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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:I am the Bread of Life
Text:John 6:35 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-06-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 145:3,4                                                                                          

Ps 81:1,7,9                                                                                                     

Reading – John 6:22-59                                                                    

Ps 78:2,8,11

Sermon – John 6:35

Ps 63:2,3

Hy 61:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, say you’ve recently met someone new. Another worker was hired on, or you started at a new school, or you got a new client for your business. You get to know a person in a few ways. One is to watch what they do. How do they behave, and how do they treat other people? You get acquainted also by listening to what they say. What kind of words come from their mouths? Are they honest, are they kind, are they helpful in their speaking?

The Gospel of John is helping us get to know Jesus. Now, we could assume that we know him pretty well already. He’s no stranger to us, for many of us have been hearing about Christ for almost as long as we’ve lived.

Yet if we’re in the Word and we have the Spirit, we’re also finding out new things about Jesus, or perhaps rediscovering things, or growing to appreciate him more. Indeed, anyone who has come to see his own weakness and sin, anyone who’s learned that this world cannot satisfy, should be learning to rest in Jesus more and more.

This Christ is revealed to us in John’s Gospel—revealed by what He does, and revealed by what He says. We see what Jesus does, like turning water into wine, healing a paralytic, and raising the dead Lazarus. These were miracles with a message, each one a revelation of some facet of Christ’s glory: like his power, his mercy, or his authority.

We learn from his signs, and we learn from his seven sayings, when Jesus says things about himself like, “I am the Light of the World. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Jesus said much more than just these seven words, of course. But these sayings have a unique place in John’s Gospel, and a deep meaning. Like his signs, they reveal the Jesus who is our Saviour, who wants us to find our hope and strength in him alone.

We look at the first of his seven sayings, “I am the bread of life.” We will explore this declaration by considering three things,

            I am the Bread of Life:

                        1) the boldness of Jesus’s claim

                        2) the emptiness of earthly bread

                        3) the fullness of life through Christ 

 

1) the boldness of Jesus’s claim: We can’t really understand Jesus’s words in our text without seeing how they’re wrapped up in the rest of John 6. When Jesus announces that He is the ‘Bread of Life,’ He wants everyone to think about what has just happened. In his mercy, He has fed the massive multitude gathered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. From the most meagre of picnic lunches, Jesus has shared out enough bread and fish for the entire crowd, and everyone has been filled. It was a comforting display of the Lord’s care for his people, a reminder of how He will always provide.

The crowds are amazed, and they conclude that Jesus must be the great Prophet whom God promised. Yet their wonder is short-lived. Verse 22 says that one day later, the people are still following Christ, and they are still looking for his handouts.

Jesus rebukes the crowds in verse 26, “I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” The people have missed the point. They got their free lunch, but now they’re hungry again. They expect Christ to be something like a heavenly supermarket: an endless source of food, big portions, open seven days a week with everything they could ever want.  

Yes, they’ve supposed that Jesus is the Prophet, but they won’t know for sure until He does something really big. So they ask, “What sign will you perform then, that we may see it and believe you? What work will you do?” (v 30). They’re actually looking for a better sign, because feeding the 5000 wasn’t enough. Even though Jesus has multiplied loaves and fishes, He still hasn’t given them ‘bread from heaven.’

In Israel there was the idea that when the Messiah, the long-awaited Saviour, finally came, He would prove his authority by repeating the miracle of manna. That’s what Moses had done in the desert: Moses, mediator between God and his people, had fed them for forty years. So the Christ too, would certainly give them ‘bread from heaven.’ Barely concealing their hungry expectations, the people quote Scripture to Jesus from the exodus story, “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (v 31).

Incredibly, the people are suggesting that Jesus has not yet equaled Moses’s miracle. They still want to see the flakes of manna falling from heaven. If He can do that, then they will believe! Like the crowds so often do during his ministry, the people are seeking a sign.

And like Jesus so often does with such requests, He points everyone in a better direction. The multitude had quoted Scripture to him, but Jesus interprets the text differently. It wasn’t Moses who gave them bread from heaven, but God!

And that means they shouldn’t seek a prophet exactly like Moses. Instead, they should seek the gift of God which is greater than any physical manna: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven” (v 32). Underline that word ‘true.’ What Jesus gave them yesterday was genuine bread, of course, it was authentic barley loaves and real fish, but in the end, it wasn’t what they really needed.

Sinners need something else to come from heaven—not manna floating down like so many snowflakes, but we need the Son of God, descending in the flesh: “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (v 33). This is the true bread!

The crowds like the sound of that, to get their hands on a living and heavenly food: “Lord, give us this bread always” (v 34). They don’t really understand, but they are keen to have what Jesus is handing out.

