John 6:24-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which[a] comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
It’s great to be back I missed all of you. The harvest was good, and we had dry weather for the most part. After harvest we had a wedding. Thank you to all who came and celebrated with Aaron and Britani, we hope you had a good time. In between there we also had a quick trip to the Denver Museum and I was able to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. It is amazing, if you have the chance to see it you will not be disappointed.
Today’s text is one that is heard often, especially the last verse when we celebrate communion. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life whoever come to me will never be hungry and whoever believe in me will never be thirsty.” Yet what does it really mean to never be hungry and thirsty again? Bread is the staple of life and people have sought to be filled throughout history. In the United States we have done our best to be innovative in how we get our food.
The first take-out came in 1920 from a Chinese Restaurant in Los Angeles. Call in your order and go pick it up. Now fast food industry is $43 billion a year, that’s right with a ‘B’. Drive-thru started in 1948 with In-n-Out and McDonalds came along in 1955. McDonalds was different in the fact that they standardized a prep line for all their food and were able to get the product out the door faster than anybody else.
One of the coolest developments in 1987 was called molecular gastronomy in which a scientist made ice cream using liquid nitrogen and Dippin’ Dots were born. Now foods come pre-cooked and microwaveable vacuum sealed and many other technological advances to create this amazing fast food industry that we have come to expect in our busy lives. In fact, there is even a trend now to go backwards and slow smoke and roast meats like on my Traeger. I made pulled pork and beef brisket while I was on vacation, taking 10 and 12 hours respectively. You can’t get in a hurry when making these BBQ sensations and yes, the wait is worth it.
I am pretty sure this what Jesus was talking about when he and the crowd had quite the lively discussion in Capernaum—or maybe not. We must set this story up just a little bit. Jesus was on the hillside and he fed 5,000 men not including the women and children. He did so with two fish and five loaves of bread. Yet all who were gathered were satisfied or filled depending on the translation you use. And to top it off when they were finished 12 baskets were left over. No coincidence the bread would still feed all the 12 tribes of Israel. Now according to John’s gospel, they wanted to force him to be the king, so he ran away to the hills. The disciples were not sure what to do so they hopped in the boat and were going across the Sea of Galilee when another miracle occurs but just to the disciples. They witness Jesus walking across the sea. Now in this version Peter does not jump out and sink like we are used to hearing instead they were immediately on the shore when Jesus entered the boat.
The next morning the people are looking for Jesus because they still wanted to force him to be their king, and why not the guy just gave them more food than they could hope to buy in a year’s time. The crowds who ate on the hillside decided to go across the sea as well and when they got their they found Jesus. They ask Jesus, “When did you get here?” and right away Jesus know that they are just seeking more food. What else is there? When you witness a miracle and get fed, of course they wanted more. These people were poor and most did not know exactly where their next meal was coming from. The burden of worrying about the vent of eating was removed if they hitched their cart to this horse so to speak. He would feed them, that is all they cared about. But Jesus then says, “You are looking for me not because you saw the signs but because you ate the bread.” The people don’t understand because they don’t recognize that when Jesus says signs, he means a miracle from God. Something bigger and better is standing right before them but they are missing it.
Jesus then tells them that when Moses was in the wilderness the bread called manna that came each morning didn’t come from Moses but from God. Now that bread came every morning and if you tried to horde it and get too much of it, the bread was rotted, no god to eat. The bread came in that way, daily from God to remind them to trust in God every day. The people are like sure we don’t care who makes it Rainbo or Shur-Fine just give us this bread and we will be happy. They want the bread that has sustenance and is chewy made from flour and yeast. Jesus is trying to get them to see beyond themselves.
Jesus says, “The bread of God that comes down from heaven gives life to the world.” They are so chasing the wrong bread now. They don’t understand that what Jesus is saying is that the bread that God sends gives eternal life. They want a sandwich and they don’t care if it is a jam sandwich with two pieces of bread jammed together. They want more food and they ask him for it. Fine whatever you want to call it Jesus just hook us up.
Jesus says, “I Am” another name for God, “the bread of life who ever come to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” So what does it mean for Jesus to give life to the world?
The answer to this question is both universal and very personal, and both levels are equally important. After all, bread is a universal food, available almost everywhere around the world. It is also very personal in the sense that it appears in many different forms in a variety of cultures, from pitas to baguettes to tortillas to Wonder bread.
On a universal level, Jesus is the Word of God in human form. As God’s Word, he existed “in the beginning with God.” John tells us that all things came into being through him, and “what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (1:2-4).
Whether you are pondering the Big Bang or the creation of life on Planet Earth, it is important to realize that Jesus was there. Everything has come into being through him, including life. The apostle Paul says much the same thing in his letter to the Colossians, when he describes Jesus as the firstborn of all creation. “All things have been created through him and for him,” says Paul. “In him all things hold together” (1:15-17).
Jesus was in the beginning with God. In him all things hold together. This is the universal Jesus, the eternal bread that gives life to the world.
But maybe this cosmic Christ is too big for us to swallow in one piece. It is hard to take a bite out of a loaf this large. So it’s better to drop to a much more personal level, focusing on Jesus as the bread of life for each of us. Perhaps that’s why he was born in the little town of Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.”
As our personal bread, Jesus gives us strength to face the challenges of life, both small irritations and huge obstacles. Everyone knows what it feels like to be “hangry” — that is, bad-tempered or irritable as a result of being hungry. A little snack can lift your spirits and give you the strength you need to move ahead. Long-distance runners know that they cannot complete an entire marathon with the fuel they have in their stomachs from breakfast. They have to eat along the way, fueling their muscles with gel-packs and power bars and other carbohydrates.
As the bread of life, Jesus gives us the help we need. He is the Word of God in human form, offering us correction and guidance and forgiveness. He is the bread of life in human form, giving us nourishment and strength and inspiration. Without this living bread, we would quickly wear out and give up in the face of the many challenges of life. Jesus is the One who is with us and available to us, able to satisfy our hunger and our thirst.
The sacrament of the Lord’s supper is celebrated on the first Sunday of the month in many churches, and more frequently in other congregations. It’s no surprise that this meal is offered regularly, because we all need the nourishment that comes from the bread and the cup of communion. When Jesus broke bread at the Last Supper and said, “This is my body that is for you,” he fully expected that his followers would break the bread regularly in remembrance of him (1 Corinthians 11:24). He knew that we would need the bread of life not just once, but over and over again.
Jesus is God’s greatest innovation, the one sent into the world “so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (3:16). When we believe in him and eat the bread of life, we receive the forgiveness and inspiration that we need to face the many challenges of life. Nourished by “the food that endures for eternal life,” we are able to be Christ’s people in the world, and point others toward the peace, justice and salvation of the kingdom of heaven (v. 27).
Over the centuries, there have been many innovations in eating, but all of this earthly food eventually spoils; it is “the food that perishes” (v. 27). None of it endures for eternal life. Only by believing in Jesus can we receive the bread of God which gives life to the world, both universally and personally.
Today, we join the crowd around Jesus in saying, “Sir, give us this bread always” (v. 34). And we don’t have to use a telephone or an app to make the request. Amen.