Give us today our daily bread
If we were to say to a group of Christians, “What is the first thing that God wants us to do?” we would probably be given many different answers. Yet how many people do we think would answer the question by saying, “The first thing God wants us to do is to receive from Him.” As our lungs were made for air, so too are our hearts and minds designed to be touched by a Father who is the ultimate giver. Praying, “Give us this day our daily bread” speaks of this on-going relationship with God, the giver of life, on a day by day basis.
“After we are justified, once for all through faith in Christ, we are to live in supernatural communion with the Lord every moment: we are to be like lights plugged into an electric socket. The Bible makes it plain that our joy and spiritual power depend on a continuing relationship with God. If we do not love and rely on the Lord as we should the plug gets pulled out and the spiritual power and the spiritual joy stop.”
Dr Francis Shaeffer
In praying for our daily needs, we let go of our autonomy as we acknowledge on a daily basis that, ultimately, all things come about through God’s grace and mercy. Whilst it is true that we need to work hard to look after ourselves, we understand that all that we receive comes from His provision. After all, when someone first fenced off land and called it a farm, where did the land come from? Think about it: God is our provider and much of the suffering in the world is because we do not share this provision.
God our Provider
As newly married students, Ann and I were given a flat in an old school which had been converted into a youth training centre. We did not have to pay rent and all I had to do was to walk round the premises at night if I heard any strange noises. For two struggling students about to enter their third year of study, this was a great blessing.
Although neither Ann nor I had anything else to do with the Training Centre that we now lived in, the head of the centre was a Christian who gave me a two-week job just before the new autumn term began. This job involved building a large storeroom for car parts and I remember starting my first day by praying something along the lines of, “You showed Noah how to build an Ark, so please help me build this storeroom!”
In reflecting on that particular time, I recognised that the centre manager did not really need the storeroom built since the building was due to be demolished within the year. I recognised that He had given me the job purely to help two newly-married students who were struggling financially. In both this and so many other incidents that have occurred throughout our lives, Ann and I are continually reminded of God’s love and gracious provision. We also recognise that in Jesus, God gives us Himself: God is love (1 John 4:8).
In scripture, the first act of love was the creation of the world and the first gift of love was to man who was placed in a garden called ‘delight’. Man was placed in a world that had been created for him (Psalm 115:16) so that he could benefit from all that God had done. Yet the first decision of love occurred before the world was created. God chose to create a being who could benefit from His love (Gen 1:27).
In scripture, we see that the first decision of love speaks of unconditional, sacrificial love and a love that was present between Father, Son and Holy Spirit before the world began (1 Peter 1:19-20, Jn 1:29). What we see in this decision is that even before man fell into sin, it was agreed that the Son of God would come and stand in the place of the sinner. He truly is the One who was “Slain before the foundation of the world” - this speaking of amazing sacrificial love, grace and mercy. Through God’s work and God’s work alone, we have hope.
In scripture we also find that the first use of the word love (aahabtaa) speaks of a father’s love for a son - this being found in reading the story of Abraham who was called to sacrifice his one and only son (Gen 22:2). God then stayed Abraham’s hand and provided another sacrifice. Hundreds of years later, we find the first use of the word ‘love’ in the New Testament as we read of another Father and His love for His Son (Matt 3:17). This Father, our heavenly Father, did not intervene as His Son was smashed to a cross and died in our place; so great is the love of God for us.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
1 John 4:9-10
Throughout history God has always been a provider and as a Father gave His perfect Son so that imperfect people could find forgiveness and return home to Him (John 3:16-17, 2 Cor 8:9). It is only through God’s grace and involvement in this world that we can stand in His authority and power; right from the very time Adam and Eve fell into sin, God has been reaching out to man. For example, in the Garden of Eden God called man, clothed man, challenged man and gave Him hope for the future. God is our provider.
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
The word garments (kuttoenet) in the above verse speaks of clothing worn by one in authority. Whenever man accepts the provision of God he is able to exercise authority (authority is bestowed not earned) and power over his life.
