Bread was one of the simplest and most common kinds of food in the Ancient Near East. Making bread is a relatively simple process—mix a little bit of water and oil into some flour, knead it into dough, then bake it over a fire, on a baking stone, or in an oven. These ingredients were readily available and affordable, so bread was easy to make. For these reasons, bread was a staple in the diets of people from all walks of life.
Because bread was so common, it became a popular spiritual symbol. In the Old Testament, God used it as a spiritual symbol to teach some truths to His people, the Israelites. The Jewish holiday of Passover, which serves as a reminder of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, uses unleavened bread because the Israelites left quickly so the bread didn’t have time to rise (Exodus 12). And when the Israelites wandered the desert wilderness for 40 years under the direction of God’s servant Moses, God provided “bread from heaven” for the Israelites to eat, which they called “Manna” (Exodus 16). So, God instituted bread as a symbol for His divine deliverance and sustenance for His people.
Jesus revealed an even deeper spiritual meaning of bread. As the Gospel of John says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35, NKJV). When Jesus spoke these words, his Jewish audience remembered the Passover bread and the bread from heaven that God provided their ancestors in the wilderness. They understood the spiritual symbolism of God’s provision and sustenance, as well as the connection with God’s servant Moses. They understood Jesus’ claim that this symbol of deliverance and sustenance pointed to Jesus, elevating him above Moses and equating Him with God (John 6).
Passover celebrates when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt. The bread from heaven, or Manna, reminds us how God sustained the Israelites in the desert wilderness. These historical events point to Jesus–God the Son–who delivers us from sin and sustains us in our Christian faith as we live in this unbelieving world. This is just another example of how God’s Word, our spiritual “bread,” points to our Savior and Sustainer, our “bread of life,” Jesus Christ.
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