Drinking Deeply

Sunday, April 15, 2007 at 9:15 PM

Jesus is the Bread of Life

What follows are the notes/outline/sentences for the sermon I delivered today at Sovereign Mercy Church at 5:45pm before a most encouraging group of dear friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course, I didn't read every word, and I added some stuff on the fly too, so it's not entirely accurate. I must say, though I had given sermons before people before, it really felt like there was something different this time. Maybe it was that my intended audience wasn't children, though I don't think I would have said anything different with younger folk. But whatever the case, my heart felt like it was tied by a rubber band to a wooden paddle, so I was more than a little nervous. But anywho here goes -

(Intro)

Context -

John 6 - The passage begins with Jesus feeding the 5000. They all need food and 200 denarii would not be enough (v. 7), but Andrew brings five barley loaves and two fish (v.9) as an act of faith. Jesus then invites them to sit down, gives thanks and distributes the bread to all the people there. There was enough to feed everyone and then in addition to that, there are twelve baskets left over (v.13).

After seeing such a sign, the people declare that Jesus is indeed the Prophet (fulfilling the prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15), and seek to set him up as King.

Jesus withdraws, walks on water, scares and comforts some disciples and shows up on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Of course, wanting food, the crowds follow him and seek more food. Jesus rebukes them and emphasizes that he is greater than Moses. And that brings us to the text I wanted to talk about for today, John 6:34-40. Now, there's a lot here that I could cover, but as this is probably the first sermon I've given before my peers, I figured to try to at least keep it simple. So here we go. I'm reading from the ESV, John 6:34-40

Joh 6:34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
Joh 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Joh 6:36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Joh 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Joh 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Joh 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

Three points -

1) Physical needs are met with spiritual solutions
2) Jesus is our sustenance
3) Trust the Lord

The first point is that our physical needs have spiritual solutions. Look at verse 34

Joh 6:34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

The Jews, as we'll soon see, are still asking for this bread. And certainly it's not a bad request in itself. We pray to God to "give us our daily bread, in the Lord's prayer, and in the Old Testament, God always physically provided. They were hungry and wanted food and Jesus was offering "true bread," from heaven. But notice still that they keep returning to just the physical. Jesus has previously rebuked them in verses 26 and 27 that they were seeking the food that perishes and should instead be seeking the food that does not, which involves believing in him whom God has sent (verse 29). And Jesus says "hey! here I am!" and they're still saying "what? Where's the bread? Give this bread to us."

But Jesus points once again to the spiritual as a solution to their physical problems. Verse 35 -

Joh 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Jesus takes these physical needs and gives us a spiritual solution. He doesn't say "hey, don't worry about hunger, you won't need that in heaven. Don't worry about being thirsty, there's no need." He says "you have a problem, I am the solution." There's nothing wrong with seeing physical problems. We live in a world of sin and a world of depravity. Because of the fall of Adam the ground has been cursed and we're in a world filled with suffering and corruption. We have problems. We have physical problems. We suffer. Some of it because of our sins. Some of it because of the sins of those around us. But with all of these things, we can't look to just the physical, but we have to look to the spiritual too. All these needs, they point us to our ultimate need for Jesus Christ, because only in Him will they be solved. This hunger and thirst that we feel in this life, they will ultimately be satisfied in Jesus Christ.

The answer to our physical problems is spiritual. It's seeing and believing Jesus Christ. Jesus has already pointed to the answer to the physical problem once by producing bread in mass. But Jesus isn't going to sit there and pull bread out of a hat for the rest of our life, Jesus is going to fulfill this hunger once and for all in Himself. He is the one coming down out of heaven. We see this aspect of Jesus' ministry in the way that Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven. Not only did he preach from town to town, but he also physically healed them, pointing them to their ultimate healing in Him and resurrection.

Our physical problems, especially the one of daily life, has a spiritual solution, Jesus Christ.

Now, what does that solution look like, and why? This brings me to my second point, that Jesus is our sustenance.

What does it mean that Jesus is the "bread of life"?

Does it mean that Jesus has a crust, was baked in an oven? Of course not, Jesus uses a figure of speech, an analogy to prove a point.

Of course the statement Jesus being the bread of life, isn't entirely 100% accurate, because bread only sustains the life that is already there, whereas Jesus does not only sustain the life that we have, but He is the source of it as well. But any analogy can be pressed too far, so we should just understand Jesus as referring to himself as the sustenance of our life and not necessarily anything else.

So what does the analogy demonstrate? It's closely related in meaning to the bread that Jesus fed them earlier. What did that bread do? That bread fed them and nourished them. It sustained them for another day. But only a day. In contrast, Jesus points to himself as the food that endures to eternal life. Not only does it sustain us for one day, but for every day after that. Jesus is our sustenance. He nourishes us.

