34. Labour Not for the Food that Perishes (Jn 6:27-35)

Genesis 3:1-7 &17-19
And the serpent was cunning above every animal of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, Is it true that God has said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden? (2) And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, (3) but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die. (4) And the serpent said to the woman, Dying you shall not die, (5) for God knows that in the day you eat of it, even your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil. (6) And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise. And she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (7) And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed leaves of the fig tree, and made girdles for themselves…Gen 3:17-19 And He said to the man, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat from it, the ground shall be cursed because of you; you shall eat of it in sorrow all the days of your life. (18) And it shall bring forth thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat the plant of the field. (19) By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until your return to the ground. For you have been taken out of it; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

John Chapter 6:27-35
Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give to you; for God the Father sealed this One. (28) Then they said to Him, What may we do that we may work the works of God? (29) Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe into Him whom that One sent. (30) Then they said to Him, Then what miraculous sign do You do that we may see and may believe You? What do You work? (31) Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written “He gave them bread out of Heaven to eat.” LXX-Psa. 77:24; MT-Psa. 78:24 (32) Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread out of Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread out of Heaven. (33) For the bread of God is He coming down out of Heaven and giving life to the world. (34) Then they said to Him, Lord, always give us this bread. (35) Jesus said to them, I am the Bread of life; the one coming to Me will not at all hunger, and the one believing into Me will not thirst, never!

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) 276.
That ‘eating bread with sweat on the brow’ means strong dislike of what is celestial becomes clear from the meaning of ‘bread’. Bread is used to mean everything spiritual and celestial, which is the food of angels, and if they were deprived of it they would cease to live, as a person deprived of bread or food ceases to do. That which is celestial and spiritual in heaven also corresponds to bread on earth, and is also represented by bread, as is clear from many places [in the Word]. That the Lord is Bread, because He is the source of everything celestial and spiritual, He Himself teaches in John,

This is the Bread which came down from heaven; anyone who eats this Bread will live forever John 6:58.

This also is why bread and wine are the symbols used in the Holy Supper. This same celestial [or spiritual) was also represented by the manna. That what is celestial and spiritual is the food of angels is clear also from the Lord’s own words,

Man will not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Matt. 4:4,

that is, from the life of the Lord, who is the source of everything celestial and spiritual.


Where do we put our efforts, what are we labouring for, this is the Word’s question to us this morning. These words encourage us to take stock and consider the quality of the food we are labouring for. Is it food that perishes or food that lasts? What are we using to nourish our life? Natural food or spiritual food? Food is acquired through labour but there are different qualities of food to feed or nourish different levels of our being. We learn from the Word here that there is food which perishes and that there is food that endures to everlasting life. The food that endures is that which the Son of Man is able to give as this One is the One the Father has set his seal upon.

The food being spoken about here is not material food for the body but that which nourishes the human mind; it is referring to what we feed upon mentally. What do we draw upon to fulfil the needs we feel in our life? What are we focussed on in our thoughts and imagination, do we labour to keep alive a perspective of life that keeps us at the centre so that others in relationship to us serve us in a way that nourishes the desires of the ego or the life of self love? If this is the state of our life then the food that nourishes us is that which perishes, but not only does this food decay and perish but it has this same effect on all who feed on it. The Greek word translated as perish here is the word “apollumi” and it means to destroy, to render useless, or to kill. It describes something that can destroy our being, our potential for higher things.

A variation of this word occurs in the book of Revelation and can be found in chapter 9:11.

Rev 9:11 And they have a king over them, the angel of the abyss. In Hebrew his name was Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon.

