Text: John 6, 24 – 25
It’s morning, the next day. Just yesterday I was listening to the teacher, who everybody talks about so much. He was so articulate, convictive and current, he did a lot of amazing things, and healed innumerable numbers of people. And there was one more really strange, but astonishing deed. We weren’t eating all day long and no one had a meal, but one boy. Suddenly, Jesus took the boy’s five barley loaves and two fish, and he gave thanks and distributed them to the people. It was a miracle. Everyone’s hunger was satisfied. Today, we wanted to find him, but he and his disciples were gone. I want to find him, because yesterday was awesome.
This could be the thoughts of one man from the crowd of 5 thousand whom Jesus fed in the story just in the beginning of the sixth chapter of the John.
Back in Bratislava, my friends and I have one favorite restaurant where we usually come for the Sunday’s lunches. In Bratislava, you can eat everywhere, but we almost always go just to that one. It is called Divný Janko – what means – Strange Johny’s. We have good experiences there; food is good and price is cheap. We try a lot of different places, but Sunday is always about Strange Johny’s.
Dear sisters and brothers, what have you come for today? Why have you come? When we’re coming somewhere, it is usually because we are looking for something. If we often come at the same place or to the same person, it is because of our good experiences with them. The people from the gospel story had such a good experiences with Jesus. And they are looking for another.
The crowd from the Gospel story is looking for Jesus. They’re finding him on the other side of the sea in the town of Capernaum. And they’re asking him about how he came there without a boat. But Jesus gives them a different answer, than they have asked for. “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Just yesterday the same crowd wanted to make Jesus a king. The people saw someone who, as they thought, was answering their prayers. A leader, the king, a rebel against Roman Empire, someone as Moses, who led their forefathers from the slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. But Jesus shows them what they do. Why they are looking for him.
What do you expect from Jesus, from God, when you pray or when you come here?
What do you expect from the Church, the congregation, the worship, the Communion?
I am sure that everyone is expecting something as the people from the story are.
But there is one difference between the people from the story and us. Yet they don’t know what Jesus did come for. But we do. He is telling them the truth about him they don’t understand yet. But we do. And if we do, what do we expect then? Do you expect a filling of your stomach, or some kind of political rebellion from a church leader as the people from the story do?
What Jesus did is not the political rebellion like the Israelis were expecting from the Messiah. He gave a gift of love, a gift of hope and life in the sacrifice on the cross. He always did something different than what the people were expecting from him. But he gave what they needed. We don’t need a good president in God, and we don’t need a people’s rights protector in God. Jesus simply says that what we really need is him, the bread of life. And when we talk about Jesus as the bread of life, we mean what Jesus says about it. The bread of life is: the bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. That life is his love, which he showed in his sacrifice, the innocent one died for those who sinned against God. To sin is to miss an aim that God gave to you, which God has for each of us, the aim of relationships based on love and trust with him and the people.
But aren’t we sometime like the Israelis in the desert complaining about what we miss and completely forgetting the freedom and grace that God gives us? I know a lot of Slovaks who think and say that they’re so poor, that the government is so bad, and that their salary is so little, and especially the older generation in Slovakia dream about Socialism and praise it. Lots of people would like Socialism to come back. And as the rest of the world, we tend to blame God that he allowed so many problems to happen to us. We are so fast to forget the freedom, the blessings, and his love in Jesus.
The Bible stories witness that God is taking care and will take care as we heard in the reading from the Book of Exodus, the 16th chapter. The Israelis wanted to eat as they did in the slavery in the Land of Egypt. God gave them a bread and a meat. They wanted a water, God gave them a water so their nation could reach the Promised Land.
Only one thing that Jesus asks for is faith. As God did ask for faith from the Israelis, but they weren’t faithful and only the next generation which did not know slavery would reach the Promised Land. Jesus said in the Gospel of John: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
The food that endures for eternal life is nothing to earn, but it is the food, the gift that points us to a much bigger and greater gift from God, Jesus, his Son. Jesus is the bread of life. Salvation we claim in Jesus is nothing more than life in freedom, love and grace even now and even after death. Jesus, the bread of life, is not just a man of great wisdom, a Rabbi. He is the bread of live from the heaven, and that means from God. He says: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.“ And these words aren’t about an eating of dinner or a drinking of a water. They are the images for something else. He use images that we can understand, and when he talks about the eating and the drinking, he talks about something what is necessary for the life. No one can survive without it. So when Jesus says, he is the bread of life, he really means that he is someone you cannot live fully without. Just as you cannot live without the drinking or the eating. The Spiritual hunger is a hunger for God. To fill that hunger God gave us Jesus, the bread of life which we take by faith. But if I try to fill the hunger with something else, how can I satisfy the hunger? If you are hungry, you need to eat a food, not to look at the food or walk around it. And what is beautiful about this bread of life is that it is a gift, faith that what God really did is for me and you, and nobody can add something to that.
In Ephesians 4, 13-16, Apostole Paul describes that the faith in Jesus is something what grows and develops. It says: “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Attain something or to attain into someone demands a process and a time. And when Paul talks about attaining, he also says that it is a duty for a whole body, for more than one, for a community. He talks about attaining into such a person, a follower of Christ by reaching unity in the faith and growing in the faith in the community.
When my friends and I go to Strange Johny’s for Sunday lunch, we do it just after the worship in the church. Our faith in Jesus meets our friendship and our community in place and time which is not mostly about praying and worshiping as in a sanctuary, but the faith meets love, and friendship in a community of people. One table, one community and love as a gift we all can enjoy, just as Jesus’s Holy Communion.
When we eat the bread, the body broken for us, and drink the wine, the blood shed for us in Holy Communion, we can realize what Jesus’ words about food that endures for eternal life are about. That the body of Christ, the Church, we who believe, we, God’s Children united under one God through one Baptism in one Faith, we get life in Jesus, freedom in Jesus, love in Jesus, and hope in Jesus, Jesus who is the bread of life.
Jesus is the bread of life. Whoever comes to him will never be hungry, and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty.
Dear sisters and brothers, what have you come for today?
I have come because Jesus is the bread of life.
So come and eat today, come and drink today, because his holy communion is ready.
a sermon from Lebanon Lutheran Church, Whitehall, MI, USA; 3.august 2015