Bread from Bethlehem
by Bob Burridge ©2022
The Book of Micah pointed to the city where the promised Messiah would be born. Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
This is clearly a promise of God coming to be Lord over his covenant people. He’s the only being that’s eternal, “from everlasting”.
In God’s providence the city where Jesus would come as our Savior came to be called Bethlehem. The name in Hebrew is “baet-lechem” (בית־לחם). It means “house of bread”. Ephratah “eph-ra-thah” (אפרתה), an earlier name of this city. It means “the fertile ones”, or “the fruit-fields”.
Bread has always been a primary food. This same word is often used generally for all our nourishments, In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to say, “give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)
Jesus identified himself as “the bread of life” in John 6:48-51. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
This promised one would be the Redeemer who would fulfill God’s plan for his fallen race. Way back in Eden in Genesis 3:14-15 God spoke to the serpent that tempted Eve saying, “… Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This offspring is that eternally designated Redeemer, the Anointed One. The word “Anointed” in the ancient Hebrew of the Old Testament is “Meshiakh” (משיח ), a designated one. We bring that into English by using the word “Messiah.” In the Koine Greek of the New Testament the word for “anointed” is “Christos” (Χρiστος). In English we write it as “Christ” by dropping the Greek noun ending “os”.
At the birth of Jesus, the one and only hope of our restoration with God came to earth. In his death he paid sin’s debt in full for all who would trust in that promise God made long ago in Eden. As it was then, and is now; it’s all by God’s grace that anyone really trusts in this fulfilled promise. We’re all born lost in sin, spiritually blind, totally depraved in our nature. Aside from God’s undeserved work of mercy, our lost hearts wouldn’t turn in faith to him.
We don’t know what calendar day Jesus was born on. Some consider when shepherds were out on the fields, but that was just a season of the year. Some refer to a conjunction of planets or a comet that was the star of the East seen by the wise-men. However this same “star” appeared over where Jesus was when they came searching for him (Matthew 2:9). Comets and planets can’t do that.
A 3rd century book by Hippolytus of Rome was the first known mention of December 25th as the date of his birth. He calculated 9 months since the conception of Jesus which he assumed was on March 25, the Spring Equinox. But it’s just speculation. For us it’s as good a day as any to specially remind us of that important event in God’s plan.
Today, the bread of Communion represents the broken body of Jesus, the bread of life. The Christ who was born, taught, suffered, and died is also risen. The raising of his human body after his death proves that sin was overcome and it’s penalty paid.
We no longer need to anticipate his promised coming to earth. He already came over 2000 years ago. God’s promise in Eden, and later in the Prophets, was kept. But there is still anticipation. The blessings keep coming fulfilling those promises to us individually, and He will come to Earth again.
We need to come to God to be nourished spiritually every day by the bread of life, remembering the promise, the fulfilled work of our Savior. His loving provision for us needs to be in our thoughts all the time, in all we’re doing.
At Christmas time we shouldn’t be distracted by decorations, Christmas trees, gifts, and family gatherings. These are good, but shouldn’t keep us from thinking about what that day represents in God’s plan. Jesus came to teach us, but primarily to take on himself the suffering and condemnation we all deserve. He also assures believers with the hope of living forever in the holy presence of God our Creator and Redeemer. It’s another day of humble and joyful Thanksgiving.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.