Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last!
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last!
Text: John 6:24-35
For centuries people around the globe enjoyed the frothy, filling, and fresh drink that amazingly is produced by cows and many other animals—milk. And for centuries, people enjoyed this creamy beverage fresh from the cow. Then a man came around in the late 1800s by the name of Louis Pasteur. He discovered that fresh, raw milk can be unsafe because it contains so much bacteria. Milk consumption has never been the same as we have learned the benefits of pasteurized milk. Only “da crazy Norderners from Wisconsin and Minnesota” drink unpasteurized milk.
A beautiful, pear-looking fruit called ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. But ackee is banned in the United States because it was discovered that it contains toxins that can cause your blood sugar to plummet to dangerous levels, possibly even leading to fatality.
Sassafras oil is an extract from the roots of the sassafras tree. It was once popular in making tea and root beer. But since it was found to be a potential carcinogen, sassafras oil has been banned since the 1960s. Now the only sassafras I know is my two-year-old daughter.
Over the years, through experience and through testing, we have learned about foods and drinks that might be dangerous to us. Taking in all the evidence of the past, it would be foolish for us to ignore everything we have learned and to consume those foods anyway. We would be disregarding our own health. We would be putting ourselves in the way of danger. We would be knowingly causing ourselves sickness or even death. How foolish that would be.
So today, being wise and astute Christians, we will do well to listen carefully to the words of Jesus and Learn from the Past and Eat Food that Will Last!
The gospel today picks up in the middle of a series of stories. The day before, Jesus miraculously multiplied bread and fish to feed over 5,000 people. The crowds nearly overwhelmed him, trying to force him to be the earthly king they were looking for. That night Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and came to Capernaum. In the morning, when the crowds realized he was gone, they went looking for him. Eventually they also crossed the Sea of Galilee over to Capernaum. That’s where we cut in today. Verse 25: “When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Being God, Jesus knew that they weren’t looking for him for the right reasons. “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Their first sin was that they wanted the wrong thing from Jesus. They wanted bread on their tables and flat-screen TVs hanging in their bedrooms. They wanted earthly things from Jesus, not heavenly things.
Verse 28, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’” Once Jesus redirected them to heavenly things, their second sin was to ask Jesus what they had to do. Was there an entry or membership fee? Did they have to go through spiritual boot camp? Did the tithe hit inflation and rise from 10% to 15%? They wanted a quick and easy answer of what they could do to earn the right to call Jesus their earthly king. They wanted a shortcut to salvation.
Jesus corrected them once more. “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” They didn’t have to do anything. They only needed to believe in him. Then came their third level of sinning: “So they asked him, ‘What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’” Believe in Jesus? The carpenter’s son from Nazareth? Yeah, he did some pretty impressive miracles. But believe in him like he’s from God? What could he do to prove his worth? In the past Moses led them through the desert and bread fell out of the sky for them to eat every day for 40 years. What could Jesus do?
Jesus responded in verse 32, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They still didn’t get it and they still wanted a simple, easy solution: “’Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’” They didn’t understand that the bread of life was standing right before their very eyes.
The Jews looked to Jesus for the wrong reasons. They wanted a shortcut to salvation. They wanted impressive signs and wonders from Jesus so he could earn their faith and trust. All the while they were missing the most simple and important of truths—the bread of life standing before them and offering himself and salvation to them for free!
If you have your service folder open this morning, glance over at the previous page and look at 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 on page 8. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Did you see the natural progression in the lessons today? We saw how God fed the Israelites in the desert with manna, yet they whined and complained. In John we see how the Israelites still wanted those kinds of miracles, but even spiritual food wasn’t good enough for them. So Paul says in the second lesson about the Israelites, and you could include the Jews—these things happened as examples to us! Or maybe you could say it this way. Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last!
Paul is so right! If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! He’s right because we do fall so often in the exact same ways the Jews did. How many times haven’t you thought before, “Jesus, things sure would be easier if I got a promotion. Life sure would be better if I won the lottery. I sure would be happier if I had an extra zero or two (or three) in my bank account.”
Not only do we want these earthly things from Jesus, but then we get a little upset when we don’t get them. “Why do I have to struggle? Why do I have to live paycheck to paycheck? How come I can’t have a mansion and Porsche?” So quickly we lose focus on what truly matters. We want Jesus for earthly things, not heavenly things.
But then when it does come to spiritual things, then we would like the quick and easy route too. “What must we do to do the works God requires,” we also ask. “So how much time do I have to put in? How many Sundays do I have to come to church? You think two out of four is okay? Or just tell me how many events I have to help out at, or how big of a check do I have to write? Just let me know. I’ll do it, because I’m a Christian, and I guess that’s what I have to do.”
