Christ was The Lamb of GodThe scriptures refer to Christ as the lamb of God (John 1:29) and the spotless lamb of God (1-Peter 1:19). The life of Christ and his crucifixion was the physical fulfillment of the Levitical sacrificial system Moses set in place pointing to the advent of the coming savior. These sacrifices are not the subject of this post but I will note here this sacrificial system was done away with after Christ's death on the cross (Ephesians 2:15).
At the Last Supper, Christ broke the bread and instructed those with him, "Take, eat; this is my body" (Matthew 26:26) and "This is my body which is given for you" (Luke 22:19). However, this is not the first time that Christ had referred to himself as bread:
Moses compared eating bread with the word of God in a metaphorical fashion centuries earlier which Christ quoted during his temptation; note he said "it is written" referring to the written word of God in Moses:John 6:51
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us
So why would Christ refer to himself as bread to be eaten? After all, eating the flesh of a human would be cannibalism, clearly against the dietary laws of Moses. The disciples upon hearing Christ was to be eaten did not immediately toss him in the oven with some garlic and serve serve him up on a bed of pasta. In fact, Christ was never literally eaten; thus it stands to reason this is mere metaphor.Matthew 4:4
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.
Bread Metaphorical for Teachings and Leaven a Metaphor of HypocrisyChrist warned the disciples from buying leavened bread from the Pharisees:
However, later in his ministry Christ instructed his followers to observe the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees but warned them of the hypocrisy found within their behavior:Matthew 16:5-12
5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
We all understand hypocrisy. We observe hypocrisy every day in the media, our neighborhoods, Hollywood, expounded upon in stories of all sorts, and sung of endlessly in music. It was this sort of behavior which Christ warned his followers of and we can see such lack of sincerity and genuine adherence to their espoused doctrines in the passages of Matthew 6, Matthew 23, Mark 7, and Luke 11. This leaven, which is hypocrisy, is what Christ was warning his followers about: in effect, he was telling them that while the Pharisees and Sadducees behave in a manner that they may have glory of men (Matthew 6:2) outwardly they were empty inside full of dead mens bones and uncleanliness (Matthew 23:27-28).Matthew 23:1-5
1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.
In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Thus, the leavened bread Christ was warning his followers about was not a literal loaf of bread behaving as a hypocrite. Instead, the leavened bread Christ was referring to were the scribes and Pharisees teachings by their hypocritical example which had polluted their oral instructions. How many times do we compare our own actions with that of our Pastor, fellow parishioners and church goings, friends, neighbors, or other teachers we have in our lives and make judgements about our own righteousness based on how well our deeds agree with whom we view as holy men?
We now find ourselves with a greater understand of the symbolism of the unleavened bread which Christ broke at the Last Supper and told his disciples with him to "eat, this is my body": He was drawing our attention to his teachings, the bread, which was unpolluted with any hypocrisy (leaven) in his actions, ie. his flesh.
Flesh Metaphorical for Action and DeedsActions being metaphorical for flesh should come as no surprise to us. This metaphorical connection is found in countless volumes of poetry, songs, films, novels, novelettes, and even paintings; i.e. art of all kinds. However, we need not the wisdom of man to make this connection (Proverbs 3:5) as Galatians makes it for us:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness.
An Application to Our Daily Lives
A man well known to be a gambler perfecting his system falls into a vast inheritance from a recently deceased wealthy uncle. Desiring to put the money to good use he seeks out the wisdom of a profession investment advisor who advises him to quit gambling and invest in securities. On his way home he decides to hit Vegas reasoning to himself his system is solid and he will have more to invest. In the end he loses it all and he speaks endlessly of how he almost had the house and just needed a little more cash and time to perfect his system.
After some time we fall into a great inheritance which we can invest. Would follow in the foot steps of this gambler?
We've all heard the Proverb "As a dog returneth to his vomit so a fool returneth to his folly" (Proverbs 26:11). Recognizing the fool returning to his folly here is easy. However, if we were to follow in the way, that is the actions, of the gambler and go to Vegas would we not be, metaphorically, consuming the actions (teaching by deeds) of this gabling fool? I suppose there is some wisdom in the old proverb, "You are what you eat."
Note that dog is an unclean meat found in Leviticus chapter eleven. Isreal was not to eat dog meat: i.e. an instruction metaphorically warning them not to emulate the actions of a fool. Stated another way, the literal meat meant nothing. After all, Christ said,
Mark 7: 15
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
Solomon, knowing nature (1-Kings 4:33), wrote Proverb 26:11 using a known behavioral trait of the canine to illustrate the behavior a fool and provide a reason for why dogs are unclean. Therefore, understanding this deeper meaning sheds new light on Peter's vision of Acts 10 and why Paul said he could eat food scarified to idols (1-Cor 8).
l will leave you with this question: Which is more likely? The Levitical dietary laws
- Are an arbitrary system of restrictions set up by a merciful and all loving Creator at a time, and prohibitive location for farming, in which food was already scarce; or,
- Have a deeper meaning, set up by a merciful and all loving Creator, designed to teach following generations the importance of being cautious of whom we accept instruction?
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