Sermon: Jn 6:25-40: I am the bread of Life
Bible Marketing Plan
An Anglican priest, Roman Catholic priest and a Methodist minister went on a marketing course to learn to sell Bibles to supplement their incomes.
Before going on the course, they were asked to go around the week before - and see how many Bibles they could sell.
The Roman Catholic was able to sell 8 Bibles, the Free Church minister 9 Bibles and the Anglican 12 Bibles.
After a week on the marketing course, they were told to go out at the weekend and sell Bibles.
The following Monday they returned to report how they had got on.
The Catholic priest was pleased, he’d sold 28 Bibles.
The Methodist Minister was pleased, he had sold 29 Bibles.
The Anglican priest came in and reported he had sold 93 Bibles.
The tutor was utterly amazed. “Tell us your secret” he said
"Very simple" he said: "I go to a door and say"
"DDDo yyyyou wwwant to bbbuy a BBBible or ssshall I rrread it ttto yyou"
We live in a society that is highly influenced by marketing.
We often buy things that we would normally not have been interested in – simply because of its packaging.
Story: I bought a subscription to a magazine I had no interest in when living in Germany.
A woman came to the door who was disabled.
She told me a sob story about needing to sell the magazine to feed her children.
But Jesus was different.
He didn’t come to sell us what we did not need and to drag us into debt.
Instead, his teaching satisfies our deepest needs.
And this morning’s text is no exception.
I would like to look at one of the famous eight ergo eimi – the “I am” statements.
All of Jesus’ I AM statements are found in John’s gospel.
1. I am the bread of Life which came down from heaven (6:35,41,51)
2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5)
3. I am the door of the sheep (10:7,9)
4. I am the good shepherd (10:11,14)
5. I am God’s Son (10:36)
6. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
7. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
8. I am the (true) vine (15:1,5)
And each one of the I AM ‘s represents a particular relationship of Jesus to the spiritual NEEDS of men and women.
And Jesus’ statement “I am the Bread of Life” is no exception
The philosopher Rene Descartes, the father of modern philosophy once said: “ I think, therefore I am”.
And perhaps in our modern materialistic society we might say: “ I shop therefore I am”
I wonder what you think the people listening to Jesus might have thought when Jesus said:
I am the Bread of Life
What responses would Jesus’ words have triggered
What do you think Jesus meant when he said:
“I am the Bread of Life” ?
To answer that question I need to first put this passage in context.
There was significance in WHERE he made this momentous statement and WHEN he said it
1.1 Let us start by considering where it was that Jesus speaking - in Galilee
Jesus was speaking in Galilee, one of the trouble spots of the Roman Empire.
Feelings against the Roman rulers ran high in these
northern hills of Galilee.
It was prime terrorist country – where bands of zealots planned their raids.
It was the “Helmand” province of Israel
1.2 Next let us look at when was Jesus speaking
John tells us in Jn 6:4 that this all happened at Passover time.
Earlier in the Chapter we read of Jesus feeding the five thousand from a little boy’s lunch box of five loaves and two little fishes.
Aside: You could imagine the Sun reporting this with the headline:
“Preacher steals little boy’s food and gives it away to 5000 people!!”
Jesus has fed the five thousand and so - not unnaturally - that miracle had sparked the interest of the zealots - who were looking for Jesus as a possible “political Saviour”
There were probably three sets of different people there that day,
i) the nationalists,
ii) the materialists and
iii) the eternalists.
Let’s have a look at the hopes and aspirations of each.
1. The Hope of the Nationists
For some, the nationalists, Jesus words
“ I am the bread of life” –
coupled with Jesus saying that he was the
“true bread that from came down from heaven”
would have triggered thoughts of Moses the freedom fighter.
Moses one of their great leaders had delivered them from slavery in Egyptian slavery and kept them alive with bread from heaven – manna as it was called
If Jesus was making such a claim surely Jesus could liberate them from the Romans.
Shades of first century liberation theology??
In short, if you were going to start a revolution in Judea, the best place was Galilee and the best time was Passover.
For the zealots – I am the Bread of Life meant revolution.
But that ISN’T what Jesus was talking about
Let us look at the next group.
2. The Hope of the Materialists
But many of the local people weren’t zealots - keen to turn the Romans out by armed rebellion.
Many of them worked simply to put food on the table for their families.
They were simply materialists
But Jesus wasn’t talking about materialism either - that is putting food on the table
We must not misunderstand Jesus either.
Jesus NEVER said that issues of political freedom or economic justice weren’t important.
No one could accuse Jesus of being indifferent to the plight of the poor and the oppressed.
But Jesus was not and is not a political Messiah or simply an Economic guru.
Jesus rather challenges us to be
• less concerned about our physical bodies and
• more concerned with our eternal souls.
For the majority of our nation are materialists – simply looking for material answers to human problems.
3. The Hope of the Eternalist
The final group of people were the eternalists
Did the 12 apostles really understand Jesus’ mission by this stage
Or perhaps the ONLY ONE that day WHO really understood what Jesus meant when he said: I am the Bread of Life” was Jesus himself
Jesus made a number of claims in Jn 6.
3.1 Jesus Claims a Divine Origin Jn 6:38
He said: "I came down from heaven."
For the first century Jews it was as preposterous as if somebody told you they had arrived here today on a flying saucer.
In this Jesus was and remains unique.
In this regard there are no parallels with other religious leaders.
In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis made this statement,
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg--or he would be the devil of hell.
You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us."(my thanks to the Campus Crusade website)
It was Karl Marx who popularised the expression, "religion is the opium of the people".
Yet according to Jesus the truth is the very opposite.
It is materialism that is the opiate.
Materialism anaesthetises people to the reality that real contentment and real satisfaction bring.
Real security are found only in the spiritual realm.
Materialism renders these deepest needs permanently inaccessible.
The only thing that the pursuit of material things does is to drive us to want more.
This year it is a new car, next year it will be a new washing machine, a new TV, or video.
Advances in technology, new designs and planned obsolescence are used to fuel this insatiable desire.
No amount of physical bread will appease it.
It was Jean Paul Sartre, the famous Nobel Prize winner for Literature and avowed atheist who wrote about this human dilemma with painful honesty when he said:
"That God does not exist I cannot deny, but that my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget."
We all feel that cry.
God has set the desire for eternity in our hearts.
And Jesus claimed to meet it.
"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."
"If only you would open your eyes," Jesus was saying, "that supernatural bread you are looking for is staring you in the face.
It is not a something but a Someone.
But for many it is this bread that they just could not swallow.
If Jesus had said that eternal life is a matter of giving to charity, there would be plenty who would go out and buy their spiritual insurance.
If Jesus had said that eternal life is a matter of practising yoga in your bedroom three times a day, there would be thousands who would be willing for that discipline.
But Jesus didn’t.
He said that eternal life was not a possession but a gift.
A gift received through a personal relationship with Him.
A gift that was made possible by his death on the Cross
The cross is not just a pretty piece of jewellery.
The Cross isn’t just a beautiful symbol of heroism and self sacrifice.
It was a cruel, shameful death – and it reminds us that Jesus took the punishment and death that should have been ours.
The message of Jesus is simply this.
• If you want to be right with God,
• If you want to have assurance about sins
forgiven, and if you want eternal security,
then Jesus is that Bread of Life for you.
As St John records – all you have to do is to receive him into your life
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (Jn 1:12)
My thanks to Revd Stephen Sizer for his sermon on this topic that gave me inspiration.