February 22, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
“Fuel for Living”
Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Last week we read from the Old Testament book of Exodus – and we listened as God told Moses who God is. Do you remember what God said when Moses asked Him, “Who do I tell people You are?” God said, “Tell them ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”
Today, and for the next several weeks we will be in the New Testament Gospel according to John – because the Apostle John records some fascinating ways Jesus also answers Moses’ question.
Let me set the stage for today’s passage from John 6. By this time, Jesus has gathered His 12 Apostles and has started His ministry of healing and teaching. A quick list of some miracles:
• He turns water into wine at a wedding – Who is Jesus? The wine-maker (and the best party invite ever!)
• He healed the son of a royal nobleman – Who is Jesus? The doctor to the elite
• He healed an invalid man who had been waiting for a miraculous healing for 38 years – Who is Jesus? The miracle man for the underprivileged
• He feeds 5,000+ people with five barley loaves of bread and two fish – Who is Jesus? The greatest lunch-lady of all time!
• He walks on water to catch up to His Apostles – Who is Jesus? Some kind of metaphysicist beyond imagination
But when we get to today’s passage Jesus gives His listeners a very different answer. From John 6:22-34 we see the crowd searching for Jesus and when they find Him Jesus says, “The only reason you’re looking for me is because I fed you yesterday!” Then He says, “Don’t be satisfied with a full belly – food that perishes – but be fed by the food that endures to eternal life – that which God the Father gives through His Son!”
The crowd’s response, oddly enough, was, “So tell us what we have to do to get credit from God.”
Jesus answered, “This is the work of God – this is what you have to do, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Now the crowd gets skeptical, as if that list of miraculous healings, feedings, wine-making and water-walking aren’t enough, they say, “So who are You that we should believe You? Moses gave our ancestors manna from heaven. What can You do?”
Now comes the teaching moment. Jesus told them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven, but my Father gives the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” – This is like when we hear of an answered prayer and we say, with good, faithful intentions, “See? Prayer works!” Jesus says, “It’s good that you prayed, but it is God who works!” Moses was a good man, a faithful leader, but it was God who rescued the Israelites from Egypt, and it was God who sent the manna from heaven!
So the people rightly say, “Sir, give us this bread always.” And in John 6:35-59 we hear Jesus’ response …. —-
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. … 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.
Jesus did not claim water-walking winner, lunch-lady superlative, miracle-man, physician for the rich and famous, or even ultimate frat-boy status; what He claimed was simple barley loaf – he wasn’t even claiming the meat of the sandwich – He was the bread that holds the insides together!
Wait: He said, “I am the Bread of Life!” Let’s explore that a little deeper.
Out of curiosity, on my Microsoft Word I looked for synonyms for “bread” to see other English ways to maybe translate the word Jesus used in Greek. What do you think the top synonyms for “bread” were? *cash *dough (double entendre) *currency *bucks – all related to money, slang for moolah
Which got me to thinking – if Jesus spoke some kind of urban English or mafia slang, what might He have been saying? In I Timothy 6, Paul teaches us that “the love of money is the root of all evil” – so maybe Jesus was saying that He was, in fact, the opposite of that – He is the bread of Life, of love, of living.
Or maybe He was connecting in a deeper way to His audience.
He had just fed 5,000 of them with barley bread – sustained them for a few hours; He was just compared to manna from heaven – sustained the Israelites for one-day-at-a-time; now Jesus says He is the Bread of Life – the food of eternity – sustenance for-ever – fuel for faithful living!
These were all Jewish people here – good Jews, we believe; faithful. My favorite Jew of all time is Tevye from The Fiddler on the Roof, who sings, “If I were a rich man …. If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.”
That song culminates with Tevye wishing he could spend his whole life reading the Bible. Why? Because for Jews, the Bible was known as the Bread of Life – the Nourishment of Life – the Fuel for Living.
Jesus said in John 4, “I have food you don’t know about – doing the will of God”; and in Matthew 4, while Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, the devil tempts Him to turn the stones into bread and Jesus tells the devil, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The Jews Jesus was talking to would have had an immediate connection from “Bread of Life” to the Torah, the Bible, God’s Word.
In what ways is Jesus the Bread of Life?
He is the Word of God! John 1 opens with the poetic truth that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!” And a few verses later this “Word” is identified as Jesus. He is the Living Word – that to which the written Word, the Bible, reveals!
Jesus reveals His Father to the world which He so loves He gave His only begotten Son.
In what ways is Jesus the Bread if Life for you?
Do you receive spiritual nourishment from Him every day? He’s available – He’s there – He’s waiting.
I think it was DL Moody who once said something about how we cannot drink enough water in one hour to keep us hydrated for a whole week; we cannot eat enough food today to nourish us for seven days; we need to eat and to drink every day, or we become weak and sick.
Jesus cannot be the Bread of Life for us if we only nibble on Him for a few minutes at church.
Toward the end of today’s passage Jesus tells these Jews, and He tells us, a very hard saying. Listen again to what He says here: 53 “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
What do you think Jesus meant? These sound like Holy-Communion-words, don’t they? But Jesus said them 7 chapters before His last supper, at least one year before He broke that bread and poured that cup.
I think He is saying that we need Him every day, like the great old hymn says, “I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.”
Let’s pray: Dear God, we know that You give us our daily bread and continually offer the bread of life. You are our only reliable source for all that we need, but our memory is short, and we easily forget. Teach us what it means to depend on You daily, and help us remember to pray for one another until we are together again. We ask all this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Fuquay, Rob; The God we Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus (Adult Group Guide); Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 11-15.