Living Bread – Part Four: Conclusion
The Words I Speak … They are Spirit and they are Life
By Fred Pruitt
To read the other articles in the series: Living Bread Series
“I am that bread of life.
Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” (John 6:48-50)
Forty plus years ago, I began to really feel that hunger, though it was not clear to me what food I sought. I just knew something was way wrong, that life must have some direction to it, some firm anchor that we can find and trust in the chaos, and I didn’t have it. As related many times before, I began to look into eastern thought, and took on a few practices, meditation, yoga poses, diet, incense, a tad of chanting, etc., that made me feel like I was doing something about it.
I looked around the world and no one stood out to me as having an answer. But when I settled into regular meditation, first through Hindu yoga, then from there into Zen Buddhism and the practice of zazen, a great calm began to settle over me. Meditation “worked,” for a while. It really all depended on how diligent one was with his practices. To miss meditation was like missing a dose of pain meds from the doctor (or not). But unlike drugs, it made me feel clean, pure, holy – and ever more separated from those who were making no effort (as I saw it) to find their way out of the mire, like I was doing.
At the time I didn’t understand it, but now I can see how, when the Spirit comes upon a person to jump-start the process to bring him home to Jesus, it is the time of the first “Alone with the alone.” It is a path we walk and a door we essentially walk through by ourselves. “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”
We may have some close companions – I did, thank God. Janis and a small number of close friends were all at the same time experiencing the Spirit’s wooing, too, but we were just a bunch of friends, not a group or a church – hardly – we were “hippies.” The Spirit seemed to single out this little circle of friends, and brought each of us individually, one by one over a very short period of time, through different issues, backgrounds and desires, to Jesus, the Living Bread of Heaven.
And this is where the intimacy of Christ comes in. My ultimate Zen “revelation” had been that the total ???? was beyond “personhood.” It was like an empty void, devoid of all things personal. A giant black chasm of emptiness, but which at the same time contained and was all things. To have a glimpse of it in some way, could propel us toward enlightenment, which in Zen was called kensho or sunyatta, sort of “the experience of nothingness.”
“Person” was a construct of the separated or dualistic mind, the mind that had broken off or left the total “One,” to become “personal.” In my mind at the time, “personal” was a lesser existence, still an emanation of some sort from the Cosmic Oneness, but because of that it was able to find its way back to the ultimate Source where we would cease individual “personal” existence, and live for eternity in the vast sea of love and Oneness with all things. For a time that was what I thought I was after!
I don’t know why by the age of 20, with no really difficult trials and tribulations growing up except for the normal abnormalities and “dysfunctions” of most families, I was absolutely lit on fire to not come back for another go on planet earth. I just was. It just came on me. Part of all that is of course reincarnation, the idea that the essential soul of a person goes through many incarnations and many lessons through many lifetimes before it comes to the Nirvanic state of bliss. The basic “promise” I saw in the eastern practices, was that by living a “holy” life around the principles in Zen and continuing earnestly in zazen, it would at the very least reverse bad karma (the main cause that keeps us coming back), but if I were to sort-of redouble my efforts and by sheer force of will achieve a state of enlightenment, it’s like hitting a home run. You get to run around all the bases without having to stop at each one and wait a while. That was the general idea. All karmic debt canceled. I felt like it would pretty much solve everything. “Give me enlightenment, and how fast can you get it here!!??”
This “karmic debt” was not something personal to me. The whole idea of karma is that we have arrived at our current incarnation because of good and/or bad karma in previous lives. Basically, it was another “me” (who had no existence in my personal consciousness) who did those things. It is similar to the Judeo-Christian idea of sins, except that sins are personal and of this life only, and we are the ones who commit them, and we who reap the instantaneous rewards. That was why I did not consider myself a “sinner” when I first came to Jesus. Though I did admit to a great sin to the Father the night He revealed His Son in me, and that was the sin of pride for thinking I knew anything about God. And that in itself was the great emptying, that preceded His great infilling.
