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When Jesus appeared in public He invariably drew a crowd. Of those who were drawn to Him there were a relatively few who sought Him because of what He said. Most came to Him because he performed miracles, and when they returned they wanted to see more. John wrote in his gospel, in the Sixth Chapter,
1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick.
Interest of the people, for the most part, lay in what Jesus could do for them, in their health, or in their material necessities. This is not an evil thing in and of itself, but it shows that their interests were mundane, physical. As it was for His acts of healing, so it was for His material gifts, for we read further in John that the multitude of people came to Him in the wilderness, and the disciples had not enough food to feed so large a crowd. In this case there were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Andrew, Simon Peter's brother said to Jesus,
John 6:9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.
So, on that day, in a remote part of Galilee, Jesus fed more than five thousand people with the simple fare of five loaves and two fish. But were they satisfied? No, for on the next day the crowd followed Jesus to Capernaum, and there they sought Him until they found Him. Then,
John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
He fed them with barley loaves and fish, and they wanted more. But in this case their focus was on the wrong kind of food. They should have sought the food that nourishes to eternal life. Many of the people in the crowd that Jesus fed that day were like Esau. Esau was a man of the field as Genesis describes him. He was a hunter and he could cook the flesh of game that he acquired in the hunt. A day came when Esau came in from the field and he was a hungry man; in fact, he was famished. Esau was hungry for the food which perishes. So hungry was he for physical food, in this case bread and lentils, that he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bit of stew.
There are many people today who neglect their eternal soul in order to obtain their daily bread. They work for the food which perishes, and neglect the food which endures to eternal life.
There is the story of a man who owned a mule, but he greatly resented the cost of keeping him. Hay was difficult to obtain. Oats were too expensive. So he decided that he would substitute sawdust for the oats in the mule’s diet. That worked well so he endeavored to substitute even more. He knew that he would have to do this gradually; otherwise, the mule would notice, so, periodically, he increased the amount of sawdust. Everything went well for a while, but by the time the mule got used to the sawdust, he died.
The moral of the story is this: food that preserves life is not adulterated. The sawdust that that the mule received is like the spiritual food that people are receiving in some churches today. The world wants to substitute more spiritual sawdust and less of Christ and that is what the churches are doing.
Human beings are living on a diet of physical food that will keep them alive--for a while, but not forever. There is other food that will keep a man alive forever. That food is Christ, Himself. But when Jesus told the people who followed him about this they did not understand His message. They said,
John 6:30 “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ ”
Jesus answered them,
John 6:35 “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."
Now notice this: He did not say that he would show them another miracle so that they would believe what He said; He did not say that he would give them more physical food so that they would believe; He did say, "I am the bread of life." Therefore, the proper spiritual diet is Christ, not more signs, not more physical bread.
Among the most enigmatic things that Jesus said was,
John 6:47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 “I am the bread of life. 49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
The opponents of Jesus heard this and began to argue among themselves. They said, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
They still did not understand. They thought he was speaking in a literal sense. Jesus did not attempt to simplify his words, but doubled down on His metaphor:
John 6:53 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 yourselves. 54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
How difficult this is to understand for people who are unwilling to part with their desire for physical and material food. To those who think of acquisition of daily bread as their highest occupation there is here naught but enigma, a riddle couched in words that reveal, yet conceal. Unless a man turns away from his desire for things that satisfy the flesh he will not understand the fundamental truth of what Jesus attempted to tell them.
He is the bread of life (with emphasis on "He"). His is a statement that bridges the physical and the spiritual realm. Dining upon Christ is the same as believing in Christ. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood is the same as being united with Him through faith such that one suffers with Him in His flesh and dies with Him on the cross. Because his flesh represents His body of suffering, and His blood His substitutionary death.
How far were his opponents from knowing the truth?
It is as Paul wrote to Timothy,
2 Timothy 2:11 It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
How else could one die with Him, but through faith? Therefore, Christ is the "bread," the spiritual food of life. Both by implication and through metaphor Jesus said this: as eating is to bread--which keeps one alive physically; so, believing is to Christ--which keeps one alive spiritually. If believing in Christ keeps one alive spiritually then why would you want to substitute anything else?
