Text: John 6 (Selections)
The passage we are looking at today is right in the middle of a very long chapter in the gospel of John, chapter 6. It is important to know a couple of things that happened before we get to our passage today. One is that Jesus and his disciples have just fed 5,000 people with a little bit of bread and fish they got from a boy. They had leftover bread, enough to fill 12 big baskets, so at that point they realized it was a miracle. Second, after this event the disciples got into a boat without Jesus and went to another place and Jesus walked on water to catch up with them and get in their boat. Both of these things will be referred to in our passage today.
This morning we are beginning a new series —-it is on the “I AM” statements of Jesus. These are found in John’s gospel and they are a way that John uses to reveal as much as he can about who Jesus is—and, of course, they are also a way that Jesus, himself, uncovers and explains himself and lays out his purpose in the world.
There are seven I Am statements:
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
To understand this well, we need to recall that when Moses asked God what his name is, God replied: I AM
We could probably spend a lot of time on what that means, but let’s just note that if you are God and you are trying to encapsulate who you are with a meaningful name, as was the practice of the Hebrew people—they took care to choose names that meant something significant about the one being named, so if you are God and you are trying to do this naming for yourself, so that you can be understood by human beings, you have quite a task! How do you encapsulate the idea of God in a name? There is so much to say, so much going on—you are infinite and all-knowing and vast and all-powerful—so what do you call yourself? God says: I AM
So, knowing this, we know that this means when Jesus uses I Am statements, he is doing something here that is kind of bold. It is provocative.
The novelist Gwen Hayes says: My best advice is be yourself. Unless you are psychotic. Then you might want to try a different tactic.
C.S. Lewis’ said: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with a man who said he was a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can
spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with some patronising [sic] nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity, 52).
So, in John’s gospel, we have Jesus making a lot of very bold and profound statements about himself and we have to figure out what we are going to do with these.
Today we are going to begin with the first one: I AM the bread
In this passage, there are three places where bread is provided.
In some ways you could say this is really just a story about how a father is trying to feed his children.
And, in part, this is exactly so. Back in Israel’s history, during the Exodus, God made it possible for the Israelites to leave Egypt and be taken out of their slavery there. After this happened, they ended up in the desert without food. And then God miraculously provided quail and manna, so they could eat. The manna, a type of bread, showed up every morning –a fresh batch that seemed to come from heaven. And their needs were met.
Because the manna from heaven was such an important part of the Exodus story, when the father feeds his children again, in the feeding of the 5,000, this Exodus story would have come to mind. Here again, food is being provided when they really had nothing.
So we see two times here when a father has hungry children and he provides bread for them. It is good to note that God care about meeting physical needs. As our creator, he understands physical needs.
That being said, scripture also says: Man does not live by bread alone and that is what we will look at next
Now we get to the third place where it shifts a little. The people want more and they remind Jesus that Moses fed the people manna, back in the day. The implication here is: come on, Jesus, where’s the bread? If you are such a big deal, such a hotshot spiritual leader, where’s the bread?
But Jesus, as so often happens in these episodes, is focused on something else. They are saying, hey, let’s do the bread thing again, show us what you’ve got—and he is saying: Amen, amen—here is the really important thing I want to tell you. Saying “Amen, amen”, especially the double Amen that is repeated is like saying Hear Ye, hear ye! Or, listen up or something along those lines. He wants to emphasize it and indicate that it is key, it is important and they should be careful not to miss it.
Actually, the first thing the people ask Jesus is how did you get here? They cannot figure out where his boat is or how he managed to get there. The story that comes before this is about Jesus walking on water to get to the boat the disciples used. So, when they asked, Jesus could have said, well, guys, it turns out I can walk on water! But, instead, he is very focused on something else. So he does not even get into his transportation mode. Instead, he wants to reveal something to them about themselves.
This is something Jesus often does—he looks into our souls and then tells us something revelatory. In this case he says: you guys are impressed with the bread. Don’t be so impressed with the bread, it doesn’t last. What you need to get worked up about is the things that last, things of the
soul, things that have to do with eternal life. The Son of Man wants to give you these things and this all comes from the hand of God.
