am the living bread that came down from heaven"
(John 6:50-58, NWT)
This year, 2019, Christ Jesus' death will be commemorated on Friday April 19th. Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere will gather together for this important annual event in their Kingdom Halls; or perhaps in a rented conference room; or even in private homes. Will you too be present―as a participant, or, simply, as an observer? Your decision may determine your relationship with Christ Jesus, and that of our heavenly Father Jehovah.
Jesus is the foretold prophet regarding whom Jehovah had said to Moses: "A prophet I shall raise up for them from the midst of their brothers, like you; and I shall indeed put my words in his mouth, and he will certainly speak to them all that I shall command him. And it must occur that the man who will not listen to my words that he will speak in my name, I shall myself require an account from him." (Deut. 18:18,19) Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, who visited Jesus one night, acknowledged: "Rabbi, we know that you as a teacher have come from God; for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.” After alluding to the changes that were about to come upon the Jewish nation, Jesus concluded by saying: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life." (John 3:1-21) To exercise faith in the prophet greater than Moses, namely, God's only-begotten Son, means everlasting life, rather than being destroyed.
What does it mean to exercise faith in Christ Jesus? what does it involve? To a crowd of about five thousand men, whom Jesus had miraculously fed the previous day on just five barley loaves and two fishes, and who had now been searching for him, Jesus said: "I am telling you the truth: you are looking for me because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you understood my miracles. Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. This is the food which the Son of Man will give you, because God, the Father, has put his mark of approval on him.”
So they asked him, “What can we do in order to do what God wants us to do?” Jesus answered, “What God wants you to do is to believe in the one he sent.” They replied, “What miracle will you perform so that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, just as the scripture says, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
“I am telling you the truth,” Jesus said. “What Moses gave you was not the bread from heaven; it is my Father who gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread that God gives is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they asked him, “give us this bread always.”
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “Those who come to me will never be hungry; those who believe in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:26-35; GNT)
The crowd began to murmur because Jesus said that he was the bread that came down from heaven. After all, they knew him to be the son of Joseph and Mary. Therefore, Jesus again told them: “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51; NWT)
The Jews began contending with one another, saying: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Accordingly Jesus said to them: “Most 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. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him. Just as the living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father, he also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It is not as when your forefathers ate and yet died. He that feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:52-58)
His listeners were shocked, because they failed to get the sense of Jesus' words. They did not understand, because, as Jesus said, "It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." Therefore, "owing to this many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him." (vs.60-66) Even his twelve apostles were confused, as demonstrated by their reply, when Jesus asked them: "You do not want to go also, do you?” Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (vs. 67-69)
What about us today? Do we understand that Jesus' words, as recorded by John, "are spirit and are life"―yes, that it involves our everlasting life? How can we be certain that we have the correct understanding of all that Jesus said, seeing that the vast majority of the disciples who heard Jesus were stumbled? It was not until that momentous evening, when Jesus gathered with his apostles to celebrate the Passover for the last time, that they were given the understanding of Jesus' words, namely, that he is "the living bread that came down from heaven";―and in what sense they were about to obey his command to eat his "flesh" and drink his "blood". (1 Cor. 2:7,8)
After having eaten the Passover meal, Jesus instituted a new celebration (by now Judas Iscariot had left to betray Jesus, as Jesus foretold at the time he asked the twelve disciples whether they also wanted to leave). Matthew describes the event as it unfolded: "Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'” (Matt. 26:26; English Standard Version) Please note that Jesus referred to the bread as being his body, "this is my body". He did not say, "this means my body," as it appears in the New World Translation. (By the way, it is the only "translation" to render it thus. Even The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures―published by the Watchtower Society―shows the Greek word "εστιν" as "is", not "means".) The same is true regarding the cup of wine, which Jesus passed to his disciples, saying: "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (vs. 27,28)
By substituting the word "means my body" and "means my blood of the covenant", instead of rendering it correctly as "is" my body" and "is" my blood of the covenant", the meaning of the fulfillment of the Lord's Evening Meal becomes ambiguous, even misleading. It has resulted in the vast majority of Jehovah's people being told that Jesus' command to "keep doing this in remembrance of me", does not apply to them but only to the few who hope to rule with Christ Jesus in his heavenly kingdom. This teaching of abstaining from partaking is in opposition to Jesus' command, and it has absolutely no scriptural basis, for it is entirely established on Joseph Rutherford's interpretation of the Scriptures, which he based heavily on the theory of types and antitypes (which teaches that everything that happened in ancient times to God's people―the type, has a modern fulfillment―the antitype. Many of the Watchtower Society's teachings are based in this theory propounded by Rutherford.) (Luke 22:19,20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) Satan is well aware of God's requirement for his people to partake of the bread and the wine, seeing that it is a vital aspect of exercising faith in his only-begotten Son for everlasting life. All the Devil has to do to prevent them from obeying God's commandment, is to have their leaders, to whom they look for spiritual guidance and instructions, give them a reason not to apply the commandment to themselves. (1 Tim. 4:1-5; 1 John 4:1, 6) Please note: Jesus said that "everyone" and "anyone" that exercises faith in the Son, by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, will have everlasting life. There is no Scriptural prohibition, to keep anyone from obeying.