I did not realize at the time, but it was “Person” that was missing. What is more important to a baby than its mother and father? Sure the baby cries when it needs to be changed, or when it is hungry, and babysitters or nannies can do those tasks. But baby really brightens up when Mama shows up, or Daddy. The baby is not “reasoning” at that point. The bond of intimacy between baby and especially mother cannot be scientifically measured, but there is no one who does not know it. The link from one person to another person is the secret of the universe. That was what I found that night. “God” was not a concept, nor a void, nor emptiness, nor just the impersonal “universe” to which we look for sustenance or guidance that somehow guides and contains all things.
God is THE Person – I AM that I AM.
An impersonal universe cannot say that. An impersonal universe does not say, “I am the Lord thy God … Thou shalt have no other gods before me!” (Ex 20:2,3). Yet that was the Word that thundered inside me during the service at the Zen Center in San Francisco in 1972, while bowing nine times before a statue of Buddha at the far end of the great room.
“I am that bread of life,” Jesus told the crowd. There is so much meaning here. First, He is telling us that He Himself is our real sustenance, that all we have and are, we have received from Him, and we live by Him. But even more than that, even deeper than that, He is giving much more than sustenance. Somebody can mail a check to us from far away and provide sustenance. But Jesus gave Himself to us, not as an impersonal strength, or adequacy, or power, but as the Word of God – the very Word of God he declared to the devil: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4).
What “Word” eternally proceeds out of the mouth of God? It is The Son, The Word, The Logos – Who is all those things, as well as an intimacy of Personal Presence within. He is the Eternal Word spoken in eternally: “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Ps 2:7). Understand, every day is “this day!” This is God, speaking eternally, the Son. The Son IS the Word of the Father. What does this say about God? It makes God “personal” to us!
God works all things that are, but only the eyes that have been given sight may see Him behind all things. But because He works all things, most of it beyond our awareness, there is this impersonal aspect to God. We do not, for instance, have to pray that the stars stay on their courses or that the moon will rise when the Sun goes down. All the laws of physics are God’s “laws” of this temporal universe, and the scientists are only discovering the never-ending wonders of God as they probe deeper into creation, whether they recognize God in it or not. Most of the functions carried on in my own physical body happen without my conscious awareness of it. Breathing is one, for instance. Or all the chemical processes taking place inside, blood flowing, brain working. Most of it works “on automatic” and we are not aware of it usually, unless something goes wrong. Otherwise, we have no conscious oversight of any of our inner physical processes that keep us alive from one moment to the next.
But God, in the 2nd Psalm quoted above, says He has begotten a SON! This is different from a “oneness,” or a “sea of bliss” as our ultimate reward. What the 2nd Psalm is saying ultimately, is that God’s complete manifestation of Himself is The Son, a PERSON – not an impersonal “universe,” nor a “cosmic consciousness,” but The Son. And then that’s where our redemption comes in, because the Father did not just send the Son down here, to be “bruised for our iniquities,” only for us to “go to heaven” when we die. Certainly that is part of it, but He came for the “many sons.” Everything in and of this creation is geared toward this – the SON in the Sons! And though the scriptures only hint of this, nevertheless it is plain that we “Sons” are part of His magnificent plan, exceedingly above all we ask and think, and we will not be “idle” in the heavenlies!
Therefore, as it regards us, Paul wrote, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6) By His Spirit in our hearts He causes us to know His Sonship in us – which really just boils down to “our” sonship. Sons in the SON!
And finally the plan for the Cosmos: “For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God … Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom 8:19,21).
The whole cosmos is waiting for its final ultimate fulfillment in the manifestation of the SONS! It will eternally be The SON in all the Sons, manifesting individually and collectively the whole fulness of God.
I am that bread of life.
Therefore He is much more than mere sustenance. He is the staple diet of everyday. He Himself – not His attributes, His power, His grace, but He Himself Only.
About thirty-something years ago we were in a financial crunch, and earnest prayers and words of faith were going up constantly. As I was walking out my front door one day in the midst of that, the Spirit spoke an inward Word to me: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The first thought that hit me was, “Hallelujah, the money’s coming!” And I started to praise God for His deliverance, again. But the Spirit stopped me right there and inwardly said to me, “No, I did not say the money was coming. I said ‘My grace is sufficient for you,’ just that, only. Can you take that?”
Since I knew He and His “grace” were synonymous, how else could I answer but, “You are all I need, Lord. You and you only! Whether the money comes or not?”
