Summary: A sermon for Proper 14, accenting the Spiritual aspects of the Bread of Life discourse.
9th Sunday after Pentecost (Pr. 14) August 13,
2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to the proclamation of your Word, that we might be fed and nourished in faith. Help us to see that Jesus is your Word, the bread of life, who, through his life, death and resurrection, nurtures and strengthens us in our relationship with you, the Creator of the universe, and the author of life. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning continues our study of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, which Biblical scholars refer to as the Bread of Life discourse, or teaching of Jesus. The chapter began with Jesus miraculously feeding over five thousand people with the meager lunch of a young boy, which consisted of just five barley loaves and two small fish.
Last Sunday, our lesson told us that the people whom Jesus had fed that day, went in search of Jesus, finding him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When the crowd approached Jesus, he told them that they came seeking him, not because they saw the miracle as a sign that pointed to God’s presence among them, but because they ate their fill. In other words, Jesus was asking the people to see beyond his ability to feed their physical hunger, to behold his ability to feed them spiritually.
This brings us to our lesson for this morning. But before turning to our text, I would like to share with you a couple of passages from the Old Testament. First, listen to this verse from the Deuteronomy, chapter eight. Speaking to those who had survived the Exodus, the author says, “He (God) humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
You may recall that this is the passage that Jesus quoted to the tempter, when following his baptism, and fasting for forty days in the wilderness, he was challenged to turn stones into bread.
The second passage that I would like to share with you is recorded in the eighth chapter of Amos, in which the prophet writes, “The time is surely coming says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”
The reason that I share these two texts with you, is to indicate that by the time that Jesus conducted his ministry among the people, the image or metaphor of comparing the Word of God with bread was a common analogy. As Gail Ramshaw points out in her commentary on our Gospel lesson for this morning, “Already in Jewish tradition, the Torah, the word and wisdom of God, was described as if it were bread. The devout consumed the teachings of the prophet; the word of God filled human need. At the coming of the Messiah, the entire world will be fed, just as the entire world will be filled with the word of God.” End quote. [New Proclamation, Year B, 2003, Fortress Press]
Ramshaw then goes on to indicate that the author of John’s Gospel not only pictures Jesus expanding upon this metaphor – that the Torah and the word of the prophets is the bread of life – but that in his teachings, Jesus applies this image to himself.
So let us now turn to our text, and try to grasp what Jesus is saying. In verses 41 and 42 we read: “Then the Jews (or the people in the crowd) began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?” End quote.
Here again, the people whom Jesus engaged in conversation that day had trouble seeing beyond physical reality. They were from that region in Galilee. They knew Joseph and Mary, Jesus’ parents. Some probably knew him from his childhood, knew that he was raised to be a carpenter. How can Jesus now say that he has come down from heaven?
But Jesus wasn’t speaking in purely physical terms. He was challenging the people to look beyond what they could perceive with their eyes or sense with their bellies. It was as if Jesus was saying to the people, “We do not live by bread alone, but by the word of God” – the answer he gave to the tempter in the wilderness. He was challenging the people to come to see that in him, they could truly behold and be fed, not with physical bread, but with the word of God, which would end the famine for God’s Word that Amos predicted.