Reading: John 6: 24-36
24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. 25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man[f] can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me.
We are in John 6 this morning. Did you ever wonder why there are 4 accounts of Jesus’ life? (Why Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?)
Matthew: He traces Jesus’ family tree from Abraham up through King David and the royal line. He uses his great grasp of Hebrew Scriptures to show us that Jesus his master was the Messiah -the one who was to come.
Mark: Get your trainers on. Mark is in such a hurry to get to Easter he doesn’t mention Christmas. With his key words, at once, immediately throughout his account, we rush through the incidents until Jesus enters Jerusalem in chapter 11. After this the events are marked by days and his final day by hours. Even then it is all over in 16 chapters.
Luke: A measured and orderly account. James R. White states it is the hardest Greek in the New Testament. No coincidence that the writer is the learned doctor Luke with a great eye for detail. He’s Greek and he writes for a patron Theophilus. He shows the gospel is not just for the Jews but for us.
He lets us know all about his research on the most incredible individual who ever lived on our planet and he tells us it’s going to take 2 volumes.
John: Whereour focus is this morning-even the most severe critics and skeptics affirm this account is unlike the other three. John takes the story back beyond Abraham (Matthew) beyond Adam (Luke) until you think you have opened at Genesis 1.
He even starts his account with ‘In the beginning was the Word and then you realize he is talking about Jesus. He even tells us why he is writing his account. John 20:30-31 ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ (being selective)
Why 4 accounts? Each one gives us a unique perspective, a different angle on Jesus and yet amazingly they complement each other. Like a 3600camera shot. Each turn of the lens fills in more and more detail. This is where we are this morning. In John’s account chapter 6 and David has kindly provided us with the text if you wish to follow.
The chapter opens with the feeding of the 5000 v1-15 (a miracle so powerful that all 4 writers include it)
Then we have real drama for the disciples. V.16-23 They were in a boat when a storm whipped up and Jesus came to them walking on the water. They had to learn that the Lord who could feed a multitude could stop their boat from sinking.
In the last section v24-36 which was read to us, Jesus offers the bread of life to a world of hungry sinners. This chapter goes all the way to verse 71. It’s one of the great sermons of Jesus.
Let’s join the crowd in v.24 who are ‘looking for Jesus.’ Sounds very commendable hmm but I wonder is it?
Look at v.25 and quite frankly they are baffled. They saw the disciples leaving in a boat without Jesus and yet here he was on the other side of the lake with his disciples.
They ask, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’
v.26-27 Jesus’s reply was not an answer to their question. You can see this same approach in the conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3 and the woman of Samaria in chapter 4.
You’re only here for the grub! was basically his reply. Free lunch yesterday and now you’re only interested in a free breakfast.
You see they thought they had found a food Messiah and sadly they were seeking nothing but their own benefit.
Do you remember the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled’ 5v6
Here the crowd are just hungering! And Jesus calls their bluff. Look at v.24 ‘It’s because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.’
Yesterday at the end of the 5K miracle they were going to make him King and when that didn’t happen they seem content to follow just for food.
v.27 ‘Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.’
Just think of this man we are reading about. He knows our thoughts. He knows when we say one thing and mean another. He cannot be fooled or hoodwinked. All is open before him including my heart, my desires, my secret thoughts.
Notice Jesus is not saying, ‘Don’t work for food or other things that we need.’ After all we pray Give us this day our daily bread. And in Ecclesiastes 9 we are told to both enjoy our food and find satisfaction in our work, for God approves of this! I for one am really pleased as I think 3 of the nicest words in the English language are All Day Breakfast!
No it’s more the reply that Jesus gave to Satan, quoting Deut. 8:3. ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4v4)
He is saying there is more to life than bread, and the term is wider than food. It’s stuff, possessions. Jesus is reminding us of the importance of the spiritual realm.
This is a challenge if we are honest. We are rightly concerned about the amount of time our kids and grandkids spend on their devices and how addictive they can be, but can’t you feel the pull yourself as you flick through one story after another or respond to the pings on the phone and then wonder where has the morning gone?
Ancient Rome had a formula to keep the masses happy. Bread and circuses (according to the satirist Juvenal). They even set aside 93 days for public games at the government’s expense.
Are we there yet? I think we are. Think of the sporting events recently. 2 weeks Wimbledon, 4 weeks Euros, Silverstone GP, (Hungarian today) and now the Olympics. Phew. I haven’t mentioned the Lions in South Africa and of course the football season about to start. What about Tom Cruise?
No wonder we haven’t time to pray and read our Bibles.
It’s always going to be like this. It always has been. We make time for what we want to do. Even if you didn’t have a tele or iphone, you still might not have time for spiritual things.
Like the athletes at the Olympics, only discipline will keep us on the right path. Where our treasure is there is our heart.
v.28 Another question from the crowd. (This is so typical of the middle eastern world. A rabbi questioning and being asked questions of his followers.) Jesus the greatest teacher knows exactly where he is going and he reveals just enough insight each time. It’s masterful.
