32.Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses gave you not bread from heaven. Christ appears to contradict what was quoted from the psalm, but he speaks only by comparison. The manna מן is called the bread of heaven, but it is for the nourishment of the body; but the bread which ought truly and properly to be reckoned heavenly, is that which gives spiritual nourishment to the soul. Christ therefore makes a contrast here between the world and heaven, because we ought not to seek the incorruptible life but in the kingdom of heaven. In this passage, truth is not contrasted with shadows, as is often done elsewhere; but Christ considers what is thetrue life of man, or, in other words, what it is that makes him different from brute beasts, and excellent among the creatures.
My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. When he adds these words, the meaning is,” The manna which Moses gave to your fathers did not bring heavenly life, but now heavenly life is truly exhibited to you.” True, it is the Father whom he calls the giver of this bread, but he means that it is given by his own hand. Thus the contrast relates, not to Moses and God, but to Moses and Christ. Now, Christ represents his Father rather than himself as the Author of this gift, in order to procure for himself deeper reverence; as if he had said, “Acknowledge me to be the minister of God, by whose hands he wishes to feed you to eternal life.” But, again, this appears to be inconsistent with the doctrine of Paul, who calls the manna — spiritual food, (1 Corinthians 10:3.) I reply, Christ speaks according to the capacity of those with whom he has to deal, and this is not uncommon in Scripture. We see how variously Paul speaks about circumcision. When he writes about the ordinance, he calls it the seal of faith, (Romans 4:11;) but when he has to contend with false apostles, he calls it rather a seal of cursing, and that by taking it with the qualities which they ascribed to it, and according to their opinion. (143) Let us consider what was the objection made against Christ, namely, that he did not prove himself to be the Messiah, if he did not supply his followers with bodily food. Accordingly, he does not inquire what it was that was prefigured by the manna, but maintains that the bread with which Moses fed their bellies was not true bread.