As Christians, we are clothed in the work of Christ (Gal 3:27), clothed in power from on high (Luke 24:49, 1 Cor 3:16) and clothed in that which is imperishable (1 Cor 15:54). All this comes about through God’s sacrifice (Heb 9:11-12) as Jesus bore the penalty for man’s transgression on Himself.
God did not need a sacrifice
There are those who look at the messy business of sacrifice in the Old Testament and come up with questions like, “Why does God need sacrifice?” The answer to this is simple yet challenging: He does not need sacrifice.
God has never had any personal need of a sacrifice and therefore, sacrifice is not for His benefit; neither is the necessity of a sacrifice because God wants to make it hard for man. Man is a transgressor and the only way for man to approach God is through the sacrifice of life, yet that life comes from God.
God is the provider of the sacrifice, being the Giver of all life and throughout Old Testament times the provision of a sacrificial lamb always pointed to God as the giver, and ultimately to Jesus Christ.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In love, and without compromise to holiness, God makes the only way whereby fallen man can move from a place of condemnation to that of reconciliation: through Jesus who stood on our road to death with the offer of reconciliation to God and life eternal. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and in Him there is no longer any condemnation.
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
1 John 2:2
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
In Rom 8:1 the word ‘condemnation’ is a legal term speaking of that which has been totally and forever discharged, whilst the word ‘atoning’ (1 Jn 2:2) derives from a word speaking of being ‘at one with another.’ The first usage of the root word for atone (Kaphar) is found in Genesis 6:14 where we read that the Ark was to be coated (Kaphar) with pitch. This word does not just convey the idea of covering and concealing, it also speaks of imposing something to change the appearance of that which is covered. Concerning Noah’s Ark, it speaks of overlaying pitch which made the wood waterproof and in Exodus 32:30 it speaks of the covering of sin, as it does in 1 John 2:2. This speaks of the love of a Father and provision for those who deserve nothing as is clearly depicted in the prodigal son receiving his father’s best robe on his return (Lk 15:22).
This word (Kaphar) is also used by Isaiah to speak of how God was the One who took away his sin…
“With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for”.
God gives life
As we read the following verses and look at how Jesus restores life, let’s remember that He stood in the path of our destructive ways and on our road to death with the offer of reconciliation and life.
“Soon afterwards, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people."
Nain (meaning ‘Green Pastures’) was a small town standing on the N.W. slopes of the hill of Moreh. Hundreds of years earlier and on the opposite side of this hill, Elisha had raised a Shunnamite’s son to life (2 Kings 4:8ff). In the Ancient Near East, people knew their history and would have been aware that God could bring the dead back to life; little did the crowd following the widow realise that they were going to see this happen that very day.
I don’t think we can even begin to grasp the pain, suffering and great sense of loss and loneliness that this widow must have felt as she left Nain on the journey to the burial ground. In light of the fact that burials usually occurred within twenty-four hours of death, I doubt if she had even started to come to grips with the loneliness, suffering and pain from such a great loss. As she walked out of the city and along the road, others would have downed tools and joined the crowd as a sign of respect. The widow would be walking in front of the open coffin carried by men and the crowd would follow.
If you were travelling towards a funeral procession you would immediately get off the road. Interrupting a funeral procession in any way was seen as a major breach of custom, as was touching a corpse which would require a week in isolation (Num 5:2-23). The only person a funeral would have to give way to whilst travelling such a road of pain and suffering would be an approaching King and that is exactly who this widow was about to meet: a King in servant’s clothes.
In an unusual act, which totally ignored the culture of the day, Jesus approached the woman, entered into her suffering and birthed light and life into her hopeless situation (Luke 7:13-17): He raised her son to life.
“…I am the resurrection and the life...”
At Calvary, Jesus not only bore the penalty and consequences due to all who have sinned, He also experienced the whole range of physical, mental, and emotional pain born by those who have been sinned against. Please think about this.
