Summary: This sermon is the lectionary text for 8th. Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, and is really a Salvation message
LORD, ALWAYS GIVE US THIS BREAD”—JOHN 6:22-35
Bread is the most common of all foods. My Mother always called it, “the staff of life.” Perhaps Leviticus 26:26 is the basis for this designation: “When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied.”
It is because it is a source of energy and protein. Bread provides us with carbohydrates for energy; protein for growth and development; the B vitamins for good heath, steady nerves, and proper digestion; iron for healthy blood; and calcium for strong bones and teeth (“Bread Facts,” www.quia.com and “The Story Behind a Loaf of Bread,” www.botham.co.uk/bread).
In Scripture “to eat bread” or “break bread together” symbolizes fellowship and friendship. Bread is one of the elements in Holy Communion. Remember the story of “the feeding of 5,000?” Our text picks up the story on “the morning after.” What can we learn from the encounter between Jesus and this crowd, and how does that apply to our relationship with Him?
On “the morning after” the crowd “came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.” Now they knew from personal experience that Jesus could satisfy their needs. After all, they had feasted on a banquet He had provided them. They began their search for Jesus “near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (verse 23), but they quickly saw that “Jesus was not there.” So “they got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus (verse 24).”
Jesus is concerned about the priorities and the motives in the hearts of these seekers. Jesus first words to them are, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal (verses 26-7).” Their physical appetites had been satisfied so they came seeking Jesus, but they failed to recognize and praise God for the signs they had seen in the ministry of Jesus, who would satisfy their spiritual hunger. In John’s Gospel the signs of Jesus are the evidence He gives of God’s divine power and majesty. They are the proof that He is who He claims to be. Thus far Jesus has performed four such signs: (1.) turning water into wine at Cana in Galilee; (2.) healing of the royal official’s son who lived right here in Capernaum; (3.) healing the sick man at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem; and (4.) feeding the folks in this crowd only yesterday. John includes these and other signs: “So that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His Name.”
But instead of believing that Jesus is the Christ and receiving spiritual life through Him, this crowd only seeks more proof: “What then do you do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?" After He fed them this crowd did acknowledge Jesus as “The Prophet who is to come into the world.” John 6:14 declares, “Therefore when then people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet Who is to come into the world.”
Crowds are so fickle; how quickly they change their minds. In the Gospel of John crowds most often refer to the common people. The term crowd by the end of the Old Testament was a term for people who did not strictly follow the demands of the law as rigorously as did the Pharisees. Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and initially appealed to this crowd of common people. Yesterday they had wanted to “make Him King.” They were looking for a Messiah who would be their political liberator and overthrow the hated Roman rules. Now that Jesus appears unwilling to follow that course of action, the crowd becomes more skeptical toward Him. Some will come to believe; others will now oppose Him; some who believed at first will begin to turn away. Crowds are fickle; how quickly they change their minds; doubtless some of this same crowd one day will scream to Pilate, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! We have no King but Caesar!”
Jesus offers Himself as Saviour to this very crowd: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father Who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” The word “Truly” in the original text is the word “AMEN.” Amen literally means “to be trustworthy, sure, dependable, certain. What Jesus is about to say is the absolute truth.