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“Notes Critical and Practical” John 6: 51

Notes by M Sadler
(A theological summary for the student of Sacred Scripture)

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” Before He had only said, “I am the Bread of Life,” now he says, “I am the Living Bread.” This is in contrast with the Manna. Of all the forms of human food which God had vouchsafed to man, the Manna was that which seemed to come most directly from Himself. It was the most heavenly form of food ever given to sustain human life. It was even called “angels’ food.” (Ps. 128: 25.) And yet, though coming direct from the hand of the living God, it was dead. Whereas the Lord says, “I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven,” not from some atmosphere a little above this world, but from the heaven of heavens, from the bosom of the Father.

But if the Lord calls Himself bread, as bread He must be eaten, or he would not have called Himself “bread;” for the end or purpose of bread is to be eaten, and so He proceeds, “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” This must look to the eternal life of the body as following on the spiritual life of the soul, or it would not be in contrast with what precedes. In the two previous verses He had been speaking of the Manna, and of Himself as the Living Bread as contrasted with it. They who eat of the Manna died, and if their bodies are raised again, it will not be because they eat the Manna; but he who eats Christ as the Living Bread shall live forever, because of the life-imparting nature of that which He eats.

Hitherto, all has led to the question, “how is Christ as the Bread of Life to be eaten?” At the beginning of this verse He makes the bread to be His whole Person, “I am the Living Bread.” The bread here is that which is signified by the “I am.” But the Lord Jesus has two whole and perfect natures in His One Person, and He sometimes speaks as if His Personality resided in one of those natures, and sometimes in the other. When He says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” He speaks as God only, and when He speaks of himself as about to be crucified and to die, He speaks as if he were man only. Again, His manhood is like ours, “of a reasonable soul and human flesh.”

Now seeing that He has these two natures, which of them does He use as His instrument by which to feed us, and, in feeding, to impart life to us? If we had not known this chapter, I think we should have, without doubt, said, that it is his Godhead through which He gives us his life, for His Godhead is that One of His two natures which has Life in itself; and inasmuch as it permeates all existences, He could communicate Life to us from His Godhead directly, without the use of any means whatsoever, merely by a direct act of his Divine omnipotence. Or, if not His Godhead, we should have said that lie would make His Human Soul or Spirit the means by which to make us partakers of His Life, in which case it would have been by those means of communication by which one soul acts upon another’, as by instruction, by communication of ideas and thoughts, by rational intercourse, and such things. But here He passes by His Godhead, and the higher part of His Manhood, and fixes our faith on the lower part of His human nature, that is, on His Flesh. “I am the Living Bread.” “The Bread that I will give is My Flesh, which is for the Life of the world.” On this word of Christ’s belief rests, and, if it is true belief, cannot stop short, and can go no further.

Now if we consider our nature of flesh in which sin is inherent, there seems to be a certain deep necessity why the Lord should make His Flesh the means for the communication of His Life, for the Lord Who spoke these words is the Second Man, the Lord from heaven. As the Second Man or last Adam, He answers to the first man, of whose flesh we naturally partake, and by our partaking of it receive the sin and death which was in him. We receive sin by partaking of the human nature of the first Adam, through his flesh, which we receive at our birth with its taint of corruption, and through the flesh, the lower nature, we receive of Christ’s higher nature. The link of communication between ourselves and Adam, is not spirit or soul, but flesh. So that it seems according to analogy of the two heads of the race, that we should receive in some way the Flesh of the Second Man, the Lord from heaven. It also seems that the communication of His Flesh requires means.

The communication of Life from His Divine Nature direct would seem to require no outward means-indeed, to be intolerant of such things. The communication of Life from His reasonable Soul, of itself could only be in the way in which one soul communicates its thoughts to another-that is, by means of language, books, and such things. But if there be any proper meaning in the word “flesh,” so that it is impossible to substitute for it “Godhead” or “Spirit,” then a means seems to be required by which His Flesh may reach us: and this is emphasized by the fact that He gives us His Flesh, not for the life of our souls only, but for the eternal life of our bodies, for no less than four times in this discourse in connection with Christ as the Bread of Life, have we the words, “I will raise him up at the last day:

From The Gospel According To St John by M. F. Sadler
George Bell & Sons. London 1898

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