Lenten Reflection Day 31: Eat Jesus in the Desert

“Manna From Heaven” by Lori Kirstein

The Day’s Scripture

John 6:56-69 NIV
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”


Jesus gives a hard teaching to his followers in the synagogue and it becomes a pruning moment. Many stopped following him that day. Why?  Because Jesus tells them they need to “eat” him in order to live.  What’s the deal-breaker here?  Is this really about cannibalism?

The parallels in this Gospel narrative to the Manna narrative in Exodus are many.  In Exodus, God provides the people with their (lit) daily physical need for food.  And yet they will grumble and complain again in the desert.  They fail to trust in God’s salvation promises.  Here in John the people also grumble and complain about Jesus because Jesus is essentially saying “I am the manna of life,” (v41-42) and you need to ‘believe’ (pisteuo, ‘trust’) in me and abide in me. This is not just a cognitive ‘belief’ in Jesus but a much deeper and involved ‘trusting’ daily in Jesus promise of Life.  This daily trusting and walking is at the core of following, or discipleship and is the intent behind the theme of ‘abiding’ (meno) throughout John.
It is easy to acknowledge and thank Jesus when things are well, but faith grows in the daily grind.  It happens in the desert when we are thirsty and hungry.  Because it’s in the desert that we are challenged to trust in Jesus and lean into him and abide in him.
What in your life can you hand over to Jesus in trust?  What does it mean for you now to eat Jesus (the manna of life) in the desert?

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