“Bread of Life: Part 1”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
As I was preparing for these last two busy weeks - as some of you are aware my brother was getting married, and is now married, and this last week I was in Texas with Jeff for our NALC Convocation – yes, as I was preparing I decided to go ahead and organize last week’s and this week’s worship services fairly early. And as I perused through the LBW, our green hymnal, between the pages of 26 and 27, in order to understand, according to the lectionary I have been using this last year, what Scriptures I would be working with, I noticed something peculiar. Not just last week, not just today, not just tomorrow but for the entirety and only the entirety of August, all five weeks, the Gospel will be from St. John chapter 6. Fascinating, indeed very fascinating, for the topic in question with regards to John 6, most especially with regards to the select verses of John, is all about the Bread of Life. For this very reason I will be conducting a four part sermon series beginning today focusing solely on the bread of life in accordance with the Gospel.
Now last week was just a foretaste, for technically the feeding of the five thousand is a precursor to the famous “I am the Bread of Life” speech and interaction from Jesus. Thus the reason why I am not doing a five part series beginning last week but rather a four part series beginning today is because of this very fact; the feeding of the five thousand is a precursor. So you got a foretaste where mentioned multiple points last week of which I will be providing again today and for the next several weeks.
Part 1 of the Bread of Life series:
Our Gospel follows directly after Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. After seeing this sign, the crowd wished to make Jesus king, yet Jesus did not come to be a political ruler, of which he would most certainly be under watch and fiercely protected by Soldiers from any and all assailing forces. Jesus came for a much higher purpose, one which would require Him to be seen as an enemy of the state rather its king. So Jesus escaped so as to preserve His intended mission on Earth, to die, not suicidal but as a martyr for all sin. And as He escaped to the other side of the Capernaum Sea, whoa and behold He was followed by the crowd who just would not give up on Him. Though as they followed Him to make Him king, their reasoning was simply because He conducted a miraculous act which satisfied their earthly hunger.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Such harsh words for Jesus is quite plainly telling them that the reason they want to lift Him as king is not because He did a miracle, did the impossible, but because they are hungry; hungry not for higher things, but merely food. Though, on a jovial note, the saying is most definitely true, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
Well the masses are indeed following Jesus and is about to get a heavy lesson. They followed because of their stomach, but at least this allowed Jesus to get to their hearts, to provide for them a much higher thing than mere food that all people need for the sake of life. Yes, Jesus provides something more important than food in of itself. So to these people who worked up a sweat just to catch up with Jesus on the completely opposite side of the sea, Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.”
Are you telling us to starve? Are you mad crazy? We need food to live! Know they were not thinking this, though not yet, simply because Jesus had not yet revealed what he meant by “food that endures to eternal life.” Without context, of which Jesus will soon provide, of course anyone would want this eternal food. If I worked for food that perishes, then in order to stay alive I need to keep on working for food, but if food was to endure for eternal life then all I have to do is work once and I’m good to go. Who wouldn’t want that? And then Jesus tells them, “which the Son of Man will give to you.”
Who? The Son of Man, aka the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke of old and of whom the Jews desperately pray for. And note it does not say “may give to you,” but that, “the Son of Man will give to you.” This is a definitive. There is no possibility here, there is no chance, there is no prerequisite or some needed condition for a controlled cause and effect, but a definitive. Will, not may. He will give to you. This is a promise. He is making a contract, and is holding firm to it, and because God never lies, we know that this promise will indeed be fulfilled.
Yet, this food will not be received by everyone, for though God is making a promise, which implies no conditions, this is not a forced action. The statement says again, “will give to you.” Not forced on you, not thrust on you, not give you any say, it is given. And if anything is given then that must imply that said thing can be rejected. That which is given is a gift, and all gifts can be either received or rejected, thus the same applies to this imperishable food. And if one person rejects this gift then obviously this food will not be received by all.
Those who think with stomachs did not understand Jesus, but rather got all giddy with the notion of receiving this food that sustains life eternal, conveniently missing the statement that this “will” be given, conveniently missing the unconditional promise. For they respond, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” What must we do, what must we do!? Did you not just hear what I said? The Son of Man will give to you! No, for all they heard was, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” Conveniently missing what immediately followed. So, to answer, Jesus tells them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Two things are true here. The first, belief is not an action. The second, you believe because God has worked within you. This is interesting because the crowds are asking what they must do, but Jesus tells them what God will do, and that the only thing needed is faith. Eternal life comes not from works, but only faith which is a work of God.
Of course the crowds, well learned though, are still hung up on works or actions, for they ask, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” What did I just do earlier? Are your brains made of mush? Are you more forgetful than a goldfish? Do you not remember why you followed me across the sea in the first place? I fed five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish! And you have the audacity to ask, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” [Disgruntle noise]. Again, per Jesus’ first sentence in today’s Gospel, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” They didn’t see a sign, if they didn’t see this sign, which directly impacted their bodies, then what sign is going to convince them?
Now I mentioned they were well-learned. Their audacious questioning goes on, “What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’”. They knew scripture, and since the topic was about bread, eternal life, and bread that comes from God, of course they were going to bring up this event, of God providing Manna during the days of Moses. Yet, Jesus saw this coming. Is not God all knowing? And is not Jesus God? Jesus knew they would bring up manna and say, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” And this was His opportunity to open their eyes, to remove the wool that blocked their sight, to reveal the truth. Moses didn’t give that bread, but God the Father did. And he didn’t just gave bread from heaven then, but He is giving the true bread of heaven here and now. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
I don’t think that the crowds totally understood Jesus, for Jesus didn’t say that the bread of God was a “what” but a “who”, it was not a thing but a person. I don’t think they understood, for they said, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Oh he’ll give you this bread always, for Jesus is the Bread of Life, and he is never going away. Whoever comes to Him will not hunger, and whoever believes in Him will never thirst.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, we earthly creatures who thinks with our stomachs and desire to fill our hungry hearts with pleasures and earthly things help guide our hearts to your Son, the bread of Life who was, who is, and who will always be, the only source of true life. In your most blessed name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.