Jesus came into the world He had created and took the penalty which we alone deserved. In the way He was beaten, torn, mocked and sacrificed, He identified with all innocent victims as well as all guilty sinners. Jesus stood on ‘our road to death’ and reached out to touch us and birth light and life into those who are now called to live in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit – you and I.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
Jesus is the Bread of Life
In a recent copy of, The Times Newspaper (August 1st 2015), there was an article about the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War. Part of that article reads like this: -
“Little Boy”, the atomic bomb that detonated roughly 1,900ft above Hiroshima, was a relatively crude and inefficient weapon. The bomb contained about 140lbs of highly enriched uranium – but almost 99 percent of it harmlessly blew apart. The amount of uranium that actually fissioned and turned into pure energy, weighted only seven tenths of a gram. And yet, when that occurred, temperatures on the ground directly beneath the blast reached 10,000F (5,500C), two thirds of the buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed and perhaps 80,000 people were killed. A five pound note weighs no more than seven tenths of a gram.”
The death toll from the explosion over Hiroshima was actually over 100,000 people. Some were literally vaporised, others had skin and eyes melted off and died over the days and weeks following the explosion. Many others had been killed by falling debris or would die from the effects of radiation.
In the city at the time of the explosion (and amongst the survivors) was a German Jesuit Priest known as, Father Kleinsorge, and an evangelical minister called, Kiyoshi Tanimoto. I mention them both because both had a faith and trust in the living God. They did not ‘lick their wounds’, just look after themselves or give up on God because of what had happened. They did not say “I’m Ok” and let life pass them by. They continued to serve God and reach out to others – as did Joseph when sold into slavery and so many in Israel when they ended up in Babylonian captivity. The reason I mention both Kleinsorge and Pastor Tanimoto is because, although Catholic doctrine is not the doctrine of the Bible, there are Catholics who know Jesus as Lord and Saviour: Kleinsorge was one of them. Part of Kleinsorge’s and Kiyoshi Tanimoto’s story is recorded in ‘Hiroshima’ a book by John Hersey which was written a year after Hiroshima was destroyed.
Imagine the horror of having literally everything around you disappear and then seeking to help thousands of people with horrific injuries despite the loss of all that you treasure - including many friends. It is during this tragedy, as is the case with many tragedies, that you really see the difference between religion and the work of the One who said, “I am the bread of life.”
Religion is something you can pick up and put down – it is often no more than works and man-made actions - a convenient system to tap into from time to time, but not life. Christianity is ongoing life in the presence and care of the One who said, “I am the bread of life.” In light of this, let’s now look at the passage where we read of Jesus speaking these words (John 6:35, 48).
Jesus had recently fed over five thousand people in a miraculous way. We know there were over five thousand because John said: “Jesus said, “Have the people sit down (Now there was a lot of grass in that place). So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.” There were five thousand men, yet also women and children with them.
In these five thousand men we have an army that could have risen up against the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. We also have, in the feeding of these men, a supernatural blessing which led many to want to make Jesus the King. A King is present, an army is present and a supernatural act of God has occurred. Surely now is the time to see Israel back in pole position.
Jesus withdraws from the crowd and a day later the crowd finds Him in Capernaum with His disciples. The conversation Jesus then has with the crowd about being the “bread of life” occurs in the local synagogue. This synagogue was an unusual one in that it was built with the donations given by a Centurion soldier. The conversation begins with Jesus stating that He is aware of why the crowd is present.
Jesus is aware that they want to be with Him because He has met their physical needs. So, and at the risk of repeating ourselves too many times, in the crowd we have people who want to make Jesus a king and people who want their physical needs met: food, position and release from Roman domination.
I’m sure we can understand how this crowd of recently-blessed people must have felt. They, like all of Israel at that time, were a covenant people – a people with a history forged by God on the anvil of time. Yet many of them had, like all of us can do at times, drifted into looking for physical security and sustenance above everything else. The result of this is that they were now caught up in the grip of the Roman Empire. Ironically, this being ‘caught up’ was more about being caught up with ‘self’ than the power of the Romans. Many in Israel were like the prodigal son - stuck in the pig pens like a slowly starving, ever-weakening, lonely and probably ridiculed young man. The young man’s real weakness was not his position, it was failure to engage with his father. The same was true for Israel and the same is true for many today; there is a failure to really engage.
