Exodus 16:4-5 (NIV) 4Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
John 6:31-35 (NIV) 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Bread plays an important role throughout Scripture. The Israelites ate unleavened bread at the first Passover in Egypt and then survived 40 years in the desert eating bread from heaven. Bread featured prominently in the worship rituals in the tabernacle and later, in the temple at Jerusalem. Jesus performed miracles with bread, taught about bread, described Himself as the Bread of Life, and instructed His followers to eat bread to remember Him. Bread forms a central part of the everyday routine of most cultures around the world and God clearly wants to use bread to teach us something about Himself.
Several timeless truths emerge from today’s passages. First, God, and God alone, satisfies our deepest hungers. The Israelites’ predicament was obvious: without bread, they would all starve. Similarly, the starvation of the human soul is apparent in our world. Without bread from heaven, we starve for meaning and purpose. And we anxiously fill our lives in an attempt to either distract us or to numb these spiritual hunger pains.
Second, Jesus exhorts us to look beyond our physical desires and identify our true hunger. Those conversing with Jesus in John 6:25-40 are fixated on their fleeting, temporary desires (as humans tend to be). Having just witnessed Jesus miraculously feed a crowd of more than 4,000, they search for Him, not to understand who He is and where His power comes from, but simply to get another meal.
So how does God satisfy our spiritual hunger? Just like the Israelites 3,500 years ago, to prevent spiritual starvation, we must come to Jesus daily, in faith, to receive the life that comes from heaven. Notice how God tested the Israelites’ faith by seeing if they trusted Him enough to provide new bread every day. Similarly, God does not force you to believe in Jesus but gives you the opportunity to daily have your deepest longings satisfied in Him.
Spend some time reflecting about what it means for Jesus to be your Bread of Life. How does your spiritual hunger for the life found in Him compare to the physical hunger you sometimes feel? When someone wants to improve their diet, a key to sustaining healthy eating is integrating healthy food choices into their daily routine. What spiritual “eating habit” (spiritual discipline or practice) do you need to prioritize to improve the quality of your spiritual diet? Consider fasting for a meal (or more) in the next few days to emphasize that you do not “live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Memory Verse: Matthew 4:4 (NIV)
“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
This week’s application involves two family activities. First, eat a meal as a family today and take some time at the beginning of the meal (or while you eat) to talk about the importance of the quality of both your physical and spiritual diets. Explain how taking a bite of food can remind you of how Jesus sustains our souls and also of the importance of “feeding” on the Bread of Life. Using everyday rituals to remind us of Jesus is an excellent way to focus on Him daily. As you pray for the meal, give thanks for both the food on the table as well as the spiritual food that God gives to all who believe in Him. Second, find a time this holiday season to invite someone else to share a meal with your family. Try to think of someone who may not be surrounded by family and friends during the holidays. You may even consider inviting that individual or family to join your own family’s Christmas dinner.