Short Meditations in John 6: 33. Bread has come down
Jn 6:33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Before we dig into the verse, we need to remind ourselves of the context. The pivotal point for the discussion about bread was v.27: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” The context for that had been the feeding of the five thousand and the crowd’s response to that. Subsequent to that they had said, “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (v.31). So we have this flow of conversation that started with the bread of the miracle, then a general reference to food that will last, and that triggered thoughts in the crowd of the manna that had been provided for Israel in their years in the wilderness as part of the Exodus.
So we came to v.32 where Jesus concluded, “it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” There has been literal bread, reference to the manna, and now a different sort of ‘bread’ that comes down from heaven and – and this is the big difference – gives life to the whole world, not just Israel.
All this talk of ‘bread’ may leave us enlightened and affluent westerners of the twenty-first century feeling a bit nonplussed. Mostly we don’t get excited about bread. If we go out for a meal with friends, it is not bread that we focus on. We may be offered rolls with our meal and that is good. There are many sorts of bread available to us today – I am just enjoying a specialist loaf from the bakery section of our nearest major supermarket that contains cranberries, raisins and cashew nuts, beautiful! – but in Jesus’ day bread was part of their staple diet. Interestingly it was sometimes sweetened with honey and raisins creating a bread not dissimilar to the specialist modern bread I’ve just described.
But the big thing about bread is that it was, as I’ve just described, part of their staple diet, i.e. one of the basic foods that kept them alive. The manna had helped keep them alive in the desert (although no doubt they would have killed a sheep or goat from time to time to supplement their basic diet). There was no wheat in the wilderness and so any supplies of flour from Egypt would have soon run out. Thus manna became the primary source of energy and vitamins providing food for those years in the desert. And it had come miraculously from heaven lasting just one day, but two at the weekend, an ongoing miracle in itself. It was God’s supply for them and it gave them life. Jesus is now saying that something better than that is coming from heaven. Watch this space!