Depending upon the Bread of Life


John 6:24-35
9th Sunday after Trinity

Last week we looked at Jesus physically feeding thousands of hungry people. That miracle really seems to have hit the spot and people are clamouring to see Him produce food again just as much as many today are trying to see Team GB winning Gold Medals.

Let’s just look at some people playing basketball.

Count how many passes the team in white makes.

As most of us were not aware of what was before our very eyes in that YouTube clip so the people watching Jesus weren’t either. As is usual in John’s Gospel there are always two things going on. Underneath what happens there’s always a deeper spiritual truth. The crowd see Jesus feeding people with loaves and fishes but what He was really doing was giving them the Word of God.

Jesus knows that people are following Him for the wrong reasons. Wanting to see Him do amazing miracles or produce more food. But when Jesus says He is the ‘bread of life’, He’s not talking about literal bread, but about that which satisfies the hunger of our souls.

Everyone has a deep spiritual hunger. We try to fill it in different ways. The more obvious ways are via drink, food, sex, drugs or by cluttering our lives with acquisitions. Do you ever find yourself looking in the Lakeland Catalogue for instance, thinking how useful such and such a gadget is? Or looking on eBay and thinking that’s a bargain I could do with one of those? It’s easily done. And today’s adverts do not so much say ‘this is what you want or need’ as ‘how can you be happy without it’. Happiness is seen as being very important and yet nowhere does God promise it to us in the Bible! What Jesus actually offers is life in all its fullness.

But the one who offered life in all its fullness was often met by people with simpler, lesser needs. So, He fed their physical hunger but also points to their spiritual hunger, which is what He really wanted to fill. People were created to love God and be in a relationship with Him, chasing after other needs takes us further away from Him leaves us feeling empty.

How do we become spiritually nourished? It’s an easy mistake to connect Jesus’ statement of himself being the Bread of Life to Communion. But when Jesus says He is the bread of life there’s still two years to come before His final meal with the disciples. Yes, we are fed through the Eucharist, but this is only part of the picture. All of our worship is to be a part of how we are fed spiritually. Let’s compare spiritual nourishment to food.

You might eat out once a week in a restaurant. But supposing that was the only meal you ate? You’d never be nourished enough to keep going for the other six days would you? Coming to church on Sunday is an important part of one’s spiritual food and drink, but it will never satisfy your spiritual hunger if that is all we do each week. We all need a daily diet of prayer and Bible reading in order to do that.

And when we do this we’re better prepared to meet what ever happens. It’s not that troubles never come to people who pray and read their Bible; it’s just that those soaked in daily prayer and Bible are more connected to God and can call on that relationship to help them through problems.

We all spend time working for food that perishes. But there’s more to life than the daily grind and to have life in all its fullness we need to commit to daily prayer and Bible reading. It helps us become more dependent on Him and strengthens our relationship. God’s very Word, the Bible is also described as bread we must feed on. When the devil tempted Jesus to turn the stones in the desert to bread Jesus said that we don’t live by physical bread alone, but by the Word of God.

The crowd in the reading didn’t grasp this, as we often don’t. They didn’t understand His revelation that He Himself is the Bread of Life. They said, “Lord, give us this bread always” He doesn’t give it. He IS it. And to have it, we must have Him. He is the sustenance of life itself, of very existence, for those who trust in Him He will fill their every need.

He offered them, as He offers us, all that is actually needed. Admittedly it isn’t always what we think we want. They thought, actually like many a new Christian, that Jesus offered wholesale solutions to life’s problems on a plate. They wanted Him to make them happy. But His desire is to give what we need, which is quite often not we want, especially if we like to be self-sufficient.

Christian maturity begins with the end of us and the beginning of Him. It means surrendering our aspirations and expectations, plus the real or imagined control we have over things and people in order to invest in a future with God. This explains why Abraham was asked to leave everything behind to travel to the Promised Land and why Jesus told His disciples to leave everything to follow Him.

If we delude ourselves that we know what’s best for us, demanding four-course meals with all the trimmings, we will never come to Christ and accept the bread He offers. Some things in life are luxuries but bread is a daily necessity. We can live without the rich deserts and fancy food of life, but we must have bread.

But for all of the luxuries that life throws at us a great number of us are starving ourselves. There are multitudes of starving sheep that don’t and won’t reach out to Jesus for the bread He offers. Spiritually we are becoming so skinny that our ribs are showing.

It’s not until we recognize and confess that we’re spiritually impoverished that this life-giving and sustaining bread becomes all we need and all we want. We actually need to be able to tolerate the loss of everything but Him. A fellow leader at CYFA camp last week had her house burnt down by fire. She’s always been a great one for photos, compiling albums that record her and her family’s life. Everything, every film and negative has gone. Fortunately she is someone who feeds daily on God’s word and has been able to carry on with her daily prayer and Bible reading and so see that Jesus Christ always provides.

To know that what we need is not always what we want. Sometimes what we need is a little adversity, lack, loss, or disappointment that causes us to be grateful for what we’ve been given and to better rely on Him from whom it all came. God knows us better than we do ourselves. He knows what will move us along in our journey towards being more Christlike.

St. Augustine said everyone has a God-shaped vacuum in his soul. We can attempt to fill it with a host of things. But nothing will satisfy our hunger to fill it like Christ.

A holy man rested beneath a tree outside a city. One day he was interrupted by a man who ran to him saying, “The stone! The stone! Please give me the stone!” He said an angel had told him in a dream of a man outside the city who would give him a stone and make him rich forever.

The holy man pulled a large diamond from is pocket. “Here,” he said, I found this on my journey here. If you want it, you may have it.” The diamond was as big as his fist and perfect in every way. The man marvelled at its beauty, clutched it eagerly, and walked away from the holy man. But that night he couldn’t sleep, and before dawn he woke the holy man saying, “The wealth! The wealth! Give me the wealth that lets you so easily give away the diamond.”

Jesus is the bread of life and in him we satisfy the hungry heart. Why do we come here for worship? Not to simply serve God or to cajole Him to be good to us. God already is bounteous to us, because Jesus is the bread of life. We come to be sensitized to what God has already given. We come to receive the wealth that lets us give away all our riches. We come for the bread of life, Christ Himself.