John 6:48-51 - The Bread of Life and Manna

Jesus chose to symbolically associate Himself with the manna of the Old Testament.
• And He does so not merely just to describe a function of His ministry.
• But, He makes this association to actually describe for us who He is (ontologically – nature of being).
• And for the Jew, who God is was the primary way they spoke of God – Richard Bauckham.
• In our lesson today we will explore what Jesus’ was trying to convey.

In order to fully appreciate this association, we need to do some background work.


The Need for Food:
Exodus 16:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
• Typical of the congregation, we see here one instance of many where they actually imply that because of their circumstances they would rather be back in Egypt.
• However, it is true that they were experiencing hunger.
• And, in fact, we will see that God was the reason for this.

God’s Provision of Food:
Exodus 16:9–12 (ESV) — 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’ ” 10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. 11 And the LORD said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’ ”
• God supplied food to satisfy their hunger, a legitimate need.
• He did not supply the food because he appreciated and approved of their grumbling.
• He actually saw their grumbling as wickedness – Numbers 14:27.
• In fact, at one point He threatened to wipe out the congregation of Hebrews because of it – Numbers 17:10.
• Moreover, God’s provision served not only to feed them but to test their willingness to obey Him (vs. 4).
• The manna was given on His terms!
• He did this by stipulating (vs. 16-30) exactly how they were to use the manna.

God’s Provision of Food – What Is It?
Exodus 16:15 (ESV) — 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”
Exodus 16:31 (ESV) — 31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
• Manna literally means “What is it”.
• What it was, clearly, was an act of Grace on God’s part.

POI – It is striking that when speaking of Jesus the following is said.
• John 12:34 (ESV) — 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?

Remember God’s Provision of Food:
Deuteronomy 8:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
• We mentioned earlier that God let the Hebrews hunger on purpose.
• It is here that this startling fact is revealed.
• And we are told that He did this to humble them.
• This, along with the provision, was also an act of grace.
• And this hunger, this act of grace, was to teach them “that man does not live by bread alone, but limes by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”.

So we have learned of 2 acts of grace associated with the manna.
• (1) The hunger that humbled and pointed to the word of God.
• (2) The manna provided by the word of God that satiated the hunger.

And we are told in Deut 8:2 that God clearly wanted them to remember these acts of Grace.
• In fact, in Exodus 16:32, God commands Moses to “Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Why was it so important to remember?

Jesus certainly understood the importance during his temptation by Satan.
• Matthew 4:2–4 (ESV) — 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”


John 6:48–51 (ESV) — 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

With our text today, we can see the ultimate fulfillment of the 2 acts of grace displayed in the manna.
• But before we do that, we also need to briefly revisit John 6:30-31.

We need to remember that in John 6:30-31 the Jews raised the issue of the manna.
• They challenged Jesus to outperform this provision of Moses.
• We see in their association of Moses with the manna that they had already forgotten!
• Jesus told them in John 6:32 what they should have known already – the Father provides the provision (the “function” alluded to earlier).
• And not only that, but God in Christ IS the provision (the “who” alluded to earlier).
• He claims to actually be “the bread of life” – an ontological statement about who he is.
• Jesus, in this first of his seven “I am” statements is inserting himself into the Godhead not as simply one who is sent to “make a way” (function) but one who “is the way” as only God can be (ontology).

So in our text today, Jesus repeats that He is “the bread of life”.
• He contrasts the bread He IS with the bread that was provided in the wilderness.
• The bread that IS God (ontology) gives everlasting life, but the bread that God provided did not.
• Jesus is repeating that He is the bread and therefore He is God.
• This is because, for the Jew, only God can provide eternal life.
• Jesus even alludes to the sacrifice He will have to make.

Now, how does all this relate to the 2 acts of grace we have already discussed?

(1) Hunger that humbles and points to the word of God.
• How are we humbled and made hungry for Christ?
    o (A) Common Grace – is given to everyone.
    o It tests our hearts and reveals that we suppress the truth – Romans 1.
    o We are made hungry but we resort to idolatry not Jesus for fulfillment.
    o And for the Jews specifically, remember that many in the crowd were part of the feeding of the 5,000 and had been blessed with knowing the “absence” of Jesus.
    o Plus they had the omer of manna to remind them – Deut 16:32.
    o And in Deuteronomy 31:19, Moses’ Song was given to Israel by God as “a witness for me against the people of Israel” and to “confront them as a witness” (vs. 21).
    o (B) Saving Grace – is given to the elect.
    o In its presence we see our need for Christ and surrender to Him – John 6.
    o See the rest of John 6 lessons for further info.

(2) Jesus is the “manna” that satiates the hunger not only as a provision but as God incarnate.
• Jesus said that one need only “eat of this bread” and salvation is theirs.
• Like the manna, this grace is given to us on God’s terms.
    o Specific instructions were given to the Hebrews concerning the manna.
    o Exodus 16:16 (ESV) — 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’ ”
• “Eating” the “World’s Jesus” on the world’s terms will not cut it.
• We must “eat” the “Father’s Jesus” as discussed last week.

So when reflect on Deuteronomy 8:3, we see that God’s intention with the manna was to humble them in order to “make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
• God acted throughout the history of His people to point them and lead them to His Word, Jesus Christ, and away from rebellion, wickedness and idolatry.
• When Christ stood before them claiming to be the “Bread of Life” it was the culmination of the grace of God that He had extended to the Israelites throughout their entire existence.
• God had always sought to prepare them for the fact that He wanted to give them so much more than mere provision.
• He wanted to give Himself through Jesus Christ!
• And to this day, God wants to give all people more than just the common grace He extends to all.
• Yet, as He points us all to Christ, we suppress the truth and reject Him.
• Until God, yet again, extends His Saving Grace to the elect and unites us through faith to Christ.