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The Story Continues

August 05, 2018
By Rev. David French

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The Story Continues
John 6:22-35

With today’s reading, John picks up the account of the feeding of 5000 where Mark concludes. John tells us that the next day the crowd Jesus had been with realize neither He nor His disciples were there, and that only one boat had left, and Jesus wasn’t in it. Next, we learn that when some other boats come along, they get in and go to Capernaum to look for Jesus. Then we read, “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’” (John 6:25) Which seems like a fairly innocent question.

But Jesus sees the heart. He understood the motive and answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking 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 to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:26–27). Jesus knew that they did not understand that He came to give eternal life, not just a free meal.

The Q and A session they have with Jesus shows that they just don’t get it. In fact, they ask a question that shows not just a lack of understanding, but their unbelief. “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:30-31)

It’s almost mind numbing. Jesus has been healing the sick, curing the lame, causing the deaf to hear and the blind to see. He’s been casting out demons and raising the dead. These very people had eaten bread and fish multiplied from His hand just yesterday … and they ask for a sign. My friends, our sinful nature is never satisfied. You and I will always ask for and look for more signs.

Not much has changed down through the centuries. We might not believe in Jesus for free food, but have you listened to any T.V. lately? Here are just a few of the quotes I found online: “Obedience to God is the pathway to the life you really want to live” (Joyce Meyer), “… God wants all Christians prosperous” (Benny Hinn), or “Poverty is caused by sin and disobeying the word of God” (John Hagee). These are but three of the popular T.V. preachers who teach that worldly wealth and success is the reward for those who obey God.

These very popular people teach that if you do your part, God will give you what you want. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that we can do nothing. But, God, in His grace, freely gives us, not what we want, but what we need. These teachers make promises for life here and now, and when their promises fail, they blame your weak faith. God, on the other hand, makes eternal promises, and His promises never fail.

If these teachers mislead and their promises fail so often, why are they all so wealthy? Why do they fly in private planes and ride in limousines? Why do they live in mansions? It’s simple, these preachers of their own ideas are wealthy because the sinful nature is never satisfied with the simplicity of God’s perfect gifts. Adam and Eve were not satisfied, the Israelites in our Old Testament reading were not satisfied, and the people in today’s Gospel lesson were not satisfied. The Scriptures are full of people who were not satisfied with God’s promise to them.

What about you? God has promised to care for you and provide all you need. He has promised eternal salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. He has opened up rivers of forgiveness in word, water, bread, and wine. So, are God’s promises enough for you? Lord, forgive us, but I know there are times that I want more and so do you.

Think about it. We all know and freely confess that we deserve to suffer the eternal flames of hell. And yet, God sent His Son to take hell into Himself as He hung on a cross. God mercifully credits His own righteousness to you. You and I have eternal life for one reason: the perfect life, suffering, and death of Jesus Christ! The sign we were given to confirm that truth is the bodily resurrection of that very same Jesus Christ!

Still, faithful pastors hear things like: “Can you do something to make your message a little more relevant? Maybe a little more upbeat? You see … the eternal Father sent His Son to suffer our punishment on the cross so that we can have eternal life, and yet many aren’t satisfied! We want what we want instead of what God wants to give us!

Make no mistake that satan is more than happy to provide a wide variety of “preachers” who will show you a wide variety of ways to heaven, to give you exactly what you want. Why? When we get what we want, it draws us away from what we need, that is, the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And so, those who preach lies rake in millions while those who preach the truth often find themselves struggling to provide for their families. People are willing to give a lot of money to liars because those lies make them feel good about themselves. It is as the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write, “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3–4).

But Jesus continued, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32). Reminding them that the manna came from God, Moses was simply God’s servant. And then, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). According to Jesus, He Himself is the bread who comes down from heaven. That is, just as God sent manna to give earthly life to the people of Israel, He sent His Son to give eternal life to all people through His perfect life and sacrificial death. And so, Jesus is telling them that He is the bread of God who gives life to the world.

The crowds, still thinking about their stomachs, say, “Sir, give us this bread always” (John 6:34) and Jesus replies, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Clearly, Jesus is speaking about a different kind of bread for a different kind of life. You see, when it comes to the things of this world, Jesus says things like, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). But when it comes to the things eternal, He says, “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

These are words that, on this side of heaven, we will never truly understand; but by the working of the Holy Spirit, we can believe. By the gift of faith, created and nurtured through the word of God alone, be that spoken or combined with earthly elements, we can believe the promises God speaks and Jesus fulfills.

God, in His infinite knowledge and perfect wisdom, has given us, not what we want, but exactly what He knows we need … both here in time and for all eternity. As we read from His word in Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32)

Amen