The Meat that Endureth

To feed five thousand men, having appetites sharpened by long fasting and the keen mountain air, was a problem beyond the powers of the disciples; for even if in that desert place they could have commanded the silver wherewith to buy the bread, where could the bakery be found that could produce enough for each to have a little? But it was a simple matter to Jesus, for He was the Creator, and He had fed the multitudes of men that had lived since time began, and He feeds the multitudes still, for in Him we live, move, and have our being, so that five loaves and two small fishes sufficed, and when all were filled twelve baskets of fragments remained. That satisfying meal appealed to the people, and they sought the Lord the next day also, because they "did eat of the loaves and were filled." Beyond that they had no thought. They laboured for the meat that perishes, regardless of that which endures to eternal life. How terribly, how pathetically sad it is that this should be characteristic of the whole human race; that they should be governed alone by what is seen and felt and tasted; that food and clothing should be appreciated, but the God who gives these things ignored. That the body and its needs and appetites should be supreme, and the spirit, endowed with an endless existence, should receive neither thought nor care. How blind, how utterly insensible, how dead, men have become under the power of sin to what is good and true and eternal. So blind, so insensible, so dead, that when EMMANUEL came amongst them they followed Him, but only for the bread that perishes.

This is the universal snare, and the vast majority of Christians — yes, even Christians — have fallen into it. What we shall eat and drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed is the absorbing pursuit, the overwhelming and soul-destroying question; and the BREAD OF GOD, the meat that endureth, is neglected and ignored. It is the infirmity of our flesh, but it often becomes the sin of our souls, for it drags us down in our living to the level of the nations of the world that know not God, making us distrustful of His loving-kindness towards us. To meet our infirmity and encourage our faith the Lord has said, "Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind … your Father knows that ye have need of these things" (Luke 4:29-30). These words of His were spoken to relieve us of all anxious care as to temporal things, so that we might turn our thoughts to Himself who came from heaven as the bread of life that men might come to Him and never hunger, and believe on Him and never thirst.

But what a world it was into which He came! It had neither use nor room for Jesus. At His birth it awarded Him a place amongst the beasts in a stable, and at His death it numbered Him with transgressors upon a Roman gibbet. It gave Him no home while He lived, and it would have cast His scarred yet sacred body into a dishonoured grave when He died but for the intervention of God. He visited the world, moved by the infinite compassion of His heart towards it, but it did not know Him. It did not, it would not appreciate Him. His labours of love in the midst of it neither softened towards Him, nor won its heart for God. It hated Him with an inveterate and unconquerable hatred, and the night stars witnessed His sorrow thereat upon the hills of Judea.

Men saw no beauty in Him; they had neither desire nor taste for the Bread of God. He was despised and rejected by them, and when at last the reins were thrown upon their necks, and they were permitted to do their will without restraint, they rose up as one man to be rid of Him. They accused Him falsely, spat in His face, scourged Him, and made His apparent weakness their jest. They said, "This is the heir, come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be OURS." So they crucified Him, the Lord of glory, and so they advertised to the universe their determined rebellion against God and His Christ.

What a world! and what men! How incurably bad, how utterly blind, how alienated from God they have proved themselves, to be when tested by the supreme test of EMMANUEL.

But what a background was this gross darkness for the manifestation of the living grace of God come down to men in Christ! How brightly shone the light of life in Him, as He went about doing good, undeterred by the world's ingratitude, and unruffled by the hatred of men! No earthly smile cheered His lonely pathway, but no frown gathered upon His gracious brow because of this, though His eyes often poured out their sorrow for men — the sorrow of unrequited love. Yet unresentful and unresisting, and with unwearied patience He revealed the Father's heart and name. He spake words such as no prophet in ancient times had spoken, for "never man spake like this Man." His words were spirit and life, they were words of living grace, going in at the ears and down in quickening power into the depths of the soul of every man who would listen, for He said, "Verily, verily, I say to you, He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life" (John 5:24). And those who heard and believed said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:68-69).

His words abide for us, those wonderful words of life, the revelation of God. But if they were to be rightly appropriated by our souls, if we were to feed upon them, and upon Him Who spoke them, as the Meat that endureth to eternal life, He must die. Yes, Jesus must die! This He knew, and declared, when He said, "The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). So He passed on to death that we might eat His flesh and drink His blood, for "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (v. 53).

At His death sinful man, unfettered and unafraid, consummated his rebellion against his Creator; evil rose up, as though omnipotent, to triumph over the goodness of God; and Satan appeared in all his power to crush into everlasting and disgraceful oblivion the Heir of all things. It was needful that God should triumph over these marshalled forces of evil, and He did triumph in the person of that lonely Sufferer about whom the fierce conflict raged — triumphed so completely that His majesty is maintained, His eternal justice declared, and His love, and grace, and mercy brought into full manifestation. How absolute must that justice be that could not spare the beloved Son when He stood in the sinners' stead; how inconceivable is that love which gave Him even to the shedding of His blood for sinners; how great is that might that annulled for ever the power of Satan; how precious that grace, the grace of the tender-hearted Jesus, declarer of the heart of God, which moved Him to cry out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." There are wonders in the death of Jesus that eternity will not exhaust; in it every force that could have been a challenge to God in His nature, or in any one of His attributes, has been met and silenced, and the full glory of what He is has shone out in a glorious shining. How great is Jesus who has accomplished these things by His dying! How great the grace that has made Him so precious to us that our chief delight is to consider Him! Incomparably lovely and matchless Saviour! Glorious Son of the living God, we worship Thee.

The death of Jesus is life-giving and life-sustaining. As in faith we turn to it as our one and only hope we find that by it we are delivered from the death and everlasting chaos that Satan intended should overwhelm the whole race of men; we find that by it we are saved from the condemnation of God which our sins had made us deserve; as we identify ourselves with it, and appropriate it to ourselves, we find that it has separated us from the world that knew not the Son of God, and from that sinful and shameful race of man that reviled and despised Him, a race to which we were bound in origin, life, nature, and practice. What a relief it is to know that the death of Christ has made an everlasting breach between the believer and that world and that race of man. We are dead by the death of Christ, yet we live because He lives. He is our life, and we feed upon Him, upon the soul-satisfying and enduring Bread of life. It is thus that God is known by us and we live and are nourished as we feed upon what He is, revealed in Christ His sent One. Our hearts are charmed and won, and Christ becomes the Object of our living, and we worship Him, and witness for Him in the power of this new life — in spirit and in truth.