Bear in mind that Jehovah said that he himself will "require an account" from everyone who does not listen to the prophet like Moses whom he would raise up. Jesus himself also said: "If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you." (John 15:10, 14) What is the commandment that Jehovah and Jesus require us to obey? This: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him." (John 6:52-58) Partaking at the memorial is an essential part of exercising faith in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul explains, "for as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives." (1 Cor. 11:26)
Do you personally have a good reason for not partaking of the bread and the wine at the Lord's Evening Meal? Jesus said that your everlasting life depends on your obedience to do so. Does that perhaps stumble you, as many of his disciples stumbled at his words for lack of understanding? Do you realize, that obedience to Jesus' command to celebrate the memorial in the way that he instructed, may well be the means by which Jehovah is identifying his true worshippers today? (Malachi 3:17,18; 2 Timothy 2:19) Failure to obey may put a person among the many concerning whom Jesus said: "Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness." (Matt. 7:21-23)
The bread and the wine at the memorial are mistakenly referred to as "emblems". They are not emblems! Are we therefore to believe that they are literally Jesus' flesh and blood? No! That is not what the Scriptures teach, as the Catholic Church believes. Perhaps an example of what Jesus said regarding John the Baptist can help you to understand why Jesus said that the bread and the wine is his flesh and his blood; and not "means" or "represents" or "symbolizes" his flesh and his blood. Too, recall that Jesus had said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven." The prophet Malachi foretold regarding the prophet Elijah: "Look! I am sending to you people Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah. And he must turn the heart of fathers back toward sons, and the heart of sons back toward fathers; in order that I may not come and actually strike the earth with a devoting [of it] to destruction.” (Mal. 4:5,6) Thus, in the first century, the Jews were in expectation of Elijah's coming. (Matt. 16:13,14; 17:10-13)
Jesus explained to the crowd the significance of the work that John the Baptist had done, and the prophecies that were being fulfilled in him, when he said: "For all, the Prophets and the Law, prophesied until John; and if you want to accept it, He himself is Elijah who is destined to come." (Matt. 11:7-15) Was Jesus saying that John the Baptist actually was the resurrected prophet Elijah? No! Jesus knew the circumstances surrounding the birth of John, how the angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth was going to become mother to a son, and to call his name John; and that he would "go before [Jesus] with Elijah's spirit and power...to get ready for Jehovah a prepared people". (Luke 1:17; Isa. 40:3) Why, then, did Jesus say that John in fact "is" Elijah ("εστιν" ― the same word he used in connection with the bread being his body and the wine being his blood?) Because John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecies regarding the coming of the prophet Elijah; therefore he was the foretold Elijah. In the same way, when Jesus instituted the Lord's Evening Meal, and he said that the bread and the wine were his flesh and his blood, he made clear to his disciples that this was the fulfillment of his earlier words. The emphasis was on "this is my body", respecting the loaf; and "this is my blood of the covenant", respecting the wine; and, undoubtedly, his disciples must have greatly rejoiced at the clarification that they now received. And so should we!
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"Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'"
is no salvation in anyone else"
Jesus called the holy spirit our "teacher" and "helper". It is "the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. You know it, because it remains with you and is in you." (John 14:16,17, 26; 16:7) Note that Jesus says the spirit "remains with you and is in you". The apostle Paul explains it this way: "Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are." (1 Cor. 3:16,17)
In ancient times, and under the old covenant, Jehovah "tabernacled in the midst of his people" ("dwelled among his people"; ESV); while under the new and better covenant God's people enjoy a much closer relationship with him, for God dwells within us by his holy spirit. (Exodus 29:45,46; Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-12) It is the truth of God's Word that sanctifies us, making us holy and acceptable to God. (John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:15,16) That is why it is absolutely necessary that we "worship the Father with spirit and truth", for any falsehood, or "inspired expression of error", or lies, will make our worship unclean and unacceptable. (John 4:22-24; Matt. 15:7-9; 1 John 4:1, 6)
We may ask: If we truly have God's spirit dwell in us and teach us, why then is there such a diversity in interpretation and understanding of the Scriptures among us, which is resulting in a great deal of confusion? This has led many to express the thought that everyone's opinion is equally valid, and that we cannot know the truth at this time. What they are really saying is that they do not acknowledge the power of God's spirit in our day. But if we truly have God's spirit dwelling in us, and teaching us, then surely we must be able to know and understand the truth, which should be reflected in our unity, oneness, and harmony of worship of the only true God. Especially when we know that anything apart from the truth is not acceptable to him, which would also render our worship in vain. Jesus tells us, "If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31,32) Yes, we can know the truth! And from what will it set us free? It will set us free from false worship and the lies taught by the Devil, whom Jesus called a "liar and the father of the lie." We are Christ's disciples only if we remain in his word; and his word is recorded for us in the holy Scriptures. If we are inclined to look for God's truth elsewhere, then, yes, we are in danger of falling victim to the lies that the Devil teaches, as surely as the Jews rejected the truth that Jesus taught, on account of their false teachers, their religious leaders. (John 8:42-47) Keep in mind that in Jesus' day, the Jews were still God's people, in the covenant with him. Can the same happen to us, today?
