Sun 15th September 2013, Revd Jane Webb
Intro – I am –the name of God given to Moses and too precious to voice. In John’s gospel we have a series of I am sayings, often connected with a miracle (or sign as John calls them) to explain it and think it through, to help people see what the sign points to – who Jesus is – and the nature of God.In John 6 we read of the feeding of the 5,000, then Jesus walked on water, and then He taught the crowd in the synagogue about bread.
Reading: John 6, 25 – 35 and 41-2
Intro This summer while we were on holiday in Amsterdam we visited the Rijksmuseum, one of the world’s great art galleries. There was too much to take in , but we tried to take a quick glimpse at the bulk of the paintings so that we would have time to appreciate and absorb some of truly great works of art that were there. Several times we came across a lady with a tablet, determined to stand right in front of every canvas to get a good image on her tablet and then move on to the next. She made it difficult for everyone else, but more than that, she didn’t seem to be actually appreciating any of the pictures, just taking what she could. Whether or not art galleries are your thing, we can all be guilty of wanting to stick to a very superficial impression, we don’t want to think beneath the surface. How many want to keep on filling their thirsty cars with petrol and not think about the needs of future generations, how many want to keep Jesus as a baby on a Christmas Card? There are realities that may challenge us if we actually take time to look a bit more deeply at what we are seeing.
- V 26-34 Miracle and Messiah?
The crowd had enjoyed their free meal – Fish and bread for 5,000! What might Jesus do next – it was good entertainment and it seemed there was such a thing as a free lunch – Where is he – Oh – where have you been! Jesus’ reply – you aren’t looking for signs to point you the way to God – you’re just looking for another free lunch.
This is a long passage and we won’t be able to explore every twist and turn of the discussion, but I hope it will give you some connections. This passage is typical of the way a Rabbi taught – it began with a text from the Old Testament – in v 31 about Moses and manna. (When the Jews were in the wilderness they wished they were back in Egypt where at least they had food, and when Moses asked, God gave them manna, bread from heaven, and they had heard that if anyone gave them manna again, this was a sign that he was the Messiah!) The text would be followed by people’s questions and the rabbi’s teaching, supported often by a quote from one of the prophets (v45). Jesus tried to help them and us to see – food is important, but it won’t keep. The bread and the fish were only enough to satisfy for that day, the manna which God gave the people in the wilderness had to be collected every day, it rotted if they tried to keep it. So many of the things we enjoy are great, but they are only for a short time – a holiday, new clothes, a good friend even – but God has food for our souls that will endure to eternal life, that will sustain our spirits for ever ! Ooh – think the crowd – no more queuing in the market or in Morrisons? That sounds good – and cheap! “Sir, from now on give us this bread!” Oh dear, can’t you see beneath the surface? ….. .
- V 35- 50 Lifegiver and loaf
Jesus wants them to understand – so he makes an astonishing statement. “ I am the Bread of life!” Not the caviar of life – Jesus is the basic staple food, not an additional luxury. I wonder if a Chinese bible translates this as “I am the rice of Life?” Jesus wants us all to understand that He is the one who can give us life; that we have needs other than our physical needs – spiritual needs that are vital. Oaklands village has taken in a Day Centre where I have led services for many years. The leaders there are working with Joy to open that service up not only to the Day Centre but to the whole community, because they have seen that people need not only warmth, health, shelter and food, but their quality of life changes if their spiritual needs are also fed. It’s exciting to see how God is sending people along and Joy’s vision is becoming a reality with a group that has gone from 12 to 40 over the last 3 months. What happens if our spiritual needs are met? What difference will it make, what will Life be like if we will receive this bread? Astonishing blessing: The Father has sent him to us, Jesus has come down from Heaven, not because he fancied visiting earth, but to do God’s will. God’s will is that
- He feeds us so that we won’t have a spiritual hunger that can never be satisfied, an emptiness deep inside that so many battle with.
- What is more it is God’s will that none of us who have been given to Jesus will be lost, John 10, 28 No one can snatch them out of my hand
- And as if that wasn’t enough, we shall have eternal life and God will raise us up at the last day. That’s 3 sermons, at least!
They didn’t start a queue to receive that precious bread – the crowd were just the same as the people Moses was leading through the wilderness. They grumbled! He’s the boy from down the road – Joseph’s son – he didn’t come from Heaven, he came from Nazareth! Who does He think He is! If only they had stopped and truly opened their eyes, as Martyn encouraged us last week, and seen God’s love made flesh in Jesus, the bread of life.
V51 – 58 Son of man and sacrifice If they didn’t understand about Jesus coming from heaven, then the next bit was one stage too far, and is still a stumbling block for some. V51 I am the living bread – and this bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.
Some people heard horror and cannibals, others heard the self giving Son of man and sacrifice.
Right at the beginning of the chapter, John told us that it was Passover, the time when people remembered the sacrificial lamb, killed so that it’s blood could be a sign on the doorposts, so that their children would be saved; the lamb that they ate as they remembered God saving them all and bringing them out of Egypt. Another Passover would come when Jesus would give them the bread and wine, and talk about His saving death. He would say to them, as he says to us “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” If we are truly to receive the life that Jesus is offering, we need to dwell in him, and He in us – mutual indwelling. And for our finite minds what better symbol than eating, (chewing – down to earth word) the bread that is a symbol of his broken body. What are you thinking as you take communion? It’s bread – from Tesco’s or Morrison’s or Sainsbury’s. But it is a remembrance, a reliving of that last Supper – as if we were all there, a time to eat the bread as Jesus serves us, and as we eat so to allow him to fill our hearts and minds, even our very souls. As we take that symbol into our body, so He shows us the way to one that is available and yet mysterious, showing us that we too have access to the divine life, that we too can come into God’s presence.
When the Jews were lost and frightened and hungry in the wilderness, God showed them his love by feeding them each day with manna, bread from Heaven. There can be a wilderness in South Derbyshire too, a sense of not seeing where we are going, of wondering if it was better before we set out on the journey with God. Into your wilderness Jesus has come to show us that there is bread that will last- that he is the lifegiver, and in His death he has opened the gate to eternal life for all who feed on the Bread of Life.