John 6: 24-35
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
A beautiful, pear-looking fruit called ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. But ackee is banned in the United States because it was discovered that it contains toxins that can cause your blood sugar to plummet to dangerous levels, possibly even leading to fatality. Sassafras oil is an extract from the roots of the sassafras tree. It was once popular in making tea and root beer. But since it was found to be a potential carcinogen, sassafras oil has been banned for commercial foods since the 1960s.
Over the years, through experience and through testing, we have learned about foods and drinks that might be dangerous to us. Taking in all the evidence of the past, it would be foolish for us to ignore everything we have learned and to consume those foods anyway. We would be disregarding our own health, knowingly causing ourselves sickness or even death. How foolish that would be.
So today, being wise and astute Christians, we will do well to listen carefully to the words of Jesus and Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last!
The gospel today picks up after Jesus miraculously multiplied bread and fish to feed over 5,000 people. The crowds nearly overwhelmed him, trying to force him to be the earthly king they were looking for. That night Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and came to Capernaum. In the morning, when the crowds realized he was gone, they went looking for him. Eventually they also crossed the Sea of Galilee over to Capernaum. That’s where we cut in today. Verse 25: “When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Being God, Jesus knew that they weren’t looking for him for the right reasons. “Jesus answered, ‘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 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.” Their first sin was that they wanted the wrong thing from Jesus. They wanted bread on their tables and flat-screen TVs hanging in their bedrooms. They wanted earthly things from Jesus, not heavenly things.
Verse 28, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’” Once Jesus redirected them to heavenly things, their second sin was to ask Jesus what they had to do. Was there an entry or membership fee? Did they have to go through spiritual boot camp? Did the tithe hit inflation and rise from 10% to 15%? They wanted a quick and easy answer, a shortcut to salvation.
Jesus corrected them once more. “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” They didn’t have to do anything. They only needed to believe in him. Then came their third level of sinning: “So they asked him, ‘What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’” Believe in Jesus? The carpenter’s son from Nazareth? Yeah, he did some pretty impressive miracles. But believe in him like he’s from God? What could he do to prove his worth? In the past Moses led them through the desert and bread fell out of the sky for them to eat every day for 40 years. What could Jesus do?
Jesus responded in verse 32, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They still didn’t get it and they still wanted a simple, easy solution: “’Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’” They didn’t understand that the Bread of Life was standing right before their very eyes.
The Jews looked to Jesus for the wrong reasons. They wanted a shortcut to salvation. They wanted impressive signs and wonders from Jesus so he could earn their faith and trust. All the while they were missing that the Bread of Life was standing before them and offering himself and salvation to them for free.
Look at the second lesson printed out in the bulletin. In 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 we are told: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Did you see the natural progression in the lessons today? We saw how God fed the Israelites in the desert with manna, yet they whined and complained. In John we see how the Israelites still wanted those kinds of miracles, but even spiritual food wasn’t good enough for them. So Paul says in the second lesson about the Israelites that these things happened as examples to us. Or Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last!
Paul is so right. If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall. He’s right because we do fall so often in the exact same ways the Jews did. How many times haven’t you thought, “Jesus, things sure would be easier if I got a promotion. Life sure would be better if I won the lottery.” Not only do we want these earthly things from Jesus, but then we get a little upset when we don’t get them. “Why do I have to struggle? Why do I have to live paycheck to paycheck? How come I can’t have a mansion and have a Porsche?” So quickly we lose focus on what truly matters. We want Jesus for earthly things, not heavenly things.
But then when it does come to spiritual things, then we would like the quick and easy route too. “What must we do to do the works God requires?” we also ask. “So how much time do I have to put in? How many Sundays do I have to come to church? You think two out of four is okay? Or just tell me how big of a check do I have to write? Just let me know. I’ll do it.”
So Jesus counsels and redirects us. “No, no, my child. It’s not about works. Simply believe in the one God has sent. Believe in me.” “You, Jesus? Believe in you? What have you done for me lately? Why should I believe in you? I don’t see you doing much in the world today. I don’t see you flexing any muscles. In fact, I only see Christians and Christianity getting trampled upon. Do a little miracle. Fix my bad credit. End a war. Just do something, Jesus, to prove you are worth my time and my faith.”
Seem too extreme to you? “Alright, Pastor, you made your point. We get a little carried away at times. We look for shortcuts. We want the wrong things out of Jesus. But we’re not that bad.” Oh, really? We’re not that bad? Paul would tell us, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” So your child has a sports activity on Sunday morning. Which would you choose? You’ve had a long week. You’re tired. Sunday morning the pillow feels awfully comfortable. Which would you choose?
Maybe we don’t stand as firmly as we think. Maybe we have fallen way more than we think. Maybe our lives are constantly focused on the here and now rather than him and heaven. Maybe we have been stuffing our faces so much with food that spoils that we don’t even realize that we are ignoring the Bread of Life.
Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last! Learn from the past, and then listen to the words of Jesus. Jesus counsels us to focus on what truly matters: “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 work so hard to put bread on the table and provide for our families. We worry so much about what we have in life. But all of this spoils or breaks or disappears. Jesus counsels us to put our energy and effort into something that matters and lasts. Sure it’s one hour extra on Sunday, but think how much stronger your faith would be if you studied Scripture every Sunday morning in Bible study and Sunday School. You might need to wake up 15 minutes early to get your Bible reading in, but I promise your day would be off to a much better start.
Maybe it seems like too much work. There’s too much commitment to Christianity. It costs too much. But again Jesus counsels and comforts us: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” It isn’t really hard or complicated at all. It doesn’t take effort. It doesn’t require money. That’s the beauty of it. The key to salvation and the kingdom of God is as simple as this: believe in Jesus as your Savior from sin.
Maybe still that seems like a little stretch. Believe in Jesus? What has he done for me lately? I have bills to pay. I have bread to put on the table. Show me something, Jesus. Patiently, Jesus comforts and counsels us a third time. You want a sign? How about this (verse 32): “It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
How’s this for a sign? God sent bread down from heaven. He lived among us. He taught us the will of God, including these very words today. Then he was lifted up on a cross and died to erase every doubt, worry and every sin we would ever commit. Then he rose from the dead to prove it. Now that’s a sign.
Today God wants us to check our diet. Are we dining on what endures, or have we become addicted to junk food that threatens to derail us from our intended destination of heaven? Don’t be shortsighted like the Jews in our text. Sure, they eagerly sought Jesus, but for all the wrong reasons. And when Jesus tried to put them on the right track they were offended. They wanted to know who Jesus thought he was that he could tell them what to think and believe. Who is Jesus? He’s the Bread of Life! He provides for you daily by giving food and so much more. But even more importantly he gave himself for you so that you would have eternal life. Make Jesus and his Word an important part of your life. Keep dining on Jesus through careful study of his Word through regular worship so that you may endure for eternity. Learn from the Past! Eat Food that Will Last! Amen.