December 20, 2013
Since this will be the last Coffee Break prior to Christmas, let me first wish you all a very blessed and revelatory Christmas season. In an email sent out earlier this week to some friends, I noted that we do not celebrate Jesus' birth on Christmas day, despite the centuries-old traditions. We celebrate Christmas because this was the day on the Hebrew calendar when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. This is the day when the Word became flesh and Mary spoke those fateful and faith-filled words, "Be it unto me according to Thy Word."
When we left off last week, we were talking about the fact that when Jesus broke bread with His disciples, he first breaks matstsah (flat, unleavened) bread, showing Himself to be the Passover Lamb. Jesus again takes bread, and as He did when feeding the 5000 (and the 4000), he breaks it and begins to serve the disciples. (See verse 26.)
The Greek word in this instance is not azumos (or matstsah), but artos: raised bread. These two Greek words exactly parallel the two Hebrew words which describe both the unleavened bread (matstsah) of Passover, and the raised bread that was on display on the Table of Shewbread (lechem). Jesus became the bread of Passover, fulfilling its purpose, and the bread of provision -- the Table of Shewbread -- that He promised in Matthew 6:33 and Philippians 4:19.
I know that many folks have questioned the idea that Jesus would have broken leavened bread with the Disciples, but there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the picture of leaven. Leaven can either be good (as it was in representing the wholeness of Jesus, His makeup, His character, and the essence of who He is), or it can be representative of sin and corruption (as it was in the case of the Pharisees and Sadducees). Leaven is simply a picture of something which expands and grows the loaf.
Jesus made the statement to the Disciples (see Matthew 16:6), "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." That's one example. But He also said (in Matthew 13:33), "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." In this instance, leaven represents the expanding power of the Kingdom of God."
Is that clear enough? Good! Let's move on.
Jesus' statement caused such great consternation among the people who heard him. They only saw his comments within the framework of the Law of Moses, or from a purely physical standpoint, and because they treated His Word that way they were repulsed by them.
"This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world...... Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever." (John 6:50-51, 53-58)
Then we have John's observation of Jesus:
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
Ever wonder how "the Word was made flesh" as John declares? Consider the picture that unfolds in Luke 1:26-38. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she is blessed and highly favored of God, and that she will conceive and bear a son who in fact will be the long-promised and prophesied Messiah. Mary does not doubt the word that she is hearing but asks, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" The angel Gabriel responds, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
Bear in mind that the angel is simply a messenger of God sent with God's Word to her. Here is how -- and when -- the Word is made flesh. "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)
Get it? Mary agrees with the Word of the Lord and speaks that agreement by saying "Be it unto me according to thy Word:" the Word of the Lord. She is effectively speaking the same creative Word that God spoke when He decreed in Genesis 1:3, "Light be" (or as the KJV reads, "Let there be light!") Thus the Word came into being instantly within her womb. Sure, she had to carry Jesus for the normal nine-month term before He was actually born but He was instantly conceived when she spoke the Word herself.
Are you beginning to get the picture? The Word, spoken by Mary in agreement with the Word of the Lord which had been delivered to her, became flesh in her womb. It was living. It was eternity, invading time and space with the reality of God Himself! Thus, the Word -- Jesus -- became flesh. And John witnesses, "and dwelt among us (and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
Jesus walked and talked with His disciples. He preached to the multitudes. He broke bread with them, and He did it in a manner that would testify to them (and they would also be witness to) that He was the Word!
Consider the event that had unfolded (see John 6) just prior to Jesus' statement "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you."
"After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh." (This is an important point in view of what Jesus is about to do.)
"When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. (Note: this is roughly equivalent to seven months' wages in those days) One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand." (Note: By Hebrew tradition this number represents the married men only, not counting the unmarried men, all the wives, the women and children. The actual number of those gathered on the hillsides would have been more on the order of 20,000 - 30,000.)
"And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world."
Before we continue with the rest of this picture, let's consider some of the issues that have already been presented.
First, John makes note of the fact that the Passover was "eggus": "ready to begin, at hand." Folks were ready for the seven day period in which they would eat of the unleavened bread. They would break this bread and eat of it only -- no leavened bread at all. (Both Orthodox and Messianic Jews keep this ordinance yet today. They often refer to it as a "Seder" meal.) With the Passover meal, they would drink water -- not wine. The practice of wine with the Table of the Lord did not really commence until after Jesus turned the water into wine at the marriage of Cana in Galilee, although we see this covenant practice long before the days of Moses.
