“The Bread of Life”
John 6:24-35, August 1st, 2021
Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words of ancient scripture from the gospel according to John, chapter six, verses twenty-five thru thirty-five.”
24So 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. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26Jesus 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. 27Do 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.”
28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So 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? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Then 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. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus 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.
“Having listened with our ears, let us now open our hearts to the full meaning of this scripture lesson. In so doing we shall uncover its meaning for us in this present time.”
“The Bread of Life”
Last week, we had Jesus feeding food, dried fish, and unleavened bread, to a crowd of over five thousand. We are told they ate their fill. Almost as an after-thought… did we note that people did not travel to simply have Jesus feed them food to nourish their bodies. No, they came for some type of ‘spiritual food’. So, what is this that Jesus speaks of in today’s lesson? In verse thirty-two, “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.” /John 6:32/ Today, we shall share at the communion table of the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Some say this is just a symbolic remembrance of the event. Others tell us we shall eat of the flesh and blood of Christ when our pastor performs his priestly duties. And there is a third belief, with a great deal of common understanding amongst many protestant denominations, including the United Church of Christ. We believe that when the bread and table drink are blessed by a properly Ordained Pastor, the ‘Living Holy Spirit’ comes and resides with everyone who eats at this table. We do this fully believing that the Holy Spirit is indeed one of the three persons in the Holy Trinity, thus it is the Living God that is with us at this holy communion meal. As stated in the Apostle Paul’s first Letter to the church in Corinth: “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” /1 Corinthians 11:23-25/ Further helping us understand the meaning of this meal we recall the two disciples on their way to Emmaus who encounter the Risen Christ but did not recognize him. “When Jesus was at table with them, he took bread, blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” /Luke 24;30-31/
As we seek to better grasp today’s message, thus widening our understanding of Jesus’ reference to his being the “Bread of Life” we may want to consider the words of Alan Brehm, theologian, and author of the ‘The Waking Dreamer’ where he discusses some of his thoughts about “The Promises of Scripture.” “Jesus knew that we all tend to put our faith in things that ultimately cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our soul. The only “bread” that can truly satisfy our hunger is the life that God offers us.” Alan Brehm gives us ‘food’ for thought as we consider how we are fed by Christ Jesus. It may be enlightening to consider some of the ‘things’ we put our faith in, which are not from God? Can you easily think of something in your life’s travels you have put your faith in… only to be disappointed after? Things can refer to tangible items like ‘a new outfit’ or a ‘new car’. Or perhaps a person or person’s whom you had come to trust with the very essence of your life, has failed you. What about institutions which you have had faith in for decades, that in the end fail you as well? There are a multitude of avenues we could pursue with this line of thinking.
What we can be clear about is that Jesus was drawing a clear contrast between food which nourishes the body is not lasting, versus the Spiritual nourishment which he offers. We know this. Perhaps we hunger for a well-balanced meal with fruit and nuts, perhaps a piece of fish cooked the way you prefer on top of your favorite rice with a green vegetable on the side. Of course, you will have dined on a good leafy salad with a healthy dressing on top. Perhaps you prefer low fat milk to drink with a meal while others are into the “Almond Milk” trend. No matter how satisfying and nourishing the meal, it will barely last a day before you will hunger and thirst once again, surely the very next day at the outset! Yet at least conceptually many of us will grasp that Jesus is offering a different type of Food. “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.” /John 6:27/ Yes, he did mean we shall need to do some work to gain this everlasting, nonperishable food Jesus speaks of.
The work begins with resetting our expectations away from the earthly sources of nourishment and look to the holy, the heavenly, the Spiritual nourishment which Jesus offers to each one of us. We need to take good care of our bodies, as best we can; Yes! Absolutely! However, what is more important is our yearning, that hunger, that seemingly unquenchable craving, to be part of the heavenly realm of the Kingdom of God! It is ours for the asking. All we need do is put our faith in the Almighty One, the Holy One, Our God, Our Creator God… and ultimately, as Christians, we need put our trust and faith in Christ Jesus. Don’t allow your piety to think you have got this – therefore let’s move to the next point. Is your every breath, your thoughts, and actions all in line with the very ‘will of God’? Do you remember to thank God when you awaken, in the morning, for that miraculous breath of life? Each of us need to continue to strive to be in ‘full’ relationship with our God, as we have come to know God.
Years ago, I had three close friends. We each were meeting with the same ‘Spiritual Advisor,’ separately. Our meetings were confidential, and we rarely shared with each other about our meetings. Yet, one day we got into a conversation about our advisor, his name was John. One said he was rather stern and demanded a lot from our friend during their sessions. Another shook his head and spoke of how he was very comforting during the meetings. My third friend spoke of how he helped him form a vison of who God was is his life. For me, I realized how wise and good an advisor I had, as John drew from my experiences, pointing out to me where the love of God had changed my life. He helped me see how I was able to trust in God’s guidance for me better and more completely as time passed. as John continued to comfort me when needed, demand of me more than I dared demand of myself; thus, pushing me forward in my relationship with God. John was only nudging me as needed, urging that I seek to follow in God’s will on a daily… bases. My advisor has helped me have a closer relationship with the love of God, trusting the Spirit of God to be always with me. I have learned that my Creator is still molding me day by day. A full relationship with God keeps me Spiritually fed – so, so much longer than a balanced diet which any nutritionist would please to see me consume.
The journey of life, which we are all on, though fully unique to each one of us, has many twists and turns. Good times and seemingly bad times arise along the way. Your troubles, your heartaches are unique to you… but they are nothing new within the realm of humankind. Years ago, a close friend was counseling me in ‘how to move on’ after my most recent failure during that time-period. His said the only difference between being a failure verses being successful – is the willingness, the tenacity, and the courage to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward… opening every doorway and turning over ever stone ‘until’ we ‘find’ the new pathway which God is guiding us to. When going though stormy times, of all sorts, it is always wise to redouble one’s efforts to be close to God. Invite God into your moments of sorrow, your tears can cleanse and heal as well as release the pain and or confusion of the moment. The biggest fear one ought to acknowledge is the fear of “Living!” When we fully accept and trust in the gift, the gifts which God offers us, including the “bread of Life’ which Jesus offers, it is then that our spiritual lives will be strengthened.
The crowds, the disciples that followed Jesus and listened to what he said and saw many of the miraculous things which he did: They asked: They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” /John 6:34/ They asked this of Jesus because Jesus had said unto them: “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” /John 33/ Ultimately today’s lesson is saying unto all who are willing to open their hearts and listen, “Jesus is the bread of life. Whoever comes to Jesus will never hungry nor thirst.” /John 6:35 adapted/
We each have our needs and wants. We all have our own pet biases and conceptions of God and life. If yours bring you peace and serenity in all situations and moments in your life, Good. But if you find your heart is void of God’s unconditional love, grace, and mercy. If you find there is a big hole in your heart, then push yourself, even as you seek that needed comfort and security, even when your confidence has been shaken, it is at this precise moment when ‘symbolically’ perhaps, you ought ‘humbly’ to get on your knees… even as you pick yourself up and allow the love of God, through Christ, to embrace you! Allow the very Spirit of God to carry you, if need be, to a more stable moment in your journey of faith. The ‘Nourishment of God’, ‘The Bread of Life’ you seek, and Christ offers to us one and all, is but a simple prayer away. “God be with me in this my time of need. May thy will not mine be done.”