A Twilight Musing
(See Num. 11:4-10; John 6:30-34, 48-51)
“We have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Num. 11:5b).
When we read in Numbers 11 the account of the Israelites complaining about the miraculous daily manna from heaven, we are amazed at their perversity in rejecting God’s miraculous daily supply of food for them. How could they be so quickly desensitized to this miracle of God’s provision? How could they fail to be thankful, even for the daily task of gathering the manna? But before we are too critical of the Israelites, let us examine how we regard Christ’s body, the symbolic Bread of Heaven, presented to us in the Lord’s Supper.
There are significant associations in John 6 between the manna in the wilderness and Jesus as the Bread of Life. He says that He is “the true bread of heaven,” and that His disciples must eat of His body and drink of His blood. Our partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic implementation of this truth, for in it we are repeatedly refreshed with spiritual food from heaven. Have we become blasé about this regular provision by God for our spiritual nourishment? Are we bored with renewing our thanks for the gifts of God through Christ? And, if so, are we not as profane and sacrilegious as the Israelites were?
We resent it when our children are not thankful for the food and other daily supplies that are so regular and abundant that, like spoiled brats, they take them for granted. It is to guard against that kind of insensitivity that we habitually offer thanks at meal times. One of the traditional names for the Lord’s Supper is Eucharist, meaning “thanksgiving.” Each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we acknowledge and celebrate the supreme gift of Jesus Christ. If in partaking of this feast we are not acutely aware of the faithfulness and sufficiency of God’s gifts, we, too, become petulant children, turning up our noses at the Bread of Heaven, God’s true, life-giving Manna.
When we partake of the bread, representing to us the body of Christ, we affirm the wondrous fact that our death-bound bodies have been transformed into receptacles of the Spirit of Life. We have already died, and the life that we now live is Christ in us. While we reside in this fallen world, His sinless human body becomes ours, too, and the Holy Spirit that dwells in us is our guarantee that we will also share in His resurrected body, after we have “shuffled off this mortal coil.”
We acknowledge our inability to feed ourselves spiritually every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper together, and we admit that we are all needy creatures, not worthy even to have the crumbs from God’s table. But that attitude puts us in the right frame of mind to realize how privileged we are to be invited to eat and drink with Jesus.
The fare God offers here goes beyond even the miraculous manna in the wilderness and water pouring out of a rock. The new person in Christ must be fed by the Holy Spirit, who will produce in him or her the proper characteristics of the healthy new life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). If these qualities are manifested in our lives, we know that we have truly communed together at the Lord’s table.
Image: By Juan de Juanes - , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23065137