Eat the Bread of Life
12 Sunday after Pentecost
Eat the Bread of Life
Text: John 6:41-51
Why does it always seem to be the case that you need a vacation from your vacation? Unless you are sitting on a beach doing absolutely nothing, vacations can be filled with discomfort, stress, and anxiety. This is especially true when you are traveling with children.
It seemed like the same thing happened every single day for the last two weeks. We would be out and about—seeing family and friends, doing something fun, site-seeing—and all of sudden it started up again. Whining. It was inevitable. Every single day. “I’m tired. My feet hurt. I don’t want to do this anymore. He’s touching me.” Then it became more specific whining. “I’m hungry. I don’t want that snack. I want cotton candy. I’m hungry.”
But parents know well the miraculous magic that happens. You finally sit down. You have some lunch or supper. You fill those bellies, and, Voila! The complaining is all gone. They’re happy and ready to conquer the world again. (And coincidentally, that exact scenario was going down in the chair right next to me as I wrote this sermon.) It’s amazing how it happens, but it’s very simple to understand. All that whining, complaining, and grumbling comes from just one little thing—hunger.
It sounds silly when we talk about children (and it is certainly super annoying), but how often do you find yourself in the very same situation? You’re whining. You’re complaining. You’re grumbling. All because you are hungry.
But I’m not talking about food. I’m talking about Jesus. For one reason or another, you’ve gone without food for a while. Not just snacks. Meals too. You’re nearly starving yourself spiritually because you have been so distant from Jesus and his Word. But lo and behold, what happens? You start grumbling. You whine that the problems in your life never seem to end. You complain that God doesn’t seem to be helping you. You grumble because you are not very happy, but you can’t seem to put your finger on it. But like a child walking through the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago all day long, what you don’t realize is that you are grumbling because you are hungry—hungry for Jesus.
That certainly happened in the gospel today. We’ve been tracking this story for several weeks now. The crowds had been gathering because of all the miracles Jesus had done. They even followed Jesus and the disciples when they went to a quiet place for some rest. But Jesus had compassion on the crowds and began to teach them. Then when everyone’s tummy started rumbling, Jesus had more compassion and used the opportunity of physical hunger to point to himself as the promised Savior when he fed a crowd of more than 5,000 people.
The next day the crowds chased after Jesus some more. Now they really wanted to follow him because he had fixed their problems and filled their bellies. But last week Jesus said they should not look for physical bread from him. They should seek bread that lasts. And when they asked for that bread, not understanding what it was, Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life . . . [who] came down from heaven.”
That’s where we pick up today. Here’s what happened: “At this the Jews began to grumble at him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
And so the grumbling began. What Jesus said made no sense to them. How could Jesus be bread? He was a human being standing right in front of them! How could Jesus have come down from heaven? They knew his parents, Joseph and Mary! How could this bread be better? Their forefathers had eaten manna in the wilderness with Moses!
You see, they had expected something different from Jesus. They also wanted something different from Jesus. They did not expect him to say he is the divine Savior from heaven. They wanted him to say that he would keeping healing and helping. They wanted him to say that he would rule and reign here on the earth. But all along, they were grumbling because they were missing the very thing standing in front of them—Jesus, the bread of life. They were hungry, but they grumbled because they didn’t take time to Eat the Bread of Life.
Thousands of miles and thousands of years separate us from that crowd of Jews that day, and yet our hungry, grumbling hearts make us kindred spirits with that crowd. Isn’t this what we also do?
Jesus says something unexpected and it throws us for a loop. “What do you mean we should set our eyes on heavenly things, Jesus? That’s not going to pay the bills! How am I not supposed to worry about tomorrow, Jesus? Don’t you know all the things I have going on? How can I place all my trust in you, Jesus? I’ve never even met you!” So we grumble.
At other times, like that crowd of Jews or like a tired child in the middle of the day, we simply grumble because we are stubborn. “I don’t want that. I want something else! I don’t want eternal peace. I want financial peace! I don’t want spiritual joy. I want joy from being able to relax for once! I don’t want to give up time and treasures for Jesus. I want to enjoy the things I want to enjoy!” So we grumble some more.
This is all about as silly as a child throwing a tantrum because he is so hungry but then demanding only cotton candy and chocolate when a perfectly good, healthy, and filling sandwich is sitting right in front of him. It’s silly of us, and yet most certainly sinful. Like the crowd of Jews in the story, we are grumbling while missing the very thing standing right in front of us. We are grumbling because we aren’t taking time to Eat the Bread of Life.