Jesus then proceeds to take things to a much deeper level and says to the crowd: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” So what is this ‘seal of approval’?
In the Ancient Near East, a seal was a seal impressed with a signet ring that made the document valid – authenticating a will for example. It testifies to the truth of the matter. The seal of approval on Jesus’ life was the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was God’s Son in the truest sense of being a son; intimate, close fellowship with His Father and a total reliance on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Through the work of Christ, we are sealed by the Spirit.
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Cor 1:21-22
Back to the crowd…
The response from the crowd to Jesus was along the lines of, “What have we got to do to accomplish the things God’s wants?” Deep down many of them may have been aware that something was missing from life, little did they know that it was not actually a something, but a Someone. Jesus responded by telling them to believe in Him, to have faith, to lean on God, to root themselves in the soil of what God has done, to trust God and the One whom He had sent.
In reply to this they effectively said, “OK so what will you do so that we believe you - after all our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness just as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat?” this being a quote from Psalm 78:45.
The crowd had received an unexpected meal produced supernaturally and equated this with the manna that their forefathers had received in the desert. There was also the current belief of the day that when the Messiah came, He would renew the sending of Manna. Moses had given bread and there was to be a prophet like Moses coming. In light of this, they wanted to see what Jesus could do. Before we look at what Jesus says, it is useful to ask ourselves a couple of questions concerning the manna that Israel received in the desert.
Firstly we can ask ourselves, “Why did God give them bread? Nehemiah gives us the answer: -
"Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.”
From Nehemiah we see that God is compassionate. He does not abandon His people but seeks to guide them. God shows His people the direction to go in and gives Himself to them. He instructs them and does not withhold food or water: the embryonic Israel, little more than a group of recently-released slaves, lacked nothing. God was with them.
Yet, God also worked with His people in a particular way in the desert. What was that way and why did He work that way?
God provided food on a daily basis and the people had to go out each day to collect the food. Manna was a small round food substance that was as fine as frost (Ex 16:14), looked like white coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey (Ex 16:31).
The Manna appeared on the ground every morning and the Israelites were allowed to take as much as they needed for the day. They were told that they could not collect more Manna on one day so that they would not have to collect on another and when some disobeyed, the Manna rotted and became full of maggots. Yet, on the sixth day they were allowed to collect enough Manna not only for the sixth day, but also for the seventh, which was to be a day of rest. In this there is the reminder to stop and recognise that God is the provider of all good things. We stop our daily activity in order to rest and engage with the One who is always about His work of restoration and reconciliation on behalf of man.
Now let’s move on to answer the question as to why God worked in this way. In doing so we find the answer in Exodus 16:4-5 where we read: -
“Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days."
We also find the answer in Deuteronomy 8:3 where we read: -
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3
God really wants to bless His people. He has done everything that is needed and our response has to be to obey and receive what has already been provided by way of God’s grace, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness. Nothing about our relationship with God is automatic – it is two-way and we are called to seek His face.
Moving back to Jesus and the crowd, we find Jesus pointing out where their thinking was wrong and informing them that Moses had not given them bread from heaven – it was His Father who gives bread from heaven and in doing so, gives life to the world.
The natural bread (manna in the desert) pointed to the grace and mercy of God and yet this was only a symbol pointing of the true bread of life: Jesus Christ. He is the One who stood in fallen man’s place to take man’s punishment so that man could come home to God who offers reconciliation, friendship and support to those who place their trust in Him.
Going back to our story of Hiroshima and some of its survivors, we note again that the Jesuit priest Kleinsorge had faith in God. A few months after the bomb had gone off we find him, along with Pastor Tanimoto, continuing to work in the pit of suffering to bring hope and light to damaged people.
