To Each According to Their Need

John 6 is a chapter we read a lot during Passover and the closely connected Days of Unleavened Bread (Pesach and Chag HaMatzot). That annual festival ended yesterday, but I’m still thinking about the Bread of Life and all that He has done for us.

In this chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus feeds 5,000 people in one day, walks on water and calms the winds on a lake, then the next day He teaches the people who followed Him across that lake. All the gospels record miracles where Jesus multiplied bread to feed large crowds. John also includes Jesus’s teachings after one of those miracles about Himself as the bread of life, which is so much more valuable than the bread which filled His listeners’ stomachs.

Bread from Heaven

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate all the loaves of bread you wanted. Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life—the food which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has put his seal of approval on him.”

So then they said to him, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?” Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires—to believe in the one whom he sent.” So they said to him, “Then what miraculous sign will you perform, so that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

John 6:25-32, NET

This conversation always makes me shake my head at these people (though I’m also not sure I’d have done much better). They’d just seen a miracle the day before, yet they have the audacity to ask Jesus what sign He’ll perform to make them believe in Him. They even suggest that bread from heaven, like the Israelites got with the manna in the wilderness, would be nice. Jesus understood them exactly right when He said they chased Him down to fill their bellies with bread rather than because they understood He could offer them eternal life.

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the solemn truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but my Father is giving you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.” …

I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 6:32-35, 47-51, NET

There’s a big difference between Jesus as the bread of life and the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness. One was physical and could only sustain physical life. The other is spiritual, and partaking of Him means you won’t ever die. There are also important similarities, though. Both were sent by God into a situation that seemed hopeless. Both are miraculous. Both are available in just the right amount for everyone.

Image of a woman reading her bible at a table, with text from Matthew 5:6, NET version: "“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied."
Image by MarrCreative from Lightstock

Sustenance One Day At A Time

When the dew that lay had gone, behold, on the surface of the wilderness was a small round thing, small as the frost on the ground. When the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they didn’t know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread which Yahweh has given you to eat. This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded: ‘Gather of it everyone according to his eating; an omer a head, according to the number of your persons, you shall take it, every man for those who are in his tent.’” The children of Israel did so, and some gathered more, some less. When they measured it with an omer, he who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack. They each gathered according to his eating.

Exodus 14-18, WEB

When people gathered manna according to God’s instructions, they had exactly enough. No one had too much and no one had too little to fully satisfy them for each day. The manna couldn’t be stored-up for the future, though; they had to gather and eat it each day if they wanted food. The only day of the week that manna didn’t rot by the next morning was on Friday–the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath, when God gave the people rest (Ex. 16:19-30).

Thinking of the link between manna and Jesus as the Bread of Life adds another layer of understanding to these words in Jesus’s model prayer: “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3, NET). We need to come to Jesus and “eat” Him every day, taking His words inside us and connecting with Him in prayer. Then on the Sabbath, we can come together with our fellow believers and rest in God’s presence, drinking Him and His words in even more deeply. When we trust Him and stay close to Him, he’ll supply all our needs.

I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. … And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 4:11-13, 19, NET

These verses are reassuring. God will take care of our needs. That doesn’t mean we’ll never experience “times of need,” or when we go hungry or have nothing (as Paul said happened to him). What it does mean is that God will take care of us anyway and He’ll help us get through those things. It puts me in mind of Jesus’s sermon on the mount, where He said not to be anxious about food or clothing, and to take one day at a time (Matt. 6:25-34). God doesn’t want us fretting about stuff, especially things in the future that we can’t really control or predict. He wants us focused on Him.

Image of 5 Bibles on a table, with people's hands following along on the page. The image is overlaid with text from Matthew 6:33-34, NET version: "But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own."
Image by Inbetween from Lightstock

New Mercies Each Day

The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases;
his compassions never end.
They are fresh every morning;
your faithfulness is abundant!
“My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myself,
so I will put my hope in him.

Lamentations 3:22-24, NET
Image of people sitting in church holding Bibles, with the blog's title text and the words "God can, and will, supply all our physical and spiritual needs through Jesus as our daily Bread of Life."
Image by Brown Bag Photography from Lightstock

Like manna in the wilderness, God’s compassionate kindness renews every morning. He supplies mercy and forgiveness to each of us according to our need, giving Himself to us as the portion that fills our emptiness.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats 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. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread your ancestors ate, but then later died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” …

After this many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”

John 6:53-58, 66-69, NET

We know, as Peter did, that there’s nowhere else we can go if we want eternal life. We need Jesus every single day. We all benefit from God’s loyal kindness, unending compassion, abundant faithfulness, and renewing mercy. And He can supply as much of those things as we need. We just need to ask Jesus to give us each day our daily Bread of Life.

Featured image by Anggie from Lightstock

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