************ Sermon on John 6:35 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 9, 2003
"I Am The Bread of Life"
Today is the first Sunday of Lent – that time of the year when we remember the events leading up to the cross and the grave of Christ. Today is also Lord's Supper Sunday – when we celebrate the salvation that is ours because of the body and blood of Christ upon the cross.
This year for Lent I want to focus on the "I Am" statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. There are seven of these statements:
-I Am The Bread of Life (Jn 6:35)
-I Am The Light of The World (Jn 8:12)
-I Am The Gate (Jn 10:7)
-I Am The Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11)
-I Am The Resurrection And The Life (Jn 11:25)
-I Am The Way And The Truth And The Life (Jn 14:6)
-I Am The True Vine (John 15:1)
All seven of these "I Am" statements direct our attention to Who Christ is and the marvelous things He has done for our salvation.
"I am the bread of life." How appropriate that we celebrate the Lord's Supper as we look at this statement of the Lord.
I "I Am"
A Seven times Jesus repeated the same formula, "I am ..." Each time He then went on to explain He is the bread of life or the light of the world or the good shepherd. There is one other time in the Gospel of John that Jesus used the same formula. We see it in John 8:58 where Jesus said, "Before Abraham was born, I am."
The context is an argument between Jesus and the Jews. In the course of the discussion Jesus said that anyone who keeps His word "will never see death" (Jn 8:51). The Pharisees pounced on this. Abraham, the greatest Jew, and all the prophets, are dead. Is Jesus claiming to be greater than Abraham? Is Jesus claiming to be greater than the prophets? Who is Jesus claiming to be? Who does Jesus think He is (Jn 8:52-53)?
Jesus replied that Abraham had seen Jesus' day coming and had been glad about it (Jn 8:56). This reply produces scorn. How could Jesus, a man younger than fifty years, claim to have seen Abraham (Jn 8:57)? Jesus replied with the formula, "Before Abraham was born, I am."
B "I am," said Jesus. "I am." Eight times He used this formula, "I am." And the Jews were scandalized. They picked up stones in order to stone Him to death (Jn 8:59).
"I am." Why did this scandalize the Jews? What was Jesus really saying? Jesus was claiming deity. He was claiming equality with God. He was claiming to be part of the eternal Godhead.
To understand this we have to go back to the time of Moses and the burning bush. Moses was commissioned by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses found all sorts of excuses to say no to God. After God had answered every one of his objections, the only thing Moses had left to say was, "Who do I say sent me?" God's answer:
(Ex 3:14) "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"Who was sending Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt? "I AM." Who is God? "I AM."
God is the great "I am." He is the self-existing One Who has no beginning and no end. He is the source of life, the source of being, the source of everything. He is Yahweh, Jehovah. He is the God of the covenant. He is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. He is the God Who is remembered from generation to generation.
Now, Jesus also claims to be the great "I am." No wonder the Jews were upset. No wonder they wanted to stone him dead. No wonder they thought Him a blasphemer.
"I am," says Jesus. Today, He follows this with a word picture that tells us even more about Him.
II Jesus Seen as a Source of Earthly Life
A "I am the bread of life." These words take place right after one of the more wondrous miracles of Jesus – the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. How great is our Lord that He could perform such a miracle. But, don't forget, He is the great I Am.
The people were so impressed with the free meal they got, they decided to follow Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They followed Jesus not because He performed a miracle which showed Him to be someone special, but because He seemed a meal ticket to the easy life. Jesus Himself acknowledges this:
(Jn 6:26) "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."When they saw and thought about Jesus' miracle, the crowds were literally smacking their lips. They saw here the opportunity to eat without working, to reap without sowing, to go out like the Israelites of Moses' day did for manna and simply collect food in baskets. Don't forget, in that time and place there was not an abundance of food – especially not for the ordinary people – and a lot of time and energy was devoted to getting each day's meals. So they asked, "Sir, from now on give us this bread" (vs 34).
"I am the bread of life." When the crowds hear this they think of Jesus as a source of earthly bread.
B "I am the bread of life." The crowds listen to Jesus and ask for a sign so they can believe. More specifically, they ask for a sign like the one Moses did with manna in the wilderness (vs 30-31). But didn't they already see this type of sign when Jesus fed them with five loaves and two fish? Wasn't that proof enough?! But it wasn't. You see, Jesus performed His miracle once whereas Moses provided manna for 40 years; Jesus fed only 5000 whereas Moses fed the entire nation; Jesus provided ordinary bread whereas Moses provided what was called the "bread of heaven" (vs 32). We aren't told what they were, but the crowds had all sorts of fantasies in their mind about the manna, the bread of heaven, that Moses provided them in the wilderness.
I remember one of my friends in Grade 3 telling me about Angel Food Cake for the first time. The name alone made me build it up into something it wasn't. The first time I tasted it, it was good, but not near as good as I thought it would be.The Jews had the same sort of fantasies about manna.
"I am the bread of life." The crowds were willing to believe in Jesus but only if He, like Moses, continued to give them bread from heaven.