On one occasion, Father Kleinsorge visited a young woman called Toshiko Sasaki who was depressed, morbid and physically so ill that she was no longer interested in living. On his third visit she asked him bluntly, “If your God is so good and kind, how can he let people suffer like this?” as she then pointed to her damaged leg, the patients around her and Hiroshima in general. In response Kleinsorge said, “My child, man is not now in the condition God intended. He has fallen from grace through sin.” He then went on to explain all the reasons for everything (J. Hersey, ‘Hiroshima’ page 109).
Moving back to Jesus, we see that His response to those who were challenging Him was to say that He is the true bread of life. He also says something else which can sound a little strange to us. He says that all that the Father gives Him will come to Him and never be driven away; so what does that mean? “All that the father gives” and what does it mean later on when Jesus also says in verse 44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”?
To understand what Jesus means, we need to look at what was going on in Israel at that time. In Israel there were two groups of people; one group sought to do things in their own strength and make themselves right with God their own way – without reference to God. They knew about God but they did not engage with God. They were aware of the difficulties of life but had their own way of dealing with it. They were caught up in the ‘here and now’ of everyday activity. God was not really present; he was the “over there” God or the “One you approached with your own good ideas as and when you wanted to.” He was more, “Doctor God whom I go to when I am in trouble” rather than a Father who wants us to share our lives with Him and benefit from all that He has for us.
The other group in Israel were quite different. They were the sort that had received John’s baptism for repentance; they were the ones who were aware of their spiritual poverty and personal bankruptcy and need of God. They were the sort that genuinely sought to engage with God each day. Some of them might even have been like Zaccheus the tax collector. They knew things were so very wrong in their lives but saw no real way out due to their decisions and lifestyle. Like the tax collector in one of Jesus’ parables, they could have be going to the temple from time to time, seeking God but not knowing how to make sense of life. Remember that in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, it was the Tax Collector who was open to God.
Then there were others like Simeon. Luke tells us about Simeon with these words:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.”
Moving back to the words of Jesus, we see that He says that everyone His Father gives to Him He will not turn away and “No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The whole of Israel had been given God’s teaching, but only those who were open to God and listened to God and learned from Him would be drawn to Jesus. What Jesus is saying is, “Don’t talk among yourselves and try to analyse everything by your own experience or board of reference. If you genuinely seek God with an open heart, He will draw you to see who I really am and that I am the One who gives eternal life.”
A few years ago, I had unexpected contact with a Buddhist woman in South Korea who had prayed, “If there is one true god out there, please make yourself known to me.” I was able to share with her for most of the day and saw her soaking in the truth about Jesus.
Going back to Jesus’ words, “He will draw you” we can link in with the words of Jeremiah who said, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). It is because of His love for us that God reaches into our world and seeks to help us come to Him.
The word ‘draw’ that Jesus uses is an unusual one. It is drawing something that has some kind of resistance. So, for example, it is the word used for drawing a heavey-laden net of fish to the shore (e.g. John 21:6, 11). It is also possible to see this ‘drawing out’ in “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matt 11:29-30. The point we note here is that the heavier, stronger oxen would always draw the smaller oxen (self) along.
Later in scripture, Jesus is going to point out that it is the Spirit that brings life and not the flesh (v 63 – you need to be born of the Spirit to see the Kingdom). God not only encourages us to move forward, He also stands with us and helps us to do so, such is amazing grace.
It is through the work of Jesus that we have eternal life and that life is not just quantity – it speaks of a quality that comes about through continually being open to God – talking to Him and reading His word.
In response to what we have been saying about the crowd and Jesus being the bread of life, we can ask ourselves a question; where do we stand in all this? Are we like those who are a little too earthbound? Caught up in the here-and-now and with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to the ways of God? Have we subtly allowed things to get in the way and end up distancing ourselves from our Heavenly Father? Have we started drifting into our own brand of religion or our own agenda to keep ourselves feeling good? This is an easy thing to do in a society which is so often individualistic and about building our own castles to protect ourselves?