That is Who Jesus is to us and in us when He is “our” bread of life. He is everything, to which nothing can be compared or even measured. And all we need do to have this “heavenly bread,” Jesus is saying, is to “believe on Him Whom He hath sent.” That’s it. No other requirements. No deeds of valor. No improved behavior. No great accomplishments. Just “believe on Him Whom He hath sent.” And those who find themselves with the desire to step into His Life, somehow find that the grace to do so is already present and effective.
52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
The crowd is still trying to understand what Jesus is saying, but it does not compute! They’re still thinking Jesus is going to actually give them His physical body to eat! That sounded like madness!
But Jesus is undaunted, and even ups the ante! “If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you!” Whoa!
What in the world is He talking about? It is really quite simple. He is speaking of Life in union with Him, outside of which, there is only death. That is why His metaphor is so powerful, because to “eat Him,” means to take Him inside oneself, so that He becomes inwardly joined to us in a Deity Spirit-to-human spirit union, so that His Life in us comes out of one “unified” spirit, with Whom we are one even as He is One with the Father. (1 Cor 6:17; John 17:11, 20-23, 1 John 4:17).
There must be an “eating!” Our forefathers fell from “eating” of the wrong tree. They took the Serpent’s poison that was in the Tree, ate it, and it nested inside them as a false consciousness of independence. What did they take in? They took in the enemy and his kingdom of darkness, though mitigated by the good and evil of this world. They became children of wrath.
Therefore we can see how receiving again the image of God renewed in Christ, is also accomplished by an “eating.” That is, we take Christ now inside us! And He kicks the enemy out! Now is that legalism, somehow contradictory to grace? If we take it as a “given” because of our doctrine or the “finished work of the Cross,” but do not enter in ourselves, it is of no effect. God does not give honorary degrees. It is available to all, but there must be an entering in. All that means is to step into Life by faith! The Father is raising up true sons, who have endured through the trials, who have found by living that God IS faithful, that God can and DOES set a table in the wilderness, who speak no more with double-mindedness, but now in the authority that comes from the Son and the Spirit only. God “proves” every one of His sons, not by testing them and showing them what failures they are, but by demonstrating the faithfulness of God within them!
So that is all Jesus is telling the crowd. “Look, this is all available to you to every one of you! But you must enter in, by eating My flesh and drinking My blood, because if you do not,” Jesus tells them,” you have no life in you!”
When we eat His flesh and drink His blood, He is the Life in us, in all the different descriptions of Him throughout the Scriptures. He is the Son of God/Son of Man; Water of Life; Light of the World; the True Vine; the Firstborn of many brethren; the Captain of our Salvation; Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; the Bright and Morning Star; the Daystar from on High; Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace; Alpha and Omega; All and in all. He is the True Vine and we are branches grafted into Him, the Christ–Vine! He is the inner Life in the temple of our spirits, souls and bodies. He is the Treasure and we are the earthen vessels who were called, chosen, and anointed to manifest Him in our mortal flesh. As Paul wrote: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29,30).
Jesus continues on:
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever.
What does this have to do with our communion traditions in our churches? They run through a broad spectrum, from the ultra-sacramentalists to the almost-forget-about-its and everything in between.
For me the answer does not lie in the form of service in which communion is given and received, nor in a theology or a church hierarchy or tradition behind it. It is primarily in the faith of the individual communicant.
For myself, when I speak of “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood,” it is for me an unending ongoing event. Every aspect of His Body which was given for me, and every attribute of His “cup of salvation” which is His Blood, are also continually operative in me, just as is the River of Living Water that flows continually out of my middle. I am not saying it as somebody who thinks he is special, other than we are ALL special, because if we are in Christ, this reality I am describing is no respecter of persons – in Christ we all are His manifestation of the Cross. Being no more children but now growing up into adulthood, His Body and Blood continually remind us we have come to know the power of His resurrection, having entered into the fellowship of His sufferings, and been made conformable to His death,” (Phil 3:10). It is why Paul said, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2).
Eating His flesh and drinking His blood brings us to the fulfillment in this life of His Life in us: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” (2 Cor 4:10).
