Summary: Jesus is the bread of life! For those who have recently lost a loved one Jesus wants to comfort and reassure you, and to satisfy your spiritual needs. Will you let him?
John 6: 35
[NOTE: I preached this on 30 October 2005 at our annual ’All Saints Service’, 5pm. We invite local families who have had a bereavement in the last two years. It is a God-given opportunity to love them, bless them, and reach out to them in Jesus’ name. After the service we have sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee together.]
A gravestone in our churchyard bears these words:
‘The cup was bitter, the sting severe
To part from her we loved so dear.
Our loss is great we’ll not complain
But hope in heaven to meet again.
Not gone from memory not gone from love
But gone to her Father’s home above.’
There is no easy way to say this: For some of us the loss of a dear and cherished loved one is still like a fresh wound; it’s painful, raw, and there for all to see. For some of us, the passing of time has meant that we are beginning to live with (yet never forget) our loss, realising that we will never be the same again; and for others a very visible scar remains.
I am sure that many of you will be familiar with C.S. Lewis, author of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
Lewis was good friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of ‘Lord of the Rings’, and he was a Christian; a follower of Jesus Christ. What you may not know is that after the death of his wife he wrote a short book called ‘A Grief Observed.’ He was trying to make sense of the variety of different thoughts and feelings that he was experiencing.
Early on in the book he wrote this: “I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t” (P.11).
He continues by saying that “the act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
As the days and weeks went by C. S. Lewis wrote this: “I see the rowan berries reddening and don’t know for a moment why they, of all things, should be depressing. I hear a clock strike and some quality it always had before has gone out of the sound.
What’s wrong with the world to make it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking? Then I remember” (P. 31).
There is no simple answer to handling grief. We miss our loved ones desperately. We love them endlessly. We will always love them dearly, and so the fact of their absence will not go away.
In the 23rd Psalm which was written some 3500 years ago, King David reflects upon the journey of his life; and it’s a Psalm which has helped many people, especially during times of bereavement.
King David knew that on life’s journey we face times which include walking ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’. However, he knew that God is a loving shepherd. No wonder Jesus told a story about a shepherd with a hundred sheep. One of the sheep became lost and so the shepherd searched and searched until he found it! That’s what God is like with us. We may feel lost, and even abandoned, but God is like a loving shepherd. He searches for us.
That’s why he sent his Son Jesus into the world. Jesus came as a living, breathing, serving demonstration of the way in which God comes searching for us. Hence those wonderful words, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters; he restores my soul.’
In our second Bible reading (John 6: 35 to 40) Jesus tells us that He is ‘the bread of life.’ Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
In 8 weeks time we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Something I did not know until very recently is that the word Bethlehem actually means ‘house of bread’! Jesus referred to himself as ‘the bread of life’ and he was born in Bethlehem which means ‘house of bread’.
To anyone who has a spiritual hunger, or a spiritual thirst, Jesus says that whoever “comes to me will never go hungry, and [the one] who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Each of us has a spiritual hole – a hole that needs to be filled. I have found that Jesus Christ not only fills that spiritual hole, but he also comes alongside me through all of the ups and downs of life. I believe he desires to do that for you also.