From the annals of the Second World War comes a story about prisoners who were held in Japanese concentration camps. The operators of the camps served “food,” but what they offered daily was a mixture. There was a certain amount of grain, meal or rice, so that if anyone asked, it could be said that enough basic food was in it to prevent starvation. But one by one the prisoners starved anyway. It was a mystery, but investigators discovered the cause when they learned that the operators of the concentration camp had mixed castor oil with the food to be given to the prisoners. The result was that the food would be expelled from the body of the prisoners before much nourishment could be absorbed into the system.
Christ is the spiritual food of life but He must be ingested by faith in order to impart the life giving nourishment. However, the world will try to prevent assimilation of Christ into the heart by whatever means it can find. In some cases by using a spiritual purgative. So the Christian must be diligent to insure that the food taken in is pure Christ, not some Christ along with a doctrine that flushes out what Christ brings. Disciples must assimilate nothing but the unadulterated Christ.
Moreover, the spiritual food that a person takes in must be Christ. It cannot be anyone or anything else when one expects nourishment unto eternal life.
There is the story of a woman named Taylor who was evaluating the suitability of a family to adopt a Vietnamese orphan, so she stayed with them for the weekend. At breakfast on the first morning she asked them if she might have cereal. The man whose name was Andre Previn reached for a jar of health food cereal that his sons ate every morning. From that he poured her a generous bowlful. While she ate, Mr. Previn expounded on the nutritional value of the cereal. Miss Taylor made no reply until she had finished the bowl of cereal. "To be quite honest," she admitted, "I'm not crazy about it."
It was then that Mr. Previn's eye fell on the jar from which he had served Miss Taylor. "I'm not surprised," he said, "I've just made you eat a large bowl of hamster food."
Be careful what you accept as spiritual food. It just might be food for hamsters--if you take my meaning. Many of the churches today serve spiritual food that is analogous to hamster food. It accomplishes little but the ruination of the one who dines on it.
For example, not long ago an Episcopal church in Scotland held a service in which a girl sang a passage from the Koran which specifically denies that Jesus is the Son of God and says that He should not be worshipped. The observance denied one of the central doctrines of the Holy Scriptures. To say that this was hamster food would be an enormous understatement. Note what the Apostle John had to say about this kind of practice,
2 John 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
That this travesty took place in connection with the Eucharist makes it doubly a dishonor to Christ, and a abysmal act of ignorance.
Therefore, you should carefully test the doctrinal structure of the church or religious organization you attend. If its doctrines do not meet the test of Scripture, leave it.
Remember what Christ said,
John 6:51“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Therefore, learn to discern Christ as spiritual food, and to separate other offerings from your spiritual meal--because your eternal soul depends on it.
Georg de Hevesy was a Hungarian chemist. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1943 for his work on radioactive tracers. There is a story about Hevesy in which he questioned the quality of food offered by his lodgings. So, one evening, he decided to conduct a simple experiment. While his landlady's back was turned he slipped a microscopic quantity of a radioactive substance into a piece of fatty meat that he had left at the side of his plate. The following day the landlady served meat for dinner. Hevesy passed a Geiger counter over his plate. Its ominous clicks confirmed his worst suspicions. He had seen that meat before. Within a few days he changed his lodgings.
There is no test through which a Geiger counter, or similar device, can tell you the quality of your spiritual food. But you can put it to the test. Paul told Timothy,
2 Timothy 3:15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
There is a vast difference between Christ as spiritual food and the food offered by the world. Jesus said to Thomas the Apostle,
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
John the Baptist said of Christ,
John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 “But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Let us not tempt the Lord as did Israel of old. Avoid their mistakes. Feed upon Christ as Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
But the Israelites craved evil things; they were idolaters; they acted immorally; they tempted the Lord; and they grumbled.
They were destroyed.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
So, for those of us "upon whom the ends of the ages have come," let us eat the spiritual food, and drink the spiritual drink--which is Christ. Because of what the Lord Himself said,
John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
 Genesis 25:29-34.
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 299). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
 Fadiman, Clifton, The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes. p. 458.
 also may be translated "believe."
G. K. Chesterton told a story of Francis of Assisi who Chesterton said was terrified of leprosy. One day as Francis was traveling he encountered a leper in the narrow path that he followed. The man was horribly white in the sunshine; he was a man full of leprosy. Instinctively Francis’ heart shrank back, recoiling from the contamination that the loathsome disease brought with it. But then he rallied; and ashamed of himself, ran and cast his arms about the sufferer’s neck and kissed him and then passed on. A moment later he looked back, and there was no one there, only the empty road in the hot sunlight.
