Eternal Manna

Last night I was feeling the tempting, and sinful pull of my various distractions.  I was feeling frustrated and despondent.  I wanted to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill.  I want to get out of the rut of depending on sleeping pills to sleep.  So my mind was coming up with all sorts of ways to ‘pass the time’ until I felt tired.  The passing of time is mostly just me escaping my life until my life is suitable and agreeable again … i.e. until I can go to sleep.  In the middle of one of my distractions I wasn’t feeling any better, any more sleepy and tired.  So I closed my eyes and prayed for help.  And in that moment I realized I just wanted Jesus.  So I went to the book of John and began to read.  Jesus helped soothe my mind by chapter 5 and I slept beautifully, soundly.

So when I got up this morning I felt well rested.  Rather than get up immediately I just spent some time talking with God.  I opened up the book of John to read chapter 6.  There is a section in this chapter that I have always struggled with.  So I can easily imagine the struggles the people who heard Jesus say these things had.  But as I read the passage this morning the Holy Spirit opened my heart and my mind … and I finally got it.  I finally understood what Jesus was saying.  So I want to write it down, to remember.  Who knows, it might help others who have struggled with this same passage.  Or you could completely disagree with me and the Holy Spirit can be working some other thoughts in your heart and mind.  Either way, considering the words of Jesus is never time ill spent.  So here is the handful of verses in John 6:25-59

                “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of god?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered hem, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  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.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man gives us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Now I did not grow up as a devote Jew, but I still know that cannibalism is bad.  But the crowd of Jewish people who heard this had Scripture to guide them.  There are several places in the Old Testament where God gives commands not do eat the flesh of man.  God also gives a command never to eat meat that still has life’s blood in it.  That’s not to say we can’t eat rare steaks.  But we can’t eat meat that still has living blood in it, like eating the meat off of a living animal.  The Lord expressly forbids the drinking of blood, or the consumption of life’s blood in any way.  So if I, a dumb gentile, has stumbled through this teaching of Jesus …how much more did the Jews there stumble?  The disciples themselves say that this is a hard word to understand.

Then the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the beginning of John’s book.  John calls Jesus the Word of God.  Jesus is the living, breathing, incarnate Word of God.  Jesus himself says the only reason He lives is because of the Father.  Jesus emphatically and repeatedly says He is here to do the will of the Father.  His actions, His words, and His life are nothing more than the reflected will of God.  Which brings me back to Genesis, where the Lord says we are created in His image, to be His image bearers.  God the Father does not have a human form or body.  He is wholly spirit.  And if Jesus perfectly reflects that, He is not teaching about flesh and worldly things.  He is teaching about spirit things.

So how, and why, do I spiritually feed on Jesus’ flesh?  Jesus knew He was going to go to the cross.  He knew he would be beaten, scourged, and crucified.  His body, His flesh, would atone for every sin that everything and everyone has ever committed against God since the beginning of time until the end of time.  John the baptizer calls Jesus God’s atoning Lamb.  Jesus is a burnt offering to the LORD.  The perfect sacrifice.  Jesus repeatedly says this is the reason He came.  This is the very reason for His flesh.  This is the very reason He took on human form.  The only reason Jesus needed to have flesh for us to feast on is to atone for our trespasses.  So when he taught, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  He was not telling me to actually eat his flesh, He was telling me to spiritually feast on the only reason He had flesh.  I am to spiritually consume, daily, His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross.  I will get to why I know He tells me to do this daily in a moment.  I want to talk through the drinking of His blood.

The Old Testament was taught to the Jews from birth.  They knew that the Lord required blood as the payment of sin.  God said in the garden of Eden that sin would lead to death.  And God repeatedly teaches that life is in the blood.  So the only way to cover the death created by our sin is to cover it in life, to cover it with blood.  The life in the blood would wash away the stain of death.  And as I mentioned above Jesus is the perfect, sinless, spotless sacrifice.  Therefore His blood is perfect and everlasting.  Jesus calls himself the living sacrifice, which means He lives through His sacrifice.  His blood will never stop flowing, because only death can stop blood from flowing.  Jesus’ blood covers my sin.  I must continually wash myself with His blood.  The body of Christ covers my body on the outside, my flesh, in His righteousness.  The blood of Christ covers me inside, for my own blood is inside me.  His skin is my skin.  His blood is my blood.  I cannot live without either my skin or my blood.  I cannot hope to live eternally without Jesus’ skin and Jesus’ blood.

So why daily?  Because Jesus teaches me this by comparing Himself to manna.  When God brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, across the Red Sea, they had no food to eat.  They feared they would starve to death.  So they cried out to the Lord and God provided.  God gives them manna from heaven.  It dusts everything around them.  The Jews were to gather it to make bread.  Good commands them to only gather as much as they need for the day.  When a few of the Jews try to gather more than what they needed that day …the manna rotted.  God was teaching the Jews how to depend on Him daily for the very basic necessity of food.  The Lord will provide.  Yet all those Jews who ate this life giving bread in the wilderness still died.  None of them are still walking around today.  That’s because the manna was a gift of bread and life.  It was not an everlasting gift of bread that would lead to an everlasting gift of life.  Manna would rot after only a day.  The Jews could not depend on manna to live.  They needed to depend on the LORD.

That is why Jesus taught, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Manna was never living.  It was a powder like substance that could be molded by human hands and turned into bread.  Eternal things are of God.  We cannot create eternal things.  We cannot alter, mold, or shape eternal things.  We are not little gods.  Jesus is saying that the Father is living, eternal, undying.  Jesus lives as the Father lives because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father.  Jesus is eternal.  Jesus died, but He did not stay dead.  That is why we do not know where He was buried.  Jesus isn’t there any more.  Jesus is the true manna from heaven, the ever living, ever eternal manna.  And just as the Jews at the manna to live in the wilderness … I must daily consume Jesus’ atonement for me in the wilderness of this world.

I know this might be a ‘no duh’ moment for some of you.  While these are things I have known, I have never really connected them to this very hard word.  I couldn’t see past the cannibalism I thought Jesus was calling these people to do.  This was one of those passages where I thought Jesus to be a little mean by giving such a hard word to the people.  But these were supposed to be godly Jews, who went to Synagogue every week.  They were to memorize the Old Testament.  These should have been things they knew.  They just didn’t have proper teachers.  Then there is the fact that Jesus is the perfect teacher.  He does not wish me to be a parrot of facts.  He does not want me to simply remember that  1+1 = 2.   He wants me to know why, and how that addition works so that I can apply the same idea to  2+2 to come up with the answer of 4.

So this was my ah-ha moment.  I no longer stumble over this piece of Scripture.  For that I am eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit took the time to teach me this morning.  And I find myself content, and at peace.  In this moment I feel completely loved by the LORD (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  And I am so grateful that They take the time to come spend a morning with me for a little Bible study.  I am no one doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.  But to God I am His daughter, and Jesus has time for all His children, and there is never a place the Holy Spirit cannot go or find.  Which makes me perfectly special to the LORD.  And that is a miracle I would like to never get over.

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