Here we find that the name of the angel of the bottomless pit is Apollyon, a name which means “destroyer”. The Heavenly Doctrines say this about the meaning of Apolloyon…

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead) 563.
…the name Apollyon, signifies the quality of that influx…destructive of all truth and good. This is evident [as names] mean the quality of a state and of a thing; [it is also evident] from the meaning of Abaddon in the Hebrew, which is destruction; Apollyon has a similar meaning in the Greek; consequently the destruction of truth and good is meant, because these are [what are being dealt with here]. The sensual [mind] of man, which is the [lowest level] of his intellectual life, is destructive of all spiritual truth and good, which is the truth and good of the church, because the sensual [level of mind] stands nearest to the world and clings most closely to the body; and from both [of] these it has affections and…thoughts, which…are diametrically [opposed] to spiritual affections and…thoughts, which are from heaven. For man [when in the] sensual [mind] loves himself and the world above all things, and so far as these loves are dominant, [then to this degree] evils and falsities from them are dominant, for evils and falsities swarm forth and flow out from these loves as from their origins. In such loves are all who have become merely sensual through evils of life and the false [ideas] that come from [such] evils.

Anyone can [see that this is true if they care to give it some thought]; for if that which stands nearest to the world and clings most closely to the body is dominant it follows that the world itself and the body itself, with all their pleasures and lusts, which are called pleasures “of the eye and of the flesh,” will be dominant, and that people in order that they may come into spiritual affections and thoughts…must be entirely withdrawn and elevated from these sensual things. This withdrawing and elevation is [brought about] by the Lord alone, so far as people allow themselves, of the Lord, to be led to the Lord, and thus to heaven, by the laws of order which are the truths and goods of the church. When this takes place, [people are in a spiritual state] and they are withdrawn from the [lowest aspect of the] sensual [mind] and are kept elevated above it [because the] sensual [mind] in people is altogether corrupted, for in it is what is one’s own (proprium) into which everyone is born, which in itself is nothing but evil. From this it can be seen why this sensual level [of mind] is called destruction, that is, “Abaddon” and “Apollyon.”

To live from the sensual level of life is to listen to the serpent and feed from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3). To partake of this tree is to work from how things feel rather than from what the Word teaches in regard to how things actually are and this is destructive of spiritual life. This is because we move away from the Word or the Lord as the determiner of what is good or evil and look to ourselves, judging the quality of things not by what truth teaches but by what feels delightful. The sensual mind is in the loves of self and the world and for this level of mind all that is of self and the world feels delightful and without the truths of the Word to guide us is deemed to be good.

This is why we need truths, for it is only by means of them that our sense of self can be lifted out of the allure of the sensual level of life and see it for what it is. When we look to the Word for our life and nourishment we look to the tree of life. In fact the Hebrew word for life is plural and literally reads “the tree of lives”. This is because we have two distinct life flows within us – one belonging to the understanding and the other belonging to the will. The Word is the true source of life for both for from it we can receive a new understanding from its truths and these are able to feed us with true ways of thinking while the goodness the Word contains is able to nourish a new will of good affections.

The goods and truths that sustain spiritual life are given by the Son of Man. We are told that the Son of Man has the Father’s seal. Again, as we saw last week, we need to avoid thinking in terms of persons and think rather in terms of the spiritual relations between goods and truths. The Father is the Divine good and the Son of Man is the Divine truth as it is received into finite human minds. In other words the title Son of Man refers to our understanding of the Word or Divine truth when we are sincerely working to live from it. This truth is called the Son of Man or Son of the Human because the Lord’s Human is the Word and from it we draw truths from which we build up a limited finite concept of the Lord within our minds. This idea while finite is still the Lord in His Human and because it’s born of our finite understanding of Divine truths it is called the Son of Man.

For the Father to set his seal on the Son of Man teaches us that if we want to enter into the life of good, where love, mercy and compassion rule then the only way to this is by responding positively to our understanding of the Word. This is the labour every person called to a spiritual life is required to do.

Joh 6:28-29 Then they said to Him, What may we do that we may work the works of God? (29) Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe into Him whom that One sent.

