Summary: Christ is the Food We Need; all other food is perishing, as are those who trust in it; earthly food is merely a means to sustain life, while we need a food that will give life to the dead
The Food We Need
St. John 6:22-35
Our Old Testament reading this morning recounts the story of the Lord’s providing manna for the Children of Israel as they made their way to the promised land.
Have you ever wondered what manna must have been like? Unbelieving scientists and theologians have speculated that what the Israelites picked up was the hardened secretions of a desert plant. But we who believe--like Jesus and the Apostles did!--that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God--we know that this was not some natural phenomenon, but rather it was food from the very hand of God.
But what was it? What was it like? The fact that it is called bread in the Bible really doesn’t help us, because the Hebrew language uses the word that we translate as bread also simply to mean any necessary food. The fact is, even the people of Israel didn’t quite know what God was giving them to eat. According to Moses, when the children of Israel saw this substance that had been left on the ground, they said to one another, "man hu?" man hu?"--"What is it? What is it?" They were so mystified by it that they called it ’mahn’ or ’manna’-- ’what is it’ food, the ’mystery food’. But, while they didn’t know quite what it was, they did know that it was the food that God had sent, the food that they needed for their journey to the Promised Land.
In our nation, few are concerned about where their next meal is coming from. We simply expect to get our fill several times each day. It’s troubling to see how easily people expect temporary physical nourishment, and how readily they neglect permanent spiritual nourishment. Generally, we have the food we desire; but, tragically, spiritually speaking, we often skip THE FOOD WE NEED. While we wander in this wilderness of sin and strife, we need a Food that comes straight from heaven, a Bread for life that nourishes us unto eternity.
I. It is a food from heaven.
A. Food from this world doesn’t last.
The food we need is a food from heaven, a food given by God Himself. We need a food from God, because the ’food’ of this world can never satisfy, will never last.
In our Gospel reading, we see the people whom Jesus had fed the day before coming to the place where He had gone. They ask Jesus a question, but He doesn’t even waste His time to answer it. Instead, He tells them their hidden motive for tracking Him down: their stomachs were getting empty, and they wanted Him to fill them again.
Jesus had met their physical need for food to point them to their spiritual need for food. By the next day, the physical need brought them back for more. This shows the nature of earthly food and treasures: they cannot last, cannot fully satisfy our hunger and desires. As Solomon says of the things of this world, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!" All the treasures of the earth are like vapors which appear for awhile, but which neither remain nor satisfy while they appear. Because of this, Jesus tells us: "Work not for the food which does not last, but for the food which remains into life eternal, the food which the Son of Man will give to you."
B. The food from heaven lasts forever.
1. The food which God provided Israel lasted until they reached their goal.
The food that God gives is the only food that can last, because only He is "from everlasting to everlasting," as the Psalmist says. If we have food from Him, we can be sure that it will always endure. While Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, the manna that God provided never failed. Joshua tells us that only after the children of Israel had eaten of the produce of the promised land did the manna cease.
2. The food from heaven endures until we reach our goal.
So also with the food that our Father gives to us in His Son, Jesus Christ; it is "food that remains into life eternal," as Jesus Himself tells us. As the manna was there for Israel until they reached their goal, the food that the Lord would give us is a food that endures unto eternity.
II. It is a bread for life.
A. The bread of this world is death.
And how good it is that He does supply us with this enduring food, because it alone is a bread for life, while the bread of this world is death. John says in his first epistle, "The world is even now passing away." If we feed only on the things of this world and put our trust in them, then we, too, must ’pass away’ with the world, when, as Peter says, "The elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth and the works therein." This is so because our disobedience of God’s holy commands has not only made us unfit to be subjects in His Kingdom, but it has also made all of God’s creation corrupt. Our rebellion against His righteous laws has brought His wrath upon us and condemned us to eternal death in Hell, and there is no food on earth that can give us life in the face of that death. If we continue to feed upon the bread of this world, to follow our own way and put our trust in worldly things, then we are dead, and have only more death to look forward to.