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The Bread of Life
John 6: 35, 51
Some still ask, "Who is Jesus?"
They still ask, even though God has employed every heavenly and earthly means, in order to let the whole world know.
One of Jesus' best-known answers about His identity is "I am the bread of life."
The miracle that accompanied the statement was the feeding of 5000 men (plus women and children) with only
"five loaves and two small fishes."
This amazing event is recorded in all four Gospels, and may rank as the most familiar of Jesus' miracles.
In our minds we can easily visualized Jesus teaching on a hillside far from populated towns.
A huge crowd had followed Him out there, and had listened for hours.
When the people became hungry, they would have to walk several miles to obtain food.
When Jesus asked His disciples, "Where can we buy food for these people?"
Philip answered that it would require many day's wages to buy sufficient food for each person to have even a little to eat.
Andrew, Peter's brother, spoke up: "Here is a boy who has five barley loaves and two small fish.
But that lunch will not even begin to feed all these people."
"Make the men sit down," Jesus instructed.
The disciples fanned out and persuaded the crowd to sit down on the grass.
Jesus had multiplied that seemingly insignificant lunch into more than enough food for all.
- "And Jesus took the loaves," the Bible tells us, "And when he had given thanks,
he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes
as much as they would." (John 6: 11)
The disciples were even able to take up 12 baskets of leftovers.
All of Jesus' miracles, whether then or now, are astounding, but this one is no doubt one
of the most remarkable and significant.
The crowd required a tremendous amount of food, even if each person was to be given only one piece of bread
and a small portion of fish.
If we planned a church picnic for 5000 people, imagine how many catering vans would be necessary.
In this instance, Jesus employed the feeding of the 5000 to teach great truths about Himself.
On the following day many of those who had eaten of the bread and fish searched for Jesus all over the countryside
on both sides of the lake.
When they found Jesus, He questioned their motives: "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles,
but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6: 26)
Today, Americans have often given a superficial response to what might be called "the gospel of health and wealth."
Through the appeal of manipulative preachers, they ask, "What's in it for me?"
Many of Jesus' day, also, thought only of physical satisfaction.
Yet Jesus wanted them to concentrate on the spiritual truth He was trying to impart.
"Labour not for the meat (food) which perisheth," He taught, "But for that meat (food)
which endureth unto everlasting life..."
(John 6: 27)
As people so often asked in the Biblical account, they inquired here,
"What must we do?"
This is also a typical question today.
We sometimes think in terms of what we should do, instead of, what we desperately ought to be open to receive.
Jesus replied, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent... for the bread of God is he
which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." (John 6: 29, 33)
He emphasized this truth -- "I am the bread of life" -- and then repeated it. (6:35, 48)
In verse 51 Jesus expanded on this teaching: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven.."
Sometimes, even headstrong and impetuous Peter could ask a correct question, and verse 68 is a case in point:
"Lord, to whom shall we do? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
Let us compare John's Gospel account with contemporary concepts that draw upon the figurative meaning of "bread."
In this context, we will consider three emerging truths to help make the Bread of Life, Jesus, more nourishing to us.
Jesus Is the Source of Life!
John presented that central truth as the foundation of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word... all things
were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made." (1: 1-3)
All we have in this life is traceable back either to the earth or to mankind.
And God created both.
God is the source of life.
As an anonymous poet expressed it:
"Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
Back of the flour, the mill;
Back of the mill are the wheat and the shower
And the sun and the Father's will."
Surrounded as we are by a multiplicity of possessions and ideas, we all too easily forget the basic fact
that everything we have and everything we are emanated from God, the source.
In addition, all we can become in the future belongs to Him, too.
God Is the Ultimate Source!
Usually in the peak of health, young people can easily forget that God is the ultimate source -- of their bodies,
their possessions, their food, their homes...
God is the source of physical health, and also the source of all healing and restoration.
All the good that enters our lives is granted by God as His gift.
And God can take it all away if we misuse it!
As James 1:17 reminds us: "Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down
from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
God supplied the Israelites manna in the desert -- that sweet, mysterious daily food that fell from heaven.
It provided complete nutrition, perfect for both the weak and strong.
Since Moses' day, Hebrew tradition has taught that when the Messiah comes, He will give them "manna."
Orthodox Jews believe this will be one of the signs confirming the great prophecy foretold by Moses.
When Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, declaring that He was the bread sent down from heaven,
those who had heard Jesus and had eaten the food He miraculously provided were profoundly impressed.
It is significant that this miracle occurred during the Passover season.
