Then the Jews debated among themselves, asking, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Human One and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Have you ever looked up the Hebrew word for “manna” in a Bible dictionary or Concordance? It’s quite a funny word. It means, “What is it?” And that’s exactly what the Hebrews asked!
As we’ve been seeing, this whole chapter has been about the Exodus. Or rather, Jesus’ telling of the story around what he was doing. He was reimagining the Exodus story around himself. As we’ve seen, Jesus was the leader Moses said would come after him. Likewise, Jesus was the embodiment of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that lead Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt. For a couple of passages now, Jesus has been comparing himself to the bread that G_d fed to the Israelites during their wanderings through the wilderness.
But, as we noted, Jesus is taking that framing story (the framing story) of Israel and spinning it on it’s head. In not so cryptic language, he’s saying that story, and a lot of the symbols in it, was also a sign pointing to another reality. It was pointing to Jesus himself.
The bread, he said, also pointed to himself. And, just like the other symbols, the reality was quite different. The unknownness of the breaded point to the very knowable G_d as personified in Jesus of Nazareth. That is, while the substance in the wilderness was unknown the substance before them was quite knowable.
While some people see, quite clearly, that Jesus was referring to the Eucharist (the “bread” eaten at Communion), I don’t think it’s limited to that. That would be exchanging one symbol for another (although some would say that the Eucharist becomes the actual body of Jesus, we won’t have that conversation here). Nowhere in the passage before us does Jesus talk about bread as we have it in the Eucharist. Jesus is not talking about eating a wafer! He’s saying the bread from the wilderness, the “what is it” bread, the manna, is actually a picture of himself. He is the bread. The bread pointed to Jesus. It pointed to his body.
Now, where have we heard that before? Oh yes! St. Paul wrote that people who follow The Way of Jesus are his body! When we follow Jesus, when we absorb him, when we consume him to the point that we and Jesus are essentially the same, we become his flesh. We become Jesus to the world. And that, my friends, is exactly what the world needs now. It doesn’t need religious people representing Jesus - it needs Jesus. It needs people who are the embodiment of Jesus just like Jesus was the embodiment of YHWH. “In the same way the Father-Mother sent Me,” he told his followers, “I’m now sending you.”
The manna pointed to the body of Jesus. The body of Jesus pointed to the people of The Way. The people of The Way point to a world reconciled by G_d. Where all people are taught by G_d and are brothers and sisters.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC