I AM the Bread of Life

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." So they asked him, "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "always give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. -John 6:25-40

So this morning, we are looking at this text in John Chapter 6, this is actually the first of the I am statements, but I shared with you when we started that with today being world Communion Sunday, I thought, Well, let's talk about Jesus saying, I am the bread of life on World Communion Sunday. So here we are, and honestly, after having studied and looked at some of the other ones and looked at this one, I think this might be one of the more difficult ones as far as what Jesus is saying and what's going on on the surface, it seems pretty simple I am the bread of life. But this passage is the sixth chapter of John, there's a lot of things going on. So to set the stage for it, we had a fairly long section that I'd asked Linda to read starting in verse 25, but we need to understand that from the beginning of John chapter 6, We have... First Jesus feeding the 5000, this was where He's gathered in their teaching and comes to the end of the day and everybody needs to eat, and Jesus says, Well, disciples, you need to feed them, and they're like, We don't have anything to feed them, and Jesus says, Go and collect and see what you can find, and they find that boy that has a couple of fish and some loves of bread, so Jesus prays for it, blesses it, breaks it, and they pass it out, and everybody eats their fill, 5000 people fed that day.


Well, we have a second miracle story that happens after that, not only has everybody been fed, but then the disciples set out for another part of the lake, Jesus stays behind, but as they're approaching the other side, they see what they think is a ghost... Coming across the water, and it's actually Jesus walking on the water and catches up with them. So we find the reading that we had this morning, then picking up on the next day, all those people that just sat on the hill, all those people that had been hungry and had their fill, they hurry on around the lake and they catch up with Jesus and we're told that when they find him, they say, Hey, Jesus, that was some pretty good bread. Can you do that again? We're hungry. It's another day. And I'm kind of going quickly through this conversation that takes place, but one of the things that they point out to Jesus is, Hey, Jesus, do you remember our ancestors, they spent those 40 years wandering the wilderness, God gave them bread every day, so... Go ahead, do your thing. Break the bread, pass it out, 'cause we wanna eat.


And Jesus begins to use these miracles as a teaching moment to help them to better understand what's going on. So that's where we jump in, trying to understand what's going on, what is it about bread and what about this scenario that becomes such a significant one that Jesus spends the time talking about it with them, as he does...


As I shared with the kids, bread was a staple in the diet of most Palestinian people in Jesus day. It was what they ate. It was what was for breakfast and lunch and dinner, and it maybe had some other things to go with it, but you know, meat was precious, you didn't have that very often, they may have had olives and vegetables and some other things, but the bulk of the meal was the bread. It was the stuff of life. Just as the Israelites for those 40 years at their Mana, which they compared to and made cakes or a bread out of, Jesus had fed this crowd with bread, and they wanted some more because we understand that once you eat you're gonna get hungry again, and you're gonna need your next meal. In our world today, we talk about people that live in food insecurity, people that aren't sure where that next meal is coming from, people that are so uncertain about whether there will be anything on the table or not, that it adds a huge amount of stress to their lives...


Well, the truth of it is that the people in Jesus day, the common folk were probably a bit food-insecure themselves, because many of them lived hand-to-mouth, whether it was growing it and farming it, making it, eating it, and repeating and doing all of that. Again and again, or working to have just enough to provide for themselves and their family, they probably did in many ways live meal to meal.


They recognize the value and the importance of bread and boy, if there was somebody who could break it and pray for it and pass it out and everybody could eat, and that would be wonderful to never have to worry about where that next meal was coming from, we just need to follow this guy around, and it's gonna be for us just like it was for our ancestors, not a worry in the world... And Jesus says, Well, you kind of got it wrong, first off, Moses wasn't the one that provided it, like you're pointing out, it was God who provided it, God was the one that provided that bread that kept them alive. And they say, give us this bread always. And that's where Jesus, having kind of drawn them in, then makes his statement... In John 6:35, Jesus said to them, I am the Bread of Life.


I am the bread of life. I'm what you're looking for. Now, if you were there, you just had your fill the night before, your stomach grumbling a little bit again, 'cause it's time to eat. Jesus says, I'm the bread of life. Do you think that would make you feel any better about that moment... Probably be scratching your head saying, How is this gonna work out, Jesus? Because that doesn't make sense to us. And so Jesus then begins to explain and help them to understand what exactly it is that he's talking about. He says, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry. And whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.


Now, I have to thank George for helping me kind of tease some of this out, because this morning we're gonna do a little bit of a lesson in Greek, Koine Greek, that's the language that the New Testament was written in. Now, our English language has, in many ways, lost a lot even from some of its roots, one of those examples that we talk about sometimes is if I say you... Am I talking about you individually? You as one person, or am I talking about you collectively in our writing and speaking, when we say You need to look at the context to be able to glean, okay. Is this one person? Or is it the plural? Whereas in many languages, the Greek included, there are very specific tenses for words, so there's no question about... Is this a singular or a plural? Well, another aspect of the Greek language that we've kind of lost in English is the tenses, and we have an active tense and a passive tense, an active tense is, I push the door closed...I'm doing something active, I'm pushing on the door. Now, I could also say that Tom pushed me, I'm the passive recipient of Tom's action. When I'm being pushed by someone else, I'm the recipient of that action. Now, in the Greek, there's a middle. There's a middle voice that is an action that I do that affects me...


One of the articles I was reading, the professor that was talking about this middle voice, I said it's kind of like a boomerang that you do this action, it comes back and it affects you. So I could be walking along and say, I stopped... Well, I stopped myself. Now, if someone's running at me and I put my hand out and stop them, that's active, if I stop myself, that's that middle voice in the Greek, we don't have a good comprehension or a good way of understanding that in English, because if I'm the one doing the action, we generally attribute active and middle voice as an active thing that I'm the one doing it. Now, this is important to understand, because when we look at the second part of this sentence where Jesus said, I am the bread of life, he continues by saying, whoever comes to me will never be hungry. That word comes, is in that middle voice that I come and I'm the benefactor of my own action, that I come to Jesus, but in doing so, I come and I receive some benefit from having done so. Now, once more, it says in the NRSV, whoever comes to me... Now, that's a little bit unclear. If we just look at the English of it, alright, so if I come here, I've arrived, I'm done. But this word in the Greek is actually a participle, and a participle, just to make it simple, is one of those things that you do again and again and again and again. It's a repeated action. So coming to Jesus, as He says here, Whoever comes to me will never be hungry. Jesus says, You can't just come one time, but you have to keep coming again and again, over and over. It's a repeated action.


Well, it sounds an awful lot about this metaphor that Jesus is using with eating, we can't just eat one really hardy meal and say I'm good indefinitely. And some of us that might go a little longer than others, but... That's another story, right? But we need to eat another meal, get a meal, and then we get again and again and again because it's necessary for life. Well, Jesus uses this metaphor of coming to Him in the same way that just as you need to eat again and again and again, you need to come to me again and again and again, to not be hungry. And he says, Those who believe in me will never be thirsty. Well, again, believing when I come, when we look at that Greek root of it is an ongoing activity, it's not... I've read the disclosure statement and I'm gonna click on the box and accept the terms of the agreement, and now that I've clicked yes and accepted it, we can move on or done. That's not what believing is, as far as Jesus is concerned, for that matter, he pairs coming and believing together, come to me and then coming to me, believe in me. And so the invitation for those who were asking Jesus, give us this bread, Jesus said, I am that bread, I am that bread of life that you're looking for. I am the one that will provide you everything that is necessary for you to have… Well, an abundant life, a full life, a life that isn't just about going through the motions of living and breathing, a life that is rich and full, a life that has a purpose beyond its own, I am the bread of that life. So those who come to me and believe in me will enter into that life.


So where do we find ourselves? What does it mean for us to turn to Jesus, the bread of life? What does it mean for us to come to Jesus and to believe? Well, when we open the communion table and we invite all to come... We do so on a weekly basis. We come and receive... Well, coming to communion is an opportunity for us to come and receive the gifts of God's blessings, that through the sacrament of communion, we are reminded that God is offering God's very self to us. In the Methodist Church, our understanding about communion is that there is a real presence. We don't begin to try and explain or understand, but we know that when we gather at this table, Christ meets us here and offers himself fully and completely to us, it involves us coming to Christ with open hands to receive and receiving the abundance of God's blessings through Jesus, we believe, we believe the promises that God has made us are true and trustworthy, so this is a visible way for us to come and believe, but coming to Christ is that ongoing and repeated things. So it's not just a once a week kind of a thing either. That maybe it's everyday kind of a thing, that when we open our eyes in the morning and begin to wake up and begin to become aware of our surroundings and what's going on, and we offer those first words of thanks for the day, even if it comes out as a grown, we come to Jesus and say thank you for this new day in this life that you've given me. We come to Christ and we believe that He is with us.


Coming to Christ is in those moments when we come to Christ and believe and choose to respond to others with the love that Christ has shown us, we come to Christ when we bite our tongue and we hold back those words that we know are not gonna be uplifting or helpful. We come to Christ when we choose to act in compassion and kindness, we come to Christ when we offer thanks for the circumstances and the blessings that we have. We come to Christ when we listen to children playing and it puts a smile on our face. We come to Christ when we look at the beauty of a sunrise or a flower, blue mean or the birds flying, or whatever it might be. We come to Christ, the bread of life. And in doing so, we believe, we believe that life is more than just eating food and breathing air and stumbling around until God takes us home, because when Jesus says, I am the bread of life, that life that he offers is one that is possible here and now, as well as in the life that is yet to come, the life that Christ offers us is one that begins here and now, when we come and believe that He is the one, the only one that can fill the needs that we have in our lives, we all... If we're honest with ourselves, have some longings, we all have an emptiness in us that needs to be filled, now, there are times when people try to fill that emptiness with all sorts of things of this world, and in doing so, that's often what leads to addictions. So whether it's alcohol, or drugs, or food, or pornography, or consumerism or whatever it is, our attempts to fill that emptiness with the stuff of this world only leads to more and more and more trying to fill, only to have no results.


But when Jesus, when Jesus says, I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. He's saying, I am the answer to that emptiness in your life, I am the one that can fill you in a way that you've never been filled, so come to the one who offers himself fully and completely to you and believe, because in believing, we're not checking a box. We're surrendering and saying, Yes. You're exactly what I was looking for. And Jesus, you're exactly what I need for this life, to feel complete.


Amen.


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