Yet Jesus is still the “Bread of life” – the One who, if we are open to His leading, can draw us out of difficulty, hardship and one of the biggest enemies we can have - apathy.
God is about His business and He wants to share it with us. Before moving on, we now go back to Hiroshima for one last glimpse of God reaching man.
Toshiko Sasaki (the young woman who had questioned the existence of God) eventually rented a very small house by a cliff on which there was a bamboo grove. Her story then goes like this:
“One morning, she stepped out of the house, and the sun’s rays glistening on the minnow-like leaves of the bamboo trees took her breath away. She felt an astonishing burst of joy – the first she had experienced in as long as she could remember. She heard herself reciting the Lord’s Prayer…In September she was baptised.”
J. Hersey, Hiroshima, p155.
A few years ago, a friend of mine’s pastor was (when a non-Christian) stung by a poisonous box jellyfish. As he lay dying with the venom travelling around his body, he panicked and could only recite the Lord’s Prayer that his mother had prayed so many times when he was small. Immediately he found himself on a journey that led to forgiveness, reconciliation and life.
Breaking bread in fellowship with God
In the Lord’s Supper we have a picture of the coming Kingdom where no one will go hungry or thirsty and where all are accepted on equal terms: through God’s grace and mercy. This is, in a sense, the beginning of the fulfilment of Isaiah 51:1-3.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come; buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy. Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”
In the breaking of bread we have a foretaste of the things that are to come (Rev 19:6) and the meal is also recognition of blessing and refreshment along the way (Exodus 24:9-11). God is the One who sets a table in the wilderness; (Psalm 78:19) where the ‘bread of angels’ was eaten (Ps 78:25) and is the One who lets us eat even in the presence of our enemies (Ps 23:5) as is seen in the Passover meal being eaten in a hostile nation (Egypt) before the Exodus. In all table fellowship with the Lord, there is also the reminder that we, who were once His enemies, have now been totally accepted through His Son.
In the breaking of bread together we have fellowship with others who are equally accepted by the Lord. This is something that was forgotten in Corinth at one time when the rich would arrive first and eat well, whilst the poor, who could not just leave work and turn up, would arrive late and find nothing left. In the lack of food that was present, they were reminded yet again of their lowly position. Had those who arrived first waited for everyone to be present, the poor and marginalised would have been reminded of how they were seen and accepted as brothers and sisters in Christ before all else.
Broken fellowship is an indicator of not feeding on the ways of the Lord and weakens and damages any community where this form of brokenness is present, as can be seen from 1 Cor 11:30 and James 5. Yet it did not have to be this way.
Table fellowship was to be a sign of friendship and acceptance to all who eat and this is why many could not understand why Jesus ate with, Matthew, the tax collector and Zaccheus .
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
The bread of God’s blessing speaks of fellowship with those who deserve nothing, yet have received everything and are being strengthened in the ways of the Lord. Because of His blessing, and with an attitude of humility and thankfulness that enables us to receive, we are then able to produce a supernatural harvest in and around our lives…
“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."
We are a community of believers who are to be totally dependent on the work of another and if we are to flourish and function, we need to recognise that we are all equally accepted by the Lord Jesus Christ and reach out to others with the love that we ourselves benefit from. No matter our skillset or ability, we all need to be asking for our daily bread as recognition of our total dependence on Him.
We are a reconciled community who share an assignment from God to reach out to a fallen world in His strength and provision. The only way we are unworthy to receive strength and provision from the Lord is if we assume we were worthy to receive it in the first place or deliberately allow sin to remain in certain areas of our lives. .
Fellowship around the table is a prophetic sign and foretaste of the world to come and as the parable of the compassionate landowner clearly reveals, we receive equally, no matter how long we have served the Lord and receive because of His heart, His grace and His mercy and not through earning anything in our own strength!
As we have already said, in praying for our daily needs, we relinquish any ideas of autonomy we might have, recognise afresh that life is about His grace and mercy enabling those who always need to receive, to grow in maturity and benefit more and more from what is freely and willingly given.