Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs I performed 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”… Then Jesus declared, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
Bread – how many kinds of bread can you think of? – White, wheat, rye, raisin, etc. Throughout human history, bread has been one of man’s basic foods. Because of this, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” From Luther’s Small Catechism, we learn that “Daily bread includes food, drink, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors and the like.” All these are a part of the “food that spoils.” Jesus wants to feed us with more than the “manna” of this world. He clearly tells us, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” (v.35)
Jesus gives this invitation in response to a very worldly crowd, made up from some of the 5,000 men + that Jesus had taught and fed just the day before! This had made quite an impact (wouldn’t it also today?). Since Jesus knew that this crowd intended to make Him their “bread king” – “free food” every day – Jesus had dismissed the people, sent His disciples in a boat across the Sea of Galilee, and had withdrawn to a mountain by Himself to pray. In the verses just before our text, (last week’s Gospel) we read how Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, joining His disciples in the boat, and arriving with them on the other side.
Now it was the next day and the crowd couldn’t find Jesus, so they too got into the boats and went across to Capernaum. Jesus allowed the crowd to “find Him” so that He could give them “more than manna” by teaching them.
Jesus knew why they came. He said, “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.” They saw Jesus as Someone who would make their physical lives easier; so they came seeking more food for their stomachs. (Are we any different? What prompts most of our prayers?)
I marvel at the great loving patience of Jesus! It is hard to be loving and patient when you know that people are trying to take advantage of you! By all rights, Jesus should have refused to have anything more to do with this self-centered, ungrateful, demanding crowd. They challenged Jesus: “What miraculous sign then will You give that we may see it and believe? What will You do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (v.30-31) By all rights, Jesus should have refused to have anything more to do with them. What they deserved was a sharp reprimand! But Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He came to feed us with the “true bread from heaven.” Jesus came, not to turn people away, but to give Himself, the Bread of Life, much more than mere manna!
People today still spend the majority of their time and energy seeking only the “manna” of this life – “the food that spoils.” We live in a very affluent but empty society; we are stuffed but not satisfied. We seek to satisfy our immediate wants with the materialism of money, sex and pleasure, but to our great dissatisfaction they are quickly gone. It’s no wonder that so many people in our world find no meaning or satisfaction in life – with a “diet” of only the passing things of this world, they are spiritually starving – missing the “real food that endures to eternal life.”
Jesus taught the people (and us!), “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (v.27) The people still didn’t understand, so they asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (v.28) It is obvious that they totally missed it, for Jesus teaches us to turn away from our sinful, selfish ways and turn only toward what HE has done and continues to do. Jesus teaches, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (v.28-29) To Believe is to Receive – as we confess in the meaning of the 3rd article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ… but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” God, the Holy Spirit DOES THE WORK of not only “making us alive when we were dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:5), but also KEEPS us spiritually fed and growing in the true faith through Jesus Christ.
Just as physical bread (food) energizes our body for work and service – so also, in the greatest way, Jesus – the Bread of Life – feeds us / energizes us for work and service in His kingdom.
Jesus assures us: “I Am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” (v.35) Jesus DAILY FILLS us / FULFILLS us with “the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man (gives) so generously.” (v.27) May this “Bread of Life” strengthen and energize us for a life of service as Jesus also “feeds” others through our word and witness – until life everlasting. Amen.
This is the first of a 3-part trilogy from John 6. Join us this weekend for Jesus’ words to us of the “heavenly food” that fed Elijah so he could go 40 days on that meal, and the Bread of Life that feeds us to eternal life!
See you this weekend – and blessings this week!