So Jesus counsels and redirects us. “No, no, my child. It’s not about works. Simply believe in the one God has sent. Believe in me,” Jesus tenderly says. “You, Jesus? Believe in you? What have you done for me lately? Why should I believe in you? I don’t see you doing much in the world today. I don’t see you flexing any muscles. In fact, I only see Christians and Christianity getting trampled upon. Show me something. Do a little miracle. Fix my bad credit. End a war. Redirect a hurricane. Just do something, Jesus, to prove you are worth my time and my faith.”
Seem too extreme to you? “Alright, Pastor Phil, you made your point. We get a little carried away at times. We lose focus a bit. We look for shortcuts. We want the wrong things out of Jesus. But we’re not that bad.”
Oh, really? We’re not that bad? Paul would tell us, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” So your child is in the club soccer championship game. The championship just happens to be at 10:30 on Sunday morning. Which would you choose? You’ve had a long week. You’re tired. Sunday morning the pillow feels awfully comfortable. Which would you choose? Or your sick. You have the flu really bad. You have to miss on Sunday. Would you even bother to read the sermon on our blog or watch the video. Or would you think, “Phew! At least I had a good excuse this week!”
You walk out of here this morning feeling renewed and rejuvenated. You’re ready to go and ready to refocus. But tomorrow you open the mail to find a huge bill you forgot about and that you can’t possibly afford. Would you rather work a little extra on Sunday morning to feed your family or would you rather take your family to church and feed them the bread of life? Which would you rather have Jesus do? Pay off that big bill or pay for your sins?
Maybe it isn’t so easy. Maybe we don’t stand as firmly as we think. Maybe we have fallen way more than we think. Maybe our lives are constantly focused on the here and now rather than Him and heaven. Maybe we have been stuffing our faces so much with food that spoils that we don’t even realize that we are ignoring the bread of life!
Brothers and sisters, Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last! Learn from the past, and then listen to the words of Jesus. Jesus counsels us to focus on what truly matters: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” We work so hard to put bread on the table and provide for our families. We worry so much about what we have in life. But all of this spoils or breaks or disappears. Jesus counsels us to put our energy and effort into something that matters and lasts. Sure it’s one hour earlier on Sunday, but think how much stronger your faith would be—or your child’s faith would be—if you studied Scripture every Sunday morning in Bible study. We don’t just feed bellies on Wednesday night family night. We feed souls with the bread of life. You might need to wake up 15 minutes early to get your Bible reading in, but I promise your day would be off to a much better start.
Maybe it seems like too much work. There’s too much commitment to Christianity! It costs too much! But again Jesus counsels and comforts us: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” It isn’t really hard or complicated at all. It doesn’t take effort. It doesn’t require money. That’s the beauty of it. The key to salvation and the kingdom of God is as simple as this: believe in Jesus as your Savior from sin.
Maybe still that seems like a little stretch. Believe in Jesus? What has he done for me lately? I have bills to pay. I have bread to put on the table. Show me something, Jesus! Patiently, Jesus comforts and counsels us a third time. You want a sign? How about this (verse 32): “It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
How’s this for a sign? God sent bread down from heaven. He lived among us and walked among us. He taught us the will of God, including these very words this morning. Then he was lifted up to the heavens on a cross and died to erase every doubt, every worry, and every sin we would ever commit. Then he rose from the dead to prove that he had done it. Now that’s a sign!
We search high and low. We toss and turn in bed. We work night and day. All this to find some bread that will make us happy in this crummy life. Learn from the past! Open your eyes and ears to see Jesus and hear him say this morning, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Have you ever wondered why some of the stories of the Bible are in the Bible? Maybe you’ve read or heard something and thought, “Wow! That’s terrible! Why would God want that in the Bible! That’s a horrible, awful story!”
That’s the point. These are all stories that we can learn from. We can look at these stories and relate to them. “Yes, I’ve done that too. Oops, I’ve done even worse than that.” At the same time, we can see God’s persistent patience and grace as he deals with his people. Even to such sinners as those, God offered the bread of life. So also, even to such starving sinners as us, God offers the bread of life for free.
Brothers and sisters, learn from the past. Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus every Sunday. Come to Jesus every day. There you will find food that will never spoil. There you will find bread from heaven. There you will never go hungry. There you will never be thirsty. Eat food that will last. Today and every day, feast on Jesus.
Posted on August 12, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged Bread of Life, Church, Eat, Examples, Food, I AM Statements, I Am the Bread of Life, Jesus, John, John 6, Lessons, Milk, Possessions, Priorities, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.