Christians were misunderstood in the early days of the church. The Romans thought they were stubborn and obstinate because they refused to take part in society and do societal things. One of the societal obligations was to make a small offering and say “Caesar is Lord.” Since Christians believe that there is no Lord but Jesus, they refused. They didn’t pay homage to Caesar or any of the gods of the Roman pantheon. They were considered atheists because of that. (Ironic, huh?) They were also considered to be cannibals because they talked about eating the body of Jesus and drinking His blood. As time went on, people understood the belief that the bread became the body and blood of Jesus Christ and decided that the Latin words for this “Hoc est corpus mei” were the important words to make that change, so they used those words, or what they thought they heard, to see if they could perform magic. The Hocus Pocus didn’t work for them though.
The words of Jesus were not always easy to understand. He spoke in what appeared to be riddles to those around Him. Often He spoke words with spiritual meanings that had physical meanings also. He told them to tear down this Temple and He would rebuild it in three days. They looked at the magnificent Temple and thought He was crazy when Jesus meant the Temple of His body and the resurrection. Probably some of the hardest words to understand, words that were misunderstood by the Romans also, were when He said He was the bread of life. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
Later in this same discussion, many followers left Jesus. These words were too hard to understand. Jesus compared Himself to the manna that God delivered to the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. God gave them manna to sustain them. He gave them just enough manna for each day, and extra for the Sabbath so they wouldn’t have to work on that day. If Jesus is this manna, this bread in a spiritual way, what does it mean? We need to remember that it is God who provides for us spiritually. On our own, we couldn’t do enough to develop a relationship with God. God sent Jesus, spiritual manna, to make it possible to have a relationship with Him. God continues to sustain us as we seek Christ every day. We don’t just “say a prayer” and forget about Jesus the rest of our lives. Ultimately, though, Jesus was preparing His followers for His death on the cross. His sacrifice would give life to the whole world.
There are a lot of different views about what this means in the Christian Church. We have built denominations and persecuted others because of those different views. To the rest of the world, it seems like Hocus Pocus when we talk about this. We can never forget though that when we celebrate Jesus as the bread of life, we are celebrating His death on the cross that brought us into fellowship with God. We are celebrating the fact that Jesus took the sin of the world on His shoulders and brought us freedom from sin. We remember the grace that God brought to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Oh Lord, we sometimes get into disagreements about what Your words mean. Give us understanding so that we may walk with You according to Your desire. Give us grace to understand others who differ and extend the same grace to them that You give to us.