Ex. 16:2-15; Introit Ps. 78:24-26 [BCP, 1928]; Ps. 145:10-21; Eph. 4:1-16; John 6:22-35.
Food, “So he commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven. He rained down manna also upon [Israel] for to eat, and gave them food from heaven. So, man did eat angels’ food; for he sent them meat enough.”
Our Introit introduces Jesus’ “Bread of Life” discourse in Capernaum, by calling OT wilderness manna “food of angels”. Jesus recently fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish as Israel was about to celebrate its exodus out of Egypt (Jn. 6:4). Jesus’ abundant provisioning connected him with the manna of YHWH’s Passover.
After feeding the crowd, Jesus provided his Apostles a further glimpse of his glory, by treading-over a chaotic sea, place of darkness, demons, and death, in sight of the stalled boat. As divine wave-walker Jesus betokened coming victory over death and his triumphal rising into the church.
Yet St. Mark reports, the Apostles’ hardness of heart, neither comprehending Jesus’ multiplication of loaves nor his sea trod (Mk. 6:51, 52). So important are these signs that the church interrupts Mark’s Gospel Readings for three Sundays, to drill-down into the Lord’s teaching that he is our Bread of Life out of heaven.
OT manna out of heaven was not of heaven’s substance. Manna was perishable, not intended to last other than day by day; nevertheless, it was a sign of God’s true, substantial Bread to come; the man Jesus Christ for the church’s final journey for passing-over out of death to Life.
In Capernaum’s synagogue Jesus interpreted assigned Scriptures for the day, including the Exodus account of our reading; identifying himself the “Bread of Life” out o heaven; understood as claim to be God’s Torah word.
When the church prays, “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them…” (Proper 6, series B collect), she discerns Jesus, God’s incarnate word, our gospel essence from preaching, teaching, and sacramental delivery.
How then does the church’s Bread of Life, differ from the “angel food” of the OT? If manna sustained Israel into the Promised Land; then Jesus, our true Bread is given to carry us into God’s new Temple dwelling in Jesus’ flesh.
Manna was for the belly, delaying corruption much as one puts off death for a time by eating nutritious meals. Manna sustained Israel until arrival into the Promised Land, itself a type of future restoration to God “which art in heaven”.
Today Jesus compared two breads; OT Torah word with Torah word-flesh (Jn. 1:1) which was the manna promise. Implicitly the comparison inquires, what it means that Torah word more than is written word, abstract wisdom on which to meditate; but a flesh and blood man with whom we relate for knowledge of God. Jesus is a different kind of Bread in whom new Israel partakes by faith.
Perhaps you have heard our Sacrament of the Altar denigrated as “Capernaistic”; deriving from Jesus’ teaching, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). “Capernaistic eating” equates Jesus’ crucified, risen, ascended flesh and blood with ingestion and elimination of ordinary meat and drink; implicit, is the not-so-subtle suggestion, that Eucharist worship is a form of cannibalism.
Unlike manna, Jesus’ sacramental flesh, crucified for the sin of the world and raised for its Life is a new thing; it is incorruptible bread-Flesh of heaven’s Substance.
Jesus’ flesh is of Mary and fully human, which in the resurrection and ascension is united with our heavenly Father, the Author of life in the old and new creation. On Jesus’ death, his blood separated into the earth for its life; with his internment into the ground; incorruptible flesh re-united with imperishable blood.
Now, discern the significance of Jesus’ earlier water-walk; that his body may not be contained by a place of death, to rot as sinful flesh, food for devils. Jesus is a different Bread, incapable of being swallowed-up; rather he trod over and swallowed-up sin, death, and grave.
In Jesus’ own right, and that of the Father and HS, he bodily rose ascending to the power of the Father, for delivery of the HS and sacramental eating to eternal Life. Jesus is new Bread for new Israel; better food than of “angels”.
M. Luther disposes of “Capernaistic eating”; “[Jesus’] flesh is not … fleshly, but spiritual; therefore, it cannot be consumed, digested, and transformed, for it is imperishable as is all that is of the Spirit … Perishable food is transformed into the body which eats it; this Food … transforms the person who eats it into what it is … and makes him … spiritual, alive, and eternal.”
Jesus’ flesh is true human flesh; he is our Bread in the resurrection. What makes our Eucharistic faith-eating “spiritual” is not that we are spiritual; rather it is that Jesus’ flesh is of the Substance of the Father and HS.
In partaking of word and Sacrament, we have God’s victory over sin, Satan, and the grave imparted by Christ’s flesh, remaking us in God’s image and Jesus’ likeness.
St. Paul announced, “the gift of Christ” to the church (Eph. 4:7), his Office of Holy Ministry through men. Through your Pastor’s exercise of word and sacraments, you are brought, not only to repentance and forgiveness; but peace in a united confession.
The catholic faith nourishes for growth from faith to faith in knowledge and understanding of our sacramental Loaf, that with Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Amen.