I was reading this morning in the gospel of John, and it got me thinking about bread from heaven. Here is the passage I am thinking about, it’s John 6:25-40…
25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Several things really stood out to me here. First of all, this passage is awesome: When the Jews ask Jesus what they must do to be doing the works of God, He doesn’t give them a laundry list of things that we should be doing. That question could easily have resulted in a very long list of difficult and demanding commandments, but that is not God’s intent. Instead the answer is simply “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”! Wow, if you’re needing clarification (and I think we all do at times) for works vs. faith, here we have it right from the Lord himself. It’s not the only place that this can be found, but it’s summed up very well here.
Naturally, the people then ask Jesus for some signs that they can rely on to know that He is who He says He is. This conversation is taking place, mind you, right after Jesus has just fed 5,000 people with a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish, the people who are talking with him had themselves eaten their fill of that bread and no doubt had also seen the 12 baskets of left-overs from this miraculous meal! They had sought Jesus out because they were amazed at what He had done, yet the very next day there they are back again, asking for more proof. I’d like to say “Those crazy people” and shake my head at their disbelief, but I’m right there with them–how many times in my own life have I desired signs, miracles, indications that God is who He says he is? What a patient, gentle and loving God we have.
And then Manna is brought up. Manna, in the desert days of Israel, came down from Heaven each morning and provided sustenance for that day only, it could not be saved for the next day, it could not be horded or stashed away in a pantry or dried or canned or frozen to provide a cache for future use. Manna could be eaten on the day it came down, but was gone the next day…and any who tried to save it found that it was rotten and inedible the next day. Manna was daily bread in a true sense! By this, God intended to make sure His children knew that it is He who provides for us, He who we rely on, God who gives us our sustenance each day. This is true whether we are living in the desert eating Manna or whether we are living in a large house with a year’s worth of canned goods stored up in case of emergency in our pantries. Many times I have found myself struggling with this, and for many years our little family lived on Manna–blessing that came down from Heaven when we needed them and gave us our daily bread, no less no more. I imagine that the Israelites got awfully sick of Manna, and I also imagine that many of them (like me) worried each night if the Manna would appear again the next morning. It did, day after day, for forty years….but I bet there were a lot of people who devoted a lot of time unnecessarily to trying to get that Manna to keep for more than one day.
And our Father gives us true bread from Heaven! Better than Manna, lasting eternity rather than just a day, filling our souls rather than our stomachs. The people ask for Manna, and God offers to eternally feed us with something much greater! Christ came down from heaven, like the Manna, but rather than disappearing or becoming useless after His appointed time He has grown, continued to feed the people, opened the gates of Heaven so that we might live with Him forever in a place more glorious than we can imagine. This is not bread that covers just our daily needs, nor bread that feeds us and leaves us satisfied only until the next hunger comes (and here on Earth that hunger *will* come, no matter what sumptuous meal we might have last eaten!). No, this is bread that feeds us more than that, that gives us life and hope and fills us daily so long as we are open to being fed, that takes us when this life is over into a place where we can live with Him forever. Amen! God is so good.
Whoever comes to Jesus will never be cast out. What a promise! And to add to that, Jesus then tells them the will of the Father himself…and this is such an amazing example of how much God loves us and wants to keep us in His flock. Jesus said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Alleluia! Again, we only need to look on the Son and believe in him, and He will raise us up on the last day! God is so good.