August 12 2018

John 6:35, 41-51

“Bread For Life”

          A few Mondays ago I was in a hurry. I had an early morning doctors appointment, several visits I needed to make, and had things to do to get ready for the Session meeting that night, so I got up early and showered, then went to the doctors office.  I was ready for a busy day.

          Or so I thought.

          The whole day I could sense that something seemed wrong. What could it be? I wondered.

Was I forgetting something? I didn’t think so. I checked my calendar to make sure there wasn’t a meeting I was missing or a task I needed to cover.  There were no meetings and no tasks that had to be done immediately.

What was wrong?

At lunchtime I ate a quick lunch. Still something seemed wrong. The whole afternoon, as I planned for the Session meeting and made some visits but I still sensed that something was wrong.

But what?

The Session meeting went well Monday night and I got home at a reasonable hour – tired from a long day but feeling that I had accomplished a lot – but still something seemed wrong.

At bedtime I was about to get my shower when suddenly it hit me. I had been in such a hurry that morning that I had not had my Devotional time. I had not stopped to at least pray before I rushed out the door.  I had not done a thing about my spiritual needs that day. I had eaten plenty of bread that day, and a lot more than  just bread! But the Bread of Life – Jesus?  Well – I had not done much about that.

Have you ever had a day like that?

Probably so.  Most of us have. We all have days where we make sure our physical needs are taken care of, but overlook our spiritual needs. And for some people, unfortunately, days can stretch into weeks and weeks into months and months into years. Some can spend an entire lifetime overlooking their spiritual needs.

This is the situation Jesus is addressing in our passage for today.

A little background will help here. The day before this conversation John records for us, Jesus had fed the 5,000.   5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish!  A miracle! That night His disciples crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus, after a time of prayer, had walked on the water to the boat and went with them.   The next day many of the people Jesus had fed with the 5 loaves and 2 fish began looking for Him again.  They had eaten well the day before, but were hungry again, so they went to find Jesus again. When they found Him, they let Jesus know they had been looking for Him. But why were they looking for Him?

Were they looking for Him because they wanted to hear more about God’s will – about how to live in God’s ways? Were they looking for Him because they were interested in what Jesus had to say? Maybe that was the reason for some. But Jesus knew that was not why others had looked for Him. Jesus knew that He had given them food the day before, and they were hungry again.

Give us some more bread, Jesus, they seemed to be saying. We don’t care about what else you have to offer. Just give us the bread. And don’t go away this time.  In a few hours we’ll want some more. In other words they were only concerned with their physical needs,

Instead of giving them more bread, Jesus begins talking about how He is the “bread of life”. Jesus knew what was important to many of the people who came to Him. It was their physical needs.  He had given them bread the day before. Maybe He would do it again. But Jesus also knew that there was another need they had.         A spiritual need. Namely – a relationship with Him.

Yes, they needed physical bread but they also needed spiritual bread.  They needed physical bread to live but they needed spiritual bread for real, true life. Jesus knew that He could give them physical bread, but He could also give them spiritual bread.  He could give them bread for living – but He could also give them bread for life. 

This illustration of bread was another example of how Jesus used common things for the people to make His points. Bread was important to the people in that part of the world. It was truly a staple to their diets. It still is in that part of the world.

When my Dad and I went to the Holy Land in 1977 we noticed that there was an open air market in most villages and cities.  In the Old City, the part of Jerusalem that was there when Jesus lived, there was a market.  It was filled with people selling handmade goods, meats, vegetables.  There were even beggars, people who were blind or lame, sitting begging for money to be thrown their way.  Surely this is very much the way villages and towns looked over 2,000 years ago when Jesus was there.  But around every corner there were booths where merchants sold bread.  And almost everyone at the market bought bread.  Some came only for bread.  I never will forget one young boy running down the sidewalk with a round loaf of bread shoved on his arm, and every once in a while he would bite a piece off the bread.  He was happy.  He had his bread, what else could he wish for?

So the people understood when Jesus talked about how important bread was. And of course just the day before Jesus had given them bread. 

But what about the Bread of Life?

Had they stopped to take advantage of that? They had bread for living, but what about the bread for life?  Some had a hard time understanding about their need for this “bread of life”.  All they wanted was physical bread so they would not be hungry.  All they wanted Jesus to take care of was their physical need.  That spiritual need was not that important.

