In 1812, the Grim Brothers published the German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. In the story, Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped in a gingerbread house. They leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind them as they walk through the forest. Their intention was for the breadcrumbs to be a trail helping them retrace their return.
Today, a trail of breadcrumbs can refer to a series of connected pieces of information that will help lead to the solution of a problem.
Spiritually, I believe God provided a trail of breadcrumb for the Israelites when they traveled to the Promised Land. In contrast to Hansel and Gretel’s trail, God’s trail led the Israelites forward. They would not return to Egypt.
The breadcrumbs are known as manna. The story is found in Exodus 16. For forty years, God provided breadcrumbs until the Israelites reached the Canaan border. Every morning the ground was covered with thin flakes that looked like white coriander seeds and tasted like wafers made with honey. Psalm 78:24 says, “He (God) rained down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of heaven.”
Each family gathered and prepared their daily share of manna. They ate these breadcrumbs for sustenance during their travels. The sun dried up the remainder of the manna.
God had an additional purpose for His breadcrumbs. Deuteronomy 8:16 says, “He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.”
The Israelites’ breadcrumbs of manna led them along the path to the Promised Land. These crumbs helped them keep moving in step with what God had in mind.
God still gives us spiritual breadcrumbs today. His breadcrumbs are found in scripture. We can feed on His Word every day. He gives us fresh words every morning when we read our Bibles. Like the Israelites, we need His fresh bread daily. God’s Written Word gives us spiritual nourishment, strength and guidance. Psalm 25:4 says, “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me Your paths.”
Breadcrumbs do not end in the Old Testament. Jesus refers to bread when satan tempts Him in the desert. Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.‘”
Jesus says in John 6:31-35, “’Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
Manna was a foreshadow of Jesus. However, Jesus is not just a breadcrumb. He is the whole loaf of bread!
Jesus says in John 6:48-51, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
I wonder if Jesus made breadcrumbs out of bread. There are two accounts in scripture where Jesus feeds a multitude of people. On one occasion He feeds 5000 and 4000 on another. (See Matthew 14:13-21 and Matthew 15:32-39) Both times, Jesus gives thanks and breaks either 5 or 7 loaves of bread. Not only is everyone satisfied, but there are leftovers. That’s a lot of broken bread that may be described as breadcrumbs!
I do not mean it in an irreverent way, when I suggest that we may partake of breadcrumbs today. However, let us remember that broken bread is more than breadcrumbs.
Broken bread is symbolic of Jesus’ dying on the cross. Jesus explained this to His disciples while they were sharing the Passover meal. Luke 22:19 says, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’’”
In I Corinthians 11:17-31, Paul refers to these words of Jesus. He also stresses the holiness of the sacrament of communion. He focuses upon the bread in verses 23 and 24. “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”
When we celebrate the sacrament of holy communion, may the pieces of bread we consume lead us back to Jesus.
One final scripture for us is found in Revelation 2:17. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.”
Manna and broken bread. Let us we remember the meaning of these symbolic breadcrumbs. And then, let’s leave our own spiritual trail of breadcrumbs leading others to the Bread of Life.