I Am the Bread of Life
Today's sermon was drawn from the passage in John 6:25-59. It concentrated especially on verse 35, where Jesus makes the confusing claim "I am the bread of life." Reverend Singleton gave us some background. This passage comes directly after the passage where Jesus fed thousands of people with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. It appears that the crowd who had been fed so miraculously followed Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to see if he would repeat the miracle. But Jesus used their questions to illustrate an important truth. He used their quest for a full stomach to explain that what they really needed was a full soul.
Jesus was talking to people who knew about miracles. In fact, they were testing him by the miracles he did. They talked about the manna that their ancestors had eaten in the wilderness (Exodus 16). They reminded him of the bread he had already provided. But Jesus had more to give them than physical food. He was about to explain his outrageous claim that he was the bread of life!
Have you ever heard the term "She's so heavenly minded that she's no earthly good?" I wonder if that's what the people thought about Jesus. We have so many physical needs, it seems hard to focus on anything else. Jesus knew this, which is why he had given them food in the first place. Unfortunately, living just for our physical selves is an exercise in futility. Our physical things will decay and wear out. Our clothes, our cars, our computers, even our own bodies and ultimately our planet are destined to wear out and perish. Jesus knew this. But he also knew something else. He knew that there was more. Much more. And he didn't just want to help these people with their physical needs. He wanted to give them abundant, eternal life.
"Abundant" means "marked by great plenty." "Eternal" means "valid or existing at all times." Try to get your brain around this. Jesus doesn't just want to meet our needs. He wants us to have great plenty forever. Did you get a picture in your head of huge amounts of stuff, like I did? Did it seem the opposite of the "simple life" that Jesus led? That's because we keep thinking with our physical brains about our physical world. Let's try to get a new picture in our heads. Let's stop thinking about the physical for a few minutes. Let's try to focus on the spiritual.
Find somewhere to sit that is relatively comfortable. Try to find a quiet place, or at least a place where you can block out the noise. Then close your eyes. Don't think about the things that are around you. We're taking a short trip into our spiritual selves. It's okay if physical things invade your thoughts. Just kind of mentally wave to them and then get back to not worrying about them. When you're able to go on, think about God. But don't try to conjure up a picture or an idea of him. Just try to focus on his presence. Maybe he's all around you, holding you as if you were a little child. He wants to feed you and clothe you, but he also wants to comfort you and give you peace. Jesus came to show us who God is, and to explain to us what God wants for us. He wants you to have joy. To have an abundant, eternal life.
We are not just flesh and blood. We have been given a spirit. In fact, when we choose to follow God, our spirit is renewed and expanded. Ezekiel 11: 19-20 says: I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist assures us that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus himself assures us in John 14: 15-17 that he will send the Holy Spirit, or advocate, to live in us.
We are physical beings, so we need physical food. Jesus is telling us that we are also spiritual beings, so we need spiritual food. We understand how to work for food to feed our bodies, but how do we work to feed our spirits?
The passage has two answers: First of all, believe in the one God has sent (vs. 29). Here, Jesus was talking about himself. Then, remain in him, and let him remain in you (vs. 56). This is where the "bread of life" idea comes in. Jesus said that we have to "feed on him" (vs. 57). Jesus is also the "Word of God" (John 1). So one way we can do this is to listen to God's word.
If you tried the focusing exercise before, you will know that it is hard to focus on God without something to hang on to, so I recommend spending time listening to, or reading, his word. The best place to find this is in the Bible. If you have your own Bible, don't let it sit on the shelf! Open it up and see what God says. If you can't put your hands on a Bible, you can find it online! The links on this post are all from Bible Gateway. No, I'm not being paid to promote their site, but I find it really helpful when I need to find a particular passage, and since this blog is online, it makes sense to have online sources for you to use. You can search for words or ideas in multiple Bible versions, and even listen to them if you don't want to read. Then, find someone you can talk to. Hopefully you have a church in your area that you are able to contact, if you don't personally know anyone who believes in God. If you don't, please feel free to use the contact form on our website and we would be happy to speak with you.
Don't let your spirit starve! Jesus has provided all of the food that we will ever need. It is up to us to eat.