Along with that, notice also, that this means we can't look to anything or anyone else as sustenance for our life, physically or spiritually. We can't look to how much we eat, what sort of meat (or veggies!), how often we pray, to how often we read our Bibles, to how often we go to church. All of these are very good, almost essential, but if we try to do any of these things without coming to Christ and believing in Him, we're going to wither away and die. Our bread of life, our food and drink, is Jesus Christ Himself, is seeing and believing. This is faith, which is the supreme, essential importance of any Christian's life. With our physical life, if we leave faith out of the picture, we will perish and be hungry forever, longing as the rich man did that Lazarus might cool our tongues. With our spiritual life, if we leave faith behind and seek to be perfected by something else, we fall under the condemnation of the Galatians, who were rebuked for not only following a different Gospel, but actually a false Gospel altogether! So let us never forget that Jesus Christ is our bread, and we live by coming to Him, by believing in Him, by having faith in Him. Of course, the topic of "what is faith?" is probably beyond the scope of one single sermon, but let me point you to the resource of the book of John, whose purpose was recorded in John 20:30-31 when he writes -

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Ok, so Jesus is our sustenance. He is the spiritual solution to our physical problem.

And the third point is probably the most challenging for me to unpack, because I'm not entirely sure about it myself. Just as the Apostles were pretty confused when Jesus spoke in figures of speech, it's easy for me to as well. So I'm hoping that the Holy Spirit has been working and been giving me insight, because otherwise all you're going to get here is junk =p.

The third point is to trust in the Lord - And it comes from the next few verses, 36-40.

Joh 6:36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Joh 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Joh 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Joh 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

In verse 36 and on, it seems like things get a little confusing. What does being the bread of life have to do with the unbelief of the Jews? Why all the talk of the Father giving and us coming? What does this have to do with the hungering and thirsting?

So I thought of two possibilities, and I'll give you the one I decided to follow second.

The first possibility is that Jesus is actually explaining himself. Instead of reading John 6:36 as a rebuke against the Jews, it is raising a question - "but how is that possible? How can you possibly feed us that much? And guarantee that we'll never hunger and thirst?"

From this, I guessed that Jesus explains that He is from the Father and obeys every will of the Father. And the Father's will is that he wouldn't lose any, so thus he is able to make the claim that all those that come to Him will never be cast out, because Jesus obeys the Father completely to the end.

That certainly is one possibility, and actually its the first one I thought of, mostly because I didn't understand how else I could fit together the "you don't believe" with the passage that "all that the Father gives to me will come to me."

Unfortunately, as I examined it more, it made the rest of the passage more confusing. Why, if Jesus explained himself in the last few verses, do the Jews object and say "oh, that's not possible!" in verse 41 and 42? And I wasn't really able to think of a satisfactory answer for myself.

So here's the second possibility, and also the one that the commentaries I read all agreed upon. It's that instead of Jesus explaining himself here, he's actually rebuking them. "You see, and yet you still don't believe." And he proceeds to explain why they don't actually believe.

Verse 37 says "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." Instead of accusing them of their hardness of heart (which he does elsewhere), Jesus launches into the underlying cause. He points instead to the will of the Father as the determining cause. If they were given by the Father, they would have come, but instead, they do not come, because they were not given. This is echoed once again in John 10:26 and 27 when he rebukes the Jews, "you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Why doesn't the crowd believe now? Because they are not given by the Father.

And then Jesus proceeds to unpack what he was saying. Whoever comes to Him He will never cast out, why? Because He is doing the will of the Father, that He's not going to lose any of those that are given by the Father, but raise it up on the last day.

So, these Jews, they come for food. They come for drink. Jesus fed them and took care of them, and now they want more.

And instead of yelling at them, as people like me are prone to do, Jesus responds as only he can. He says to them, "come, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes will never hunger and whoever believes will never thirst."

Yet, even with such an abundant promise, we see the crowd has responded with unbelief. But Jesus doesn't plead with them. He doesn't say, "wait wait, let me put it another way, maybe that will convince you." He puts his trust in the sovereign will of His Father. He knows that if they were given to Him by the Father, they would have come, but since they haven't, he sees it as evidence that they are not given by the Father, they are not his own. Those are pretty harsh Words by human standards, but by God's standards, they're perfectly divine.

Now of course, in a sense I'm not entirely sure that we can apply this directly ourselves, after all, Jesus could see into their hearts and we can't. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ to the unbeliever, making an appeal for them to repent, because we don't know if they're one of God's children. But we can take this and apply it in two ways to ourselves, both of them are summarized in my point, "trust the Lord."

1) We trust the Lord when it comes to evangelism. We are not here to make Christianity as appealing as we possibly can so that they can except it. Christianity is already the bread of life, it doesn't get any more appealing than that! But there will be some that will not believe, and this isn't because of any awkwardness in our presentation, but because of they are not given by God. This gives us the strength to continue preaching the Gospel, even when it seems like the whole world is reviling us, even when there aren't any tangible results, because we can trust that God is the one who will call them through our preaching. Those that He gives into the hands of Christ _will_ come, and they will never be cast out.

