Jesus is our Daily Bread

The first reading is a snapshot of Israel in the desert. They are doing what they did a lot in the desert, complaining. “We enjoyed meat in Egypt,” they complained. “Now we are starving to death in the desert.” First, God brought them to water, but the water was bitter and undrinkable. So God directed Moses to put a piece of wood in the water, a foreshadow of the cross, and the water became sweet and refreshing. Then, they wanted meat, so in the evening God sent them a flock of quail to give them meat.  And in the morning, God sent them manna.

As the Israelites left their tents in the morning they saw that instead of dew, the ground was covered with a white substance. They all looked outside and said the same thing, “What is it?” “Manna” is Hebrew word that means literally, “What is it?” To this day we do not know what manna was. We can tell from the Biblical narrative that it was some form of carbohydrate that was stable enough to be baked into bread, but so spoilable that it only lasted one day. So, each morning, the Israelites would gather enough manna for one day’s use. It was “daily bread.” And since it fell from the sky, it was also “bread from heaven.” The Bible even describes how it tasted, “like a honey wafer.” So, it must have been pretty tasty.

This week’s gospel picks up where last week’s gospel left off. Remember last week that 5 loaves and 2 fish multiplied to feed 5,000 men plus women and children. Seeing the miracle, the people wanted to make Jesus king by force, but he slipped away and prevented it. Jesus sent the disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee in a boat while he went to pray. Then, in the stormy night, Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water. The crowd who had witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes took to their own boats in the morning and came to Jesus and his disciples. They were surprised to see Jesus there since they knew the disciples had left without him. It would seem a tribute to Jesus for them to pursue him like that, but Jesus had no ego that needed stroking. He knows they did not come to him because they wanted him, but because they wanted what Jesus could do for them.

That strikes pretty close to home, doesn’t it? How often do we come to Jesus not because we want him, but because we want something from him? “Jesus fix my finances.” “Jesus fix my body.” “Jesus fix my relationships.” If things don’t work out the way we want, we get angry with God. Even if we determine God has indeed answered out prayers, we are thankful for a moment, then we put him on a shelf and forget about him until we need something from him again.

That was why Moses was so frustrated with the Israelites. They wanted to be free from slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 15, God parts the sea and sets them free. But by Exodus 16, they are complaining that they are hungry and want to go back to Egypt where they had plenty to eat.

In last week’s gospel when Jesus worked the great miracle, the crowd doesn’t ask Jesus, “What do you want us to do?” Instead, they want to tell Jesus what to do. They want to control Jesus. So, in today’s gospel, Jesus tells the crowd, “You didn’t come to find me because you want to entrust your lives to me, but because your bellies are full. Do not live for the bread that perishes, but for the bread that lasts for eternal life.”

As a culture we are angry with God for allowing world hunger. If God is a loving god, why doesn’t he just turn all the stones into bread. That is what the crowd wanted. “See what you can do, Jesus. End hunger forever.” But that is not Jesus’ purpose. Instead, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”

Jesus is to bring us to God. To nourish us with God. And then, empowered by the love of God, dealing with world hunger is our responsibility.

Jesus is the manna. The bread which came down from heaven. The daily bread that sustains us each day. That needs to be refreshed each day. To partake of the daily bread, is to do the will of Jesus each and every day. The crowd asked, “How do we accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered, “Believe in the one He sent.” “Trust the one He sent.” Entrust yourselves to the one He sent.”

To believe is to trust. To trust is to entrust our lives into His hands. And, Jesus adds, daily. Daily take up your cross. Daily follow Jesus. Daily choose to be His disciple.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

We are not just temporal beings. We are also eternal beings. Yes, we need temporal food and temporal drink. But more importantly, we need eternal food and eternal drink in the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. As we come to the table today, recognize the eternal food and drink that brings us to eternal life. Not in some magical way, “I received communion, therefore I am going to heaven.” But in real conversion and transformation. Nourished with this spiritual food, we are empowered to do the will of God today and every day.

Feeding of the 5,000

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.  A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.  The Jewish feast of Passover was near.  When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”  He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.  Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.”  One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”  Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”  Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.  So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.  Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.  When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”  So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments  from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.  When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”  Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. (John 6:1-15 NAB)


Imagine you are young boy in the midst of a huge crowd and someone comes up to you and says he wants your lunch. What do you think? What do you do? But suppose that person says, “Jesus wants your lunch? What do you do? Would you give him your whole lunch? Does it make you happy to give your lunch to Jesus?

In this gospel we meet one of those unnamed characters whose response to Jesus changes the world. Up until this moment in Jesus’ ministry, the crowds have been growing. They are excited about Jesus, but they have been wondering about him. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14) But this little boy gives everything he has to Jesus, and that act becomes the catalyst for a miracle that changes everything. Suddenly, everyone knows Jesus is the Messiah. They actually say, “Surely this is the Prophet.”

We need to back up and explain that phrase. The title “The Prophet” as opposed to “one of the prophets” refers to a specific prophecy attributed to Moses. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18) By Jesus’ time this prophecy was understood as referring to the Messiah. That a prophet as great or even greater than Moses would come and teach the truth of God with authority.

Recognizing Jesus as The Prophet, The New Moses, The Messiah, the Second David, the crowd presses to make Jesus king, if necessary against his will. But Jesus will have none of it, because he has already exercised his kingly authority. They just didn’t recognize it.

When the young boy cheerfully gave all he had to Jesus, Jesus took the bread in his hands. He lifted the loaves up to heaven. He gave thanks “eucharist”. He broke the bread. He gave it to his disciples, and instructed them to feed the multitude. Before the Last Supper, Jesus has instituted the Eucharist in the context of hungry people going about their daily lives.

Jesus doesn’t need to be made king. He is King, not just in church, but in our daily needs and hungers.

You may be thinking, “That doesn’t sound like my life. I seem to experience a lot of needs and hungers, but not much of Jesus being King. Of him multiplying my meagerness. Of Jesus filling me to overflowing until there are 12 baskets left over.” Then the Holy Spirit is saying to you, “Cheerfully give Jesus everything you have.”

The young boy joyfully gave Jesus everything he had. “Take it all, Jesus. I’ll be okay.” And the miracle happened.

What hunger do you have in your life? Jesus wants to satisfy that hunger. With joy and cheer, give Jesus everything, and the miracle will happen.