And what is the bread of God?  Who can fill them forever? That’s what Jesus says in our verse, “I am the bread of life.” Because this is the first of the seven ‘I am’ sayings, we should pause to appreciate the boldness of how Jesus speaks here.

“I am,” He says. To our ears that sounds like a normal introduction, like when we meet someone new, and we introduce ourselves by saying, “Hi, I am John VanderSmith. I am a carpenter.” But Jesus’s listeners would hear something more, because in Greek, his words are emphatic: “I—even I—am the bread of life.” And this is what Jesus says for each of his sayings, “I—even I—am the Light of the World.” I AM: there’s only one other person who talks like this, and that is God himself.

Jesus’s words bring us back to the wilderness of Midian. There in Exodus 3, God appears to Moses in the burning bush, and He reveals his name. He unveils something amazing about himself: “I AM WHO I AM.” What does that mean? God says that his existence is not defined by anyone other than himself. He is who is.

This is unlike us, for we identify ourselves by our given name, by our connections with other people, or by our job. But God alone exists independently, without reference to anything else; He is the one being who is completely free and unchanging, “I AM WHO I AM.” The burning bush that wasn’t consumed in Exodus 3 is actually a picture of God’s own inexhaustible life. For God never fails, his power never subsides, and his glory is never depleted. Unlike our life, which is always dependent on outside resources—food, drink, other people—the great “I AM” needs nothing and nobody.

So it’s very bold of Jesus to say what He has said, and to keep saying it throughout John’s Gospel. This is a God-name, and He has embraced it for himself! It’s little wonder that once He’s finished talking, verse 41 says “the Jews…complained about him.” Later they’ll even say it is blasphemy. They understand that Jesus has made an audacious claim about who He is.      

“I am the bread of life.” Jesus is much more than the manna which once fell from heaven, and He is much more than yesterday’s pieces of bread and fish. Yes, these things can sustain a life. We eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and several snacks every day in order to maintain our bodies, to keep life going. This is our daily bread.

But Jesus is uniquely the bread that gives life. He is the great I AM, so He has life in himself, and He can grant life to whomever comes to him. His strength and resources will never fail you and never disappoint. It is by knowing Christ that we find perfect satisfaction, through knowing him that we are filled forever.

 

2) the emptiness of earthly bread: Have you ever eaten a meal that seemed to fill you for only an hour, maybe half an hour? Perhaps it was a Big Mac and fries, or a plate full of white rice—such food can be disappointing. People talk about ‘empty calories,’ food and drink composed primarily of sugar, or certain fats and oils.

The message of our text isn’t about proper nutrition, but Jesus does warn against the emptiness of earthly bread. After He has fed the crowd, and they’re all looking for another meal, Jesus warns them: “Do not labour for the food which perishes” (v 27). They wanted more bread from him, enough to keep going another day.

But there has to be more to life than filling our stomachs. Just as there has to be more to our life than accumulating riches, or friends, or accomplishments. We have a spiritual need that is crying out for satisfaction, and we won’t find it in earthly things. “Do not labour for the food which perishes.”

Yes, when Jesus warns against “food that spoils,” He’s not just talking about filling up your pantry and freezer with non-perishables. For over time, almost any kind of food will spoil, getting moldy, or stale, or freezer burnt.

He’s speaking not just about food, but about all things that spoil, all the earthly goods that will not last. He is thinking about the house you live in. He’s imagining the car you drive. He means all the other treasures that you treasure, the opportunities and privileges you desire. Like the crowds around Jesus, we can become fixated on the physical. About these things, Jesus says somewhere else, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal” (Matt 6:19).

Earthly bread is hollow. Worldly satisfaction is like so many empty calories. Yet we let ourselves be motivated by such things. For instance, we sometimes let our incentive for work become little more than material gains. For you can earn a lot of money today: the longer hours you put in, the better clients you have, the more jobs you sell, the more money you can take home. Even students can start to think this way, and think only about the high-paying job they can get after their studies.

But is that what our life is for? The endless pursuit of earthly bread? To what end do we go to work tomorrow and the next day? And it’s a question which should make us reflect on our reasons for everything we love to do.

Why do we serve in the church? Why do we make nice sings? Why do we sing or play music? Why do we write? Why do we build stuff in our garage? Maybe we do it for the material gain—for the income, to maintain our lifestyle—or maybe we do it for the praise of other people, for public recognition, for acceptance, or simply for our own feeling of satisfaction. But if that’s all, then we are labouring for the food which perishes.

In our text, Jesus refers to how earthly things will never satisfy. He says, “He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believers in me shall never thirst” (v 35). The reality is that, apart from Christ, sinners will always have a hunger, always a thirst. There will be a deep and unrelenting need inside us, an emptiness that won’t go away.

Our physical stomach can be empty, of course, and we can fill it with two sandwiches and a banana. But this is different. There is within each of us a soul-hunger, a spirit-craving. Like pilgrims in a dry and weary land, we are thirsty. What is it? The longing to fill our emptiness means we are looking for peace. We are looking for security. We are looking for comfort. We are looking for home.

And Jesus says you can chase satisfaction your whole life, and you won’t ever be filled. You won’t be filled if you’re counting on earthly bread, or depending on worldly stuff. The crowds in John 6 were looking for the wrong thing entirely, like so many are today.

That’s not where Christ leaves us, of course. In John 6, He is teaching that it is possible to labour for a bread that nourishes more than the body. It is possible to fill yourself in a way that lasts to eternal life. It is Christ who is the bread with life-giving and life-sustaining power. To be joined to Christ is to be rid of our hunger.

 

3) the fullness of life through Christ: When Christ looks at his thirsting and hungering people, He knows exactly what we need. And what we need primarily is not things, we need him! So Jesus gives us himself: “I am the bread of life.” He shares himself out as the food which endures to everlasting life, the bread which gives fullness to all who believe in him.

You and I eat our food every day to keep going. If we don’t eat, we won’t grow or keep our strength. Food is that essential! Daily bread is God’s gift to us, and we thank him for it. But it is still the kind of food that doesn’t actually preserve life more than a few hours. If you’ve eaten, you’ll only need to eat again. Only through Christ can life endure like it’s meant to.

Earlier we underlined the word “true” in verse 32: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” It is true because it actually fills us, permanently. The real bread from heaven is a person, the one who came down in the incarnation of the Son of God.

So what must we do in order to share in Jesus, the bread of life? This is what the crowds ask too, “What shall we do?” (v 28). Where do we find this kind of nourishment? And Jesus answers that we must believe in the Christ. You have to put your faith in him!

See how Jesus puts it in our text. He requires that we come to him, and that we embrace him in faith. If you see how the two phrases of our text are actually statements in parallel to each other, you see what Jesus means:

              “He who comes to me shall never hunger,

               He who believes in me shall never thirst.”

To come to Christ is to believe in him. And to believe in him means that we believe in him alone. We accept that He is enough, for we know that He will not fail. We trust that He is God himself, and able to save us entirely. We come to Christ alone, not needing to go anywhere else.

What does that really mean, to rest in Christ alone? Is the comfort and hope of your life really in Christ alone? Is your life’s satisfaction found in Christ alone? You affirm that yes, you do live in Christ alone. So what does that look like?

Notice again how Jesus speaks of our need to come to him—that’s not keeping your distance from Christ, but drawing near. Not being so overawed by his majesty that you avoid him out of fear. Not being so familiar with Jesus that you don’t care to spend time with him. But being eager to come and embrace him!

Scripture says that believing in Jesus is more than acknowledging some points of doctrine about him, like why He had to come as true man and true God. But for you to believe is to respond to Christ with a faith that holds onto him as your one comfort, a faith that knows him as your true security, finds in him your real home. For you to believe in him is to have a steady hunger for the glory of Christ, and joyful confidence in what He did done for you.

Just a couple years after the events in our chapter, Jesus will give his own body and pour out his own blood. He will sacrifice himself in order to nourish the people of God, to sustain us not just for a while, not even for as long as we have life, but to sustain us eternally. Later in our chapter, He looks ahead to this: “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (vv 55-56).        

Whenever we celebrate Lord’s Supper, we get to enjoy this real spiritual food. His flesh and blood are signified in the bread and wine, and it is a powerful reminder of our need for Christ. Without him, we will hunger and thirst, even starve and perish, because we cannot live apart from his grace. Even if you have every physical need supplied (and more), you need to be filled with the grace of Christ. To rephrase a familiar text, “We do not live by bread alone, but by Christ alone.”

Those who have tasted the real food of Christ realize that they need him every hour. If we have really come to Christ and believed in him, then we’ll keep coming to him, day after day. Jesus won’t merely be our Sunday companion, but He’ll be our daily Saviour, daily Lord and Helper. Then we will love to eat the food of his Word, chewing on it and digesting it. We will love to pray to the Father in his name.

The amazing thing is that the more we eat the Bread of Life, the hungrier for him we become. Once we have started to experience Jesus’s grace and power, we actually want more of him! Your appetite for Christ won’t decrease the more you get to know him, or the more you read his Word, but your appetite for Christ will actually increase, because you’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. For him we hunger and thirst.

Such a hunger isn’t oppressive, but there’s a great joy in it. We are hungry, but we’ve found the Bread of Life! We are thirsty, and Christ can fill us! Now we know where to go with our need and weakness, our guilt and emptiness. No other food will satisfy, but Christ alone gives the food that endures to everlasting life!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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