In this passage, Jesus draws heavily on the story from Exodus of manna in the desert. As the disciples press Jesus to give them concrete evidence of his identity, they point to God’s gift of manna to the Israelites as an example. Jesus counters this with an unexpected answer. He has more than bread to offer them; he has salvation in the form of his own body. However, the disciples have yet to witness the Crucifixion and Resurrection, so Jesus’ words don’t make much sense to them. They want Jesus to offer them something to save them in the wilderness. That is exactly what he’s doing—and more—but they can’t yet see it.
In the same way the manna in Exodus appeared to rain down from above, Jesus descended to the earth as a human. He is the bread that has come down to offer sustenance for starving people. While manna offered salvation in the form of food, Jesus offers salvation to those who feel helpless and hopeless.
In verse 58, Jesus points out that while the manna saved the Israelites from famine, they still lived as finite humans who died of old age. Jesus states that the bread he offers is even greater than the bread offered in Exodus. Not only will it fulfill needs on earth; it will offer a life not yet imagined—a life where hunger is not a concern. The manna of the Israelites is a landmark of God’s faithfulness, so for Jesus to assert that he can offer the same gifts of the manna and more is revolutionary. Jesus offers not only life but life everlasting to those who are faithful.
Manna from Heaven, you rescued the Israelites from famine. You offer eternal life to your followers. You save your believers from death. Satisfy us, enliven us, fortify us so that we may bring your holy vision to earth, offering sustenance to those who need it most. In the name of the Living Bread. Amen.
If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be? God offered this chance to Solomon, and the king asked for wisdom to rule God’s people well. God honored this request by giving Solomon many other gifts too, as long as the king followed God’s ways. (Later on, unfortunately, Solomon lost his way.) The psalmist tells us that wisdom begins with understanding who we are and who God is. Ephesians addresses practical implications of wise living: follow the will of the Lord, be filled with the Spirit, encourage one another, and be grateful to God. The Gospel passage continues Jesus’ metaphorical description of himself as the Bread of Heaven. Here Jesus anticipates the sacrament of Communion, in which we partake of his body and blood by faith.
Read 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. Do you hesitate to ask God to show you your call? Why?
Read Psalm 111. Where have you seen God’s faithful and just actions in your life? In the world?
Read Ephesians 5:15-20. How do you live wisely and make the most of the time?
Read John 6:51-58. What is the significance of Holy Communion in your life of faith? How has your understanding of this sacrament changed over time?
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