Bread from Heaven
The Bread of Life
There is a great difference between what something is, and what it is made of.
Consider, for example, the moon. Whether it is made of green cheese or basaltic rock peppered by meteorites, such is only a list of its ingredients. The moon is not basaltic rock; that's only what it's made of. If you think not, ask any lover on a warm moonlit night. You will find it is something entirely different.
Jesus must make that same distinction to the gluttonous crowd here. Bread is on their minds—they have just been fed with bread and fishes by his miraculous power—so they challenge him with the remembrance of manna in the wilderness. The challenge is very careful: "our fathers ate." The obvious point to avoid is the source of the manna. But Jesus understands their minds. He rephrases the question in the form of the answer. It was not Moses who gave them manna, but God. God—whom Jesus describes as "My Father."
Manna is a great picture of the bread of God:
· Like manna, the bread of God comes only from Heaven, no other source.
· Like manna, the bread of God gives life.
· Like manna, the bread of God is a gift from God, not something anyone could earn.
Whatever manna was made of, that's not what it is. Now Jesus tells them that the same bread of God is before them. Jesus stands before them in physical body—certainly not made of the same ingredients as manna—but he is the bread of God.
We proclaim the same thing every week in communion. We take a small piece of unleavened bread (recipe unknown and unimportant, except for "unleavened.") We take it, and in so doing eat the very bread of life itself. "This is my body" said Jesus, referring to just such bread.
"You are what you eat," goes the old saying. It is true spiritually at least. For if you will not eat the bread of life you will not have eternal life. To do this you must take into yourself the very essence of that bread—what it truly is, not just what it is made of. If you do this, you will become like that bread. As you imitate your Lord, Jesus Christ, you become like him. As you take him in—in meditation, study and prayer—you become like him, and imitate him more. In so doing, God gives you true life.