18th Sunday after Pentecost

September 18, 2016


Jesus: the only bread in the bakery for eternal life

When they found [Jesus] on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:25-35 ESV)

It’s sometimes said when beginning to play with little children – maybe a piggy back ride or going for a walk or even reading – “be prepared for a long haul – he/she will keep wanting more” – and a little like throwing a stick or ball with a puppy – you find yourself doing things again and again and again. More. More. More. Please. Again. Again.

When I read John 6 and Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 and the people wanting to make him king and Jesus’ retreat into the mountains and then crossing the lake to Capernaum without the crowds knowing but then he’s found in Capernaum and the crowds pack the synagogue, I have this distinct picture of little children turning up and holding out their hands and saying “More – do it again, Jesus – feed us”. As little children lost in the moment, in their pleasure, and want their needs met again and again, so big children aren’t much different. This has been happening since that first garden – we want to be in control – gods of our lives – trapped by hard labour to earn a living and doing what we can to make it as easy as possible.

Jesus tells the crowds that they only followed him because they wanted easy food – satisfy the belly quickly leaves more time to play god in other areas of our lives. Life is more than toil or ease – both end up in the grave – seek food and life that never spoils.

The people aren’t totally thick – What must we do to do the works God requires? I suppose we could say that they were checking out the conditions – would the effort be commensurate with the rewards? Jesus’ answer seems simple – not too hard – lots of discretionary time to do as we wish: Believe in the one God has sent.

‘Ok’ the people reply – ‘show us another miracle – better than Moses’ manna in the wilderness’ – and I reckon that’s a clever reply – they want more than 40 years supply of food. Now the average life expectancy back then was probably not 70 or 80 so they cleverly are saying ‘Give us an easy life and we’ll believe you’re from God’. Of course, the whole thing is a delusion – people will say and do a lot of things to maintain the illusion of control. Jesus directs them away from Moses and over 40 years of miraculous supermarket vouchers to God. Look around you, people, everything you have is from God – even that bread from heaven you wanted is his gift.

How much did they know what they were asking when they want this bread from now on? Me? I think they are still thinking heavenly vending machine, cosmic butler, heavenly genii stuff – God doing as we want, when we want. Jesus brings them back to reality – all the nice gifts vanish in their mind’s eye and only he is left standing and they have to come to grips with him – no miracles, no manipulation of him – just Jesus – who can feed you one day and tell you to carry a cross and lose

your life the next. Can he be trusted? Jesus said: 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.

Today – and throughout this month – there are harvest services around the country and we are like those 5000 who have been fed – our rubbish bins and dumps testify to more than 12 baskets of left overs. We can supersize in quantity or be healthy in our quality but seed time and harvest continue around us – the miracle of life is often lost behind our toil and sweat but it is there before us each harvest – and as we consider the ripple effects that the harvest brings with our manufacturing and technology, it is easy to slip into thinking that we make the world in our image – its all up to us. God who is not seen is not known – we have far more varieties of bread now than 2000 years ago anyway. Jesus is simply irrelevant to many many people who walk down burgeoning supermarkets.

Our effort and toil and work – is not unimportant – farmers farm, teachers teach, people invent and build, others transport and govern and heal and together we support and help each other – well, something like that. But we miss out, short change ourselves – if that is all life is – a series of meals and some possessions. Jesus comes along and says simply that there is more to life than a good burp and a good night’s sleep. He gives himself to us. By nature we don’t want him, we want his gifts.

But Jesus only offers himself – food and drink – his body and blood – words that reveal the Father and God’s grace and mercy. And all of a sudden seedtime and harvest move from being a means to an end – a problem to solve – something to be mastered – to both a gift and a sign of love and care. God wants us to live – each generation to grow strong and old – so that we may know him in this world and the one to come. Our work in the world – butcher, baker, candlestick maker, air force, teacher, engineer – then becomes an opportunity to also care for this world and for those in it – and to do so in a way that says that there is more to life than what we see on our tables.

That truth – that there is more to life than what we see – only makes sense – gives us hope, freedom, comfort, strength, forgiveness – when we know Jesus, trust Jesus, and he is more important to us than food and drink. And so we place our harvest under the cross – and give thanks … for both.


Bible References

  • John 6:25 - 35