In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever. And the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
The people listening said to each other, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat? …This is a hard saying – who can hear it?” (John 6:52, 60)
But Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
This teaching is a key to understanding the Bible. Jesus did not mean for them to take Him literally, that they were going to eat His physical flesh. Instead, there is a spirit and life within His words that we need to seek out, in order to understand what He means. The Lord’s flesh and blood are symbols of something spiritual, which we can “eat” in a spiritual way, by incorporating them into our lives.
Over and over, Jesus taught us to think more deeply than the letter of the Word. “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill… But I say to you, Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment… You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, Whoever looks on a woman in order to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28) He warned us not to be hypocrites, concerned only with the outside of the cup and platter – that is, how we look to others. “Cleanse first that which is inside the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also.” (Matt. 23:25-26)
Paul wrote, “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6) The prophet Joel wrote, “Rend your hearts, and not your garments.” (2:13) Rending the garments (the letter) was a ritual that originally was meant to remind us of the need for real repentance (the spirit).
The Bible is a parable: a story which is true even in its literal sense, but which also has deeper meanings within. Arguments about creationism versus evolution and other kinds of criticism have undermined the sense of holiness and reverence that Christians used to have for the Bible. If we look for the spiritual meaning, though, every word has meaning and application for us today, just as powerfully as it did for the Israelitish people 3,500 years ago at Mount Sinai, or 2,000 years ago when Christ Himself spoke the gospel.
“Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths that should make up your faith and life.” (Apocalypse Revealed, no. 224) “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)