Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
The natural instinct of human beings is always to turn religion into Law; into rules for what we are to do or not do. From this follows the equally natural instinct to turn Jesus into a new Moses, giving a new Law to a new people of God, just as Moses gave the Law to the Israelites in the Old Testament.
This was the mistake that Jesus was addressing in this famous statement. He is speaking to members of the 5,000 who had been miraculously fed the day before, but who seemed curiously unimpressed by what they had experienced. After all, feeding 5,000 wasn’t much compared with Moses’ achievement in giving the Israelites “bread from heaven” (manna) to eat in the wilderness, was it? (vv.30,31)
Jesus retorts that his listeners have misunderstood both Moses and Himself. It wasn’t Moses who had fed the Israelites in the wilderness; it was God who had given them “bread from heaven”. And Jesus wasn’t a new Moses, sent to introduce a new Law for God’s people. Rather, he was the new manna, sent by God to give life to the world.
So what does it mean to “come to Jesus”, the bread of life, today? Jesus gives a number of clues to this elsewhere in this chapter: recognising that he has “the words of eternal life” (v.68), eating His flesh and drinking his blood in the Lord’s Supper (v.54), believing in Him as the one sent by God (v.29).
Word, sacrament, faith: the daily life of the Church and of us as Christians. Here is no new Law, given by a new Moses. Rather, here is new Manna, as we come to Jesus and receive, as a gift, the Life that he came to give to the world.
Lord Jesus, may we come to you not as the new Lawgiver, but as the new Manna, the Bread of Life, whose Word satisfies every hunger and quenches every thirst. Amen.