            You know, I can understand how they felt. Maybe you can, too. If I were to ask you what was more important – your physical need or your spiritual need – you might quickly say your spiritual. But is that true?

I’m tempted to do an experiment. I’m tempted to keep preaching until about 1:00 today. What do you think would happen if I did that? I would probably lose your attention soon after 12:00. Why? For one thing, you’d be hungry!  You’d want food!

It’s one thing to say that our spiritual needs are greater than our physical needs but when our physical needs are not met, when we get hungry, everything else gets pushed aside. Our need for food is important to us.  We realize it when we need food. Our stomachs start growling, at times we do, too! Is our need for the real gift Jesus offers just as important to us? Do we realize we need Jesus just as clearly as we realize we need food.

We know we need bread for living, but what about the bread for life? 

Do we realize we need Jesus – we need salvation – just as clearly as we realize we need food?

Some people eat too much food, but I’ve never heard of someone overindulging in this “bread of life” Jesus offers. Although we can be keenly aware of our need for food we tend to not be so aware of our need for what Jesus can give us. We might do whatever we can to get physical food,  but not the spiritual food Jesus has to offer. We might go for days without Jesus, or the spiritual food He offers, and maybe not even miss it.  We might skip our times with Jesus, our times of prayer and other ways we “connect” with Jesus, and not even miss it.  Bu- go without food for a few hours or skip a meal or two and you know it.  You miss it.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to like food.  When I’m not wearing my robe you can tell just how much I like food.  We need food.. Jesus realized that and several times fed large crowds when they were hungry and food was not readily available. We need food. We need bread for living. But we also need the bread for life.  We need Jesus, We need God. We need bread for living. But we also need Jesus and the bread for life.

There is a story about the great Greek philosopher Aristotle. One day he was walking along the ocean’s shoreline. A man began to follow him, crying out

“Aristotle — please let me be our disciple”

On and on Aristotle walked, and more and more intense the cry of the man became.

“Aristotle — please let me be our disciple”

Aristotle began to walk into the ocean and the man followed him.  Aristotle suddenly turned around and forced the man under the water.  He held him under for a long time.  Finally, he let him up, coughing and wheezing.

“Young man” Aristotle said. “Until you desire truth as much as you desire air, you can not be my disciple!”

I think we can change that and not lose it’s truth to say – “Until we need Jesus more than we need food – we can not be His disciple”

Until we are at a point where we hunger for Jesus just as we hunger for food, , a point where we realize our need for Jesus is greater than our need for food, a point where we miss it if we “skip” times we can spend with Jesus just as much as we miss “skipped” meals, we will not be the people God has called us to be.

God calls us to be people who hunger for Him and take advantage of the opportunities we have to fellowship with Him,  times of Worship with our fellow Christians in the Church, times of Bible Study with our fellow Christians in the Church, times of Fellowship and Service with our fellow Christians in the Church, and also times of daily prayer and study.   God calls us to hunger for these times – and to look for ways to get that hunger filled, just as we look for ways to fill our physical hunger.

Make Jesus, the bread for life, just as important to you as the food you eat. Make your hunger for a personal, life changing relationship with Jesus  just as important to you as your hunger for food. Go out of  your way to find ways to let Jesus satisfy that spiritual hunger in you  just as you will go out of your way to get your physical hunger met. 

God calls us to enter into an intimate relationship with Him and – to let Him fill out spiritual needs. Let it happen. Let God work in your life. Let the things of God be important to you, just as food is.  Find ways to nurture and grow that spiritual side. Develop a habit of daily prayer and daily study of the Bible and other books that seem to nourish Your soul. Develop a habit of Worship, Study – Fellowship, and Service with other Christians. Spend time letting God meet your spiritual needs. Make the bread of life  just as important to you as the food you eat. Make your hunger for a personal, life changing relationship with Jesus just as important to you as your hunger for food. Go out of  your way to find ways to let Jesus satisfy that spiritual hunger, to fill that spiritual hunger, just as you will go out of your way to get your physical hunger met. 

God is waiting to fill your spiritual needs. He’s ready to fill you with the bread for life.

Yea – bread for living — food — is important.

But more important is Jesus – the bread for life.  Amen.