John 6:22-35 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost / Proper 13—Series B)
“The Bread of Life”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
August 2, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson from John 6:
On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? 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.'” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father 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 said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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.
An atheist had an old tree in his backyard. During a storm the tree fell on his neighbor’s house. The atheist called his insurance company to see if he was covered. His insurance agent was a good, churchgoing man and knew about the atheist’s lack of belief. With this in mind, he gave the following response to the atheist: “If your tree fell over because it was dead, we cannot cover this expense; you will have to pay the repairs on your neighbor’s home yourself. However, if the tree fell because of ‘an act of God’ your insurance will cover it. So, which one do you consider it to be?”
In our Gospel lesson this morning we have Jesus who multiplied the loaves and fish and fed the 5000. The crowd that was fed found Jesus in the village of Capernaum, seeking “an act of God,” not because they believed that Jesus was God, but because they had eaten their fill of the loaves. The people wanted Jesus, at the very least, to do something like it again. The crowd wanted Jesus to satisfy their stomachs. The people had their hearts and eyes turned toward bakeries and granaries, cellars and storerooms, fields, purses, and labor. Their focus was on temporal, earthly bread, and the acquiring of it. How much easier would their life be if Jesus just multiplied loaves and fed them continually by an act of God?
Here is proof that people labor for the things that, in the end, just don’t last. Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Now let’s not misunderstand Jesus. He’s not saying to sit around all day and do nothing. Jesus is not telling you to quit your job and wait for hand-outs. But Jesus does want us to consider the bigger picture. Working to make money to put food on the table and clothes on your back is a worthwhile vocation. Certainly it has to happen in this world. Remember God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3? “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) We understand that punishment pronounced in the Garden alongside Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
“Laboring” for the things of this world is allowing our work to acquire “stuff” to become our obsession, our goal in life, our top priority. “Laboring” for food and clothes and other such things with such desire and passion allows them to become your god. But our Lord says of these things for which we are so tempted to labor and put all our energies toward, “The nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:30-31) In other words, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Jesus declares that He Himself provides you and me what field and purse cannot supply. Christ tears our hearts and eyes away from earthly provisions, pointing us to a different type of food, an invisible food which requires no baker, brewer, or chef. It is a food that only Christ gives. He is the true Chef who supplies us with a different kind of bread from that commonly found in the world. As Luther said, “We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ and not give ourselves to scraping and scratching; we must shun greed.” We must set aside our worldly idols and the passionate striving for perishable things that consumes all our energy. We must not labor for that which is perishable, but for the food that endures to eternal life.
The crowd then asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” They supposed that, since they had to do their everyday work to earn their daily food, they would have to perform tasks specially prescribed by God to receive the food which gave eternal life. They wanted to know, “What are the tasks that will enable us to labor for the food that endures to eternal life? What is to be our new work and obsession?”
The people seemed to have missed it. Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” People don’t labor for this heavenly food. It is a gift. People don’t work for the food that endures to eternal life. It is free—without any strings attached. Of the food Jesus gives He says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
The food that endures to eternal life is not our work. It is not a result of our labor, our actions, our thoughts, our anything. It’s the work of God alone. We call it faith. The work of God equals belief in Jesus, whom the Father sent to be our Savior. It is faith in Jesus that gives you and me the forgiveness of sins which Christ won for us by His sacrificial death on the cross. It is faith that enables us to receive in the bread and the wine the really, truly present body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Wonderfully, marvelously, graciously—where there is the forgiveness of sins there is also eternal life. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 3:23)
How do we get that eternal life? Do we earn it by our actions? Do we win in playing the game of living? Do we work and labor and labor and work hoping somehow to be good enough to get the prize? No, no, and no! This food that endures to eternal life is the work of God! God did everything necessary so that eternal life could be yours and mine. He planned from the beginning to send His only Son into the world to redeem the world and save us all from sin, Satan, and death. His Son, Jesus our Savior, went to the cross. He bore our sins in His body on the tree and gave up His life into death so that we might live forever. When our Lord cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” the work of God was fully complete. Our forgiveness was earned. Our everlasting life was secured. This is the work of God which Jesus gives to you and me! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The gift of saving faith, belief in Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior, is the joy of the Christian. It means that you and I don’t have to anxiously, worriedly, or greedily labor for earthly things. Our trust is directed to God who loves us and provides for us out of His fatherly goodness and mercy for the sake of the merits of Jesus. We are able, by faith, to know that God will provide for us all the things that we daily need in this world because He has given us everything we need beyond this world—eternal life through the forgiveness of our sins. By grace, through faith in Jesus, we are able to seek first the kingdom of God which is ours in Christ because membership in that kingdom, in that eternal life that never perishes, spoils, or fades, is ours as the Lord’s free gift to us.
I wonder what that atheist answered his insurance agent. Did the tree fall because it was dead, or was is an act of God? Either way, we know that it took an act of God to save us—a cross, the Savior’s blood shed for us, a tomb that could not hold the Lord of Life. It took an act of God to rescue and redeem us from sin and death. It was an act of God that gives you and me eternal life through the gift of faith! Look to your Lord and God always with the heart and eyes of faith. Do not labor for that which perishes, but live always by the gift of faith in Jesus—the food that endures to eternal life. Trust that God will provide for you here and now the things of this world that you need. Trust that He has already provided for you eternally by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. Amen.