Francis overcame his fear of that repulsive disease, but he is rare among men, for there are few who would have embraced a man full of leprosy.
Luke says concerning Jesus that,
Luke 5:12 ...it came about that while He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
This leper did not doubt Jesus’ ability to heal him. He believed the only thing that would prevent his release from leprosy was Jesus’ willingness.
Leprosy at that time was an incurable disease. Even today it is difficult to cure. Moreover, it causes an ugliness that is hard to approach. It is perhaps the most loathsome of diseases. Many believe that God chose leprosy as the symbol of sin and its consequences. The Law of Moses certainly carries out this idea. Sin. Uncleanness. These two ideas lie together.
The Law of Moses says,
Leviticus 13:45 “As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 “He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
Luke tells us that this man was "full of leprosy." He was a leper past all hope of recovery. In this condition he would be a repulsive sight. The whole appearance of his face would have changed until he looked like a lion. Nodules grow on the skin. They ulcerate. Discharges flow. The eyebrows fall out. The eyes stare. The voice becomes hoarse. The victim wheezes. Ultimately the disease spreads inward. It ends in consumption, dropsy, suffocation, and death. This man was not far from that end.
"Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean," he said.
To many Jews of that far off day uncleanness was at least as horrible as the disease. It meant to be an outcast from Israel, to be classed with swine, and dogs.
So, besides asking to be cleansed, the leper asked that the Lord would remove his shame. And remember this: to the Jew, whether true or not, a man's physical condition told of his spiritual condition. And this man asked to be made clean—he did not ask for good health, although it is implied that good health would accompany cleansing.
Mark wrote in his gospel about the inability of the disciples to cast out a demon:
Mark 9:14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 and one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.
The disciples could not cast out the demon. The father in his desperation asked his Creator, “…if You can?” The father had asked Jesus, the Son of God, Who can do all things, “…if You can?” It was a pitiable question, but perhaps one that could be excused on the grounds of the man’s loss of hope and surrender to despair. But Jesus answered, “All things are possible to him to believes.”
Belief encompasses the healing of demonic possession—even the type that the Apostles of Christ could not heal. But Jesus could heal the boy. And Jesus can heal a leper—even one who is full of leprosy.
The leper was beyond help so far as man was concerned, but he believed.
Luke says of the leper that Jesus,
... stretched out His hand and touched him.
He touched him!
And Jesus said, "I am willing; be cleansed."
And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:13
No matter how loathsome the disease—or the sin. The Lord can touch the sufferer or the sinner and the malady will leave.
He is willing to cleanse—to forgive.
Matthew 19:23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
God can save the rich. God also offers salvation to the most wretched.
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
There is the story of a preacher who was delivering a written sermon on temptation to his church when it occurred to him that the address was unsuitable for many of the people. He paused, looked away from his manuscript, and, appealing with a loud voice to the more-distant of his audience, said: “Perhaps among those pressing in at the door there may be someone so miserable as to think of throwing himself over yonder bridge, saying, “It’s too late to tell me not to enter into temptation. I have done it; I am in it. There’s no hope for me!”
He then continued, “Stop! Stop! There is hope. Christ died for thee. He will forgive. He will save even thee!”
A few weeks afterward one of the members of his church told him that he had called to see a woman who one Sunday evening had made up her mind to throw herself over Blackfriars Bridge, but she thought it was too light and a policeman might stop her; so in order to wait for the darkness she went into the church and stood in the crowd inside the door. Standing there, she heard what the minister had cried out, and it seemed to her that he had called to her directly to stop and come to Christ. So she went back to her home to pray. Now she has come to Christ and is content.
You may not hear a preacher depart from his sermon and call out to you directly, but the invitation is there, nevertheless.
God has extended the blessings of Christ’s sacrifice to the whole world, and has made it available to all mankind. Martin Luther well said, “It is a patent fact that thou too art a part of the whole world; so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, the Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.”
He died for you, too.
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 757). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
 Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1995, pp. 217, 218.
 Empahsis mine, author.
 Ibid., Tan, P. L. (pp. 1078–1079).
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Rhea church of Christ
250 Main Street
Dayton, TN 37321