Our Savior is so gentle and patient with those who have stubborn hearts, grumbling minds, and mumbling mouths! He certainly showed his gentle and patient love in the gospel today.
First Jesus pointed out their problem point-blank, “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus said. Sometimes Jesus simply needs to call a spade a spade and tell us just what we are doing wrong. And we need to listen, because Jesus is trying to tell us how much we need him and how patiently the Father is calling to us. Here’s what he said to the crowd starting in verse 44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.”
No one goes to Jesus for the right reason on their own. No one can claim the credit for coming to Christ. Rather it is the Father who draws us in. The Scriptures say, “They will all be taught by God.” If we would just listen to what the Father says in the Scriptures and learn from him, we will be brought closer to Christ. And if we listen to the Father and our led by him to his Son Jesus, we can know that we will be raised to life on the Last Day.
Jesus explains why. Verses 46-47: “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” No one can get to God without the one who comes from God. That’s Jesus. The Son was sent by his Father to redeem the fallen world from their sin. So whoever believes in the one with all the credibility and credentials—that’s Jesus—has eternal life.
Much of the crowd didn’t get it that day, and sometimes we don’t either. We shouldn’t be looking for something else from Jesus. We shouldn’t be wanting something else from Jesus. We shouldn’t grumble and complain about Jesus because he isn’t meeting our expectations. Jesus has everything and more to offer us that we could ever need and want. He gives us everlasting life.
That’s why Jesus is the bread of life, and that’s the whole point of what he is saying today. Listen to his conclusion in verse 48 and following: “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
The Jews thought they had something better. They had their culture and heritage. They had the history of their forefathers eating manna. They followed the laws of Moses. But yet all their forefathers who filled their bellies with manna or any other worldly thing or desire—they all died. So why wouldn’t they want Jesus, the bread of life that comes down from heaven and gives eternal life?
And why wouldn’t we? We act like we know what is best. We know how to make it through this life. We pay all our bills. We save for the future. We take care of our children and give them the best we can. We try to make as many special memories and moments along the way as we can. That’s what life is about, right?
But when those earthly things get a wrench thrown in the mix, that’s when we begin to grumble. Why am I always sick? Why can’t I get ahead in life? Why did that person have to die? Why did I have to die?
Jesus would tell us the same thing he told the crowd back then. Like a tired child whining in the middle of the day, we are grumbling and complaining because we are hungry. We’re starving spiritually. We need to fill up on Jesus, the bead of life, because Jesus says, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
God is so gentle and patient in his love for us! Our heavenly Father calls us to himself through his Word and draws us to his Son Jesus. In merciful forgiveness he tells us to stop grumbling and instead to see his Son as our loving Savior who gave his life for this world. He lovingly invites us to Eat the Bread of Life, bread that gives us everlasting life. How full and how satisfied we will be when we Eat the Bread of Life.
You know it’s amazing when you are traveling and vacationing with kids how much age and maturity make a difference. Babies cry and scream when they are hungry because they don’t know what else to do. Toddlers whine and fuss and throw tantrums. Younger kids whine and complain but throw less fits. They know they need food but they aren’t quite mature enough to understand they need quality food. Teens tend to whine much less. They have begun to understand how important food is. They know how to communicate when they are hungry. They likely are mature enough to know what kind of food is good for them. By the time you are an adult, you are old enough and mature enough not only to feed yourself the proper food at the proper time, but even feed other younger and less mature people who are with you.
Isn’t the same true with your faith? If you are very spiritually immature, you grumble and complain a lot. You become frustrated with life and frustrated with God, even frustrated with fellow Christians. But then, in incredible immaturity, sometimes we even compound our problems by staying away from the bread of life, thinking that the junk food of this world is better.
Be spiritually mature eaters. Know the food that is good for you—Jesus the bread of life. Know how important it is to regularly eat that bread of life. Know that if you have a tummy ache from life, the bread of life will always make it better.
Be a spiritually mature eater. Be in worship. Regularly. Be at Bible study. Come to CTK Bible Study Week this week. Read your Bible at home. Eat the Bread of Life. Take in Jesus, eat to your fill, and you will always be completely satisfied.
Posted on August 17, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged Bread, Bread of Life, Church, Complaining, Grumbling, Hungry, Jesus, John, John 6, Satisfied, Sermons, Spiritual Food, Whining. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.