Of course, we all well know that apart from Christ Jesus, "there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved." (Acts 4:12; Rev. 2:14-16) This strictly means that we must not look to anyone as if our everlasting life can come from following someone besides Jesus. (Psalms 146:3) It is through Jesus alone that we are reconciled to Jehovah, not by means of any other person or group of men. "God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us...we are also exulting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." (Romans 5:8-11) Because we have been reconciled to God, we have his spirit dwell in us. We are his sons and daughters. (Zech. 2:10,11; 2 Cor. 6:16-18)
The Scriptures warn against the false prophets and false teachers who would make their appearance in the last days, posing a serious thread to God's people; just as was the case in the time of the Israelites. (Matt. 7:15-23; 24:23-25; 2 Peter 2:1-3) If we keep bearing in mind that apart from Jesus there is no one else that possesses any sort of special knowledge which would be essential for us to gain everlasting life, then we will be "stabilized in the faith" and on guard against being misled by someone's claimed special knowledge of God's prophetic word. (John 17:3; Colossians 2:3,4) If we belong to Jehovah, then we have his spirit which teaches us. The apostle Paul explains: "No one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God. Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit." In fact, we are told that the person who does not have God's spirit, that one does not belong to God. Such a man would become an easy prey to the Devil, who "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone." (1 Cor. 2:11-14; John 14:15-17, 25,26; Rom. 8:9-11; 2 Tim. 2:19; Col. 2:8; 1 Peter 5:8,9)
if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments!"
Jehovah cares deeply for all of his people—every single one of us. We are his sons and daughters, while he is our heavenly Father. What father does not show concern for his children? (2 Cor. 6:17,18; Gal. 3:26; Heb. 12:7-13) Indeed, we are "a people for his name", a "people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things." Yes, we belong to Jehovah for we are his "special property." (Mal. 3:17,18; Acts 15:14, 17)
That is not from men, but from God; for he is dealing with us as a Father does with his children. It means that he watches over us; he protects us; he provides us with our daily necessities; he listens to our prayers; he comforts us when we are depressed; and, of course, he instructs us. As he says: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. And your offspring would become just like the sand, and the descendants from your inward parts like the grains of it. One’s name would not be cut off or be annihilated from before me.” (Isaiah 48:17-19)
Note how Jehovah fairly pleads with us to listen to him, to "pay attention to my commandments"; because he well knows the consequences we will suffer when we fail to listen to him, and to heed his warnings. The pain may come due to the natural chain of events that results from our bad action, or even neglect when love was called for; while other consequences may come upon us directly from Jehovah in the way of discipline, or even punishment, in the manner that we ourselves discipline a rebellious child. God tells us: "And I shall have to correct you to the proper degree, as I shall by no means leave you unpunished." (Exodus 34:6,7; Eccl. 8:11-13; Jer. 30:11; Gal. 6:7-9) When Jehovah disciplines us, even punishes us (the two are not the same), it is evidence that he still cares for us. See how he punished King David for his sin in connection with Bath-sheba, and yet he continued to love David and bless him afterward. (2 Samuel 11:1-12:14; 1 Kings 15:4,5)
Jehovah is not unreasonable. His commandments are not burdensome. "He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?" (Micah 6:8; 1 John 5:3) Have not all of us experienced, at one time or another, that not listening to Jehovah is the thing that becomes burdensome, for we soon come to suffer the resulting pain and sleepless nights, from which God does not shield us.
Jehovah does not treat anyone with partiality. He does not favor one person over another. He is a God of justice. Paul explains: "Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit. So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out. Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith." (Gal. 6:7-10) When we sow with a view to the spirit, and we are storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, as Jesus said we should, then we will also be blessed spiritually. The joy of holy spirit, that comes from God, is a joy that is far above any other; which has to be experienced in order to be able to appreciate it, for it is a joy that is unknown to the world. It results from being at peace with God. (Gal. 5:19-23)
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