Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
August 5, 2018
“Jesus Christ: The Bread of Life”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
If I had been around 2,000 years ago I don’t know if I would have liked Jesus. Now that is just plain heresy, isn’t it? I’ve sung that same song as you, “Oh, how I love Jesus.” I think we sing that refrain three times before we get to the reason. “Oh, how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus…” And now I wonder if I would have liked Him.
I have trouble with folks that begin every sentence with “I”. They are too full of themselves. I don’t like it when every story that they have is better than mine – and they stand at the very center of what they are telling.
But Jesus did that. He speaks about Himself very often. He has a story that is always better than ours. 7 times in this book of John, Jesus uses the phrase “I Am…” Chapter 8: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Verse 12) Chapter 10: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (Verse 9) Same chapter, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Verse 11) Chapter 11: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (Verses 25-26) Chapter 14: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Verse 6). Chapter 15: “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Verse 5) And those 7 “I Am” statements began with the one we read today, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
You see, Jesus was a little arrogant when He used these “I Am” words. He wasn’t the first to do it. He stole the phrase from quite a predecessor. When Moses was told by God to be the deliverer of the Israelites from slavery he asked a simple question of God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What then shall I tell them? God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
Jesus, the carpenter’s son, then starts throwing around the “I AM’s all over the place? “I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Resurrection and the Life. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” I would have been suspicious. I wouldn’t have been the only one. Some of you would have raised an eyebrow!! “What are you saying? You are the great I AM?”
There were some disciples, followers of Jesus who didn’t know what to do with His strong and exclusive words. Jesus would say of Himself, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) At that moment some of those who had loved Him didn’t like Him. “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” (John 6:60) And fittingly, John 6:66, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
I don’t know if I would have liked Him, He talked all about Himself. And then He looked at the motives of others. He judged them!! He would have judged me. Jesus had just fed the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread and all the people were interested in coming to Him. But Jesus wanted something deeper from them. “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for the food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:26-27)
They followed Him. They believed in Him. They loved Him. But for the wrong reasons. What can I get from Him? What can He do for me? What’s in it for me? Jesus knew too much. He knew their heart. He knew their motives.
He knows mine. He knows yours. Too well. But that’s ok. In fact, that is good. He knows us and we get to know Him!!
I know that I said earlier that if I was around 2,000 years ago and had heard Jesus that I might not have liked him. But I have changed my mind about this. Or, I should say, Jesus changed my mind about Him. When He said all those things about Himself He was not exaggerating. It is all true. Jesus Christ is the bread of life. Unless you and I have Him we will starve in the deepest parts of our life. We will find ourselves hungry and never satisfied. We will find ourselves looking for life’s deepest answers in a lot of places that can never meet those needs.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) When I hear that I think of the opening verse of Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” Or, to make it clearer – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Or, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.” Jesus feeds us and fills us.
When Jesus tells us about Himself – all those great “I AM’S” – He doesn’t do it to boast of self, but to meet our needs. Our thirst, our hunger for peace with God is met in Jesus. Our desire for resurrection from our failings, sins and mortality come from Jesus.
In Philippians 2 the magnificence of Jesus is mentioned first in His humility and sacrifice, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
His life was not about making a name for Himself but making a name for us. The name of God’s child, His son and daughter, beloved, forgiven, blessed, hopeful, is now ours. The “I AM’S” become “You Are’s”. You are His!!
His ministry then and now wants to go to the very depth of our existence. The crowds 2,000 years ago only wanted another meal from Him, He wanted to give them so much more. And that is what He wants to do here. “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him the Father has placed his seal of approval. Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the work that God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” (John 6:27-29)
In my visits to our homebound this month I am reading the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl (Matthew 13:44-46). They tell us about the greatest treasure that we should desire – God’s place in our life – receiving His gifts of salvation from Him and experiencing His life changing Spirit in us. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
I wonder what my reaction would have been to that Rabbi named Jesus 2,000 years ago. Would I have been offended by His great claims? Would I have been taken back by his question of my motives of coming to Him? I don’t know. But now, in faith, I can believe every great word He has spoken. Now, I can see that He cuts through every fake motive and asks for a genuine heart.
Jesus wants to fill us with bread from heaven. He wants us to be filled to overflowing with Him. In faith we are. In Jesus we receive every gift that God wants to bring us. In Christ every part of our mind, body, soul and spirit is satisfied. Jesus Christ is the bread of life for the life of the world and for us. Amen!!