3rd Week of Pascha – Tuesday
The Bread from Heaven, JOHN 6:27-33
There is no temporary, only eternal.
Manna foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ, and the Eucharist.
John 6:27-33 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
Jesus came and did temporal things (he ate, he slept, and all the other temporary and ever changing activities of human existence), but ALL things He did pointed to the eternal. The Jews clearly did not understand this, as they were more amazed and excited about His feeding the multitudes than with His grace filled teaching and example.
He instructed the Jews with a gentle rebuke, knowing that in their hearts they saw Him as a provider as they conquered the Romans, by telling them (and us):
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life
The context of this statement teaches us much. It was uttered shortly after He fed the multitudes, with perishable food. The multitudes saw this miracle with carnal eyes; they did not understand its spiritual meaning. So do we see the temporal tings of life with carnal eyes, and do not perceive their spiritual meaning. In everything, whether it is mundane or exceptional, we must be laboring for the meat which does not perish; EVERYTHING we do should be about the kingdom.
Which one of us can hear our Lord’s words and feel completely at peace, knowing that we are following them to the letter?
The Jews who heard our Lord evidently were touched in some way by His rebuke and with weak faith (as we shall see), but nonetheless, with at least some desire asked him:
28 … What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
They appeared to desire to have his miracle working power, which was uppermost in their minds, due to the recent miracle. They appeared to want to gain something for themselves, using God’s power.
The epistle for today also presents someone who wanted God’s power for his own desires: Simon the sorcerer. He became a Christian, but in name only, as his ambition caused him to seek to pay the apostles to acquire power. It is from him that we get the term “simony”, and it is a great sin whose genesis is from not understanding all things as spiritual.
The answer is simple, but as is usual in Jesus’ answers, with a depth of meaning that can only be understood with experience:
29 … This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Jesus’ entire ministry makes it clear that His idea of “belief” is to follow the way of life that he set forth by example. Belief is not intellectual assent, but wholehearted dedication to what is in the heart. The Jews did not understand this, and to this day, “multitudes” of people claiming to have belief in God, or even be Christians pursue lives opposed to God.
The Jews, still not understanding, and still thinking of food for their flesh answered Jesus:
31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
This is a reference to the Psalms:
They asked, and the quail came, and he satisfied them with the bread of heaven. (Psa 104:40, Sept)
23 Yet he commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, 24 and rained upon them manna to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven. 25 Man ate angels’ bread; he sent them provision to the full. (Psa 77:23-25 Sept)
Jesus then teaches the Jews and us the true meaning of the miracle, and of the manna, which fed the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness. The manna was a foreshadowing of His coming, as the “bread from heaven”.
32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
Just as the Jews ate manna, we eat the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Types and foreshadowings are limited in nature; they cannot adequately describe the thing they point to. Manna fed the Jews for a day, and any that was hoarded for the next day became filled with worms and stank. Our Lord feeds us for our lifetime, and nothing that is of him will ever corrupt.
This selection further demonstrates the carnal faith of the Jews, which St John compared with the good faith of the Samaritans in yesterday’s reading. What is it that we understand in a carnal way like the Jews? Do we fully understand the manna we receive?
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (52) The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (53) Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (54) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (55) For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (56) He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. (57) As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (58) This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. (59) These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. (60) Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? (John 6:51-60)
The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St john, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – http://www.chrysostompress.org/. ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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