As our outer means of remembering this, from its earliest days the church has held the Communion of the Lord as a sacred and central rite. Since the days of the Reformation 500 years ago, great disputes and eventually even wars have been fought over this and similar issues, first between Catholic and Protestant, and then between Protestant and Protestant. There were actually wars fought and men killed, over what kind of clothing the clergy should wear, how churches should be decorated, whether they should pray out of a prayer book or have individual prayer, whether the bread and wine ACTUALLY turned into Jesus’ body and blood, or was it just symbolic? Wars!!!! Desolation of countries!!! Abomination!!!!
I’m not here to answer those questions or even give an opinion. Where God is apprehended in a person’s faith, my heart is there. I know people who live by the Eucharist, who would have it every day if their churches offered it. I have heard many testimonies of how people felt themselves visited by grace when receiving the elements. I have no reason to doubt them.
One of the major openings of my life occurred at the communion rail in an Episcopal church in the early 1980s. As my family filed up the right side toward the altar and others filed in from the left side, when we got to the altar and began to kneel, I glanced around at those at the rail with me. It was an affluent church, many wealthy people, but I was neither “affluent” nor wealthy. As I looked at some of the others at the rail with us, I had the thought, “Gosh, that man’s suit could probably feed my family for a month.” And as quick as the thought came, another even greater inner Word came to me, thundering straight from the Spirit: “Do not call what I have cleansed common!” Then as I received the bread and the wine from the priest and consumed them, great lights and openings were going on in my inner mind.
I had discounted the “faith” of others in the church, based on their clothing and judging by a preconceived idea toward people who didn’t seem to me to have a real experience of Christ. I had no business coming to such conclusions and the Spirit let me know it. My brain was going, my “more evangelical than Episcopal” brain, and I held some of the people there in a lesser place in my mind. But what the Spirit further showed me has been fuel for me since that day. Basically, He said, “I honor the smallest ember of faith toward God.” He was giving me the “I don’t break off a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax” talk. It did not matter to the Spirit that the people saw or did not see the Eucharist in a certain theological light – it only mattered that the people sought God and were apprehended of Christ in their faith. Even if it was the one and only “faith action” they could make – it was 100% to the Spirit. Exactly like the widow’s mite.
59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Eventually, a number of the people there, many of whom had been walking with Jesus long enough to be considered among his disciples (students), decided they had heard enough. They had heard Jesus say all sorts of wonderful, gracious things, and had seen Him perform miracles such as mankind had never seen nor have seen since in great numbers, but they could not stomach the “eat my flesh, drink my blood” talk. It was just too much! Whatever they had seen in Him before, they let it go, because of this final offense.
Except for the twelve, who when asked why they didn’t leave also, answered Him, “Where else could we go? You have the words of eternal life.” They had already burned their bridges. There was no going back for them to what had been before. Once caught, no escape!
He had looked around at all His disciples, who were far more than twelve, and, in regard to the “absurdity” of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He posed the question, “What if you see me ascend to where I was before?”
That question thrown in at that point puzzled me for a very long time. Jesus is always saying things that seem out of place, or off point sometimes, so I pondered His question for a time. Then I realized that He was, in a sense, juxtaposing flesh and spirit, one against the other, and in His question pointing out the totally qualitative difference between the two, so much of a qualitative difference that they cannot even be compared. Flesh and what flesh knows and what flesh does is as smoke in the wind compared to the Life of the Eternal Spirit. If He suddenly “ascended to where He was before” (with the Father in the heavenlies), do we realize how that would have affected those who were there? Imagine it. If we had walked with this Man that seemed to have the words of God for a time, and seen Him as a “regular” man like ourselves, what a shock would it be to the senses if He rose and was swallowed up into Heaven! The enormity of the event would be so foreign to everything we had ever seen or known, it would almost break our minds. We had no frame of reference for it.
And that is the comparison that Jesus is making between the Truth He is declaring, and the blindness of the flesh that cannot see it. It is THAT different, SO different, it overthrows our entire existence! In the scheme of things and what we might say “flesh” accomplishes (and here I am speaking of the fallen flesh consciousness of independence, not the physical body or soul or their attributes), flesh profits nothing. Nada. Zero. We don’t even get credit for the effort, because except the Lord build a house, they labor in vain that try to build it. (We don’t get credit for the effort, but we sure do get a great Spirit education when we “try” to build the Lord’s house. See Romans 7.)
