Summary: I am the Bread of Heaven... Christ satisfies, sustains and saves those who eat His flesh.. World Communion Sunday
Can you guess what Denver, Orlando, Palm Beach, Cleveland, and Las Vegas have in common? They all have passed ordinances to stop groups from feeding the hungry in public.1 You can have 24 hour gambling but you better not hand out sandwiches in a park in Las Vegas. You can party like mad on the beach in Florida but don’t give more than 25 people food in a park without a permit. Yet we sit at record unemployment. The Oregon Food Bank reports that the last six months of 2008 saw their distribution rise 15% over the same time in 2007.
Here is some even sadder news. A 2003 survey of American households found that during the previous year, over half of them gave nothing to help the poor. What’s more the same survey found that "although respondents reported spending about $240 a year on fast food...a typical household spends only $5 a year on assistance to poor children."2 Praise the Lord we’re not part of that group. In fact, the stats are probably worse than that because there are some 300,000 congregations just like Kenton in the U.S. who do serve those around them in need.
Hunger is not unique to today. In Jesus’ day it was also rampant and "bread" was the very staple of life. It isn’t surprising then that the 5000+ who got fed the day before would seek Jesus the next day. I am guessing Jesus senses the con they are thinking of when they innocently ask, "When did you come here?" because his answer is just a bit cold. Amen, amen which we often read as verily, verily or truly, truly is Jesus’ opening comment. It means that this saying is settled once and for all as true and you’d better listen. Then Jesus states the crowd has sought him so that their bellies’ could be filled like an ox or sheep.
Eternal life is found in a different sort of bread than that we eat and the crowd rallies around this and asks what works must be done. These are good Jewish people who think of "works" in terms of keeping the commandments of Moses. Jesus however switches gears and says the work of God is to believe in the one whom the Father has sent, namely Jesus. Now it gets interesting because there were those who had just gone to hear this Jesus. Some were probably there to hear this heresy for themselves. Others had been sitting too far away to see the miracle of the day before, all they knew was they had enough to eat.
When many of the Jews thought of the manna during the Exodus they thought of Moses, even though, deep down they knew it was God who gave it. So when they start to use the manna card with Jesus. Jesus goes on the offensive. The TRUE BREAD is sent from "MY Father" This is Jesus’ second "you’d better believe this" phrase. The purpose of this TRUE bread is explained in verse 33. "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."
There are worse hungers than a stomach that growls. There is a hunger that grows out of the scars and abuse we’ve suffered over the years. A child who is never told their loved seeks love in the first willing arms they find and when rejected seeks another. The husband who is shamed by his wife looks for hobbies, escapes, addictions and lovers to satisfy the hunger for a relationship that nourishes.
Likewise the wife of an uncaring infantile husband will start to fulfill her hunger for a relationship with friends, activities, her children and perhaps relationships which lead to infidelity.
Some hunger for something more in life. ALPHA has a great poster. It shows a man on top of a mountain, arms outstretched shouting "Is there more to life than this?" There are those who hunger to know if the mistakes they made over the last 50 years can be forgiven. There is a hunger that asks, "Did I do anything that will be remembered?" and "Why does everyday seem just like the last one?" I ran across an interesting quotation on a website promoting Buddhism, "Then why do we feel hunger for the new, boredom with the old or curiosity for the different? Why do we feel jealousy, envy or desire to have what someone else has or to be someone else?"3 The reason is quite simply we’ve been happy with fast food answers. Many of us have found it is easier to live in the world of excuses and justifications than be teachable. It is easier to look at the fast foods of our past than be willing to be made ready for the feast of God.