Summary: Did Jesus get his point across? Now do you see and understand? This is not a hard teaching. Can you accept it?
Sermon for John 6:56-69
August 27th 2006
Once there was this city slicker from Chicago who spent his vacation on a Dude Ranch in Wyoming. He want to appear as if he belonged in the wild west so he bought all the right clothes to make sure he would fit in. A day after he arrived, he was walking around with one of the ranchers and began to strike up a conversation---Hey, look at that big bunch of buffaloes.
The rancher replied, Not bunch, but herd.
Heard what, said the city slicker.
Herd of buffalo.
Sure, I’ve heard of buffaloes, there’s a big bunch of them right over there.
Ever had trouble getting your point across? In the gospel reading it seems that Jesus is having a difficult time in getting his point across. Is he getting it across to us?
I hope so, cause this is the 5th week in a row that we have been dealing with chapter 6 of John. That’s almost 10% of the church year spent on one measly chapter. It must be rather important. Wouldn’t you think?
John 6 marks the beginning of a new section in the 4th Gospel. This new section covers Jesus’ authority and relationship to God, Jesus’ ability to give life and judge, the consequences of faith or unbelief. Like I said, some rather important stuff. So this morning I would like to revisit chapter 6 of John and see if this time around Jesus can get his point across.
The second major section in John like the first section begins with a miracle in Galilee. Well it actually begins with two Galilean miracles—the feeding of the 5000—and Jesus walking on water—finally we have Jesus trying to teach them what they just saw.
I love the Gospel of John. I love how the story weaves the life of Jesus into a beautiful tapestry. It is no accident that if you look back to the first part of John where Jesus performs his first miracle you will see him changing water into wine. Now in the second part of John, Jesus performs the feeding of bread to a crowd of probably over 10,000. Remember, the 5000 were men only.
In both cases large crowds witnessed the ordinary turned into the extraordinary, and they happen to be the bread and the wine of the Eucharist, symbols of God’s gifts in Jesus. Providing not only our physical needs of food and drink but also the spiritual needs. Do we see and understand? If not, let’s continue.
Immediately following the feeding the disciples set out across the sea. They find themselves in a storm and then Jesus comes walking to them on the water and suddenly the disciples find themselves safe on shore. Once again turning the ordinary events of storms or chaos something extraordinary. Providing our physical needs for safe passage in this life and rescue from danger but also our spiritual needs. Do we see and understand? If not, let’s continue.
You see, on the surface there’s a lot to these two miracles, Jesus supplying gifts to meet the full range of human needs, but under the surface there is more, much more.
Think all the way back to Exodus where the Israelites were wandering around in the desert. They are hungry and thirsty, they grumbled and complained. God gives them water from a rock, and then bread from heaven. Jesus says I am the bread from heaven.
Then remember even before the desert. God controls the sea. He separates the waters and leads the Israelites to safe passage in a time of danger. Yet even after these miraculous events the people still grumble.
Jesus does the same thing. And when he approaches the boat, he calls out to the disciples, “I am—Do not be afraid!” What going on here folks?
Remember God’s name? Yahweh! Meaning I AM! Or actually I WAS, I AM, I WILL BE! Jesus here is claiming to be that same God. I am—Do not be afraid! This fact that Jesus is claiming to be God is a hard teaching, so hard that even the translators for the Bible translate the walking on water event as “It is I,” instead of I AM. But the Greek is clear what Jesus says, I AM---I am the same God that led your ancestors to safety. Do not be afraid. I am the same God that gave them bread in the wilderness. Take and eat.
Yet even then your ancestors died in the desert. I AM—the same God and now I offer you not only bread for your stomachs and rescue from danger, I AM God offering you bread that will keep you alive forever—ME! Take and eat! Over and over again throughout the gospel of John, Jesus makes this claim. I am the light. I am the life. I am the truth. I am the way! I am the resurrection! I am the bread that came down from heaven! I am God!