The point I'm making is that the Jews were ready to begin Passover with its unleavened flatbread (matstsah) -- symbolic of the fact that there was no leaven of Egypt in what they were eating. In a parable that Jesus later shared, (and we've already noted this) He likened the Kingdom of God to leaven and said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." (Matthew 13:33) In so doing, Jesus was clarifying the fact that the picture of leaven is that of a spiritual force -- whether for evil or for good.
In the miracle that unfolded in John 6 where Jesus fed the 5,000, as noted in the last Coffee Break, the loaves that Jesus broke and distributed were artos: raised bread, whole bread -- leavened bread. There was an impartation of His life that took place which He was demonstrating. There is a multiplying factor in His life; it is the leaven of the Kingdom of God which multiplies and causes the Word to grow and expand within us until we reach the place of being fully "raised" in Him.
Thus as the miracle of the loaves unfolded, Jesus was demonstrating what He would say to the people shortly thereafter, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
On many occasions, Jesus made statements such as the following:
"As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." (John 6:57)
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11:25-26)
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)
In his first general epistle, John writes, "For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." (I John 1:2)
The Table of the Lord -- which took the place of Passover -- provides us with a daily (or as often as we eat and drink of it) impartation of the life, the multiplication that comes in that divine life, and we receive for ourselves healing, health, wholeness, forgiveness and deliverance from, and eradication of, the bondage and oppression of the past (that's aphiémi), and the abundant provision of all that Heaven has for us. Consider the event that took place when the Syrophenician woman came to Jesus.
"And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." (Matthew 15:21-28)
See the picture? Are you understanding just how powerful the bread of life really is? This woman was not even of the house of Israel. Yet she understood the significance of the Table of the Lord. She understood the picture of the Bread of Life, and she realized that just a dried-out crumb of that bread that had fallen under the Table would bring healing and deliverance to her daughter.
Brother! I sometimes marvel that the body of Christ -- who is supposed to have a grip on what it means to be seated at the Table of the Lord -- has yet to understand what it means to eat of the Bread of Life. David certainly had the picture. Remember the 23rd Psalm?
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." Who is preparing this table? Hello!?! The Lord Jesus Christ, of course. And what are the enemies in whose presence this Table is spread? Hmmmm ........ Let's see, now ....... Sickness, disease, infirmity, death, poverty, bondage of every kind, demonic oppression, fear, doubt, unbelief ..... shall we go on?
Yet, for the most part, the body of Christ today still treats the Table of the Lord as anaxios: to treat irreverently, to treat as commonplace and ordinary. There is nothing, and I do mean NOTHING about the Table of the Lord that is commonplace or ordinary. This is not a ritual. This is not some duty to keep. The Table of the Lord is a way of life, a manner of living. Eating of the Table of the Lord takes a person out of this time-space, sin-and-sickness-based, death-imposed realm and transports them into the eternity of eternities -- the Kingdom of God!
When we eat of the Bread of Life, we are eating of the Word Himself. But we have to do it with revelation and understanding. Otherwise it becomes just another "thing to do" as a Christian. Personally, I dislike -- no, I'll make it even stronger than that -- I detest the form and ritual that has turned our sacred Communion at the Table of the Lord into crackers or wafers and dinky little "communion cups" (so that folks don't transmit or catch some disease by drinking from a common cup).
When Dwain and I were still at Long Beach Christian Center back in the 1970's, we stopped the "crackers-and-grape juice-in-communion cups" ritual and went to breaking a whole loaf of bread and drinking from a common cup or chalice. It began the transformation of my understanding of what it means to partake of the Lord's Table. That was some 40 years ago, and you couldn't pay me to go back to the old ritual! I've yet to see someone "catch something" by drinking of a common cup at the Table of the Lord. It just doesn't happen! That would make the Table of the Lord a lie -- and there is nothing but truth that emanates and is imparted when we eat and drink with revelation!
Wheww!!! We've just begun to scratch the surface. There's a whole lot more to go just dealing with the covenant picture of the Table. Let me wrap up with this observation:
The Lord has set a table before us that is fit for kings and priests -- and we are both in Him! We have a feast set before us designed to help us function as kings who rule and reign, and priests who worship and come before God's presence in boldness and joy. Health, wholeness, strength, healing, restoration, deliverance, prosperity -- they are all set before us on this Table!
Merry Christmas and Blessings on you!
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