It was not Moses who had given their forefathers manna in the wilderness, but it was God Himself, Jesus had pointed out:
"... My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." (John 6: 32; cf. Nehemiah 9:15)
Today, we all too often rely on people, organizations, or governments as our sources of supply.
We even short-sightedly think we provide for ourselves by our own labor and resources, without thinking through to God.
That God is the ultimate source is true for the non-Christian, too, but doubly so for the Christian, the believer in Christ and His Gospel.
If only we can understand that God is the source of all life, then we will recognize
that the essence of life is spiritual, not material.
Man's deepest hunger is spiritual.
We search for God, for truth, and for eternal life.
Yet the basic cause of all misery is our separation from God: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened,
that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God,
and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."
God Is the Untapped Source!
On the personal level, we are prone to depend on people and cultural mechanisms to provide for our needs,
forgetting to rely on God, without Whom, we could not exist another moment.
The business community speaks about "regular suppliers."
But the believer in Christ must constantly realize that the real supplier is singular and is not "what" but "Who."
All people and their organizations are no more than middlemen, for God is the source of all that is good and worthwhile.
In Colossians 1: 16-17 the apostle Paul powerfully expressed the primacy of Christ: "... All things were created by him
and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist (are held or cap together)."
Jesus Is the Sustenance of Life!
Jesus Christ is not only the source of life; He is its sustenance.
All of His ministry -- including His teachings and His signs, wonders, and miracles -- indicates that He was not
an impractical visionary.
Although the basic essence of life is spiritual, Jesus was keenly aware that mankind was dependent on "bread"
for its continued existence.
In those days, cereal foods were the staples of the human diet.
All other foods -- meats, fruits, vegetables -- were accompaniments and sometimes even luxuries.
Bread was essential!
"Thou art the Bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy Holy Word the truth that saveth me:
Give me to eat and live, with Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love."
We are sustained by God Himself.
And God continues to nourish us spiritually day by day.
He is not only the source of life and the sustenance of life, but He is so much more.
Jesus Is the Satisfaction of Life!
How apt is the solemn title concerning Jesus: "He's Everything To Me!"
Source! Sustenance! Satisfaction!
Jesus is more than adequate, more than sufficient.
His grace is super-abundant.
Because of a yawning spiritual chasm within, men and women without Christ in their lives will never
be satisfied with their existence.
Because God created us to desire more than physical gratification, materialism can never usher
in genuine completion and fulfillment.
At the time of his death, J. Paul Getty was the richest man in the world
by earthly standards, yet he wrote of his own unhappiness in his autobiography, As I See It:
"Why is it that I have been able to build my own automobile, drill oil wells, run an aircraft plant,
build and head a business empire -- yet remain unable to maintain even one satisfactory marriage relationship?"
Jesus, alone, can become the satisfaction in our lives, according to His promise:
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
(John 10: 10b)
Jesus Satiates Us!
Only Jesus can satiate the gnawing hunger within the human spirit.
John 6: 12 begins, "When they were filled..." speaking of the 5,000 whom Jesus fed.
The original word literally means, "gorged."
They had eaten every possible bite they could eat, and could not eat one more bite.
Yet, mere physical satisfaction was not sufficient for these people.
They wanted more, so they looked for Jesus again the following day.
St. Augustine's brief prayer is often quoted:
- Do we always buy a car simply to fulfill our need for transportation?
More often than not, we choose one with both a smooth-sounding motor and an appeal to our eyes.
Some may buy a new one just because they are tired of the old model.
- Do we always buy clothes merely because they are essential to cover our bodies?
No, we usually look for garments that make us look attractive.
Do we always want different kinds of food only because they are best for our health?
Here, too, we may find enjoyment and satisfaction in variety, since fulfillment in life depends
on "bread" -- and more.
"Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee."
Before his encounter with Christ, Augustine had experimented with every conceivable sin of the body
and imagination of the mind in his search for satisfaction.
He was restless until he found his rest in Jesus.
Jesus Saves Us!
Jesus is the Satisfier who saves us from our sins when we call on Him as Lord and Saviour.
He also saves us from our distresses -- worry over our well-being, frustration over our failures, and fears about our future.
Jesus assured the multitude when He said: "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger..." (John 6:35)
Here the original word for "never" is exceedingly strong, so the teaching means,
"never, never, never, -- no, never, not ever-hunger."
Jesus is always sufficient!
But God will never force-feed us the Bread of Life.
A person must become aware of his or her own soul-hunger for the sustenance that will permanently fill the emptiness within.
When we are willing to receive the Bread of Life, we may well exclaim:
"Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy Holy Word the truth that saveth me.
Give me to eat and live, with Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth, because Thou art love."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org