John 6:25-35 (Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 13—Series B)
“The Bread of God”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
August 5, 2018
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from the Gospel lesson recorded in John 6, the beginning of Jesus’ “Bread of Life Discourse”:
25And when they found [Jesus] on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, you are not seeking me because you saw signs but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied. 27Stop working for the food that perishes but receive the food that remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for it is upon this one that God the Father has set his seal. 28Then they said to him, “What shall we do in order that we should be working the works of God?” 29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in that one whom he has sent.” 30Then they said to him, “So what sign do you do so that we might see and believe you? What are you going to work? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness just as it stands written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” 32Then Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread from heaven. Rather, my Father gives you the bread from heaven, that this, the true bread. 33For the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world, that bread is the Bread of God.” 34So they said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus said to them, “I Am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me shall surely not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall surely never thirst.”
Have you ever sought out Jesus for the wrong reason? Have you sought out Jesus, not because of who He is—true God and true Man, the Savior—but because of what you can get from Him?
There are times when even Christians look to Jesus as “the quick fix” to their problems. They will look to Jesus as the divine “wish-granter.” Jesus, for some, becomes that genie in a bottle that you can rub when you have a need or a want or a problem that needs to be dealt with and fixed. After Jesus fed the 5000, the crowd wanted to take Jesus “by force to make him king” (John 6:15). This wasn’t in response to Jesus’ politics or His campaign promises. The simple reason to make Jesus king is so that He can provide them with what they want and need. Jesus would be for them their “Bread King.” When they noticed that the disciples had gone in the boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, they couldn’t figure out how Jesus got there because He hadn’t gotten in a boat, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus cuts right to the point, “Amen, amen I say to you, you are not seeking me because you saw signs but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied.”
The Jews in John 6 were seeking Jesus for the wrong reason—not because of who He is, but because of what they could get from Him—bread, bread, and more bread. He’d provide food for them forever and they wouldn’t have to work a lick for it. Jesus, the quick fix; Jesus, the Bread King; Jesus, the wish-granter; Jesus, the greatest labor-saving device ever! Do not people today still seek after Jesus with this in mind? “What can I get from Him that will benefit me here and now?” A good job, lots of money, a nice home, a cool car, the latest in mobile tech, anything that will give me an edge over other people in this life. It’s all about the physical, the here-and-now, what I can get to get ahead in this world—bread, bread, and more bread—Jesus, the quick fix, the wish-granter, the Bread King who gives us “stuff.”
So Jesus, what do we have to do so that you’ll take care of us with what we want and need right now? Or, as Jesus was asked, “What shall we do in order that we should be working the works of God?” The Lord had told them, “Stop working for the food that perishes but receive the food that remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for it is upon this one that God the Father has set his seal.” If the Son of Man is going to give it, then, the mentality was, we’ve got to earn it. To a first century Jew, the Torah was the “Bread of Life.” Doing the Law was the way to get right with God and to please Him so that He will do for His people what they need. “What works should we do? You tell us what you want as a new Torah and we’ll do it to make you happy so that you can make us happy.”
But you, I, and all people have a much more desperate need. We need the true Bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Moses and the people of Israel ate the manna in the wilderness as we heard from Exodus 16 this morning. God provided bread from heaven for them each morning. He took care of their need for food in the evening by sending them quail. Yet, the Israelites who ate the manna in the wilderness died. The physical provision of God did not save them from their sins. It was for their life in this world alone. The very fact of death reveals the desperate need of all humanity for salvation from sin because sin is the cause of death. Death is the punishment for sin. If you do, think, act, or speak contrary to God’s Word, you sin. If you sin, you will die both physically and spiritually; temporal and eternal death will be your end.
The need for rescue from sin and death cannot be met by physical things like food and money. The need for rescue from sin and death cannot be met by how a person lives and behaves, by what they do or not do. “What shall we do in order that we should be working the works of God?” Jesus responds, “This is the work of God, that you believe in that one whom He has sent.” God does a work that meets our desperate need for forgiveness and eternal life. The Father sends His Son to be the very Bread who comes down from heaven to give eternal life to the fullest.
It was this Son of God who descended from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness. It was this Son as the pre-incarnate Christ who went ahead of the Israelites in the pillar of cloud and fire as the angel of the Lord and led them out of Egypt, through the sea, through the wilderness, into the land of promise. Christ has done this coming down to bring life and forgiveness to God’s people before, and not He has done it climatically in the Incarnation. God the Son has taken to Himself a true human body and soul so that He might give life to the whole world, defeating death through the forgiveness of sins.
What’s important regarding the need of humanity for salvation from sin and death? Not the manna, not the loaves but the true Bread of Life from heaven that gives life to the world who is Jesus Himself. And what Jesus gives is Himself for the life of the world (John 6:51). He is nailed to a cross bearing the sins of ancient Israel, the sins of the whole world, yours and mine. He suffers pain and hunger. He cries out, “I thirst.” God-forsaken and damned, Jesus bleeds and all people are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Forgiveness is purchased for all. Eternal life is won for all. Jesus has come down from heaven in human flesh, has suffered, died, and is risen again so that the work of God might be done in you.
It’s not, “What must I do?” It is the work of God the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts so that we believe in Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Savior, and “that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31 ESV). God the Holy Spirit works this saving faith so that we are able to receive the saving fruits of Jesus’ cross—forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The Father gives you and me the true Bread from heaven by grace through faith. He grants us to know and to believe in Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, who lived, suffered, died, rose again, ascended, and will come again, as the only Way, Truth, and Life.
Where do we receive this Bread of Life today? In the places where God the Holy Spirit has promised to deliver faith, forgiveness, and eternal life to us, in the places where we receive the food that remains to eternal life. We receive the Bread of Life Himself as He comes to us through the Spirit in the spoken Word, in the water of Baptism, and in the bread and wine in His Supper. We believe and receive Jesus and partake of Him by faith as He comes to us in Word and Sacrament. Receiving Jesus by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit through His Means meets our desperate hunger and thirst for forgiveness and eternal life. The very Bread of God Himself promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6 ESV). Those who believe in Jesus by faith as Lord and Savior shall surely not hunger nor ever thirst for the forgiveness, life, and salvation that Christ gives through His cross and resurrection.
What’s more, God in His grace continues to provide for our physical needs as well. Having met our greatest need for eternal life, our Father gives us what we need to support this body and life as well. Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:31-33 ESV).
All that we need to support life in this world the Father gives to us by grace: “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have” (Small Catechism, Explanation to the First Article). By that same gracious love and mercy, the Father sent the Son who came down from heaven as the Bread of Life to give life to the world in the forgiveness of sins. By the work of God the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament, believe, receive, and partake of Jesus by faith as He comes to you with forgiveness, salvation, and life everlasting. You need is met. You are filled to the full in Him. Amen.