So they asked Him, “What sign then will You perform, so that we may see it and believe You? What will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:31-33
It’s really wild that Jesus compared himself to manna in this red letter passage. I think we don’t realize how incredible the miracle of manna was. Picture the scene when manna first appeared. There were thousands upon thousands of men, women and children in every direction. They were out in the middle of nowhere, with no food in sight. Remember that these were people who were accustomed to having markets where you could buy your next meal. They probably had seen the many fields where food was grown, as well as the storehouses where it was kept. So imagine how scary it must have been for them when reality hit them that they were in the wilderness and there was no place to obtain enough food to feed all of them. We want to criticize them for whining to Moses and being faithless, but we have to remember how hopeless this must have seemed.
And that’s when God enters with the miracle of the manna. Every morning, when the Israelites woke up, they found sweet wafers on the ground. They could go and scoop up as much as they needed to fill their bellies for the day. This was the bread from heaven.
So when Jesus said, “The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,” that was astounding. He was putting himself on the level with the manna that miraculously appeared, tons and tons of it, every day, and kept the Israelites alive. He said that just as manna was the bread from heaven that kept them alive, he was a source of life. In fact, he was the true bread from heaven. He was a better source of life for the whole world.
The Jews had a hard time understanding what Jesus was saying. They tried to make sense of it, but they knew his mom and dad, and didn’t see how he could to come from heaven, much less be some kind of bread.
And that’s a subject for a future blog. But I really want to focus on Jesus’s statement about being like manna, because it can be so encouraging for us when we think about it. Let’s look at the parallels between Jesus and manna.
The manna came in a miraculous way. Jesus, born of the Spirit and a virgin, came in a miraculous way.
The manna came to meet an impossible need. Jesus came to meet an impossible need.
What is the need Jesus came to meet? The need to be reconciled to God. The need to resolve the hopeless problem of sin, which produces spiritual death in every person on earth. (Eph 2:1, Col. 2:13, Rom. 3:23)
We all absolutely need the true bread from heaven that brings life.
And I want to draw a couple more encouraging points from this red letter verse. First that it shows that Jesus’s power to give life is as great and miraculous as the manna that appeared out of thin air and blanketed the earth for as far as the eye could see. There really is nothing that’s impossible for him. Jesus had just said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:29) When we see Jesus compared to manna, we can see that the sky’s the limit when it comes to exercising the muscle of belief in him. As he said in Mark 9:23, “All things are possible for the one who believes.”
Second, I want to say that we all have times, like the Israelites, when we find ourselves surprised and horrified at the situation where we’ve landed. It was very clear to the Jews that God had been leading them. There were the plagues, which were obvious signs that God was working on their behalf. There was the parting of the Red Sea. There was the pillar of cloud by day, and that of fire at night, which showed them which way to go. But then they ended up in a desolate location. When they followed Moses out of bondage, this wasn’t what they’d imagined.
It’s the same with our lives. We have clear indications that God is leading us, shutting some doors and opening others. And all of a sudden, we’re in this place that doesn’t at all look hopeful and promising. We want to say, “Whoops, God, you made a wrong turn.”
Right now I do feel that way. I feel like one situation I’m in is not where I was supposed to end up.
But then I remember that Israelites were exactly where they were supposed to be. They were on the path of their journey to amazing blessings. And it would be the grace of the manna that would sustain them on their journey.
And I know that if we’re following Christ, we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be as well. It doesn’t matter how desolate or hopeless it seems. By his grace, we will have the daily bread to sustain us on the path of our journey to amazing blessings.
Going back to the text of our red letter passage, the Jews asked Jesus what sign he would perform, so they could believe. Jesus said, in essence, he was the sign.
He is our sign as well. We don’t need things to work out for us to have faith. We need to open our eyes more and more to who he is, and keep our eyes fixed on him. May this be our focus today.
“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 GWT)