Notice that they picked up on the word works and didn’t seem to hear the word give. Jesus had been saying the food that really lasts is a gift. I the Son of Man will give it to you. They however have jumped on performing God’s works!
v.29 Jesus’ answer: I’ll tell you the good work God wants you to do…believe in me in Jesus. It’s to trust.
He pulls the rug out from under them.
What must we do? You let me do it, Jesus says, Believe in me.
Many people are also puzzled about what God wants them to do. The religions of the world are people’s attempts to answer this. The whole program is works based. You get to heaven by working, by being good. But how good do you need to be and by whose standard? Better to trust the words of Jesus who came down from heaven.
v.29 Believe in the one he has sent
John loves the word believe and he has sprinkled his favourite word throughout this chapter. Of the 241 times in the N.T. 107 are in John’s writings and 98 in this gospel. The word means to trust or have faith. To depend on the work of another.
You can feel the atmosphere changing. Clouds of doubt and skepticism are gathering and about to break. We have seen this before on our journey through Acts that there is always opposition to this message to believe, to trust in the one God has sent.
v.30-31 ‘Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? They want a performance, a little celestial magic perhaps.
Wait a minute. What’s wrong with this? Only those spiritually blind would say this. This is the morning after the 5000 had been fed. They had been part of that crowd and now they want another miracle.
Guys What part of the free lunch did you not get?
They even taunt Jesus by holding up Moses as a challenge. You’re not as great as Moses. He gave us bread from heaven to eat. Why this comparison with Moses and the manna? Moses had said in Deut.18 v15 ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.’
They had asked John the Baptist in chapter1 v.21 ‘Are you the prophet? No he replied.
Just earlier in this chapter v.14 After the people saw the miraculous sign –Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.
They set up this startling contrast: Moses provided manna for 38 years in the wilderness and you well you provided 1 meal yesterday. Show us that you are the prophet.
Now here is a clear case of romanticizing the past. v.31 ‘Our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness? Really? To use a good Hebrew word they gurned the whole time.
Hmm 38 years of manna. No wonder they complained and the irony that they are complaining now isn’t lost on us.
Manna literally means ‘What is it?’ and they got it for breakfast, for lunch and tea, all that time!
It ruins the surprise of asking What’s for tea? when you know it’s What is it? The new kid’s game to wind up your folks!
V32-33 Jesus corrects them. It wasn’t Moses. He was a spectator. He watched the whole thing. It was my Father. Yes, your ancestors got manna but that was pointing to the true bread -the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Spiritual nutrition is a living being, not a loaf of bread.
v.34 ‘Give us this bread always…still didn’t get it. They are once again jumping to the literal. Back to Jesus as a walking bakery.
This is what Nicodemus did in chapter 3. Jesus said, ‘You must be born again’ and he replied, ‘How can someone enter their mother’s womb a second time to be born?’ He didn’t get it.
It’s what the woman at the well in chapter 4 did. Jesus spoke to her of living water. She replied, Give me this water. I won’t get thirsty again and I won’t have to keep coming to this well to get water. She didn’t get it.
But Jesus was leading them on in their quest to see past the literal-just like he is doing here.
v.35 I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty
What an incredible statement. That Jesus would compare himself to such a common article as a loaf of bread shows the depth of his humiliation. (We sing, You laid aside your majesty) Bread is called ‘the staff of life’ because for centuries it has been the primary food of most people. Jesus Christ is ‘the bread of life’ and we cannot have spiritual life -eternal life- without him.
Remember at the start we said that John was different to the other 3 accounts? 23 times Jesus refers to himself as I am.
Seven of these I AMs have great metaphors linked to them. They are all unique to John and bread is the first.
- John 6v35 ‘I am the bread of life’
- John 8v12 ‘I am the light of the world’
- John10v9 ‘I am the door’
- John10v11 ‘I am the good shepherd’
- John 11v25 ‘I am the resurrection and the life’
- John 14v6 ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’
- John 15v1 ‘I am the true vine’
These are intimate statements about Jesus’ identity and his divinity. They were the ones to mention Moses and now Jesus takes them back to Moses at the burning bush. By using this term I AM he is reminding them of Exodus 3v 14 I Am who I Am. You are to say to the Israelites I AM has sent me to you.
Isn’t it obvious that Jesus is claiming to be God?
‘He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all’ (Once in royal David’s city)
‘And the sleeping child you’re holding
Is the great I AM’…in Mary did you know? The hymnwriters have got it.
As Thomas said, My Lord and my God (John20 v28)
Look at v.36. ‘But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me.’
Sadly if you read on to the end of the chapter Jesus loses the crowd, so much so that he asks the 12, Do you want to leave too? Read on this week to see what happened.
What can we take into this week?
- If you like to find out more, I found Warren Wiersbe’s book, Jesus in the present tense: The I am statements of Christ, a great help.
- What is your spiritual appetite like? Are you losing weight spiritually because you’ve no time for personal devotions of Prayer and Bible reading?
- Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life…Sadly some of you have known this most of your life and you still haven’t done anything about it. Today is a good day to come to Christ, to believe.