Bread of Heaven

Our gospel reading this morning comes on the heels of Jesus feeding a multitude, a group of people having followed Jesus seeking physical nourishment. Jesus tells them that the true nourishment, the true bread they seek is not the manna Israel ate in the desert, but rather it's the bread Jesus offers, which brings about eternal life.

Jesus urges the crowd to not waste their time laboring for food that perishes, but to put their energy into gathering up food from the Son of Man, which will endure for all eternity.

Most of us spend the greater part of our days working exclusively for those things, which will quit frankly quickly perish, or will be of little eternal value. Many folks focus their attention on acquiring personal prestige, comfort, wealth for the purpose of self.

Have you ever bought something like a new car and you were very excited. After a while however the new shine wears off and this sparkling car became just another car, nothing special. The joy received was short lived. In other words, the happiness received from the new car, quickly perishes as the shine wears off.

I wonder what our lives would be like if we devoted half the time we spend on acquiring material things to acquiring spiritual things? What would happen if we spent more of our time working on building a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ, thus shoring up our belief in Jesus as the one God sent to us?

For some this type of thinking is a radical idea. Most of us have been taught from day one to be strong, independent, and to work very hard so we could get someplace in life. The thought of us well educated people relying upon God to provide all we need in life, simply doesn't make sense.

Well in the time of Jesus much of what he said didn't make sense to those who insisted upon their own way either. Even after Jesus told the crowd what they must do in order to receive this eternal bread, they still insisted upon their own way of doing things. How many of us do the same thing today?

"Do Not Feed the Bears." This sign is posted in Yellowstone National Park. Most tourists probably assume it's there to protect humans, thinking, "If you're close enough to feed a bear you could be in a position of real danger." But this is actually not true! The sign is posted to protect the bears.

You see each fall, when the feeding tourists have long since departed, the park service must carry off the remains of dead bears who became so dependent on tourists that they were no longer able to gather food for themselves.

If we're not careful, we too can become like the Yellowstone bears if we depend on others to spiritually feed us. Each day we must take the initiative to gather spiritual nutrients for ourselves from God and his Word. As we seek spiritual food here today, so we ought to seek it every day of our lives. As we seek physical food to survive so to do we need to seek spiritual food to survive.

And perhaps some folks do, by reading scripture everyday or by engaging in a devotion every day, or by going to church every Sunday to hear the Word proclaimed. But yet, we still feel unfed.

Well often times the problem is when we're done reading or done with our devotion. or we're leaving church, we don't heed what we learned, we go back to doing things our way. We don't take the spiritual food to heart, it hasn't nourished us, it is only temporarily taken the edge off our hunger pains. Even Jesus' disciples weren't convinced of the idea of spiritual nourishment, as they continually pressed Jesus for a sign, some sort of evidence that would enable them to believe what he was telling them.

Jesus spent a good portion of his ministry doing things for people. He healed those who were sick, fed those who were hungry, and even raised some folks who were dead. And for the Gospel of John, these miracles or signs are much more than just your typical miracles or signs. For John, these signs always point to something far greater, and it's that something greater that the crowd in our passage is not able to perceive. These signs will have no real impact on the lives of those receiving them unless they are able to recognize the eternal gift of God in Jesus Christ.

I mentioned this somewhat last week when speaking of God's presence, but I wonder how many miracles we've missed because our thoughts were not on Jesus Christ, or led to Jesus when the miracle occurred. We just accepted the miracle and moved on, perhaps not even recognizing it was a miracle.

Whether it's the crowd that followed Jesus to Capernaum, or whether it's the crowd that attempts to follow Jesus in the 21st century, the central issue is the same. We endlessly chase after stuff that has no ultimate or final significance in our lives. Our pursuit of all this stuff, all of these things will ultimately lead to an empty life. The only way to have guaranteed satisfaction in ones life is to seek that which provides ultimate satisfaction: Jesus Christ!

John's gospel has one story after another that involves people seeking one thing, only to find something else in the end. Nicodemus came seeking new life, thinking and believing that in order to receive it he had to enter a second time into his mother's womb. The woman at the well was seeking living water, thinking and believing she could find this living water at Jacob's well.

Instant gratification and the acquisition of material wealth may be telltale signs of the times in which we live, but they don't have to be, and should not be, telltale signs of the life of those who follow Jesus Christ.

A worthy life is one that relies solely upon God to provide all that is needed. This is the type of life we are called to live. By our baptism, we are called to trust in the Lord and to believe that it's God who gives life and it's God who sustains our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Several years ago, a gospel singer popularized the message "Taste and See that the Lord is Good" with a hit that stayed at the top of the Gospel charts for many weeks.

This gospel singer's basic message was that the bread, or whatever else the world has to offer, might seem good, but in the final analysis, it's really not. The singer then invites all to taste the everlasting goodness of Jesus Christ, a good ness that will never fade from our mouths.

Thomas Oden writes that in the breaking of the bread during Holy Communion, we are acknowledging the brokenness of Christ's body for us. Oden writes that "when we receive the broken bread, it's as if we're saying; our old idolatrous self-understanding is broken.

The old will, the old Adam, the old self-assertive orientation of life is dead. We are raised anew to participate in the wholeness of new life in Christ." It's the awareness of this new way of life that produces the sweet everlasting taste upon the tongue of believers.

People eat bread to satisfy their physical hunger, which in turn sustains their physical life. Well we need to do the same for our spiritual life as well. We can satisfy our spiritual hunger and sustain our spiritual life only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus called himself the "Bread of Life," and is the bread of heaven.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade