Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 13)

Text: John 6:28-29 NLT
They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

Eat here!

I believe there’s a restaurant that serves only food that is healthy and good for you and has a very large noticeboard out front that says, “Eat here and live a long life!”  Not wanting to be outdone, the take-away hamburger and fish and chip shop next-door put up a sign that reads: “Eat here and die happy!”

Food is a very important part of our life.  Along with water it’s something we can’t do without.  It’s interesting that Jesus took something very simple like bread that was available to rich and poor alike in his time.  The poor apparently made their bread from barley while the wealthier people ate bread made from wheat.  Bread was a basic food that was available to everyone.  He had just fed a crowd of over 5,000 people using the five barley loaves and two fish that a young lad had brought from home for lunch and the point is made that there were twelve baskets of pieces of the barley loaves left over after the meal.  When Jesus supplied a meal there was an abundance.

Before Jesus performed the miracle of feeding this large crowd he told them to sit down and we are told they sat in small groups.  Eating bread was not fast-food, or a walking and talking and eating type of thing, or a grab a sandwich on the run – it was a time of fellowship.  Stop what you’re doing and take the time to savour the food and enjoy the company.

Another thing - bread came to symbolise the presence of God.  God gave bread to his people out in the wilderness as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. One of the items that had a special place in the temple was a reminder that God is the supplier of every need of his people. Interestingly, if a scrap of bread was seen on the road, it would be picked up and put it a tree branch for the birds to eat. Bread was never to be trampled underfoot.  It was considered sacred.

It’s interesting that Jesus was born in “The House of Bread” – Bethlehem. This baby born in Bethlehem, 30 years later took 5 barley loaves and fed a massive crowd, rather than send them home hungry.  Jesus cared about the needs of these people and everyone ate until they were full.  Everyone was so impressed they wanted to make Jesus a king with the thought they would never go hungry again.

He got away from all this by crossing the lake to Capernaum but the crowd wouldn’t give up.  They tracked him down. In their minds Jesus had become a celebrity; they demanded that he keep performing for the cameras, and produce an endless stream of newsworthy moments.  They wanted royalty.  They wanted showbiz.  They wanted bread and circuses.

I can understand the thinking of the Galilean farmers because they really did have to work hard to put bread on the table.  From the sowing of the grain, the harvesting, the threshing, the grinding, to the baking of the bread – this represented many hours work and often involved heartache when crops failed because of bad weather or were destroyed by invaders.  So an easy way to get bread was appealing.  And if Jesus can make fast bread what else can he do that would make life easier?

But Jesus wants to point them to something that lasts longer than the things we work for in this life.  Quite bluntly Jesus says, Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life” (John 6:27).

Ouch!  That’s getting a little too close for comfort.  This nice story about Jesus supplying food to so many people has just turned around to point directly at us.  This is exactly what we get caught up in doing all the time – spending so much time and energy on the things that are so temporary and insignificant. 

Jesus isn’t saying that small things aren’t necessary or to despise the things that we need for our daily existence otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered to give all those people bread and fish.  Rather he’s telling us not to hanker and hunger after the things that in the big scheme of things are temporary and have no lasting significance.  To use Jesus words, “Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you” (NLT John 6:27). 

Do what you need to do for your everyday life but also discover the possibility of a lasting peace and an enduring happiness, uncover that which satisfies the deeper hunger and quenches the thirst that has dried up your energy and spirit.  Don’t look for true happiness in the wrong places. Watch out for the small things that have taken over and become so important and all consuming.

I think all of us, every now and then, have to stop and say to ourselves,
“Hey, is this really so important? 
Is the happiness this brings worth such a high price?
Is this going to make such a big difference in the bigger picture? 
Is this one of the things that really defines who I am and where I want to be in the future?”

Jesus spelt it out clearly for those who had become side-tracked by his ability to provide bread. He said, “This is what is important. Believe in the one God has sent”. 

And would you know, the people weren’t happy with that answer.  They still wanted another miracle.  They wanted daily bread and in the same way that Moses gave bread to the people in his day. 

John doesn’t tell us if Jesus gave a sigh of frustration or was just little bit angry or was just sorry for them because they were just not getting what he was saying.  He continues by saying “I am telling you the truth” which means in our language, “Now listen carefully you guys because this is very important and I’m going to spell it out for you”. 

"Firstly, Moses didn’t give anyone bread in the wilderness.  It came from my Father and besides, like any bread it went bad and was very temporary. 
My Father will give you the true bread who comes from heaven; this bread gives life to the world.” 
And then Jesus completely blows their minds saying, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Now they didn’t expect that!  In fact, they were startled because they knew Jesus grew up in Nazareth and was a carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, and now he was saying that he had come from heaven and that those who believe in him will be raised up on the last day.  That’s quite a bold claim.  But Jesus made it quite clear. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! (John 6:47 NLT).

What could be clearer than this?  He is telling his listeners, “Don’t miss the point!” 
What must we do to have eternal life?
What must we do to know God’s love and grace in all its richness and fullness?
What must we do to know what God wants us to do in this life and what kind of people he wants us to be?
What must we do to be people who are kinder, more compassionate, more considerate and helpful?

To use Jesus’ own words, “Believe in the one the Father has sent.”
Believe in Jesus, the Bread of life.
Have faith and trust in him because he is the one who gives life to the world and those who come to him will never be hungry.  “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again”.

What does it mean that those who come to Jesus will never be hungry again?  We know that he can fill a rumbling belly that is hungry for food. He fed 5,000 people until they were full with only 5 loaves and 2 fish.  But it’s more than that. 

Every person who has faith in Jesus and relies on him will never go hungry.  He is able to fulfil every need of those who trust his promises.  Jesus invites, Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus satisfies the hunger of those who are
tired and weary from long days, tiresome work, difficult people and stressful lives.
Jesus satisfies the hunger of those who are
sick, enduring long recoveries, those dying, those caring for and spending long days sitting with the sick and dying.
Jesus satisfies the hunger of those who are
in conflict, suffering abuse, confused about where they fit in, anxious about loved ones who are in unkind and uncaring relationships.

Jesus satisfies the hunger that arises in any and every situation that we find ourselves in.  His ongoing love and presence assures us that we never have to face these things alone.  When we are anxious, stressed, tired, upset, angry, and worried, Jesus invites us to come to him; he will never turn us away hungry. 
When we are down on ourselves because of the harm we have caused others, guilt ridden, feeling down, Jesus forgives and lifts us up with his loving hand and fills us with his presence.
When we come to Holy Communion he invites us to lay our week’s joys and sorrows at his feet; he strengthens us to take up what the next week will bring and be filled with his courage and love.

At the heart of our reading today are Jesus important words, “Believe in the one the Father has sent”.  Believe in him.  Trust him.  Rely on him.  Have faith in him.  Turn everything over to him.  When you are at your lowest and struggling to find your feet, or even when everything is going really well for you, Jesus says to you,
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again”.

Remember the two restaurants and their signs that I mentioned at the beginning.  The health food one had “Eat here and live a long life!” and the fast-food one had “Eat here and die happy!” I wonder how you would advertise what Jesus offers.  Maybe something like, “Eat here, and live and die happy, and live a long life forever”.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
2nd August 2015

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