Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. -- Psalm 78:25
Do you remember The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston? I probably watched it just about every Easter Sunday as a child. As the story goes, the Jewish people labored under the oppression of the Egyptians until God sent them a deliverer. There were plagues and miracles that culminated with the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian Army. At the end of the movie, Moses was an old man and the Jewish people were set to enter the Promised Land -- and so the movie ended on a high note.
The Ten Commandments was loosely based on the second book of the Bible called Exodus, which means departure. Exodus is about the departure of the Jews from Egypt that took place roughly 1400 years before Christ. Obviously, you can't squeeze everything into a single movie, so they missed some key events from Scripture. What we didn't see depicted in the movie were the years that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. Because of sin and unbelief, God did not allow the older generation to enter the Promised Land. Consequently, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years until that generation died off.
So how did Israel survive as a nation in the harsh environment of a Middle Eastern desert for that length of time? Because God sustained and nourished them supernaturally with manna every morning. Manna was also known as bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4). Eventually, Israel would grow tired of manna and they would start to grumble and complain against God because of it (Numbers 11:4-6).
In addition to manna, bread is a recurring theme in Scripture, and it also played a central role in the Passover and Temple ceremonies. During the time of Christ, every good Jew would have been very familiar with these things.
It is into that setting Jesus came and claimed to be the true Bread from Heaven that gives eternal life (John 6:32-35). In fact, the very reason God gave the children of Israel manna in the first place was to foreshadow the coming of Jesus their Messiah, who would deliver them from their sins (John 6:47-51).
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." -- John 6:27 ESV
Manna serves as a type and shadow. Simply put, a type and shadow is anything from the Old Testament that points us to Christ. It might come in the form of a person, a thing, a ceremony or even an event. And God has given us many types and shadows (or "pictures") that point us to Christ.
Even though they are separated by roughly 1400 years, notice how closely the events surrounding the manna in the Old Testament, and the events from John 6 in the New testament parallel each other. For example, in the Old Testament, when God miraculously provided manna for Israel, they grumbled and complained. Likewise, in John 6, Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people with the loaves and fishes, declared Himself to be the true bread from heaven, and they grumbled and complained once again (John 6:60-66). They grumbled against God's provision in the Old Testament, and they grumbled against Christ, the true bread from heaven, in the New Testament -- thus fulfilling the type and shadow.
Jesus told us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread". Even today, bread is a type and shadow for a far greater spiritual reality that is intended to point us to Christ. Just as bread will sustain and nourish our physical bodies, Jesus is the true and only bread from heaven that can give us spiritual life and nourish our souls. If bread for the body is important, bread for the soul is of ultimate importance. Without bread or sustenance, the body will die; and apart from Christ, there is no life for the soul. In Christ we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:27-28). Not only are we dependent upon God for our daily physical sustenance, but for our daily spiritual sustenance as well. Christ pictured as the bread of life, is a recurring theme throughout Scripture.