BREAD AND A MESSIAH
Jesus told his disciples, “Many will come in my name and will claim that they are the Messiah and deceive many”(Mt. 24:5). The Samaritan woman told Jesus, “I know that the Messiah is coming and He will explain everything” (Jn. 4:25). John the Baptist from Herod’s dungeon sent messengers to Jesus asking, “Are you the one who was to come, or shall we wait for another” (Mt. 11:3). Behind all these questions is the need for bread.
Part of the answer that Jesus sent back to John the Baptist in Herod’s dungeon was, “good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Mt. 11:5). The term “good news” meant deliverance, not of the soul from sin, but release from the people that kept them in physical bondage. The land barons had not followed Moses’ instructions to set the captives fee on the seventh year and return the land to the original owners on the fiftieth year (Lev. 25). That law was basic to Israel’s existence as a nation and the right of a person to raise his or her livelihood. It was this law that Jesus had come to fulfill when he spoke of God’s kingdom being on hand (Mk. 1:15). God’s reign was to be reintroduced as it was in the days of Moses where justice was available to everyone, and so was the right for a person to produce his bread. It was God’s kingdom and God’s will to be done on earth similar to what it was like in heaven (Mt. 6:10). No human being was to be subject to another being over debts and no poor was to be denied to earn his bread or glean the fields after harvests (Deut. 24:21).
Christian theologians and believers have spiritualized God’s kingdom and moved it into another world and another time; but for Israel and the world no kingdom can exist without the earth. Moses’ blueprint for a kingdom on earth was an answer to resolve the inequality among humans by making every household responsible for their own needs. The land became the fixed residence in perpetuity. Man by nature is both ambitious and lazy. The lazy have a tendency to let others earn their keep and in the process they get swindled and end in poverty. The successful became the high and mighty, the Nimrods, the Nephilim or the messiahs. The Israelites were blinded by their neighbor nations that were managed by their kings with standing armies. They demanded that Samuel turn his office over to a king and have him provide the security the Israelite needed to raise their bread. Samuel warned his people what it would cost them to have such a person (I Sam. 8). Instead of protecting and feeding the people, the kings enslaved the people for their own enhancements and bankrupted the nation from which it never recovered. The high and might even convinced man like Paul that it was the will of God to be slaves (I Cor. 7:21-23; Eph. 6:5-9). The Pharisees regarded the people as a cursed mob that was completely ignorant of the law (Jn. 7:47-49).
There was and still is much truth in what the Pharisees believed. The laws of their predecessors or the traditions of their fathers were beyond the gasp and ability of the common people. Every nation has had legal experts write laws that the people do not understand nor agree with. I have lived under Polish, Russian, German, Canadian and U.S. A. laws, in that order and I do have three post college degrees and I need a legal expert to explain my health code. The language itself contains words that no dictionary can define. The code does not protect me but the company or system that provides me limited service, subject to the profits of those that expect returns from money they invested. The only systems that go in debt are tax based government organizations. In our time, it is in governments that most of our messiahs emerge with promises no one can keep. It is incomprehensive how easy we can and have been duped. I have been duped personally twice by voting for a third candidate and helped elect two men that represent systems that made our lives miserable in the past, communism or socialism with free pies in the sky that I had to pay for.
We are easily deceived, at least I have been by men like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, James Carter and a number of others in our time. During the candidacy of Obama, I listen to a Lady being interviewed by a reporter airing her views and expectations of a Santa Klaus rather than of a president like John F. Kennedy who candidated with the slogan, “Ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” A genuine messiah or leader is not afraid to tell the people that to change conditions and improve life, they have to bear their own crosses. That is why Jesus stands aside from all the messiahs in the world. Anyone that intended to follow him had to pick up his own cross and then follow (Mt. 10:38; Mk. 8:34). In fact, the disciples were told that carrying their cross was a daily chore and not and occasional task (Lk. 9:23). Modern messiahs dump their crosses on the people, but they themselves do not bend their little fingers to help them (Mt. 23:11-4).
