3rd week in Easter, Thursday – 30th April 2020 — Gospel: John 6, 44-51
Bread intertwined with word
The memory of the manna story was not simply that God fed Israel. But eating manna was related to learning God’s wisdom and abiding by God’s law (Ps 78,11-25; Wis 16,21-29). In Exodus, the gift of manna is intertwined with God’s commands. It was to be collected according to God’s instructions (Ex 16,16-26). Deuteronomy too summarizes the same story (8,2-3). Those who did not gather the manna as instructed saw the extra manna rot, or they found that none was available to gather on the Sabbath (Ex 16,20.27). Therefore wilderness was a training ground for learning to trust God’s word. Living by manna meant living by God’s word.
The bread Jesus provides is similar. Since the opening verses, John has been associating Jesus with God’s word or wisdom. Jn 6,45 states, “They shall be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me”. This means, not anyone can eat of the manna, but only those who followed the instructions of God. Jesus communicates God’s will and through that word, cultivates a relationship of trust between human and divine. Jesus the word is life-giving in the same concrete ways that the manna was. He is different from the manna, for one who eats Jesus’ bread “does not die”. Those who come to Jesus have learned from the Father. They are followers of God’s word who are promised a life-giving relationship that endures. John’s characterization of Jesus as manna in these verses is similar to that of Psalm 1. Those who delight in Gods’ law “are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper” (Ps 1,3). Certainly both convey the deep and sustaining connection that comes from learning and following God’s word.