When the Israelites were lost and wandering in the desert, they cried out to God to reveal himself as Provider. They cried out for someone to give them the food they so desperately needed, and God did. He gave them Manna – bread that fell from heaven each day, just enough to satisfy their hungry bellies to last until the next morning. If anyone tried to collect extra and keep it for himself, the bread would rot and become inedible. God wanted his people to come to him and trust in his provision on a daily basis: give us today our daily bread.
Jesus says that his coming is God’s ultimate act of provision: “Here is the bread which comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:50-51) The Israelites received bread to eat but it was only a temporary solution. They would still die. Jesus says that he himself is an altogether different kind of bread: he is the bread of life. Manna was just a foretaste; Jesus is the real deal. He is the one God provides to take away our sin, to bring us close to the Father. Jesus will not only give us what we need to last out the day; what he gives endures into eternity. We don't just need to come to him because we are hungry; we need to come to him because we are dying.
We praise God because he is the provider. He is the one who gives us life and sunrise and rain and crops and friends and family and shelter and comfort; he is the one to thank for the warmth of the radiator in this room, for the clothes on my skin, for the steaming cup of tea in my hand, for the laptop on which I’m typing, for the glasses I’m wearing. But his provision extends beyond the physical, beyond our daily needs and longings. God’s greatest act of provision was in giving his Son. In giving the One we most needed.
And it is this One who beckons us to come. Jesus says that he has done what is needed and he invites us to feast on him. This is a peculiar metaphor and it offended most of Jesus’ listeners with its vampire-like connotations. What does it really mean to feast on Jesus? I think it means that Jesus wants relationship. He wants intimacy. He has given all that was needed but he wants us to acknowledge it and be thankful for it. He wants us to delight in what he has bought for us: life with himself and with the Father now and forever. He does not want passive recipients. This morning, he wants us to choose to come to him, to choose to acknowledge him, to say thank you.