Summary: Why do we need to keep "working" for the Bread of Life? How do we this?
Have you ever been to Westminster Abbey? It’s that magnificent old church in London where over a dozen British kings and queens are buried. But it’s not just royalty who are entombed here. Westminster Abbey is also the resting place for notables like George Fredrick Handel, Isaac Newton, and Charles Dickens. It’s also where Thomas Paar is buried. Say who? Yeah, I didn’t know who Old Tom Parr was until last week. His claim to fame is that he lived to be 152 years old. His life spanned the rein of ten monarchs from 1483 to 1635! King Charles I was so impressed with Parr’s advanced age that when the old man died, the king ordered that he be buried in Westminster Abbey. Of course it could have been that King Charles also felt responsible for Parr’s death. You see, the old man died only a few weeks after coming to see the king. Charles had received him warmly and insisted Parr eat the royal food – food, as it turns out, that was too rich for Old Tom Parr. At least that’s what the doctors back then concluded after an autopsy.
We of course don’t need the story of Tom Parr’s demise to know that what you eat has a bearing on your health. Too much candy and not enough cauliflower will make it difficult for your body to fight disease. But even if you are a vegetarian and don’t indulge in sweets, you’re still going to end up like Tom Parr: dead. Today our sermon text teaches that if we want to outlive this life and this world, then we’ll want to dine on what endures: Jesus, the Bread of Life.
You know of course how Jesus called himself the bread of life, but do you remember when he said this? What famous miracle had he just performed? That’s right. He had just fed the 5,000 from fives loaves of bread and two fish. After the crowd experienced this miracle they wanted to make Jesus their king. Jesus knew this and so he sent his disciples away from the crowds back across the Sea of Galilee lest they be influenced by them. Jesus himself withdrew to a mountain. Meanwhile the crowd bedded down for the night right there in the wilderness expecting to see Jesus in the morning. But when they woke, no doubt eager for Jesus to provide them breakfast, they couldn’t find him or his disciples. During the night Jesus had walked across the Sea of Galilee and rejoined the disciples in their boat on the way to Capernaum. When the crowd couldn’t find Jesus, they didn’t just give up and go home, they hunted him down. They too got into boats and sailed back across the Sea of Galilee.
This crowd had its deficiencies, which we will talk about in a minute, but dogged determination to hang out with Jesus was not one of them! Are we as determined to follow Jesus? So determined that we don’t let a late night get in the way of our Sunday morning here with Jesus? So determined that when we’re on holidays we still carve out time to listen to his Word? So determined that even though our to-do list covers both sides of the paper, we know that first spending time with Jesus in prayer is most important? Or do we treat Jesus like that friend we’ll hang out with only if there is no one else around? Sadly, we often think there are more important things to do than spend time with Jesus. The purpose of this sermon to explain why hanging out with Jesus is most important. So let’s get back to our text to find out the reason.
When the crowd finally tracked down Jesus you might have expected him to commend the crowd for their tenacity. He didn’t however. Instead Jesus revealed the real reason they were chasing him. According to the Message translation Jesus said: “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free” (John 6:26). In his characteristically blunt way of speaking, Martin Luther commented that this crowd sought Jesus the way lice seek a scalp. Those tiny bugs love your head and hair because it’s a warm place to lay their eggs. They seek you just to use you.
That was also this crowd’s relationship with Jesus. They wanted more free food from Jesus. If someone were to analyze our prayers, would they conclude that this is also what we want from Jesus? We want him to move us into a nicer house, or to pour cash into our bank account so we can buy a decent car and book a winter holiday. We want him to make us prettier, smarter, and slimmer. In general we want Jesus to make our lives easier, and that’s what we spend most of our time seeking from Jesus.