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
"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
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:
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
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
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
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