Bread of Life
When I was a young boy, there was this specific type of dinner roll I always wanted my mother to purchase at the nearby Publix supermarket. It does not matter what type of season it was, I wanted this delicious, scrumptious, and savory onion pocket. The bread had this type of yellowish color that resembled Jewish challah. Inside it has these thin, onion slices that were placed throughout the roll. And then, it was baked with a honey glaze and finally sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. One bite of this bread sent me into a heavenly euphoria. There was nothing that compared to that warm, chewy goodness.
In Exodus 16, Moses had taken Israel from captivity and into a desert. This does not seem like an ideal situation. According to Israelite community, there was pots of meat and they ate all the food they wanted. (v.3) Being stranded in a desert, even if there was freedom, seemed senseless and torturous.
However, the Lord heard the complaints of the people and decided to rain down bread to them. (v.4) Furthermore, God provided meat through quail that rained down from the sky. (vv.11-14) The bread was remarkable. According to the passage, it was called manna. In Hebrew that is translated “what is it?” “It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. The Lord had given the people of Israel something sweet and savory. (vv.31-32) Yet, it had an expiration date. The passage reveals that it had a forty-year shelf life. When the people made it to the border of Canaan on the fortieth year, the manna stopped. (v.35)
Fast forward a about a thousand years into a somewhat more modern period where Rome now ruled the earth. The Jews are once again in captivity, but this time they function as a sub-vassal state to Rome. The Roman Empire is considered one of the greatest civilizations in history. They venerated a great emperor by the name of Caesar Augustus. He was known to have brought a great peace and hope for all the world until war consumed and destroyed Rome.
Jesus enters into the scene and the book of John records about the last three years of His ministry. He makes an indelible mark on history. Unlike Caesar Augustus, He did not usher physical peace, yet. His purpose was to bring about a message of hope and eternal life that many were hoping to receive from Caesar. However, Caesar disappointed. In John 6:25-40, Jesus revisits this past narrative about the sweet bread in the desert mentioned in Exodus 16. He was discovered by a crowd opposite the Sea of Galilee. (v.1) There are a couple of miracles leading to this teachable moment on the other side of the sea: Jesus fed five thousand people and walked on water.
He said to the crowed, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life…” (v.27a) The crowd inquires about this work. Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (v.29) The people were looking for a sign just like the manna that was given to the ancestors. Jesus answers that there is a better bread—a bread that “gives life to the world.” (vv.32-33) Jesus then gives clarity to that bread by saying, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v.35)
It is no wonder that the Hebrew word for manna seems rather abstract and vague. You could not quite put a finger on what manna was. Manna could only temporary sustain life, but Jesus is the Living Bread. He will give life forever more. Jesus was making a distinction between a satisfaction of the body versus satisfaction of the soul.
As delicious as the onion pocket was, the feeling was fleeting. It often left me wanting. Once it was done, I wanted more. I was never satisfied. In the same way, the food of this world—the signs and wonders, the lights and gadgets, the fame and fortune, etc. is only temporary. Jesus reminds the crowd and His disciples about this “belief in the One He has sent” that would cure the insatiable lust of the physical body by rescuing the soul from sin and unrighteousness. Here are two clear applications:
Hunger for His Righteousness
First, in order to know the Living Bread, you must hunger for His righteousness. Matthew 5:6 Jesus teaches, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” There is a hunger that can be satisfied and thirst that can be quenched. You do this by having a deep hunger for Him.
Crave for His Forgiveness
Second, in order to know the Living Bread, you must crave for His forgiveness. Jesus is both just—because He can do no wrong and justifier—because He can forgive sin. Jesus being the Living Bread means that when you repent, His righteousness is yours. The apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:21 that “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Believing in Jesus as the bread of life means He carries your burden of sin to the cross.
This is the natural pursuit in partaking of the Living Bread. Jesus is the forgiver of sin and He is our righteousness. What a beautiful picture of He who is the bread of life.