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"This Is My Body"

In the Midianite's dream a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp and demolished his tent; the daily food of the poor representing the sword of Gideon, a humble man who was to save Israel by a great victory. Symbolism such as this is common throughout the Scriptures and it is helpful to observe that when the Midianite had recounted his dream, his friend said, "This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon ... a man of Israel" (Judg. 7:14). So when the Lord Jesus in the Upper Room took bread and said, "This is My body, which is given for you", He was not implying that the substance in His hands was anything other than bread. He was simply saying that it represented His body. There are, of course, other reasons for taking such a view, but we leave that aspect of the subject to be pursued by later writers in this series; our present intention is to express some thoughts upon the Person of the Lord suggested by the phrase "This is My body".

The letter to the Hebrews presents to us the Son of God as the Revealer of God to man, the outshining of God's glory, the very image of His substance and the Upholder of all creation. Indeed, we are told that the Father Himself proclaims the deity of the Son with the striking statement, "Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever". Yet this majestic Person became Man in order to deal with the awful problem of sin.

"Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is the devil" (Heb. 2:14).

The coming to earth of the Christ of God was not an emergency measure devised to deal with a sudden crisis in man's history. It was an indispensable part of the plan of salvation promised before times eternal (Tit. 1:2) and foreshadowed in the Old Testament (Isa. 7:14,53). How carefully laid the plan was is indicated in chapter 10 of the letter to the Hebrews:

"Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, But a body didst Thou prepare for Me;

In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hadst no pleasure:

Then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of Me)

To do Thy will, 0 God" (10:5-7).

As the gentle lamb goes quietly to the slaughter, so the Son of God, obedient to His Father's will submitted Himself to lawless and murderous men, to degradation and to death. In so doing He fulfilled the types and shadows of Scripture and also His own words in the Upper Room, "My body... given for you".

When the Lord miraculously fed the people with bread they followed Him in expectation of more food for the body, but He impressed upon them that they 9ught rather to long for spiritual food, for He was "The bread ... which cometh down out of heaven" upon whom they should feed. "I am the bread of Life", He said, "He that cometh to Me shall not hunger" (John 6:33,35). As the manna from heaven gave the Israelites life during their wilderness journey, so the Son of God is given to men to satisfy spiritual hunger and to give eternal life to all who believe on Him.

Teaching like this was novel and unacceptable to the Jews, who had seen the Lord Jesus grow up in a humble Nazareth home. They well knew His claim to be the Son of God (John 5:17,18) but found this impossible to reconcile with His obvious manhood. They were astonished at His wisdom and His mighty works, saying, "Whence then hath this Man all these things?" (Matt. 13:56). Everyone who hears the Gospel story soon comes face to face with the same problem, a problem insoluble without the exercise of faith. Simply stated it is this: How can Jesus be both God and Man? The ultimate answer lies hidden in the inner counsels of the Godhead, but the person who lays aside worldly wisdom and humbly accepts the statement of Scripture, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) receives a flood of divine light and becomes a wondering worshipper. Peter had riot been convinced by any philosophical argument when he said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". It came to him by divine revelation (Matt. 16:16,17).

Such considerations bring us into a realm of thought in which human reasoning is inadequate. What we are contemplating is not unreasonable, nor is it against reason, but being divine it is far beyond the mind of men to fathom. The sublime conception brought to our minds by the loaf at the Remembrance is expressed thus in the words of Scripture: "God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16 AV). In such a meditation our unaided intellect fails and we must rest completely upon what God has said in His word about that unique and irreversible miracle, the incarnation of the Son of God. We trace the sequence of events recorded in Scripture and bow our hearts in worship at the unsearchable ways of God.

In retrospect, Paul by the Spirit wrote, "When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4:4) and He "was born of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3). But the first news of the imminent event was given by the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary: "Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee" (Luke 1:30-35). His birth and early life were humble in the extreme. Growing up, Jesus was subject to Joseph and Mary, and He "advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men" (Luke 2:51,52). Writing to the Corinthians, Paul summarizes one aspect of the incarnation thus: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9), and to the Philippians the apostle writes, "Christ Jesus ... emptied Himself, taking the form of a Servant... obedient... unto... the death of the cross" (2:7,8). What such a death meant to Him we do not know, but the Scripture is clear that He suffered for us and, "His own self bare our sins in His body upon the tree" (1 Pet. 2:21-24).

Such glimpses of the incarnation story may not have the impact upon believers that they should, so let us be on our guard never to allow the inward eye to become dulled to the vision of the Son of God, in inexpressible love, leaving the holy delights of His Father's presence to step down to a squalid earth to live with men, His creatures, to serve them, to be rejected by them and finally to suffer a violent death on a Roman cross, "numbered with the transgressors".

And did the Holy and the Just,

The Sovereign of the skies,

Stoop down to man's estate and dust,

That guilty worms might rise?

Yes, the Redeemer left the throne,

The radiant throne on high,

(Surprising mercy, love unknown)

To suffer, bleed and die.

With such holy meditations upon our hearts we keep the Remembrance week by week and "discern the body", heeding also the exhortation of the apostle Paul not to eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily (1 Cor. 11:27-29).