The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
This little sentence spoken by Jesus of Nazareth two millennia ago in our time, is as great a Word as there is in all Scripture. They echo Genesis 1:3 and John 1:1,3.
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”
I did not know, in those beginning days and for quite a while after, how deeply the Spirit penetrated and permeated me, by the words of Jesus in the Scripture, and the personal words for me particularly that came in those early days. I did not know that His Word by the Holy Spirit, whether in Scripture or not in Scripture, had been the means whereby He created His Life in me; it had actually built a building in me; it actually set up the domicile for the Living God, and filled me with His fire. I might have had an idea of it, but I did not yet know the reality. A lot of those early years were self-focused years, worried about my own righteousness, but the building was going on anyway. He knew I would catch up. And as I fretted and worried, sought this and sought that, tried this and tried that, He kept on building His perfect house.
It is amazing that the SON is also the WORD! And the WORD is creating, sustaining, advancing, world upon world, life upon life.
But one day it hits you – it did me. He had grown up His full crop of “Me” right under my nose while I was still trying to figure out how to hold my mouth right or which shoe to put on first. The “full corn in the ear,” as the KJV puts it in Mark 4:26-20. My favorite line in the parable, is that the plant grows and bears fruit, and the farmer, “knoweth not how!” See what I mean? I had thought it was something else, and I was desperately still “seeking” it, so I can testify with total sincerity, I did not do it! He did! When I saw it, that He had brought certain of His fruit to full ripeness in me, even while I was distracted and looking the other way, by the Spirit it was an easy step, a momentary transition from one plane to another. It was like I just stepped out of a dense forest into a surprisingly luscious and green sun-drenched meadow. In a heartbeat, I changed from seeker to finder.
That is the power of His Words. They are Spirit, and they are life. Every Word of His is Life, Abundance, Power and Love. They create or renew. They restore. They edify. Every promise of God in Him sounds a resounding YES! YES to Who He is, and YES to Who we are in Him!
Now, if we have made the discovery that He has accomplished in “me” what He said He would, that even now it is His Life that we have received and by which we live, so that we come to our personal discovery of the truth of Galatians 2:20 in our own lives, we are ready for the final step. What do we do with it?
I learned it like this. I’ve told the story before but no matter; it bears telling again. I was questioning (not the first time, nor the last) the validity of His Life in me, i.e., my “effectiveness,” etc., stuff like that. The thoughts that were going on in my mind were telling me I really did not have anything “concrete” to give anyone. I don’t do physical healing; that is not my gift. I’m not much good at practical things, so nothing I can help anybody with there. I don’t know how to patch up marriages or get kids off drugs. I actually said to the Lord, “All I’ve got is WORDS! What are words when somebody wants a cheeseburger?”
And that is when the Spirit turned it around on me, from me receiving the Words of Christ within me as He built His Life in me, to now being a speaker of those same words. The words that are, in themselves, “spirit” and “life,” are now my words. Because it is He Who lives in, through, and as me, manifesting His holy righteousness and love in my weak frail humanity, that He quickens to every task required, that He uses to bear about the Life of the Cross, the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, carried around in my body and in my words and in my life. And indeed in all our lives!
It goes full circle when we consciously realize we are now as much transmitters as we have been receivers. “Freely ye have received,” the Master said, “freely give.” (Matt 10:8). We cannot really give what we have in fulness until we realize we have fully received. What He has spoken has become reality in our lives, through the confirmation of our faith the Spirit brings.
I learned that the words He speaks by me do deeper things than visible miracles in the temporal do. The visible miracles point to the invisible Miracle! The truth Christ speaks He now He speaks out of our mouths, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. We ARE healing the sick, the dead ARE being raised, the lepers ARE cleansed, the demons have been cast out, and we have proclaimed LIBERTY to the captives, and the acceptable year of the Lord!”
Arise, Sons of God. Shine! The Light is in you! Its brightness engulfs you fully, and you cannot help but be in the world a lighthouse for people looking for shelter from the storm.
Let us remember always: “This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” (Ps 118:23)
And also: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:31).