by Michael Smith
Reading from the Gospel of John, 6:41-51
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Israelites had been providentially fed by God with manna as they wandered in the wilderness: “And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground” (Ex. 16:14-15). Moses described it as the bread given by God for them to eat. Every morning they would find and gather up just enough of the heavenly bread to sustain them for that one day of life.
Similarly, in the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to give us this day our daily bread (Matt. 6:11). We pray that God will provide subsistence, the necessities of life, for this one day of our lives.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus also claims to be “the bread that came down from heaven.” Unlike the manna in the wilderness, however, which only sustained physical life, those who partake of Jesus will live forever. In a second century letter to Christians in Ephesus, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch referred to the bread of the Eucharist as “the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ.”
It is always a discipline and, especially in these days of pandemic isolation, exceedingly difficult to live one day at a time. Nonetheless, today we pray to live this next twenty-four hours in gratitude for all God has provided for us, in this world and in the age to come.
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith served as Bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He and his wife, the Rev. Lisa White Smith, are the parents of three and grandparents of nine.
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