Manna and Christ

As I mentioned on Monday, I’ve been playing with the imagery of Manna for a bit. Manna–that bread from heaven, given to sustain the people in the wilderness, but only as it was received afresh every day.

Such provision can create problems.

It can create the problem of hoarding–attempting to seize the abundance of the kingdom of God for ourselves because we think that God’s kingdom operates on the same economy of scarcity as our own.

Maggots took care of that problem (Exodus 16:21).

Lambert Lombard, Feeding the Five ThousandAnother problem is that it can become an idol. We create idols when we look to the thing itself rather than to God the giver as the source of life. When we fashion dead idols, the living God is set to the margins and we are poised to reject the new thing that God might do to bring us into God’s life.

This was the problem Jesus encountered.

He could feed people in the wilderness, he could reenact the divine display of abundance in a deserted place. But the problem was that people thought the bread was, itself, the point.

Not so!

The great provision in the wilderness, the great feeding of the people on heavenly bread to sustain them after they had been redeemed, was a bread from heaven that found its counterpart in Jesus who is the Bread of Life.

When we are sure we have our hands around what it looks like for God to act, we are immediately in danger of rejecting the acts of the God who lives and is therefore free to surprise us.

When we are sure of what divine provision looks like, we are in greatest danger of rejecting the provision that is made for us in the crucified and risen Christ.

Before breaking the news that bread in the wilderness was only a shadow of the life he had to offer, Jesus warned his interlocutors:

You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have life–yet it is these that testify about me!

When I say that manna, as a picture of divine provision, should stir us up in faith for today rather than creating a disposition to live on yesterday’s grace, I mean this to point us always to Christ.

We, too, have our scripture that we think gives us life–and too often we use it without reference to the life-giving Christ to whom it refers.

Scripture, that great divine provision, can become an idol.

We, too, have faithful articulations of the truth from our rich tradition–and too often we use these as indicators of faith without reference to the life-giving Christ whose fellowship they promise.

Doctrine, that great divine provision, can become an idol.

If the resurrection means anything, it means that the resurrected Christ stands ready to provide for us afresh today–and warns us that holding too tightly to our expectations and knowledge of how God works are likely to make us the last to see when God is, yet again, at work in our world.

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