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Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 | Psalm 78:23-29
Ephesians 4:1-16 | John 6:24-35
The previous lesson in John, which would normally have been last Sunday, is the Feeding of the 5,000, and then Jesus’ Walking on Water. Today’s lessons build on those lessons, sort of.
In Exodus, the Israelites are wondering just how wonderful it is to be saved from slavery in Egypt, now to die of starvation in the desert. You can kind of hear them, “Great, Moses, we’re saved, and now get to die of hunger in the heat of this wilderness. Thank you. Is there something that maybe you might want to do about it? Consult God on the matter perhaps?” They didn’t believe that there had been any long term planning for this event. They really should have known better. But that is the history of Israel anyway. They really should have known better.
Notice, they don’t confront God with the problem. No, they go and complain to Moses. It’s called triangulation. Instead of going to the person you really need to talk to, you go and complain to someone close to them. That way, a person doesn’t have to deal with a real confrontation, and can get to talk behind their back maybe. I like to call it, “picking teams.” It happens all of the time with groups of people. It tends to be a safer position for the person who is dissatisfied. It is also unhealthy. It tends not to get anything solved. And usually puts the person in the middle in a terrible position. So, already, this soon after the Passover, the Israelites are showing their dysfunction. And again, knowing their history, they are very dysfunctional. Maybe they were afraid to talk to God. Maybe they felt it wasn’t their place. Maybe God wouldn’t listen to them, but would listen to Moses. After all, Moses was God’s spokesman. Or maybe, they wanted to put all of the pressure on Moses…
They were lucky. God had made long term plans. They were provided for. God sent the Manna to feed the people. But, they would have to collect it every day for the whole time that they were in the Wilderness, or they would hunger again. He also sent them quail, later, to eat. There was really no need to trouble Moses. But, they did, and would continue to do so throughout the 40 years of wandering in the Wilderness. Later, the Israelites would also complain about the Manna. You just can’t satisfy some people. They are never happy.
Following Moses’ death, there was a prophecy that there would be a successor to him. The way that the people would know him was that he too, could bring bread from heaven, Manna. It became known as the Sign of the Messiah, which I have mentioned in sermons in the past. The one who made bread from heaven was the Messiah. Jesus does that in the Feeding of the 5,000. Then, the walking on the water, also demonstrates his divine authority. The day after the feeding of the 5,000, and Jesus’ stroll on the wave tops, the crowds begin to search for Jesus. They go to Capernaum (6-7 miles away), probably to his house. They come seeking him.
But, Jesus chastises them because their search for him is not spiritual, but led by physical hungering (and they will hunger again). They ask what works they must do. He tells them God requires only one, faith. That is the one thing which God has required of human beings. There is also the reverse concept of that thought, namely that human beings were created for faith. The crowd then asks Jesus what he will do. “Show us a sign. Prove to us that you are from God. Make the Manna.”
Now, here is the interesting part. The Jews have been waiting for 1,300 years for the coming of Moses’ replacement, the Messiah to perform the Sign of the Messiah, make bread from heaven. Jesus has just the day before, from a couple of fish and loaves, performed the Miracle of Feeding the 5,000. The crowd missed it. They didn’t understand its significance. That’s the bad news. Jesus had already showed to any who was paying attention that he was the Christ, proved it by doing the long awaited sign, and they missed it. Good news: Because Jesus is the Messiah, we have a direct line with God (not third party, Moses). With Moses, God gave. With Christ, God is still giving. With Moses, there was Manna, but they hungered again. With Christ, there is bread that is eternal. There are three things about this bread which Christ gives that is important: First, it endures, it has a lasting effect; Second, it is good for eternal life; And third, it comes from Christ, and so is received in faith.
When we receive Christ in faith, draw near to Christ in faith, we have that which is better than what Moses gave. Through Moses, God saved the Israelites, and then fed them. Through Christ, we are both fed and saved at the same time by God. Not just physical, temporal salvation and food, but salvation and sustenance which is spiritual and eternal, which is given unto everlasting life. Gracious gifts of God, given directly to us, through His Son, Jesus Christ, received in faith. These are the Signs of God’s great love for us. And so we cry out, “Praise be to God.”