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.
The saved and immortal Adam and Eve ate fruit for their diet in the Garden of Eden. But when they were expelled from the Garden as a result of the fall, there was a mandated change in diet. The sustaining of their now-mortal lives would require bread, produced by the labors of their mortal bodies.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19)The fact that bread comes from the dust of the earth, and then returns thence, was symbolic of their own mortal journey from dust to dust. Indeed it is symbolic for each of us. "...for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
When Christ sat at Passover with his disciples, he took bread and blessed and broke it. The traditional Hebrew blessing upon bread, which Christ likely would have spoken, is as follows:
“Blessed art thou Lord our God who brings forth bread from the earth.”It’s interesting to note in the prayer that GOD is the one who brings forth bread from the earth. Man may labor to till and plant, harvest and thresh, but it is God who makes the grain grow. Just as God formed Adam and Eve from the dust, so God forms bread from the dust of the earth. Or in other scriptural language, God turns stones into bread.
Therefore, when the Devil tempted Christ in the wilderness to turn stones into bread, the temptation wasn’t about Christ’s physical hunger at all. It was for Christ to prove he was God by doing what only God can do. “IF thou be the son of God…” was Satan’s opening to each challenge. Each of Satan’s other temptations had the same aim in mind. He wanted Christ to prove in a miraculous way that he held God’s power. But to what end?
At this point, Christ had indeed received sealing power from his Father, giving him the ability to do the miracles, but this power could only be employed as directed by his Father. Had Jesus employed the power to impress Satan, prove his abilities, or even to satisfy his own doubts, he would have lost that power by its misuse—and thus lost the ability to be our Savior. Satan is no dummy…he knew it was his last chance to destroy Christ’s power before the mission of salvation began. Like every anti-Christ that would follow, the devil demanded a sign.
But the only way in which Christ employed that power in conjunction with the devil was to cast him out.
God, Man and Bread
Any man can BURN bread into stones, but only God can TURN stones into bread. This metaphor rightly attributes the creative power to God alone.
Since man was created from the dust of the earth (stone) and bread represents life, the metaphor reinforces the fact that only God can save fallen mortal man and give him eternal life. The miracle is made greater by the fact that man is even lower than the dust of the earth (Mosiah 2:25.)
This is the ultimate expression of God’s creative power—and this is exactly what God intends for every man and woman. “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Now, let's think about this lesson, as the Savior applied it in the sermon on the mount.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9)Here, a child asks bread of his father, and his father most certainly won't give him a stone.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11)Luke takes the teaching one step further:
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13, emphasis added)Since this metaphor is given in the context of "ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9) the metaphor now expands to the idea of seeking from God the knowledge that will save us. It’s perhaps easy to forget that the key to salvation lies not in our works (we are all sinners) but in our knowledge. The Holy Spirit is provided to give us knowledge.
Bread can fill the belly temporarily, but only knowledge of God can fill and save the soul.
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)Ignorance is the path opposite to salvation:
It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance. (D&C 131:6)Said Joseph:
"… A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God." (TPJS 217)In the end, this is really a metaphor about revelation through the Holy Spirit. If we ask God, He will give liberally the bread of life, which ultimately consists in saving knowledge. This is the hunger we MUST satisfy.
The restoration started with this truth:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)And the Book of Mormon culminates in this same truth:
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:5)So it’s all about the process of gaining our salvation by gaining knowledge from God and of God.
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (D&C 50:24)Said the Lord to Jared's brother:
"Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you." (Ether 3:13, emphasis added)This same promise applies to each of us:
"Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am." (D&C 93:1)Now in light of all that, we can begin to comprehend what the Savior meant when He said He is the bread of life. (John 6:35) Knowledge of Him is the key to our own eternal life.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)When our Lord taught His disciples to pray, He included this request, which was not about satisfying our physical hunger, but our spiritual:
Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)And so we need Him daily, even from moment to moment, as our hope of salvation from this tabernacle of clay.
It is only broken bread that can enter into our bodies and give us nourishment. Likewise, it is the broken body of Christ, offered in the garden and on the cross that atoned for our sin and reconciles us to God. The broken bread thus becomes the most fitting symbol of Christ, the bread of life, "bruised, broken, torn for us." (Hymns, 181)
But as we partake of the emblem in remembrance of Him, it also comes to represent us. For he asks of us the only acceptable offering we can offer:
"And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost..." (3 Nephi 9:20)Thus the broken bread not only represents Christ's broken flesh, but reminds us also of the broken flesh of our own heart as we ponder His sacrifice and our need. Likewise, the sacramental wine symbolizes our contrite spirit—a discussion for another day.
And so at this season when we celebrate Christ's birth, a few reminders:
December 21: Winter solstice, when light triumphs over darkness.
—And then a day and a night and a day later:
December 23: The birth of Joseph Smith who would restore light to the world.
—And then a day and a night and a day later:
December 25: We celebrate the birth of Christ—when God condescended to become man, and took upon Himself a tabernacle of clay so He could eventually turn all the stones into bread. You and I—we're the stones. But when our stony hearts are softened, and then finally broken, Christ can work His miracle in each of our lives, thus giving us—and making us—the bread of life.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:26-28)
Therefore, with the rich symbolism of bread, stretching all the way back to Eden's garden, is it any wonder that the unregarded little hamlet where the miracle began was called Bethlehem?
And so in the house of bread, the manna from Heaven descended to Earth.
With angelic hosts proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Bread in the House
And so, in light of stones and bread, dust and deity, what is a fitting way to commemorate His birth?
I suggest there is no more fitting Christmas celebration than the one prescribed by Christ himself:
And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. (3 Nephi 18:6-7)This Christmas, why not take a break from the tinsel and toys, gather your family and friends, break the loaf, kneel together and bless it, and partake of the bread of life? Not with a crumb of bread and a thimble of water, but with a feast of bread and wine in remembrance of our Lord!
Use the revealed words of scripture in Moroni 4 and D&C 20:76-77. Do it the way Christ instructed it be done. NO MAN has any right, key, authority, control, dominion or compulsion that allows him to forbid you obeying your Lord's commandment. Any man who would forbid it is anti-Christ. Go before your Savior with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Remember him in the way He asked you to. Make your home a house of bread.
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
Oh, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!