Over a thousand years before Jesus was born, Moses told the people...
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV).
When Jesus began performing miracles people wondered, “Is this the Moses-like Prophet that was foretold?” Today we hear how Jesus showed the people that He was indeed The Prophet, but not the kind of the Prophet that the people had grown to expect.
John 6:30-36 (NIV)
30So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35Then Jesus declared, “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. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
“Don’t Try to Use Him”
When Jesus fed 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and two small fish, the people who saw it were convinced: this was the Prophet whom Moses had predicted. (John 6:14)
Moses had said that the Prophet would be like Him, and sure enough, just as Moses had fed the children of Israel with Manna in the desert, Jesus had fed the 5,000 with five loaves of barley bread, in the deserted lands near the sea of Galilee. (Exodus 16)
Surely, this was the beginning of a new age. An age of plenty. An age of rest under the Great Prophet and supplier of miracle Bread. Or so the people might have thought.
The morning after the feeding of the 5,000 the people woke to disappointment. Jesus was nowhere to be found. And more disappointing, there was no fresh Manna on the ground. No new barley loaves to fill their bellies either Perhaps this Jesus was not the Prophet who Moses had promised after all. But, He had fed them. That much was certain. And so the people hurried to catch up with Jesus.
When they found Him in the city of Capernaum. Jesus was not happy to see them. That seems strange, doesn’t it? Doesn’t Jesus want people to come to Him? Sure He does. But these people didn’t want Jesus the Savior. They wanted Jesus the baker. They ran after Him not because they believed in Him, but because they wanted a handout. Jesus said to those who trailed Him to Capernaum:
“…I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval" (John 6:26-27 NIV).
They wanted the Prophet to conform to their expectations. They wanted the Prophet to give them bread that didn’t need to be grow, threshed, ground, kneaded and baked.
I imagine if Jesus had given in, their next demand wouldn’t have been far away. Hey, Jesus, if you’re like Moses, then how about kicking these Romans out of our land? How about having them leave all their stuff when they go?
They wanted to manipulate Jesus so that He would meet their own expectations and carry out their own agendas.
And you know, people try to do the same thing today. Right here at Redemption Church even.
On the phone a while back I explained to a man that we’re a small church and we don’t have a fund that I could just give him money out of. He didn’t believe it, and toward the end of the phone conversation he said, “Well then what do you do with all that money that you leech off the people?” Needless to say, that was the end of our conversation.
You’d be surprised at how many calls I get from people who believe that churches exist to distribute hotel vouchers, meal tickets, free gas and (let’s not forget) cold hard cash.
They want to manipulate Jesus’ people with His words. Didn’t Jesus say to help the poor? Okay, gimme some money. Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Okay, stop telling me about this “sinner/savior” stuff. And by the way, can I get some free bread?
Let’s make sure that we never find ourselves twisting Jesus’ words to further our own agendas. Conveniently forgetting the Bible passages that interfere with our plans. Manipulating Jesus, using Him for our purposes, whatever they might be. For a time it might work, but God will not be used.
“7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10 NIV).
Instead of using Jesus we want to lay ourselves before Him and say, “Jesus, dear Savior, use us. You are beyond our expectations. Your way is better than our pitiful agenda. Use us.”
“Consider His Source”
When the people found Jesus at Capernaum, they asked Him again for barley bread. Jesus told them to seek something better. Verse 32…
“…I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32a-33 NIV)
Jesus reminds them it wasn’t the man Moses who fed the old ones with Manna, it was God.
And God had much more to offer than food and drink. In ancient times and in modern times God has provided food for people on this planet. But, better than that, from ancient times to modern times God has also provided the world with life for the spirit. He has offered a relationship with the Creator, through faith the Creator’s promise of salvation.
The people who came to Jesus for bread needed to consider the source. Man can only provide things that last in this life. But God is not limited to earthly things in His gift giving. God gives us far more than barley bread.
God is a richer source than those people imagined. He gives us Jesus, the Bread of Life. Jesus, the bread that doesn’t just sustain body-life, the Bread that makes the dead soul alive and equips a person for an eternal union with God.
They had their priorities completely backwards. Remember what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount?
“…do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV).
They were seeking first food and drink, at the expense of things eternal. I pray that God would teach us all to order our lives with Jesus at the pinnacle. Jesus at the foundation. Jesus as the beginning of our every day. Jesus at the end and throughout all. Jesus as our first priority in life. For in Him is forgiveness for our daily sins and life that lasts forever.
If God gives us the Bread of Life for free, why do we expect that He won’t give us the things that we really need in life. The things we need to live our lives to Him?
We’ve got to consider the source too. God is both the source of bread, and the source of forgiveness. Let’s continue to come to Jesus, asking Him for forgiveness for our sins, I guarantee that the Father will make sure we have everything else we need too.
“Take What God is Serving”
They were some seriously stubborn people.
Jesus told them that the bread that God continually gives to the world is the PERSON who came from heaven to give life to everyone!
Their response: Bread? Did He say bread? Yeah, give us some more of that barley bread. Verse 34…
“34“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35Then Jesus declared, “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. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:34-36 NIV).
I’d point your attention back to the sermon on the mount just for a moment. Near the beginning of that sermon, Jesus says,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6 NIV).
Jesus wanted to fill these sinners up with His righteousness. He knew that in the future, He would drain away God’s wrath over their sins by suffering the agony that those sins had earned them. Right now Jesus wanted nothing more than for these people to trust in Him so that they could be righteous before God the Father.
But all they wanted was barley bread.
They didn’t hunger and thirst for righteousness. Maybe they didn’t even see that they needed it. Like the way a malnutrition or dehydrated person can suffer for days on end, never knowing what’s missing.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. You sit here today, member of this congregation because Your have seen Him in the pages of Scripture and by the Spirit’s power You believe in Him. You have taken in the Bread of Life. He nourishes you from inside and feeds you from His Word.
Dear Christians, we’ll never starve for righteousness, because Jesus fills us with His perfect life. We’ll never thirst for righteousness because Jesus pours out all His goodness over us in Baptism, and comes to us every time we take Communion, and every time we take in and digest His Holy Word.
Don’t run after the dirt bread that this world offers. Take what God is serving. Take the Bread of Life. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of sinners like you and me.
I invite you to pray with me.
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, with the minds that you have given us, we can imagine wonderful things. We write great stories. We build magnificent machines. But the more we know, the more questions we have. And no matter how wise we think we are, without You, we cannot be whole. We cannot be full. We cannot know and be one with You, our Creator. Fill our hearts and minds with your thoughts. With Your truth. Make us wise for salvation through Christ Jesus. Make us wise to know You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.