“The Signs are Everywhere!”
John 6: 24 – 35, page 867, August 5th, 2018
Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel according to John, chapter six, verses twenty-four thru thirty-five.”
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 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.
“Having heard these words from the teachings of Jesus, passed down to us through the ages, let us now focus on seeking out the signs in our time and ascertaining their meaning to us in our lives today.”
“The Signs are Everywhere!”
Last Sunday, we found Jesus sharing in an extraordinary meal with his disciples and five thousand of his followers. They called it a miracle because so many were filled with so little. Jesus filled them with his blessings and words of hope. Yet, after this occurrence, Jesus and the disciples slipped away to Capernaum, where the crowds again found him. They ask Jesus what he was doing there. “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.” /John 6: 26/ As Jesus continues this dialogue with his followers it becomes clear they are more focused on the here and now, the physical signs that Jesus can fill their bellies with food and heal the sick. Yet, Jesus tells them these are not the signs that they need to see. Rather, he wants his followers to see the bigger picture. Jesus wants them to understand that the signs are meant to lead them to who Jesus truly is… in the realm of the kingdom of heaven. He begins to talk about eternal life and bread from heaven, the bread that gives life, eternally! It would appear from this discussion, that the people were confused about the signs and who Jesus was. One can only wonder, are we too confused? Are we still wanting Jesus, to only fix our needs and wants, in this ‘all too real’ and ‘all too material’ world we live in? Can it be, we identify with the crowds in the scriptures and still hunger and thirst for the spiritual nourishment of which Jesus speaks? But we have no clue how to see and understand these signs?
One scholar tries to give us some direction. “Jesus knew that we all have a tendency 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/ Many of us struggle in this way. Many of us talk about faith yet believe that faith is in the seeing and in the partaking of the abundance which is offered to us through the love of God. This is not the definition of faith. Yes, faithful people often have abundance and often mystically are helped in the human journeys through life; often-times in physical and material ways. Yet, those are only fringe benefits and are not meant to be the goals of faithfulness! Faith, however, is believing without seeing. I once heard it said: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so!” /Mark Twain/ Years ago, I looked that up and found that this statement is a quote from Mark Twain.
Is every one of us concerned about the here and now? Sure, of course, we are! So why can’t we expect a little help from Jesus? Fact is I am certain you can find a few pastors offering these types of reassurances from their pulpits this very morning. Trust me, I too want this. The ‘signs’ are everywhere confirming this point. We live in a world where the younger we are the more likely we have become programed that things, the good life, excitement, and entertainment… can be had virtually instantly! Cell phones, the internet, face time, each enhance this feeling of instant connection, instant gratification at many levels. We go shopping on the internet and we can have clothing, food, furniture, literally everything can be shipped to our homes. It would be difficult to not be drawn into this belief that happiness can be attained at the snap of the fingers. That is, if we believe we can fill that void in our lives with things. Jesus pointed out to the crowds that they were focused on the wrong signs. Abundant food that only comforts your need to consume fuel for your human bodies, will not lead you to the nourishment we all need for our souls, the essence of our core needs!
The material world is important for our human lives, I am not suggesting to you anything to the contrary. We do however, need to look for the signs of that which will feed out spirits, our hearts and the very character of our beings! What we, as followers of Jesus need to spend some quality time doing, on a regular basis, is looking for the signs of God’s grace and love, God’s kindness, compassion and mercy in the midst of our lives. The crowds that followed Jesus, they were hungering and thirsting for all these things and the basics of human existence. Many in our society today are in this same quagmire, thus their predicaments complicate their search for God’s saving grace. This has been true throughout history, before and after the time of Jesus. Leaving us with the overriding question: How do we connect with these signs which Jesus eludes to? Can it be as simple as humbly having faith and trusting in the ministry and message of Jesus? It is an easy statement to make, and most Christian pastors would agree with this, yet many add a few adverbs or adjectives.
Some pastors would agree that: “Simple things can be signs of things too great to even fully understand.” /Rick Morley/ As an example: You are in the supermarket buying one item. You find it with the help of a store clerk, whom you have wrongly identified as he is just a young man running an errand, like yourself in the same market. Yet, his kind, unjudgmental, and helpful response helps you locate what you need quickly. You head toward the checkout counter, bumping into an elderly woman whom is having trouble reaching an item on a high shelf. As you maneuver around her, you say to yourself, ‘somebody ought to help her reach that’. You never stop as you head for the checkout counter. Hum… that was rather rude and thoughtless. Finally, you get to the checkout line. The express lines are shut down. You utter an unkind phrase under your breath, thankfully no one heard you, other than your Creator. Unfortunately, the manager is racing down row five, where you just left the elderly woman needing assistance. Seems in her efforts to reach what she needed she slips and falls. A few minutes later the E.M.T.’s arrive to assist her. Finally, you pay for the jar of relish which you need for Saturday’s barbecue, after a fatigued mother, with a baby riding in her grocery chart, waves for you to step in front of her in line. You go home muttering about the challenge your pastor made about looking for signs, which he said were everywhere!
When we read scripture about Jesus, we need to view his words in context with everything else we have learned about him! Jesus was a compassionate, loving and kind man! He cared about the needs of the people he interacted with! He told us parables and stories like that of the Good Samaritan. You remember the story, it is in the gospel of Luke 10:25-37. “It is about a traveler who is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. First a priest and then a Levite comes by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan happens upon the traveler.” /Wikipedia/ The message is all about having compassion for others, even if they are your enemies! This is what the Good Samaritan did, he stopped and helped the man. Used his own money to care for him, while others walked by ignoring the man’s plight! This story came from the heart of Jesus and his teachings! If you truly want to be a follower of Jesus, look to how he lived his life, humbling himself for the good of others, people like me and you!
Jesus is telling us today, that we must ‘stop’ concentrating on our own ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. Subsequently, by doing so, we will be free to focus more on the needs of those around us. Does this mean we shall need to give everything away to others? No, not at all. Yet, there will be situations when we need to be inconvenienced from time to time for the sake of another. This means that occasionally we need to open our hearts and perhaps put that empty guest bedroom to use, helping a friend or someone in need of it now and then! These are the kind of things which shall count most when we are looking for entrance into the kingdom of God. Acts of kindheartedness not acts of getting your personal chores done in a timely manner. These are the actions that Jesus has worked to instill in our hearts. The signs are everywhere. Some people stop to help people in need. Others walk right by, not willing to share a dime or five minutes to help someone else!
The folks who questioned Jesus in today’s scripture lesson, they wanted to be feed food and only remembered ‘the sign’ when Jesus did just that! They did not take note of the generosity of the young lad who offered up the five loaves and two fish. His actions which came from his character, as a loving person, did not parish like yesterday’s food. No, he went home filled with the knowledge that he was able to help others, he went home with something which brought him closer to God and the essence of true life. “The challenge here is to see which things perish, and which things endure, and to embed ourselves – to abide in, to focus our living on – the things that endure. Because only the things that endure truly satisfy, and only the things that endure bring true life.” /David Ewart/
Jesus is our ‘life line!’ If we can connect with who the man Jesus truly was, as described in so many special ways in scripture, then we shall connect with the true signs which shall direct us to eternal life in the kingdom of God.