Sunday, August 9, 2015
The Bread of Life ~ Jesus Is Bread
Last week we heard how Jesus took a little boy’s lunch and fed well over 5,000 people and then gathered up 12 baskets of leftovers. The excitement and enthusiasm of the crowd getting a free meal was pretty strong and the people wanted to follow Jesus and even make him a king because Jesus was giving them free food, but Jesus knew that their intentions weren’t spiritual but physical. They wanted a leader who would meet their earthly needs and so Jesus withdrew from the crowds and his disciples to have some time to himself. The disciples got into a boat and headed off to Capernaum and then during the night Jesus walked across the water to join them. In the morning the crowds realize Jesus and the disciples had all left so they get into boats and crossed over to Capernaum to find Jesus and this is where we pick up the story in John 6:25-35.
The people follow Jesus because they want bread; they want actual, physical bread or a free meal. Jesus even said that the people were following him because he gave them bread to eat (John 6:26), but Jesus didn’t come into this world to give bread for us to eat here and now, he came to be the bread of life itself. Through Moses, God provided people with bread from heaven that they could eat each and every day, but Jesus wasn’t here to provide people with daily bread, he was to be the bread that was going to give people life. Jesus came to give us what we need to experience all the fullness and abundance of true life.
The bread of life which came down from heaven is the person of Jesus and it is only Jesus who has the power to satisfy us and fill our lives with any larger sense of meaning, purpose, love or joy. This life comes to us when we are willing to listen to Jesus, learn from Jesus and then believe what he says. That’s what Jesus says in John 6:45-51a. So it is in listening and learning from Jesus and believing and trusting in Jesus that we experience life which is why reading God’s word and studying and reflecting or learning what God says here is so important- it brings us life.
Whenever I think about the power of Jesus teaching to bring life I can’t help but think about the first Bible Study I was in during my freshman year of college. I’ll be honest, I didn’t join a bible study to listen to God or learn about Jesus, and I didn’t join to believe or trust Jesus deeper, I thought my life was fine just the way it was, I just wanted to make some friends. I joined a Bible study because I was a lonely freshman at MSU and decided to attend the group to get connected. Little did I know that the power of God’s word and the power of Jesus would change me.
We studied the gospel of Mark which is filled with the teaching of Jesus and the more I listened to Jesus and learned from the group, the more I found that my life was missing something. I was empty inside and I found myself hungry for something more, or longing to experience what I saw as joy and purpose in the lives of the people in the bible and in the bible study. It was like they were all eating something delicious and filling that I was missing. They were all satisfied and full and I wasn’t. The difference was that they had accepted Jesus as the bread of life, they listened and learned and believed in Jesus in a way I had not and so they were really living life and I was dying.
I kept listening and learning and asking questions and in time I was confronted with the claims of Jesus as the Messiah and the need we all have to come to Jesus and believe or trust in him in a way that goes beyond simply giving intellectual ascent to his life lived 2000 years ago and the truth of his teaching. One of the first things I had to accept about the person of Jesus as the bread of life is that Jesus was God. Jesus said, I and the father are one, but he also said that to know him was to know God,
to see him was to see God,
to believe in him was to believe in God,
to receive him was to receive God
to honor him was to honor God.
Even the statement that Jesus makes here, I am the bread of life contains in it the statement, I AM, which was the name of God. This would not have been lost on the people listening to Jesus. Many times Jesus used the words, I AM and it was a direct reference to the name of God and it was a statement that Jesus was making that he was God in the flesh. If Jesus was God then I had to accept his teaching on a whole different level and hear his words as words of truth. I now had to accept that I was a sinner who needed God’s mercy. I had to accept that on my own I could not overcome sin but needed God’s forgiveness and that if I wanted to experience life and life eternal I had to accept what Jesus did on the cross for me.
During that time of my life I read a great little book called Basic Christianity, by John Stott. I pulled it off my shelf this week and was amazed because I think I have most of the book underlined. While much of the book is highlighted there is only one spot that has a star and this is what it says:
We have not ourselves achieved [forgiveness] by our own effort; we have received it from [Jesus] as a gift. Sin caused an estrangement; the cross, the crucifixion of Christ, has accomplished an atonement. Sin bred enmity; the cross has brought peace. Sin created a gulf between man and God; the cross has bridged it. Sin broke the fellowship; the cross has restored it. To state the same truth in different words, as Paul did to the Romans, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (John R.W. Stott)
It is the person of Jesus Christ, the son of God or God in the flesh, who took on my sin and was willing to suffer the penalty for that sin by dying on the cross so that I could be forgiven and brought back into a relationship with God. It is Jesus himself who brings us life and life eternal and so as the bread of life Jesus didn’t come to give us bread to eat, he came to be the person who would bring us life and life eternal and this life is ours when we believe and trust in Him.
