Sermon Text: John 6:24-35
Date: August 4 & 5, 2018
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
John 6:24–35 (EHV)
24When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26Jesus answered them, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: You are not looking for me because you saw the miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27Do not continue to work for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28So they said to him, “What should we do to carry out the works of God?”
29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the one he sent.”
30Then they asked him, “So what miraculous sign are you going to do, that we may see it and believe you? What miraculous sign are you going to perform? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32Jesus said to them, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the real bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34“Sir,” they said to him, “give us this bread all the time!”
35“I am the Bread of Life,” Jesus told them. “The one who comes to me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Work for Food that Endures to Eternal Life
We had a lot of discussions about our roof in the last few months and even the last few years. You can see that it’s not quite done but should be finished up early this coming week. What a relief! But our discussions about the roof were never about whether or not we needed a new roof. One only had to look at the missing shingles and the questionable flashings to know that something had to be done soon or we’d be setting up buckets in the church each winter.
So then our conversations were about when and how to do the roof. What was the priority? And when it came time to do it, what materials should we use? I’m thankful for the people who took the lead on the project as we debated regular shingles vs. longer life shingles, and then eventually looking at metal options. A big question was, “How long will it last?” The numbers ranged from 15-20 years to upwards of 75-100 years. When we could get into the 75-100 year range for a comparable cost to the 20 year range, it became kind of a no-brainer.
Things that will last for longer are usually seen as better. You might choose one phone or computer over another based on the battery life it provides in a day. You might pay a premium to get tires on your car that have a longer life, but you might find that premium to be worth it. And I think we’re all happy to, ideally, not have to touch the roof of the sanctuary in any of our life-times. Even food, if you’re going to spend money and time and calories on food, you’d probably rather it keep you full and energized for a long time rather than feeling hungry again 45 minutes after you eat.
And that last example, food, is the one that Jesus uses for us and for the crowd before him to teach us a lesson on priorities. Where we invest our time and money should be focused on the length of benefit we get from it. More than anything, Jesus says, we should work for food that endures to eternal life.
The immediate context for our Gospel for this morning is following right on the heels of our previous Gospels the last couple of weeks. Jesus had sent out his disciples to go and preach the gospel in the towns and villages around the area. They came back exhausted but excited, and so Jesus encouraged them to come by themselves to get some rest, but as soon as they landed, they found an enormous crowd waiting to hear what Jesus had to say. They were in a remote place and there was no food, so Jesus worked a miracle to feed this group of 5,000 men plus women and children with a small amount of food shared by a young boy. The crowd was impressed with Jesus’ teaching, but they were more impressed with the free food.
So, the next day rolls around and they find that Jesus and his disciples have moved on, so many of the people try to figure out where they went. When they find Jesus, he has more teaching for them. He encourages them to do the work of God, that is, to believe in the Messiah that God had sent. Jesus had come to be their Savior. Their trust for eternal life is in him. But the crowd’s question betrays that they’re not very interested in that; they’re more interested in what Jesus can provide for them now rather than what he can do for them for eternity. “So what miraculous sign are you going to do, that we may see it and believe you? What miraculous sign are you going to perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus had been doing miracles all along. The people didn’t want proof of the claims Jesus was making. They just wanted the results of the miracles, especially the potential for food, thus they invoke our First Lesson for this morning, God providing the miracle bread for his people to eat in the desert after leaving Egypt. They’re essentially trying to bait him into giving them more free food.
I wonder how often our prayer lives sound like the baiting questions of this crowd. I know all too often my prayers are focused on what I want right now. Sometimes it’s big, important stuff (at least from my perspective), but it still tends to be short-sighted. And how I use my time often betrays that my eyes are focused more on the here and now rather than eternity.
And that’s not to say that having a focus on what is in front of us is wrong. During Paul’s ministry, when the Thessalonians heard that Jesus may return soon, many of them stopped working and just waited for Jesus’ return, and then started hassling their fellow Christians for food since they had none, which led Paul to say that if you want to eat you need to work. Taking care of our responsibilities in this life, be they to our family, or friends, even our own self-care, is not wrong. But we do well to examine our priorities.
Is God for us primarily the one that forgives sins and grants eternal life, or is he primarily the one who gets us the stuff that we want? How do our prayers (or lack of prayers) show these priorities?
This is not a comfortable exercise, because we’re all guilty of this. We all have made more immediate things more important than eternal things. We’ve all been guilty of trying to bait God into giving us what we want now with little regard for what will come after this life. We often do not treat God as we should nor do we respect him.
Thanks be to God he doesn’t treat us as this insolence deserves! Jesus knew all too well what these people were after and what was in their hearts. And he didn’t tell them to get lost or scream at them. He redirected them and their priorities. Jesus said to them, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said to him, “give us this bread all the time!” “I am the Bread of Life,” Jesus told them. “The one who comes to me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus provides us with spiritual bread and water that leaves us refreshed and satisfied to eternity. That food and drink is his Word. That food and drink is his life, death, and resurrection. In the Bread of Life we have forgiveness for all of our misguided priorities and short-sighted prayers. In Jesus we have forgiveness that doesn’t just get us through a day, or week, or year; we have forgiveness that nourishes through eternal life. Every sin is gone; in Jesus we live forever.
So, if you skipped breakfast and your stomach is growling a bit, it’s not wrong to look forward to coffee hour in a few minutes. It’s not bad to plan out the week’s worth of meals for your family. But as you do so, remember the food you have that will never leave you wanting, never leave you hungry. You have Jesus, the Bread of Life, who tends to you now but is especially concerned with your eternal well-being. And with him, you are safe and forgiven forever! Amen.