Exodus 16:31-32. 31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”
Manna was obviously a pretty big deal to God and to the Hebrews and to their survival in the wilderness. But it goes beyond just physical sustenance. God told them to keep a jar of manna in the ark of the covenant forever. Why? So that they would remember the salvation of the Lord in the wilderness.
We’ve made a lot of big statements in the past couple blogs about how life is a test in a wilderness. Like the manna collection. Will we be satisfied with Christ alone? With God’s grace through Christ?
But why Jesus? Why do we say that Jesus is the ONE thing that can satisfy us alone?
Well, first because Jesus said it.
And second because John laid it out for us in his gospel.
In fact, John writes out a whole conversation between Jesus and the Jews about the manna, bread, and himself. It’s quite brilliant actually. Jesus blows up the manna story from Exodus 16 into its deeper spiritual reality – himself.
In Exodus, the manna was sent by God from heaven (16:4) – Jesus was sent by God from heaven.
John 6:51. I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
In Exodus, the people had to work to collect the manna (16:4) – the people had to do the “work”of believing in Christ.
John 6:27. Do not do the work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.
John 6:29. This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
In Exodus, the manna allowed them to see the glory of the Lord (16:7) – Jesus allowed them to see God.
John 6:35-36. 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
In Exodus, the people grumbled against Moses demanding food (16:7) – The people grumbled against Jesus because he claimed to be their food.
John 6:41. So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
In Exodus, the manna was just the right amount to meet all their daily needs (16:18) – Jesus is sufficient for all of our eternal needs.
John 6:47-50. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
In Exodus, the manna only offered temporary physical life (John 6:49) – Jesus offers us eternal spiritual life with him (his zoe) by the Spirit.
John 6:63. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
So, as you can see, we are not out of bounds when we turn the manna story into a metaphor for Jesus. He did it first.
So back to our original question. Why Jesus? Why is he the bread of life, the living bread, the thing that alone can satisfy? Why does every test in this life boil down to how we receive or reject him? Why is life a wilderness without his full presence?
The answer is found in what we need. Just like when the people needed food God gave them food. In chapter 17 they’ll need water. God will give them water. God gives us what we need. So if Jesus is the thing that ultimately satisfies us he must be what we need. And the fact that it’s him tells us what we need.
So what do we need? Very simply, we need a person. We need a person’s love and acceptance. We need their respect for us. We need someone who will speak the truth to us no matter what. We need someone who will tell us who we are and why we are worthy of life. And we need that person to understand us. To sympathize with us. Literally without these things we would die. Yes, die. Emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and even physically.
Picard and Crusher can’t live without each other. Literally.
But we also need a God. We need that person who loves us to be perfect in their love without any condition or failure. We need them to be honest in their guidance of us. We need their mercy and their respect at the same time. We need that person to be good. Perfectly good. Everything they do for us has to be right. And selfless. Not manipulative.
We need a God.
We need a human.
We need a God who would be a human.
And then after understanding all that we go through and all the ways we have rejected him, we need him to give us all that is his in a great act of self-sacrificing love. We need him to take our sins upon himself, forever. Eternally. Without end. No give backs.
That’s what we need. And in “to live is Christ” that’s what we have. The Bread of Life. The Bread of God’s own life given to us in a receivable form – like the manna. Life that is love, and perfection, and respect, and goodness, and mercy, and truth, and imputation, all the things we need, waiting to be received.
Sadly, in John 6 Jesus said this too…
John 6:64. But there are some of you who do not believe.
Do you believe? Have you received the Bread of Life?