Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Manna Bread - "What is it?"

Today, we are building to the climax of the story in John's Gospel. The suspense builds to a climactic statement of Jesus as the Bread of Life.

Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Easter - John 6:30-35.
So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."  They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst..."
Jesus' followers came seeking signs and one sign was not enough. Ironically, since they have just been fed with the loaves and fishes, they ask, "What work do you perform?" How quickly they forget that Jesus just multiplied 5 loaves and 7 fish to feed 5,000 men and there were 12 baskets of leftover bread. They do not consider this miracle a supernatural one. Maybe they think Jesus performed some sort of magic.

But then they assert and maintain the authority of scripture when next they say, "It is written." And they boast that their ancestors ate the manna in the desert. Since Jesus has said He is the Son of Man, they are challenging Him to beat His previous accomplishment, for manna was a supernatural phenomenon.

Manna was not really bread, but an unknown substance named from the words "man hu" or "What is it?" Manna was considered bread from heaven because it was provided miraculously from heaven while the Israelites wandered in the desert.  Jesus, of course, is up to the challenge. He responds that while Moses, a man, was not the one who provided the manna that their ancestors ate, His own Father gives true bread from heaven - true manna - which gives life to the world. It is life-giving bread. Jesus has now provided bait for the people. Will they take it? Will they understand?

This seemed impossible and so they command Jesus to produce this food for them "always".

Maybe they were hoping to be fed with manna as their fathers were. Their hunger leads them and they want more. That is because it is not the sign that feeds. They had their fill of the bread and fish, but their hunger remained. So they are just wanting another sign.

The problem with a sign is that it only points to a destination. It does absolutely nothing to get you where it points. To get to where you need to be, you need a way to get there AND you have to follow it.  Jesus IS the Way and we must follow Him. But Jesus will not give them another sign. Having brought them this far, He wants them to understand the difference between a sign and the destination, which is actually who it comes from. The one giving the sign holds all the significance. It is NOT the sign that is important but the one who gives it.

The manna of the Old Testaments pointed to the One Who provided it. It wasn't Moses who provided it but God, but Jesus' followers are stuck on Moses because it is not God they seek. They seek the sign and the manna was only a sign and it left them still wandering in the desert, like the bird following a trail of crumbs (see last post).

Jesus then makes the statement that will either make or break His followers: "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst..." With that statement, we are left in suspense, not knowing the response of the people. The Church, in her wisdom, has left us to mull over what Jesus has said until tomorrow.

So let us do exactly that. What IS Jesus saying? First of all, when Jesus says, "I am" He is equating Himself with the Father. Yahweh (God) is the Great I AM. In the book of Exodus, God told Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" He said, "But I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain." Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.  ~ Exodus 3:10-15

When Jesus says, "I AM the bread of life" the people will understand what He means. Moses told the people that God is "I AM" and they would remember that from the scriptures. It would be a blasphemous saying to those who heard it. And not only did Jesus equate Himself with God, He was saying that God and the bread of life are the same thing. God is the bread of life. But what does this mean? The manna that God provided in the desert did not give life, but Jesus says that whoever comes for THIS bread will not hunger and whoever believes HIM will never thirst. That is, Jesus Himself will keep those who come and believe from both hunger and thirst. He will provide for them for life. All they have to do is come and believe. It is that simple.

Will the people accept what Jesus is saying? We will soon find out. 

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