So the bread of life is the person of Jesus and when we accept Jesus we are filled with power. We are filled with the power of God that satisfies, saves and gives us a secure future and we will explore this more in a few weeks, but for now let’s just remember that Jesus brings power to our lives. Last week we saw the power of Jesus to multiply bread and feed thousands. Through that miracle we saw the power of Jesus bring God’s kingdom into the life of a little boy who was willing to give what he had to Jesus and through that miracle we saw the power of Jesus fill the multitudes.
We also see in John’s story here the power of Jesus to walk on water, or the power that Jesus has over nature. If we listen and learn from Jesus we see that he has power to forgive and power to heal and the power to bring hope into hopeless situations. Jesus also had the power to create community and power to bring God’s purpose into people’s lives and power to help us feel love and power to help us love others. There is simply a power in Jesus that we experience as we approach him and that power is available to us.
Going back to my time in college, the power Jesus gave me when I came to him was a power that filled my life with a sense of meaning and direction. Knowing that Jesus was God and that he had come to save me suddenly gave my life a new sense of direction and purpose. I wanted to live for something greater than just making money and travelling to all the beautiful places in this world (those where my greatest ambitions at that time). I wanted to do something more. I felt a power to do something more and so I began to explore new directions in life.
At this same time I also needed the power of forgiveness in my life. I was confronted with the reality of my sin and how my sin had not only created a gulf between me and God but it had broken down my relationships with others and I knew that on my own, I couldn’t fix this, I needed the power of Jesus to forgiven – and he did. When I spoke to the person of Jesus in prayer and finally confessed by sin and asked for God to forgive me, there was a power of forgiveness that brought healing and hope to my life. My life was different in those moments and it is that kind of power that God wants to offer to all of us. This week I have been reminded that I still need this power. There are still things in my life that break God’s heart and break my relationship with God. There are still things in my life that stress and break my relationships with others and on my own I cannot change these things – but the power of God can. The power of God can. I still need the power of God that comes through Jesus.
I don’t know what kind of power you need from Jesus today, but as the bread of life there is power in Jesus and Jesus wants to share that power with all of us. To experience this power all we need to do is come to Jesus and ask and while that power is freely given, there is price to pay. I know that doesn’t seem to make any sense, it is free and yet there is a price to pay, but it’s the truth because accepting Jesus isn’t always easy and again we see that in John 6:53-60, 66.
Now let’s not get hung up on Jesus talking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood because he isn’t talking about cannibalism. He’s also not talking about communion because when Jesus says to eat and drink here the words he uses tell us that it is a once for all time action. What Jesus is saying is that if we want to experience life and power then we need to take the fullness of Jesus life and life blood which is his spirit into every corner of our heart and lives. We have to reorient our hearts and lives on the person of Jesus and this can only happen if we are willing to die to ourselves – and that’s the price.
The price of accepting Jesus as the bread of life is our lives, or living our lives for ourselves and with our own self-interest at the center of all we do. As Jesus said, we have to be willing to die to ourselves or take up a cross if we are going to follow him and that is not easy. We live in a world where we are told that it is ok to live for ourselves and to place ourselves first. We live in a society where being humble and confessing our sin or acknowledging our need for help is seen as unacceptable. Taking hold of Jesus means letting go of ourselves in every way and that is just as hard and difficult a saying today as it was in the days of Jesus and many people still turn away from Jesus at this point.
There is a price we have to pay to accept that Jesus is the bread of life. We have to be willing to let go of so many things in this world that we trust in and lean on and we have to let go of so much of ourselves that it unsettles us at times – but if we are willing to pay the price we will experience the fullness of life. Let’s go back to that little boy who gave his lunch, he gave up everything he had, gave it all to Jesus, but he got so much in return. If we are willing to give up everything we have and allow Jesus into every corner of our heart and life – we will get so much in return because then and only then does Jesus become for us the bread of life.
Bread of Life ~ Jesus Is Bread
1. The bread of life is the PERSON of Jesus.
• Take some time to listen and learn from Jesus by reading one of the four gospels.
• What teaching of Jesus offers the most comfort to you?
• What teaching of Jesus challenges you the most?
• In what area of life do you need to trust Jesus more?
• Commit to joining a Sunday school class, small group or Bible study to listen and learn with others. (See Cassie Marsh-Caldwell for information on groups.)
2. The bread of life is the POWER of Jesus.
• Identify ways in which Jesus brought power to people’s life.
• Where in your life do you need to experience the power of Jesus? Ask Jesus for this power.
• Where do you see the power of Jesus needed in your family? Ask Jesus for this power.
• Where do you see the power of Jesus needed in the life of those you know and love? Ask Jesus to give them His power.
• Where do you see the power of Jesus needed in our community and world? Ask Jesus to send His power.
3. The bread of life comes at a PRICE. To eat his flesh and drink his blood means to take the fullness of Jesus into every corner of our heart and life.
• What dark corners of your heart needs the love Jesus?
• What areas of your life need the truth of Jesus?
• How does the purpose of Jesus need to give direction to your future?
Jesus, teach me to die to myself so that I might experience the fullness of life that only You offer. AMEN