The Bread of Life
Updated: Aug 17
August 1, 2021 Rev. Dr. Darlis Swan
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were beside the sea, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for 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 for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform 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, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which 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 will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Happy Bread of Life Sunday!
Last Sunday we listened to the story in the gospel of John about the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus told the crowd on the mountainside that he would feed them all. What he was trying to say was, “God will provide.”
Imagine being fed with food that Jesus gave you. Imagine being one of the crowd that followed Jesus in his ministry on this earth. If you had been fed with food until you were filled and could not possibly want more, wouldn’t you be satisfied? In today’s gospel we see that Jesus very quickly realized that the crowd was following him because they wanted more food. As usual Jesus challenges this crowd of people who “just don’t seem to get it.” While at first it may seem that they are just not understanding, that may not be the whole story. It may be that this is a kind of invitation - an unfolding of who Jesus really is. Jesus tells them that they should not be working for food that perishes but the food that endures for eternal life. In the feeding of the five thousand we have a story of simple abundance. Here we have a strong sense of the presence of Christ.
Again, the crowd asks what they must do. What good works are necessary for this bread? Jesus answers that there is only one thing that is necessary and that is to believe in him. Unfortunately, this crowd still doesn’t catch on. You see they are thinking in terms of works, and they are looking for a sign that they are doing what is required. They even go so far as to say that Moses gave their ancestors bread in the wilderness, so why shouldn’t they have it as well? How selfish of them to assume that bread was from Moses and not from God! Jesus quickly points that out to them, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
The crowd responds by saying that they want to receive this bread always. (John 6:34 – “Sir, give us this bread always.”) While it may appear that they now get the point, Jesus’ response indicates that perhaps they don’t. Jesus tells them that they are still focused on the wrong kind of bread. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” This is the bread that endures.
The crowd was thinking that they could control Jesus. They wanted to make him into a kind of king who would tell them what to do, and they would follow. The kind of hero they were seeking was going to feed them earthly food. They misunderstand when Jesus tells them that he is the living bread from God.
This crowd along the sea is not so different from us. Because of our sinful nature we tend to think of Jesus in terms of what we can do and the things we remember Jesus has done for us. We become so concerned with the troubles of daily life – employment, paying bills on time, protecting our
property that we sometimes clutch on to an image of Jesus as the one who will get us that job, take that difficult person out of our lives, and provide us with a comfortable life. As the church of Christ on this earth, we have been given so much more and Jesus asks only that we believe in him. As the one body of Christ, with one lord, one faith, one baptism (as it says in Ephesians 4), we have been given gifts that go way beyond our daily bread.
When we pray for our daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer, are we really asking for the bread of life? The German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, spoke to this when he wrote, “My life is outside myself, beyond my disposal. My life is another, a stranger; Jesus Christ.”
“Give us this day our daily bread” may be one of their easiest prayers to pray. We want and need food and shelter, a happy family, good government, friends, world peace, and peace here in this community. When we say daily bread we are reminded that we should not worry about the future. Unlike the crowds that followed Jesus we know that we are to be content with what God provides. In this petition of the Lord’s Prayer we are also asking that God will help us to receive our daily bread with thanks.
Of course, God would grant us daily bread even if we failed to pray for it as God understands our sinful nature. It is hard for us to think that we would not have bread. Even adversities such as unemployment are usually temporary and do not leave us totally hungry. But that is not the case in other parts of the world. Every day the headlines remind us that many people in other parts of the world do not have food and other necessities of life in abundance as we do. That may even be true in this community around us. How many children go hungry in the world and in our nation? When I think of the crowd chasing Jesus, I too want a sign that God is doing something new – something that circumstances created by humans cannot change!
As we pray for the bread of life for ourselves, let us also pray that the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world especially in places such as Africa will be satisfied. Having had the opportunity to spend several weeks in Harare, Zimbabwe, I can witness to the humility and gentleness of those people. For many in Harare, bread means simply having enough to eat on a particular day. May they receive not only nourishment for their bodies but the bread of God to sustain them. May they experience the kind of food that gives life to the world.
Through this gospel story Jesus expands our understanding of bread as a substance that we need to survive to the gift of himself that he gives to us freely and without conditions! We are sometimes like the crowd asking what we must do to have this eternal food. We need only to receive the gift. This does not mean that we will never suffer or face life’s difficulties and challenges. It does not mean that we should not care for others who appear to have less than we do. It means that all our needs and longings are met in Jesus. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus says.
“So the next time you feel lost and alone…in need of some direction that will point you to Jesus”, Pastor Sharron Blezard said in a recent post on stewardship of life, “when you are hungry for a sign, take a walk past your local bakery and smell the fresh, yeasty scent of rising dough. Next time you bite into freshly buttered toast, take it as a sign of God’s daily provision and care. And when you gather with your brothers and sisters around Christ’s table for a bit of bread and wine, be assured of the presence of your Lord.”