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How does Jesus compare to Manna? A Bible Study on John 6:33 - 35

Updated on July 12, 2013
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John 6:33 - 35

"For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst."

The conversation had been interesting, and very surprising. Jesus was not really what anyone had expected and there were many who didn’t know what to think about him. He claimed that God was his Father, and that he was sent from the Father. He told them not to work for food that perishes, but to work for food that lasts forever. He spoke of bread from heaven, bread that gives life to the world. He was speaking in spiritual terms, but most of the people didn’t understand. They said “Lord, always give us this bread.” They had manna on their minds, but Jesus was better than manna. He was the true bread from heaven. So how did Jesus compare to the bread their ancestors ate while wandering through the desert so many years ago? Here are a few ideas…

Believing in Jesus does not require physical labor

  • Six days a week the Israelites wandering in the desert awoke to the sight of manna on the ground. Before they ate, they had to go out and gather what they needed for the day, about two quarts per person. On the sixth day they gathered double, for no manna fell on the seventh day; that was to be their day of rest. “…and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’…Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.” Exodus 16:13b – 16, 21. The Israelites had to work each morning to gather the food they received that day. But there is no physical work required to receive Jesus. We only have to believe in him. John 6:28-29 –“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Jesus is not perishable

  • God instructed his people to only gather enough food for one day at a time. Anything that was saved for the next day spoiled. “Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.” Exodus 16:19 & 20. Jesus is better than manna, because Jesus is eternal. After his death and resurrection, Jesus stayed as a man on the earth for about 40 more days. Then he went back up to heaven where he is seated on the throne of God, acting as our priest and advocate forever. Acts 1:1 & 2a,3b – “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven,…He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. Mark 16:19 – “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 7:24 – “but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.”

Jesus does not become boring

  • Nobody likes to eat the same thing every day and the people got tired of the manna, especially since they were used to the culinary riches of the Egyptians. Numbers 11:4 - 6 –“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Fortunately, Jesus is only like manna and not literally bread, so the inner peace and joy that he brings can fulfill us and never gets old. Jesus says in John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And Peter, talking about Jesus, tells us in 1 Peter 1:8 – “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,”. Living for Jesus is a life of adventure. His constant efforts to mold us into the person he wants us to be bring meaning and purpose to our existence.

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Jesus will never leave us

  • Manna was temporary. The bread only fell from heaven while the Israelites were on their way to their promised land. Once they ate their first meal in the Promised Land, they no longer woke up to manna covering the ground. “On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Cannan.” Joshua 5:10 – 12. When the people could provide for themselves, God no longer helped them out in this way. Jesus is better because he is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He walks beside us until the day we leave this earth and join with him in heaven. Matthew 28:20b – “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Jesus talking to his disciples before being taken up into heaven)

Jesus is soul food

  • Manna was literal bread that sustained the physical lives of the people in the desert. At the end of their natural lives, they died as we all do. Manna did nothing for their spiritual lives or had any effect on where they spent eternity. Jesus is spiritual bread. He sustains our souls and offers a life with him in eternity after we die our natural deaths. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

Jesus is for everyone

  • The people of Israel were God’s chosen people. Manna had given life to their ancestors in the wilderness, but Jesus would offer life to the world. They felt that they had exclusive rights to him. They looked down on the Gentiles, or anyone who wasn’t a Jew, and wouldn’t even associate with them. They were insulted and angered when Jesus came and offered God’s love to everyone. They couldn’t comprehend his kindness to the Samarians, the Romans, and even those they considered sinners among themselves. But Jesus knew that every person was precious and his sacrifice would give all the people of the world the opportunity to have a relationship with their creator. Mark 16:15 – “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Romans 10:12 – “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”

In these ways Jesus was so much better than the manna their forefathers ate after their escape from Egypt. The Jews didn’t know what they were asking for, but what Jesus was offering went beyond their wildest imaginations. Many of them didn’t accept his explanation and it made them grumble. How do you respond to Jesus claim? Will you accept the spiritual bread that he is offering in himself? Or are you only looking for something with physical benefits. It’s a decision that could define the rest of your life.

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