C Why did Jesus do miracles? Why did He change water into wine, feed the crowds, heal the sick, walk on water, and raise the dead? Jesus' miraculous signs were done so that people may believe that He "is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn 20:31). The Miracles were done so Jesus would be recognized and acknowledged as the great I Am. The crowds, however, missed this meaning of purpose. All they could see was the free food.
Jesus warns them and us about materialism, about focusing all our efforts and energies on physical things:
(Jn 6:27) "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 God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
We are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. As such, says Jesus, our deepest hungers and needs cannot possibly be met by the temporal and tangible things of this life. Why else do you think people today are so restless and empty and dissatisfied? People go to Circuit City and get the latest electronic gadget, but it doesn't satisfy and soon they are back to buy the next gadget. People get a new car or truck, but soon the satisfaction wears off. People expand their business or their dairy but soon they have to expand some more. Theirs is a yearning, a restlessness, a desire for more and more and more. Earthly things never satisfy, they never meet our deepest cravings, they never fill us to the brim. It takes more than money, possessions, prestige, position, or power to give our lives meaning and purpose.
So, during this season of Lent and on this Lord's Supper Sunday the Lord tells us to get our priorities straight. We are to seek first the Lord and His Kingdom and its righteousness. Our first priority in life ought not to be food, clothing, homes, cars, jobs, or cows. Our first priority in life ought to be Jesus, the great I Am.
III Jesus is Food for the Soul
A "I am the bread of life." In the context of feeding the 5000 Jesus is saying He, the great I Am, meets the deepest needs of the crowds. Christ is telling us what physical bread is to the body, He is to the soul. He is food for the soul.
After renowned missionary Johnathan Goforth (1859-1936) had spoken in a chapel in southern China, a man said, "I have heard you speak three times, and you always have the same theme. You always speak of Jesus Christ. Why?"
The missionary replied, "Sir, before answering your question, let me ask, 'What did you have for dinner today?'" "Rice," replied the man.
"What did you have yesterday?" "The same thing."
"And what do you expect to eat tomorrow?" "Rice, of course. It gives me strength. I could not do without it. Sir, it is --" the man hesitated as if looking for a strong word. Then he added, "Sir, it is my very life!"
The missionary responded quickly, "What you have said of rice, Jesus is to our soul! He is the 'rice' or 'bread of life.'"
What are our deepest needs? Our deepest needs are forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God and a new life without the burden of sin and shame. Christ is telling us that He, as the great I Am, meets this need. And, as the Lord's Supper shows us, He feeds us and satisfies our deepest needs by way of His crucified body and shed blood.
"I am the bread of life." In our Scripture reading Jesus gives us four descriptions about Himself as bread.
B First of all, Christ says He is "the true bread from heaven" (vs 32). There are two kinds of bread. There is the bread we eat at lunch time every day, the bread which nourishes our bodies and gives us strength to work and study and play. At mealtime we give our children little pieces of this bread with honey or jam or cheese on them. And then there is the bread which comes from heaven. The crowds thought of manna as this bread from heaven. But Jesus clearly indicates He is the true bread. He comes from heaven and has been given by the Father.
C Second, Jesus says He is "the bread of God" (vs 33). Here Jesus points to the special and eternal relationship He has with the Father. He originates from the Father. He belongs to God. He comes from God. Again, the crowds thought of manna as the bread of God. But Jesus indicates He is the bread of God.
D Third, Jesus says He is the "living bread" (vs 49). Now, you need to remember that the context of our passage is the celebration of the Passover. During the Passover the people were not allowed to eat bread with yeast or salt; they had to eat unleavened bread, flat bread, dead bread in contrast to bread that rises and is light and fluffy and airy. Jesus compares Himself to this living bread – something better by far than what they have now.
E Fourth, Jesus says He is the "bread of life" (vs 35 & 48). Now, to appreciate this you need to keep in mind what Jesus said twice about the manna in the wilderness – those who ate it, in spite of its miraculous provision, still ended up dying (vs 49 & 58). And, it was food that spoiled (vs 27) – so that it became worthless, good for nothing except to be thrown out. Jesus, by way of contrast, is the "bread of life." This is bread that does not spoil and those who eat of Him will live forever.
Jesus is the true bread from heaven. He is the bread of God. He is the living bread. He is the bread of life. He satisfies our every need. He satisfies our deepest needs. He is to the soul what food is to the body and air is to the lungs. He feeds us and fills us. He who comes to Jesus will never go hungry, and he who believes in Jesus will never be thirsty.
In this season of Lent and on this Lord's Supper Sunday we remember and celebrate that He, the great I Am, does this by suffering for us and dying for us.
IV Feeding on Christ
"I am the bread of life," says Jesus. He feeds us and fills us and satisfies us. But this does not happen automatically. You know the saying: "You can bring a horse to water but you cannot make it drink." All the water in the world does no good if the horse refuses to guzzle what is in front of it.
When it comes to feeding on Christ what we need is faith. It is faith that joins us to Christ and His suffering and death. It is by faith that we feed on Christ when we eat the bread and drink the wine of the Lord's Supper. Faith is the spoon and fork of the Christian religion. Faith is the mouth of the soul. It is by faith that we partake of Christ the bread of life.
So, come to the Table. But come in faith. And then, your soul is nourished not for a day or an hour but for eternity – on Christ, the great I Am, the bread of life.
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