Thus, we trust the Lord whenever we do anything for Him, simply because we can't know what kind of impact we can have. Jesus knew that he was going to cause a great disturbance when he fed this large crowd. He knew that they were going to ask these questions, and they were not going to respond favorably, but He did it anyways, because He trusted the Lord, that the Lord has given His children into Christ's hands, and there is nothing to worry about.

The second half of this "trust in the Lord" point is to trust the Lord when it comes to evangelizing ourselves. Look at verses 38-40

Joh 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Joh 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Joh 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

The last weekend, FiCS, the fellowship I'm a member of had a retreat with the title "Not my will, but yours, be done" centered about submitting our wills to the will of God. In one of the small group discussions, the question came up, "how do you know what the will of God is?"

Well, of course, that was in another context with a different answer. But here's an answer to that question that we ask in our hearts all the time. And this answer is the one that really has so much more value! It doesn't tell us what God would like us to do, but it tells us what God has done and will do! This is the will of God, that Jesus will lose nothing but raise it up on the last day. This is the Good News! This is the Gospel! If we're given by the Father, then we will come (and we have come!), and those that come will never be cast out. If it were completely in my own hands to stay in God's good graces, it's over. I know my heart, my family knows my heart. I'm still a sinner to the core, and though God has saved me and opened my eyes, my body tends toward sin. But because of God's great mercy, not only does He turn me around and point me in the right direction, but He promises that He will be with me, that I am in the hands of Christ and I will never be lost but will be raised up on the last day. This is the unstoppable will. This is the powerful and almighty will. This is the will of God that He speaks of in Isaiah 46:9-11 -

9 ...I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,'
11calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.

This promise, that we will never be lost, is that kind of will. God has promised it and He will bring it to pass. This is our source of hope in this life. We may stumble and fall as we seek the Lord, but we will never perish. Even when we do fall, by God's grace, He will strengthen us so that we are able to arise again. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. Your salvation isn't dependent upon yourself, but it's dependent upon God!

Now, this isn't an excuse to go and do nothing and be like "well, if God wants me, He's going to come and get me," as one of the processes He "gets" us is through the means that He has given, so we are to continue to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. We are to continue to make our calling and election sure. It's outside the scope of this "sermon" but if you want to know how they fit together, we can talk. My point is that we are to trust the Lord, not only with the salvation of others, but with the salvation of us too. He is our hope when we speak to others, and He is our hope when we talk to ourselves.

So what can we do? What should we do? We should come.

It's always so easy to laugh at these Jews. Didn't they understand what Jesus was talking about? But let's not think that we have it all figured out. We ask God for good grades. We ask God for comfort from this or that. And I've totally done this too. Yet, all the while, all we have to do is open our eyes and see Christ proclaiming from His inspired Word, "stop looking to this world for comfort. Believe here in me, and all these needs will be fulfilled. You will never hunger. You will never thirst. Every tear will be wiped away."

I don't think asking for help with these needs is wrong. But let's not ask a Heavenly God to do only a worldly thing, when He's already provided the Heavenly answer. Turn to Christ and Christ alone for your needs. Don't look to grades, to the comforts of this world, the pleasures of this age. Look to Christ, look at Him as He's revealed Himself in the Bible, believe in Him, His death as punishment for sins, his life as a substitute for ours. And have life.

And in doing so. In your coming. Realize that it isn't you who is somehow coming of our own "free will," but it's actually God who has drawn you. Instead of being offended at this, we ought to rejoice, as only if God has drawn us, only if we are given by the Father, is there that promise. If you want to come on your own terms, then you will never come at all. But come, come on Christ's terms. And rest in the promises of God. He is our hope, our joy, our righteousness, our wisdom. He is the bread of life.

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? These physical needs, these physical problems, they don't have a physical solution. They have a spiritual solution. I guarantee you, you can eat a meal tonight and you'll be hungry tomorrow. But if you come and believe Christ tonight, then in eternity you will never hunger and never thirst, and Christ will raise you up on the last day.

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Blogger Eric said...

One pedagogical word of advice: Be confident. By this, I don't mean to say that I thought you weren't confident with your message. Rather, I mean to say that your tangential remarks about how this was your first time preaching to your peers, or being unsure if you wanted to include the third point, etc. could serve to distract and detract from the message.

For someone listening to you, the moment you demean or disqualify yourself, we listeners don't really have to take you (and what you say) seriously anymore.
And what you have to say is very important.

(My comment is just a rule of thumb for speakers in general. Imagine George Washington giving a State of the Union address--"I'm not really sure if this is where we're going with our country, but here goes: ....")

Sorry, no real theological feedback--only "practical" advice. Hehehe. :-D  

~

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