Bible Passage: John 6:22-51
John’s gospel is made up of a mix of signs performed by Jesus that show something of his identity, and discourses where we get a behind-the-scenes account of Jesus explaining the significance of those signs in much greater detail than we are given in the other gospels. This passage is the discourse that follows Jesus feeding the five thousand, where he tries to show that the miracle does not only mean that Jesus can provide the bread we need but that he himself is the bread of life. In saying this, Jesus invokes an image from the Old Testament where God provided for his hungry, grumbling people on their journey from Egyptian slavery to freedom by raining down bread from heaven, known as manna. God supplied this every night, and designed it to last for just 24-hours before spoiling, causing the people to daily rely on him for their food.
Jesus compares himself to this manna. It provided nourishment for hungry people. It was supplied by God and it was available day by day. All of this is true of Christ, yet Jesus wants our minds to move beyond this manna and to understand that what is provided in his own person is way beyond what the Israelites received in the wilderness. Here are three ways that Jesus is superior to the manna:
The Manna Spoiled: Every day the manna they had collected went off, just as when we buy bread it rarely lasts long before it starts to dry out and accumulate mould. Jesus teaches them not to labour merely for food that perishes, but to seek the food that endures to eternal life. He wants us to understand that as we look to the spiritual food that he provides, we needn’t worry about an expiration date. He provides us food that lasts eternally.
The Manna Only Satisfied Temporarily: When people ate the manna, just as when we eat and drink, it satisfies for a time, but hunger and thirst return. Our food and drink are temporary solutions, but we need to perpetually replenish ourselves. Jesus explains that all who come to him will never hunger and all who believe will never thirst. There is a longing deep within the human soul that is satisfied as we come to Christ. From that moment on, it is good to still feed on Christ and find his nourishment in the ups and downs of life, but the deepest hunger has been permanently satisfied in him.
The Manna Could Not Provide Eternal Life: The people who ate the manna in the wilderness were spared starvation for a time, but they still died. Ensuring we eat and drink enough food can delay death but it cannot prevent it. As we feed on Christ, we find eternal life. This feeding is not literal, it is by faith, eagerly appropriating who he is and what he has done for us (think perhaps of how we are said to ‘devour’ a good book).
- This is a passage about feeding on Jesus. Taking communion would fit as an appropriate response.
- You could also lead people into a time of worship, where you encourage people to meet with Jesus and be nourished by his presence.
- The passage challenges whether we only look to what Jesus does for us or to Jesus himself. You could invite people to reflect on this in their own walk with Jesus.