Like all the chapters of all the gospels, the sixth chapter of John proclaims that the Messiah has come, and it is Jesus.
It will help us to understand this chapter if we recall some of the great deeds the Lord did through His prophet Moses in ancient times. Through Moses, the Lord taught His people a lot about how to hope for the Messiah—about how to hope for freedom and salvation.
Let us recall the Exodus of the Israelites. By the power of God, Moses brought plagues upon the Egyptian slave-masters. Then he parted the Red Sea and led the people across it. Later, Moses turned the desert rock into a spring of water.
Moses also demonstrated the power of God when he brought the Law down from Mt. Sinai and then consecrated the people in a covenant of obedience to it.
Now, after their liberation, the Israelites did not enter immediately into the Promised Land. They were free from slavery once they crossed the Red Sea, but they still had a long way to go. The Lord led them along a circuitous route, because the direct path would have brought them face-to-face with fearsome enemies.
So Moses led the people across the desert. Of course, they became very hungry. They were like children in the backseat on a long car trip. They complained. They said they would have been better off if Moses had left them back in Egypt.
But the Lord provided for His petulant children. Moses prayed, and God rained down bread from heaven to feed the people. They called the heavenly bread manna.
The manna sustained the Israelites through their journey in the desert. It fell for them daily, until they finally reached the Jordan River across from the Holy Land. They stopped eating manna then, but they preserved a piece of it in the Ark of the Covenant, which they eventually placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Before he died, Moses prophesied that someday another prophet like him would arise to lead the people.
The moral of the story of the manna is that God provides. He cares for His chosen ones. He cared for them through Moses, His prophet. The faith of the Old Covenant was precisely this: to believe in the God of Moses, to believe in the God Who liberated His people from slavery and then fed them with manna from heaven.
The Law of Moses required the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices in the Temple as peace offerings and offerings for sin. The Law required every family to sacrifice an unblemished lamb at Passover time. The Law of Moses required many observances, and the Jews strove to keep them all—because this was the religion that God had given them.
But something was missing. The Chosen People were still waiting for the prophet Moses had promised. They were awaiting the Messiah. The manna from heaven had gotten them to their earthly homeland. But it had not ended their longing. They were still hungry. They were waiting for bread that would satisfy them forever.
Then Jesus Christ came. The scribes and Pharisees taught as interpreters of Moses. But Christ taught by His own authority. He fed 5,000 men and their families with five loaves and two fish.
It appeared that perhaps the powerful prophet had finally arrived. But the people did not fully understand. Bread for their hungry bellies was NOT, in fact, the Messiah’s true gift. Our bellies will digest every morsel we seek and devour, and we will get hungry again. The people did not understand: the only food that satisfies in every way is God Himself.
Our souls can feast on God’s truth forever and never come to the end of it. Our hearts can love God with all their strength, and His goodness will fulfill us completely and never disappoint.
Jesus Christ is this Bread of Angels, because He is the image of this invisible God. The Messiah is God Himself, become man. He became man to be our true bread from heaven. We feast on Him by believing in Him. By the power of His grace, He will lead us to the banquet where God’s truth and love will satisfy us completely forever.