Immediately after Jesus revealed himself as Messiah (who is called Christ) to a woman at Jacob’s well in the city of Samaria which is called Sychar, his disciples came, while the woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the city, telling everyone about the Messiah.
In the mean time his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food while we were gone?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of God who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:31-34)
Did you know that other than physical food there is spiritual food? One may be enjoying good nutritious physical food and be completely nutrient lacking in spiritual food, or even starving to death spiritually.
In the Old Testament Moses taught the Israelites about spiritual food, he wrote:
He humbled you, allowing 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 by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
The spiritual food that Moses wrote about was symbolized by the physical manna, which was a heavenly bread that God gave to the Israelites throughout their journey in the desert after they left Egypt, and before they came into the promised land. But the actual spiritual food was “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Jesus states this very same truth regarding spiritual food in John chapter 4 in the verses above, when he took time out to talk to the Samaritan woman at the well. His disciples had gone into town to buy physical food to eat. When they brought the food back they urged Jesus to eat with them. But Jesus had just finished a long discussion with this woman explaining that he was the Messiah and the fulfilment of their prophecies, and she was now bringing the rest of the city out to meet him and hear his teaching. This was no time to eat! Jesus took time to meet the spiritual needs of the people in the city before he took care of his own physical needs for food, because this was what God was telling him to do at that particular time.
Jesus demonstrated the superiority of spiritual food over physical food. Obviously it is not wrong to eat a meal at meal times, but in this particular situation God had a specific plan for Jesus to accomplish, and that was Jesus’ spiritual food. Jesus stated on many occasions that while he lived his life on earth, that he never did anything that God wasn’t already telling him to do. Jesus did not speak or act out of his own initiative. He only spoke the words God gave him to speak, and only did the things God told him to do. Always.
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. (John 8:28)
Jesus had perfect spiritual nutrition, because he perfectly heard and perfectly obeyed everything God told him. Now we can have spiritual food also, by listening to what Jesus says and obeying his instructions for our lives. Spiritual food is superior to physical food, because it leads to eternal life and spiritual health, whereas physical food only nourishes our body, which will eventually die and decay.
Jesus came into a village one day where two sisters invited them into their home. One of them busied herself with preparing for the meal, while the other one took time to listen to Jesus’ teaching. One was concerned with physical food, while the other was concerned about spiritual food:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
On another occasion Jesus was teaching in a rural area where several thousand people showed up to listen to him teach, and to perform miracles of healing. On that occasion he took “five small barley loaves and two small fish” and multiplied it into enough physical food to feed thousands of people. It was such an incredible miracle, that the people wanted to make him king right then and there. But Jesus knew that they were more concerned about physical food than spiritual food, and tried to teach them the difference. Here is the conversation as recorded by John:
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 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.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”
He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:25-63)
Jesus tried to explain to them the superiority of spiritual food over physical food. Remember, spiritual food is defined as hearing the voice of God and obeying it. Jesus did this perfectly, and had perfect spiritual health. The main principles regarding spiritual food that Jesus taught in the passage above were:
1. To recognize Jesus’ voice and the truth he was speaking, one had to know God first, and most of the Jews of his day did not. Manny of them knew about God through the writings of Moses and the Old Testament scriptures, but few actually knew him personally. If they were not already being nourished with spiritual food by listening to and obeying the voice of God, as Moses had taught them, then they would not recognize Jesus’ voice either.
2. Spiritual food is more important than physical food, because it has eternal value: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
3. Jesus spoke of spiritual food symbolically by calling it his flesh/body and his blood. He was of course referring to his sacrificial death on the cross which as yet had not happened when he spoke these words in John chapter 6. These statements about his flesh and blood brought tremendous confusion to those present, and most of them stopped following Jesus, probably thinking he was crazy. But a short time later Jesus’ body was pierced as he was nailed to the cross, and his blood spilled onto the ground. That voluntary death broke the power of sin and physical death over the human race, allowing Jesus to offer spiritual life and eternal life to all who believe in him and accept his free gift of salvation. It is a spiritual salvation that results in us being reborn spiritually. This act of faith in accepting Jesus’ spiritual gift of salvation is in essence our first spiritual meal.
Jesus instituted a kind of memorial meal just before he died on the cross that is commonly known today as “the Lord’s Supper.” It took place during the Jewish Passover meal:
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:14-20)
This memorial dinner Jesus had with his disciples just before he went to the cross was to symbolize the New Covenant Jesus was instituting by his sacrificial death. Just as a lamb was sacrificed under the Old Covenant that Moses had instituted, and the blood of the lamb was put on the doorposts of the Hebrew slaves living in Egypt so that the angel of death might pass them by, so now Jesus was becoming the Lamb of God whose blood spilling on the cross would take away the sins of the world.
This is where your spiritual nutrition starts, and your first spiritual food. It starts by believing in Jesus for your spiritual health and spiritual rebirth. Then it continues as we listen to Jesus and his instructions for our lives as we live out the rest of our days here on this earth. The closer we listen and the more we obey and carry out the instructions he gives us, the healthier we are spiritually.
As we now don’t see Jesus physically, how do we listen to his voice in order to partake our spiritual food daily? Jesus is the Living Word of God, and you can listen to his voice through reading the Word of God written in your Holy Bible. Read it daily in such a way that it will drop into your spirit.
What is your spiritual health like today? Are you lacking in spiritual nutrition, or perhaps even starving to death spiritually? Physical food will only nourish your body which one day will die and begin the process of decay, returning to the dust of the earth. But your spirit will live on into eternity. Is your spirit currently nourished, or famished? Spiritual food comes from Jesus, and it is FREE! Ask him today for your daily bread, his specific instructions for your life, so that you will not go spiritually hungry and death.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)