To be sent spiritually means to ‘come forth from’ and in its internal application the One sent from God refers to what comes forth from the Divine accommodated to finite minds. Again it speaking of the truths we have access to in the Word – to believe the truth we have is to receive it into our life which is to act from it and this is what it is to work the works of God.

The natural man is not willing to accept this because its delight and pleasure is found in the sensual level of life and any suggestion that this must be given up is seen to mean a giving up of ones life. And in a sense this is true for the Lord Himself said that if we are to find our life we must loose our life. The difficulty when thinking from the sensual level of life is that any other form of pleasure other than that which belongs to the sensual mind is impossible to conceive of. How, the sensual mind asks, can there be pleasure in living a spiritual life if that life involves putting off the very things that bring me delight? The sensual mind finds nothing delightful in the prospect of practicing self examination and repentance.

We have the Word, and its instruction in matters to do with salvation is clear. Yet the sensual man seeks proof on the level of the senses, it wants a sign as a condition of belief. It seems remarkable that with all the signs performed by the Lord when in the world so few believed. There is much irony in the question put to the Lord here even in the literal sense. He had just fed the 5000 of which those present were a witness to yet they continue to ask for a sign of proof. It shows that signs cannot convince those who don’t want to be convinced. Signs no matter how dramatic do not bring a conviction that leads a person to begin working the works of God. Signs merely feed the sensual level of life in people and as long as they are being fed with signs they are satisfied. But signs in themselves don’t convince people of the necessity of self examination and repentance. In actual fact it deflects their mind from this vital spiritual work.

Spiritual Christianity teaches that only truths rationally seen can bring about a conviction that leads to a genuine spiritual life and practise. This is a seeing from within oneself that a thing is true, what the heavenly doctrines call seeing truth in its own light. To see the truth of something for oneself is to be convinced that it is so and it is this kind of seeing that makes it possible for us to respond to have our lower sensual and bodily mind brought into order. Signs on the level of the senses can’t achieve this because they enter by an external way and if they convince a person they do so only on a superficial level. This is because the flow of spiritual influx moves from what is higher into what is lower, it can’t move from what is lower into what is higher.

Signs can give an external conviction and belief but they can’t bring about an internal transformation. This is because signs on the level of the senses bypass our higher rational faculties and if these are not used in spiritual matters then any beliefs we hold will not be something that truly comes from us. A true belief is only established in a person when it is one held in freedom from having thought things through for ourselves. The Lord can only be received into our life when we freely choose to receive what is of the Lord into our life through the exercise of our rational faculty.

This is the labour that brings the reality of that food that endures to everlasting life. The sensual level of life in us would rather rest in traditions and historical accounts of the miraculous – of having the stories of the Word but not being willing to see their application to life now. This is captured in the statement of those who said…

Joh 6:31-32 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written “He gave them bread out of Heaven to eat.” LXX-Psa. 77:24; MT-Psa. 78:24 (32) Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread out of Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread out of Heaven.

Moses is mentioned because he represents a lower historical level of understanding of the Word. Moses is the Word naturally understood which can’t really meet the true needs of the human spirit. These deeper needs can only be meet by a spiritual understanding of the Word for this produces that higher quality of good that endures forever. The sensual level’s reasoning puts forward the miracle of the Israelites receiving mana in the wilderness, claiming that this was bread out of heaven. But this bread the Lord says was not the true bread; it was a lower order bread or food for the natural level of life only. It is the Father who gives the true bread out of heaven and this bread is for the spiritual man.

This spiritual understanding encompasses all that is truly loving and good and when the Word is received into the life through a willingness to work spiritually its inner contents are opened up for us and what is received is the true goodness that comes from the Father or the true bread out of heaven. The Word understood in the light of the Heavenly Doctrines is He who is coming down out of heaven and giving life to the world. The Word opened as to its spiritual sense is the Lord, and it says to all who have ears to hear…

I AM the Bread of life; the one coming to Me will never hunger and the one believing in Me will never thirst.

Amen.

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