************ Sermon on John 6:35 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 8, 2009
"I Am the Bread of Life"
I talked earlier to the boys and girls about hungry stomachs. But, do you know what is even worse? Hungry hearts. We can give a man a piece of bread to satisfy a hungry stomach. But there is nothing we can give to satisfy a hungry heart.
I Jesus Feeds Hungry Stomachs
A We cannot properly understand our text without taking note of the broader context – the miracle of feeding the five thousand. You know the story:
-a great crowd of people in the middle of nowhere; so many people, in fact, that eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite
-a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish
-Jesus took the loaves and fish, gave thanks, and passed them out
-everyone was invited to take as much as they wanted
-when the leftovers were gathered, twelve baskets were filled with pieces of the loaves; I'm not a big fan of most leftovers – I shudder to imagine leftovers that do not end
So, what exactly did Jesus do? Jesus satisfied the hungry stomachs of everyone in the crowd. Whether you were the size of a football player, a hungry teenager, or a little child, you had more than enough food to eat.
B This made the people think of prophets like Elijah and Elisha. Remember Elijah in the home of the widow of Zarephath? No matter how much bread she baked, her jar of flour was not used up and her jug of oil did not run dry (1 Kings 17). Because of Elijah, a little bit became a lot.
Remember Elisha in the widow's home? Her two boys were going to be sold as slaves in order to pay her debt. All that she had was a little oil. Elisha commanded her to ask all her neighbors for empty jars, lots of empty jars, and to start filling them with the little bit of oil she did have. And, no matter how many jars she filled, she never ran out until all of the jars were filled. She sold the oil, paid off the debt, and rescued her sons (2 Kings 4). Because of Elisha, a little bit became a lot.
Along comes Jesus and He does the exact same thing. Because of Jesus, a little bit became a lot. So the people began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world" (Jn 6:14). And, they wanted to make Jesus king on the spot (Jn 6:15).
C Why did Jesus do this miracle? First, because people were hungry. Here is a reminder that it is important to feed the hungry. Both Jesus and James condemns our faith and our religion if we don't do anything to help those without food and clothing (Mat 25:35,42; James 2:14f). That is why we observe World Hunger Sunday and pass out the Peter fish. But, as Jesus said, this is "food that spoils" (Jn 6:27). This is food that only fills the stomach (Jn 6:26). This is food that satisfies for only a time (Jn 6:35).
Why did Jesus do this miracle? Second, we are told that the feeding of the five thousand was a "miraculous sign" (Jn 6:14; cf 6:2). And, as a miraculous sign, it showed Jesus' power and Jesus' glory. It pointed beyond flesh and blood to God Himself (Jn 20:30-31).
II Jesus Feeds Hungry Hearts
A In the broader context, then, we see Jesus feeding hungry stomachs. In fact, after the miracle of the fish and loaves, Jesus disappeared and the crowd went looking for Him. Why? Jesus tells us:
(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."Why did the crowds follow Jesus to the other side of the lake? Because they thought of Jesus as a meal ticket, a free lunch. They thought Jesus was like Moses. Remember what Moses did for the children of Israel as they traveled through the wilderness? "He gave them bread from heaven to eat" (Jn 6:31); he gave them manna. And now they hoped a second Moses was doing the exact same thing. 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).
It is true that Jesus was known for His compassion (Mt 9:36). Under His ministry, the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the hungry are fed. But is this why He came? To look after earthly needs, physical needs, empty stomachs? Of course not!
Listen to what Jesus says to the crowds that came searching for Him:
(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."Jesus points the crowd in a different direction. Instead of food for hungry stomachs, Jesus points to food for hungry hearts. Instead of food that spoils, Jesus points to food that endures. Instead of food that satisfies for a couple of hours, Jesus points to food that satisfies eternally.
There is a lesson here about materialism, about focusing all our efforts and energies on physical things. Jesus reminds us that the things of this earth and this life ultimately cannot satisfy or quench or fill – because this is "food that spoils" (Jn 6:27), that only fills the stomach (Jn 6:26), that satisfies for only a time (Jn 6:35).
Have you ever watched people and their stuff? They go to Best Buy 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 go on an exotic vacation but soon they have to go somewhere even more exotic in order to get the same thrill. 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 satisfy us.
B So, what is the food that never spoils, food that endures, food that feeds hungry hearts? Listen to the words of our text:
(Jn 6:35) "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."Actually, Jesus says this twice (Jn 6:35,48) and then a third time with added remarks:
(Jn 6:51) "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."On this Lord's Supper Sunday, we see a bold claim here.
"I am the bread of life" (Jn 6:35). What is the bold claim? We won't see the bold claim unless we understand the importance of bread at the time of Jesus. Back then, bread was the stuff of life; it formed the basis of every meal. Furthermore, it was also used as the spoon or the fork; a hunk of bread was dipped into the common pot of meat or vegetables or stew and then lifted to the mouth – without double dipping, of course.
A missionary to China asked his hosts about their diet. "What did you have for dinner today?" "Rice," came the reply.What the Chinese say about rice, the Christian says about Jesus – He is the bread of life.
"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!"
"I am the bread of life" (Jn 6:35). Meaning what? Meaning what bread or rice is for the physical body, Jesus is for our hungry hearts. Jesus alone can satisfy the hunger of our souls. Jesus alone can feed us til we want no more. Jesus alone can fill us to the brim and even to overflowing.
"I am the bread of life" (Jn 6:35). Meaning what? Meaning I am so needy, and only Jesus can satisfy. I am so empty, and only Jesus can fill. I am so hungry, and only Jesus can provide.
How? What does He do? How does He feed us? Listen, again, to what He says in verse 51:
(Jn 6:51) "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."Did you catch the last sentence? "This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." This means the cross. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is only at the cross that my greatest and deepest needs are satisfied. It is only at the cross that my hungry heart is fed.
"I am the bread of life" (Jn 6:35). Do you see what Jesus is saying? He is saying our greatest need is forgiveness of sins, a relationship with God, right standing before God. And, that need is met only by the flesh of Jesus upon the cross. As the Lord's Supper shows us, He feeds us and satisfies our deepest needs by way of His crucified body and shed blood.
C "I am the bread of life" (Jn 6:35). We also see a bold request here. Did you notice how Jesus pressed the crowd to make a decision about Him. Jesus pressed the crowd to come to Him and to believe in Him:
(Jn 6:35) "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."
I already mentioned what happened when Jesus fed hungry stomachs. He was acclaimed as a Prophet – like Moses, Elijah, Elisha (Jn 6:14). The crowd wanted to make Him king by force (Jn 6:15).
So, what happens this time? What happens when Jesus provides bread for hungry hearts rather than for hungry stomachs? What happens when Jesus provides for the soul? Listen to verse 41:
(Jn 6:41) At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."What did His followers say? Listen to verse 60:
(Jn 6:60) On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"It gets worse. Listen to verse 66:
(Jn 6:66) From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Jesus provides bread for hungry stomachs and the crowds follow Him to the other side of the sea. Jesus provides bread for hungry hearts and the same crowds of people leave Him in droves.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday, we see Jesus feeding hungry stomachs. But, far more importantly, we see Jesus feeding hungry hearts.
Do you want to be fed? Do you want to be satisfied? Do you want to be filled to the brim? There is only one way this will happen: as the Lord's Supper shows us, come to Jesus and you will never go hungry; believe in Jesus and you will never be thirsty.
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