So they ask—well, how can we do this? And Jesus says: this is the work of God that you are asking me about: that you trust the one he sent you
That you trust the one he sent you.
So—look at this closely for a moment:
1. Don’t be so impressed with the bread, it won’t last
2. Trust the one he sent you
Let me ask here—how are we doing with these things?
I think we are pretty impressed with the bread! We are pretty heavily into consuming and it takes up a huge part of our lives. We think about it all the time—what we are going to order next, online. What we are going to eat. What we are going to wear. What we are going to drive. What device we are going to upgrade. We are heavily into this, not just what meets our needs. For most of us, it goes way beyond that. We like our stuff. We are wedded to our stuff. And we think about our stuff, all the time.
Perhaps we are overly invested in this, overly impressed. Perhaps we tend to forget that these things are temporary, they will not last. And they do not save us. They do not give us life, in any ultimate sense. Some pleasure, yes. But not profoundly life-giving, not lasting, they are not in that realm.
However, when it comes to the second thing Jesus says, the really Big One, trust the one he sent, our relationship to our stuff, our involvement in consumerism, can really eat away at our capacity to consider trusting the One God sent. It can seem like we don’t need to trust the One God sent, because we are surrounded by our stuff, which is constantly suggesting to us that it is all we need, it will take care of us and satisfy us. And it takes up a lot of space in our lives and in our minds. So that there is not a lot of room to consider trusting the Son of God, the one who was sent. It distracts us from spiritual truth. These things become idols. Don’t be too impressed with the bread!
Tim Keller has suggested this: Everybody has something that if they lose it, they won’t even want to live life anymore. That is what you are worshipping.
If we have gotten to this point with any of our possessions, we are in trouble. This is called idolatry and idolatry involves the deception—that the thing you are worshipping, which is not God, can satisfy you. It can’t. This is why Jesus comes as THE bread of life, the real thing that satisfies.
But back to what Jesus says is the one main thing God wants his people to do: Trust him, trust Jesus
How is our trust? Reflect on this. Evaluate your level of trust in Jesus. When was the last time you leaned into him and trusted him with something big?
To find someone trustworthy, you have to hang out with them. You have to watch them and how they function. You have to check out their responses and their value system.
We do this with Jesus by reading the scriptures about how he functioned with people, which can be found in the four gospels. We need to get into these stories, become very familiar with them. Is he trustworthy?
And then we need to try it out, test him on something. Is he there for me? Does he hear me when I pray? Does he see me here and does he get what I am going through? Is he there? Is he personal? Is he good? Does he care about me?
We need to know these things, to become sure of these things, if we are going to trust him.
It is good to ask the question: If I don’t trust him or I am not trusting him now, what is standing in the way of that?
Or, what am I trusting more than I am trusting Jesus?
I invite you to think about these things this week.
Okay, so Jesus tells them this Very Important Truth about trusting him and this is where they say okay, where’s our sign? You want our trust, let’s see what you’ve got—our ancestors got manna from heaven, what can you do?
And then Jesus does another Amen, amen. This time he wants to tell them that it was not Moses who gave manna to Israel, it was God. God provides bread for his people. AND….drum roll….God is giving you bread RIGHT NOW…bread is coming out of heaven for you, right in front of you.
And of course they say—give us this bread.
And then Jesus does The Big Reveal. It’s me. I AM the bread. I am the bread of life. The one who simply comes to me will never go hungry and the one who trusts me will never go thirsty.
Bread. It is a metaphor for everything we need to sustain us. It is central to life. Jesus is saying—that’s what I am. I sustain you. I am central to your life. I am everything to you. Ignore me at your peril. What you are looking for, I’ve got that. What you long for when you wake up at 3 in the morning and wonder what life is all about—I am here to deal with that. I get what your soul wants. I AM what your soul wants. You will not find fulfillment apart from me, no matter how much money you have, how clever you are in business or politics or whatever, no matter how charming you are, no matter how nice you are—you can’t get this, you can’t get what your soul wants unless you come to me.
I am the bread of life. I am what life is all about. Trust me.
You are looking hard for what matters. Come to me. Trust me. I am the bread you hunger for.