“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.’” John 6:35
The Lord has many themes that He uses to teach humanity about His person and His work. One of those wonderful themes is manna.
We first see manna appear in Exodus 16, not long after the Lord brings the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. They have passed through the Red Sea on dry ground and have been but a short time in the wilderness, when the people begin to grumble and complain against Moses, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (v. 3). How quickly the people forgot their many prayers for deliverance from slavery where their boys were being put to death and their lives made bitter through hard labor (Exodus 1, 2:23-24). The people of that generation were continually complaining and hard-hearted; nonetheless, the Lord supplied their needs.
Each day the Lord sent “bread from heaven” (16:4). Israel called it manna. Each morning in the desert wilderness it appeared like frost on the ground. Each day there was enough for everyone, and it tasted like a wafer made with honey (16:32). The manna was provision for food and the powerful beginning of an enduring object lesson on faith. The manna, by God’s providential working, only lasted one day. The people were instructed to gather what they needed for one day. If they gathered more than needed, the manna would stink and be full of worms the following day. However, on the day before the sabbath day of rest and worship, the people were to gather a double portion and that portion would last two days. This providential process went on for forty years while Israel wandered in the desert under judgment (16:35).
The daily manna was a powerfully real way for Israel to learn daily dependance on the Lord. The Lord always desires for His people to be dependent upon Him day by day. We naturally want independence and long-term predictable stability, but these things lead us away from the Lord to self-reliance. Not long after the manna began to fall daily, the Lord instructed Moses to set aside a jar of manna to be kept through the generations as a reminder of the Lord’s miraculous daily provision. Hebrews 9:4 speaks to how this jar of manna was one of three objects placed inside the Ark of the Covenant to never be forgotten by Israel. This jar was a physical reminder of how the Lord had provided in the past, day by day, and would continue to provide, day by day, into the future.
When we turn to the New Testament, manna is again intentionally engrained in the ministry of Jesus. In Matthew 6 when Jesus teaches the people to pray, part of His instruction on prayer is for them to pray for provision from God for “daily bread” (v. 11). This is the exact same picture of manna carried over from the Old Testament. It was a picture that the Jewish people would absolutely have understood. Part of our pattern of prayer should be going to the Lord daily with our real physical needs, believing by faith that He will provide those needs day by day.
However, in the New Testament, Jesus extends the picture of manna to His own person. In John 6:22-71, the day after Jesus had fed over 5,000 people with just a few loaves and fishes, the people come again to Jesus for food. Jesus rebukes them for coming to Him for physical food when they should be coming to Him for spiritual food. But the people want a miraculous sign from Jesus, stating that in the past the Lord showed His reality through the provision of manna. Jesus states, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” In the past, Israel ate the daily bread of God from heaven (manna) but died in rebellion and discipline. However, those who look to Christ Jesus and believe in Him, will share in His everlasting life. Those who daily look by faith to Jesus Christ will have their sins forgiven and find in Jesus nourishment and hope for their soul that will never end. Jesus is the living bread come down from heaven to nourish our souls (John 6:51). But in keeping with the manna example, Jesus would have us come to Him every day with our weakness and struggles. He would have us confess our sins every day, and every day find fresh mercy and provision. He is the living Bread of Life that will sustain us far beyond the forty years of Israel. The resurrected life of Jesus will sustain you every day of this life and for all eternity.
There is one last extension to this powerful theme. One that will carry the church until Jesus comes again. In the later part of John 6, after Jesus proclaims that He is the Bread of Life come down from heaven, he extends this metaphor and tells the people they must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood.” This was a hard saying that caused many to turn away from following Jesus (v. 66), but at the time of the last supper and following the resurrection of Jesus it became clear what Jesus spoke of. In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus makes clear that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are to symbolize His body and His blood. As we regularly partake of the elements of bread and juice, we both remember the cross of Christ and symbolically partake of the Bread of Life. We acknowledge that apart from the life of Christ we would have no life. Jesus Christ is our life. He is our daily, sustaining bread.
May you pray this week in daily dependence on Jesus. May you go to Him for the strength your soul needs to carry on one more day. You will find that what you need will be supplied, and for this you should give thanks!
The righteous will live by faith,