In John 6 Jesus makes the comparison between Himself and manna. The topic of bread is relevant because He had fed 5000 men (plus women and children) from just a few loaves and fish the previous day. Due to this miracle, the people followed Him.
In verse 27, Jesus redirects their thinking from “What can I get?” to “Who can I get?”.
But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” (John 6:27)
As the conversation continues, the thick-headed crowd (you know, like you and me) asks for yet another sign. They remind Jesus (oh, the irony) about the bread from Heaven, manna, provided to their ancestors in the desert. Jesus responds that the true bread of God is available to them right now.
34“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”
35Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. (John 6:34-35)
Jesus teaches them that belief in Him is the only answer to their unceasing appetite. He offers the peace and joy and salvation that they (we) so desperately seek.
To gain some context for the manna reference, let’s return to the Israelites’ journey out of bondage in Egypt to freedom in Canaan. Because they needed to learn to trust God (you know, like you and me), this journey took 40 years rather than the couple of weeks it should have. [I think that 40 years was no accident. This represents a generation, a lifetime. I’m a middle-aged man still learning to trust.]
Let’s pick up the story of their passage through the desert in Numbers 11. They are not a happy group.
Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the LORD heard everything they said. (Numbers 11:1)
This verse caused me to pause. When did they complain? Soon. Who heard? God. How much? Everything. Lesson: be careful with your dissatisfaction. It’s probably not as bad as you think and the One who blessed you with what you do have hears your rant.
Onward. The grumbling continues in verse 4.
And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. 5“We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. 6But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6)
Manna appeared daily and the people collected what they needed for that day each morning. No more. No less. Do you see how this taught them to trust God? They did not provide. They collected. Daily. When Jesus called Himself the bread of life, He was teaching us to rely on Him in the same way. Daily. Your true needs are met through daily relationship and reliance on Him.
So what about the meat?
God was not pleased by their complaining and request for more. (How often do we request more? We exist in a culture defined by more.) Here’s how He answered. He gave them more meat than they could possibly eat, miles of quail stacked three feet deep (verse 11:31).
How did the people respond? They collected far more quail than they needed. The smallest amount collected was 50 bushels (verse 11:32)! This is a ridiculous amount of quail. To give you a comparison, a bushel is eight gallons. A bushel of tomatoes weighs 56 pounds .
What can we learn? If we put our focus on getting more of the things of this life (meat), it will never satisfy and will never be enough. If we instead put our energy into relationship with Jesus (manna), we will never hunger. We will be sustained and satisfied. Paul summarized this perfectly.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Gather today’s manna, friend, and leave the meat. Bread for life!