What Is It?
By Anthony Casperson

My introduction to RPGs (Role-Playing Games, not to be confused with other acronyms) came in the form of the Nintendo 64’s game Quest 64. While playing it, I learned about this thing called mana. I had no idea what this mana was.

So, I decided to look at the instruction manual for the game to see if I could learn more about what this mana is. Where the word came from. I mean, I’d heard of manna in the bible (notice the double “n”), but not single “n” mana.

The funny thing being that the word manna comes from the Hebrew, meaning “What is it?” And here I was asking of the word mana “What is it?” I learned that it was the pool of resources used to show how much energy my character used when performing miraculous, magical deeds.

Because of this question in common between manna and mana, I think about the combination whenever either one is brought up. So, when I look at the “I Am” statement of Jesus in John 6:25-40, I can’t help myself.

This particular statement, found in verse 35 specifically, is “I am the Bread of Life.”

Jesus had fed 5000 men, plus women and children, with essentially one kid’s lunchable. They followed him across the lake. But Jesus says it was less about them following his teaching and more about them wanting another free lunch.

He then makes a teachable moment out of their hunger. [Maybe I should’ve entitled this “Teachables.”] He looks at them and tells them to not waste all of their energy seeking only after food that can spoil and that quickly loses its efficiency. Rather seek the food that will give you infinite energy, eternal life. That which Jesus says he can give.

The people are like “Cool. A cheat code. Infinite health and energy. How do we get that?” They’re expecting some never-before-heard type of information, a secret to success. But Jesus gives them what seems a simple answer: believe in whom God sent (meaning him).

They look at him like he’s some sort of wizard and ask for a miraculous wonder to prove that they should listen to him. Reminding Jesus that God has previously given food to his people, they speak of manna. They want a free sample, forgetting that they just had one yesterday (or maybe were trying to trick Jesus into giving them another).

Jesus says that God’s bread, his food, comes down from heaven and gives life to all. And this isn’t literal food, but Jesus himself, God enfleshed in humanity, that is the Bread of Life. He’s the food that gives eternal life to all who believe in his words. He’s the one who won’t lose any who come to him. Belief in him is the means to eternal life.

But this isn’t just a cheat code to an unlimited life. It’s hope even in this life.

Manna, in the Old Testament sense, provided livelihood in the desert for the 40 years before they entered the Promised Land. It sustained them day by day in the midst of a ruthless wasteland. It was there when they needed it. When they believed, and when they doubted, the manna returned everyday allowing them to live in this place where few could have.

This is what Jesus means in this “I Am” statement. He’s the life-giver in this life and the one through whom life in the next comes. Even though we might go through times in this life that are as harsh as a desert, he will sustain us. He’s a replenishing hope that gives us the faith to continue in this world of sin, darkness, and despair, in this place where hope is not native.

“I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Let the hope in Jesus nourish you.