Leaders should be elected, not on promises but on their upright standing and dealing with each other. Their fruit should be the evidence that they qualify and not their deceptive and ambiguous promises (Mt. 5:33-37). The messiah or leader should gain insight from his own constituency. He should find men or women that have bread in mind and not all the other privileges that are impossible without bread. Moses had to learn this lesson from his father-in-law Jethro, a priest of Midian. He advised his son-in-law to share responsibilities with capable, God-fearing, honorable and reliable people as judges over a thousand, a hundred, a fifty and even over ten (Ex. 18:17-23). Jethro did not regard a one – man government as being efficient or a democratic system where everyone has a say. It began at the ten people level where everyone was accounted for the basic bread making responsibility. It eliminated the ineligible voters and solved the hunger problem. They did not need an army of welfare workers that derive their income from taxation. No one fell through the cracks on level ten and level ten was a household where one head assigned the bread – assigning tasks to his members and workers. When a system grows too large, its leaders lose supervision and encourage injustice. The Jethro recommendation starts at the grassroots and unfortunately for us, it has been replaced with the larger community that brings up a child and not a family. The ancient world, far behind times in modern thinking, had a better system of self government than we have today where the parents are no longer in charge of their own household. They are no longer responsible for putting bread on their tables. That heavy load has been delegated to employers and politicians.
The electorate should use common sense and not believe promises that are fishy. John the Evangelist captured the essence of how a true Messiah feeds the people (Jn. 6). It follows the feeding of the five thousand and when Jesus announced that He was the Bread of Life. We take this to be a reference to salvation through faith in Christ; but the application of bread to life is just as important in our daily bread. Bread does not materialize by merely believing that it would, but by becoming personally involved in being and making the bread. That is why Jesus said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are not alive” (Jn. 6:53). The leaders’ presumption was, “Moses had received bread from heaven and passed it on to the people.” “ It was not Moses that fed the people but God, by dropping manna on earth just as he has supplied man with seed that he plants and harvests in the sweat of his brow.” The manna was not being served for them, they had to gather it, prepare it and then enjoy eating it. Moses had to spent forty years to teach the people before they could feed themselves in Canaan.
Jesus, at the end of his ministry said, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When you see its branches sprout, you expect it to start growing fruit” (Mt. 24:32); but when that fig tree does not produce, it withers and dies (Mt. 21:19). Man, however, has a chance to help the fig tree back with some care and fertilizing (Lk. 13:6-9). The fig tree is symbolic of how we live and do things, especially when we are in need of bread. Each and every one of us becomes a messiah or a provider of our daily bread. We doom ourselves by allowing systems and powerful merchants to control our bread production. The story of Joseph is an example when one man is put in charge of storing bread (Gen. 41). He has been admired for saving his people from starvation, but forgotten for turning a whole nation into slaves. Instead of teaching how the farmer could store food, he stored it for Pharaoh and made him rich. Moses came along and taught the exact opposite by assigning land to every household and made them responsible for their daily bread. The Israelites stopped being nomads or herdsmen and became farmers in Canaan.
Saviors or messiahs, great or small cannot feed us; farmers, the smaller the better, can feed others, themselves and enjoy a comfortable life. A small farmer is like a fruit tree. When one goes try, he can be replaced and in a few season the farm can produce again. To the contrary, when a mega farmer goes under, the loss of bread can affect millions. People that believe in these food magnets and messiahs are like sheep without a shepherd, soon to be stranded in deserts and jungles. Psalm Twenty Three has king David addressing God as his Shepherd. In the light of his experience as a leader, I like to inject the thought that he was also thinking of himself as a leader that had not led his people into greener pastures and still waters or put food on their tables, and he himself has never even made it into a house for the Lord. He was simply too big for the little man whose only sheep he stole (II Sam. 12).