
I have recently worked on an Afrikaans Bible Study using the above passage. We examined what Jesus means when He calls Himself the BREAD OF LIFE. In this passage Jesus refers to the manna that the Israelites ate in the desert and likens Himself to the manna. He then continues to talk about how everyone who wants to be a part of Him needs to eat His body (as the Bread of Life) and drink His blood. As I was engaging with this passage, puzzling it out I saw a picture of Christ standing with both arms stretched out, one hand reaching into the past and the other reaching out to the future.
I do not claim that this picture was prophetic or a direct revelation of God, but I see it as a visual aid for a Biblical truth that we sometimes tend to forget. Jesus is the one who is indeed the centre of all of History. When Jesus points to the manna in the wilderness He points us to that part of Biblical history where the Israelites were freed from bondage in Egypt, going to the land that was promised to their forefathers. This narrative points us symbolically to the Salvation the Messiah will one day work on the cross so that we, too, can be brought out of the bondage of sin and into the promised land, the eternal life.
But look again at the narrative. There is symbolic meaning in the story, but there is a more important, physical, literal concept here as well. This is the story of how God saved the Israelites, because they, as a nation held great meaning for all of us. As a nation it was crucial that they survived, so that the Messiah, promised centuries ago in the Garden of Eden, could be born, because from the descendants of those very people in the desert, will come the One who will be the Saviour of the whole world.
All through the Old Testament we find Christ, both in symbol and in fact. The Story of Noah is a symbolic reference to salvation, but it also a story of how God physically kept a family alive, so that the Messiah can be born centuries later. We see this in God's promise to Abraham, that from his very loins will come the promised Messiah. Abraham was sent out, set apart for God's purpose and again it points both symbolically to you and me, as we are set apart for God, but it is also a physical necessity to choose the bloodline of Jesus Christ. We see it in the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery and landed in prison, unjustly, only to, later on, become the means of salvation for his own brothers, those who rejected him in the first place. Joseph is a type of Christ, meaning he points us to Christ, who had to suffer to save a world that rejected Him. But the story of Joseph is again also a story that tells us how God prepared in advance for a drought that He knew would be coming many years later. A drought that would have left the family from which the Messiah was to be born, perishing from hunger. God went to great lengths to ensure that the bloodline from which Jesus would be born, would stay alive. We see it in the story of Rahab who saved the Israelite spies and was in turn saved by God when the walls of Jericho fell. She was saved because of the scarlet rope that hang from her window, as the blood of Christ saves us from sin. Literally, however, she was saved because she herself becomes a direct part of the bloodline of the Messiah.
There are many such stories in the Old Testament. Add to that the fact that the prophets spoke of Jesus who will come and even the Psalms that sings about the Salvation. We must admit that all through the Old Testament Jesus is the centre of history. It is all about Him. The Old Testament is the story of, and preparation for, Redemption.
In the New Testament we find out how all the promises come together when Jesus is born to us, when God became man and came to live amongst us. The Gospel is about Jesus. How He was born so that the Scriptures could be fulfilled, how He lived a perfect life, and how He was tempted and withstood, how He, as the sinless man, died on the cross so that you and I can partake in His sinlessness as it is imputed to us, how He was raised from the dead so that you and I can have eternal life in the presence of a Holy God. It is not about anything you and I can do. It is about what Christ has done for us.
In the above passage Jesus then goes on to point into the future when He declares that anyone who wants to live must eat of His Flesh and drink of His blood. This takes us to the last supper and from there into the future. The Christians in the New Testament took Communion, which is the eating of Christ's body and the drinking of His blood. They set the example and Paul made sure that every Christian realised the gravity of taking communion. Communion is not something to play with, it is not something to take lightly. It is about having communion with the Lord of all Lords in remembrance of what He has done for us. We look back at the cross, in the way the Old Testament people looked forward to the cross . We have communion, reminding us that our sins are forgiven us because the Great and Almighty God of heaven and earth, became flesh, for our redemption. Every time we use communion we do so with every other Christian over the past 2000 years. The Church of the New Testament did this regularly, as did the Church before and after the reformation, as every Christian Church still do today. That outstretched arm of Christ pointed to every single one of us who was still to come, who would be a part of the great Redemption drama that started in Genesis, in the beginning of History, and still continues to this day, with people still being redeemed. Christ Jesus surely is the centre figure in all of History.