11th Sunday after Pentecost “He is Baked, Served & Shared”
August 8, 2021 John 6:35–51
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
You may have remembered me saying to you before that this is year ‘B’ in our 3-year cycle of Scripture lessons. For the most part, for this year, our Gospel readings have been from the Gospel of Mark. Many churches follow this 3-year cycle of using the 3 Synoptic Gospels, Matthew/Mark/&Luke, which teach us of the life & ministry of our Lord & Savior Jesus from His birth to His death/resurrection/&ascension. So, we have years ‘A,B,C’ using Matthew/Mark/&Luke. Since Mark’s Gospel is shorter than the other two, so for some Sundays we use readings from the Gospel of John. For last Sunday, today & for next Sunday, we hear from John chpt.6 as Jesus teaches us that He is The Bread of Life.
Often, in the OT, the Word of God has a connection to ‘bread’. For example, Isaiah 55 says: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there
but water the earth, ….giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth.”
So, the Jews had learned that God’s Word was like ‘bread for the soul’; and now here comes Jesus declaring: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.’ To ‘eat’ this bread means to ‘believe’ in Jesus as God’s Son & our Savior. To ‘eat’ is to receive Him as heaven’s food for our soul, so that this life will not make us hunger or thirst = He satisfies us with true life.
On a fairly regular basis, when I was growing up, my mother would make bread.
There was no such thing as a ‘bread machine’ back then. My sister, brother, & I would come home from school, and there would be that wonderful fragrance of homemade bread in the house; and she would let us have a slice while it was still warm. It was later that I learned how much time & effort went into making bread; mixing, kneading, rising & baking. She could’ve just bought a loaf of bread; but instead, mom put ‘herself’ into it. It was part of the time & effort of showing love for the family. So it is with our God & with His Bread of our salvation.
And so the Psalm said, ‘oh taste and see that the Lord is good.’
In John 6, Jesus is in Bethsaida. On the day before, He fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves & 2 fish; during the night He walked on water across the Sea of Galilee; & now the crowd comes to Him again, mostly looking for more bread. Instead, Jesus gives them something more important. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’ ” Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the source of genuine life: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven (He says). If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
This is ‘cross’ talk. Jesus gave nothing less than His very life, on a cross, for the life of the world. This is also ‘faith’ talk. To ‘eat the bread of life’ is to trust that Jesus is the God who is saving us for a life after death. “This is the will of my Father,” says Jesus, “that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him (will) have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” When Jesus stood outside the tomb of Lazarus, he told the sisters, Martha & Mary: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (Jn 11:25–26).
Store-brought bread is ..‘good’; but homemade bread is ..‘gooder’. *What can living with ‘the Bread of Life’ be compared to? It’s quantity is eternal; it’s quality includes /mercy, /endurance, /peace, /hope, /& a reserved future. Every earthly thing we see & have now will not last; /it can be taken away, /it breaks or rusts, /or becomes boring. One accident, one storm, one illness takes things away. That’s all ‘death’, not ‘life’. Jesus put himself into this old life with us so that we would have new life. He ‘mixed it up’, / he was ‘kneaded’ & ‘baked’, /and then he ‘rose’. His time & effort has shown us the love of the Father. We have been given the Bread of Life.
Think again of those people Jesus is talking to. Yesterday, Jesus gave them bread & fish to eat; today they have traveled miles around the Sea of Galilee to get more = why? *Would you walk miles to get some barley-bread and dried fish? These weren’t poor, starving people; they were drawn to Jesus for something more = whether they realized it or not.
The feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle of God for them; it made them remember when God fed their ancestors in the wilderness with manna, as the Israelites traveled from slavery in…> …> Egypt, to freedom in Canaan. Maybe they weren’t sure ‘why’, but they were being drawn to Jesus for more than ‘daily bread.’
Our faith acknowledges that God is in charge of all our physical needs; which is why Jesus has taught us to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ With the wisdom of Luther’s Small Catechism, we confess that ‘daily bread’ is everything we need for this body & life. But our faith says that Jesus was sent to us to provide more than what this life needs = because this life ends. It ends because we have participated in sin; and the wages of sin is death.
We have participated in the ‘grumbling’ like these Jews in John 6. That grumbling is our resistance to God; it’s our rebellion in doing things our own way instead of His ways; it’s our bad-attitude when we blame God for causing us trouble, or allowing trouble to happen to us,
and when we accuse God of being mean, or forgetful, or cruel to us.
So Jesus is sent as the sign that God is not only looking after our daily bread, but even beyond. Jesus miraculously fed the crowd to show them the sign that He had the full image & power of the God of the OT. It was a sign of what Jesus quoted to Satan from Deut.8, when He said, ‘it is written: man does not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’
That ‘word of the Lord’ is the promise of forgiveness & mercy; a word for our /endurance, /peace, /hope, /& a reserved future. Jesus became that Word in real flesh & blood. He is how we ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’ (Ps.34) Hearing & following Jesus is how we are able to know & experience the God of Life; He’s our Creator & the One who holds the future for us.
So, when Jesus arrived, He came to serve. But serving bread was too little; He serves himself. In the same way, it’s too short-sighted & too small a thing for us to look to Jesus as the One who will make our earthly life /happy, /or trouble-free, /or without pain, sorrow, or tears. It’s too small a thing for Jesus to just give us some /bread & fish, /or steak & potatoes, /or houses & cars, /or land & money, /or health & beauty. Those are -indeed- blessings, or ‘manna’; but He was sent for a bigger purpose, and He expects us to believe that.
He said, ‘but I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. …>
…> And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of those He has given me, but raise them up on the last day.’ That’s His bigger purpose. It’s more than daily bread & blessings; there will be eternal manna.
Jesus says to you & me: stop your grumbling; your life is more than loaves & fish. “truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. But this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
Today, again, we taste & see that the Lord is good; and that Jesus is the Bread of Life, who feeds us in the Word. We have come before Him, humble & repentant; we have confessed that we have grumbled against Him, and we don’t deserve to be called His people.
Yet we have come to Him because He has drawn us to the promise of grace & mercy in His work as the one Savior & Son of God. By His cross & authority, Jesus has taken away the guilt of our sin, & we are free to live without fear, walking in His good & holy ways.
Thru Paul, that promise is made clear when he writes: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him.” (that’s in Eph 2).
Having that promise of the life-to-come now satisfies the life we are living right now.
It’s a baptismal life, as we heard in our 2nd lesson today from Ephesians 4: “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life, and is corrupt thru deceitful desires, and … be renewed in… and … put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. …Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
He is a ‘fragrant offering’, like the fragrance of homemade bread, when mom would put herself into its /mixing, /kneading, /rising, /& baking = all so that we would enjoy the eating. Jesus is the ‘Bread of Life.’ The Father sent Him to be Baked, Served, /& shared so that we will enjoy the taste of true life.