The following is a talk I gave on 6th March 2011 at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church.
I have also included the Scripture reading on which my talk is based:
John 6:25 – 40
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “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. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods known to man. There is evidence that humans were preparing bread some 30,000 years ago. Bread is often referred to as the “staff of life” and forms a vital part of many people’s diet.
Bread has an important role to play in life. In the days of the Roman Empire, when there was discontent the people were distracted by being offered bread and circuses.
Just before the French revolution, it is said that the Queen Marie Antoinette on being told that the people didn’t have bread to eat said “let them eat cake”.
In Russia in 1917, Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks promised “Peace, Land, and Bread”.
In our Bible passage this morning Jesus is talking about bread in the sense of spiritual food, and as we often find, people do not immediately grasp what he is on about.
Before the start of his public ministry, Jesus was tempted by the devil for some 40 days in the desert and this is one of the temptations: Matthew 4:1 – 4 “ Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ “
Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3 where Moses was reminding the Israelites of all that God had done for them since he had rescued them from Egypt “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Jesus’ hearers would have been well aware of this as the first five books of what we call the Old Testament form the basis of the Jewish law or Torah. So they should have understood that there is a spiritual side to life and indeed a spiritual hunger that only God can satisfy.
The Jews tell Jesus that Moses gave the people of Israel manna to eat in the desert, when in reality it was God. Moses was merely his spokesman. At the time of Jesus there was an expectation that when the Messiah came, he would like Moses feed the people with manna. And maybe they were thinking that Jesus didn’t make the grade. They had seen him feed 5000 with ordinary bread whereas Moses had fed a nation for 40 years with bread from heaven.
Jesus puts the matter right in telling them that it was God who fed the nation in the desert. He then talks about something more important than physical food. We learn from vv32 – 33 that “Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Jesus goes on to say in v35 “Then Jesus declared, “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.”
Many people today are spiritually hungry and are searching for spiritual food. This is what the pastor, author and broadcaster Michael Youssef wrote this week on his Facebook page “So many people today are spiritually starving. They are hungry for God, but they try to fill themselves with everything but the Bread of Life. Where do you seek your spiritual fulfilment? Are you merely chasing after Jesus in search of answers to your long list of wants and desires? Or do you seek Jesus in love and obedience, knowing that He is the only One who can truly satisfy you?”
Our short drama earlier in the service showed that not everywhere that claims to have bread actually does. Many people go looking for bread in all the wrong places. Just as not every shop in town sells bread, so not all religions or philosophies lead to God. Also I sadly have to say not every bread shop actually has bread. They may speak about it, know how to make it, have pictures of it and even the right bags to sell it in, but they have no bread.
Years ago an acquaintance of mine, lets call him Mark, attended a high church more out of habit than anything else. He was one of the servers, the men who carried the candles etc. And yet amazingly one Sunday in the middle of the communion service God spoke to him and he became convicted of his sins and was aware that he needed to do something about his life. Mark spoke with the rector after the service had ended. Instead of leading him to Jesus, the rector gave him a book on “spiritual dryness”. Ian told me that he knew at that moment he had to move church if he was to live. There was no bread there.
Many people out there look to false religions to satisfy them. I’ve talked about Nigel before. He is seeking God and longs to meet with him and has done so since his teens. And yet he has steered clear of Christianity. He has looked into eastern mysticism and all that stuff. One day I caught him in his lunch hour hurrying through town on his way to see his guru in the Health Food Shop. He swallows all that but won’t come to Jesus who is the bread of life.
Some people end up with the spiritual equivalent of Wright’s Coal Tar Soap. Its vaguely loaf shape and colour but the taste is rather different and its life sustaining qualities negligible.
Some people don’t come because they think it costs too much. Yet here is what God said through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:1 – 3 “”Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”
Jesus is the bread of life and he is also the source of eternal life. He promises that death is not the end. Just as one slice of bread when were a child is not enough to sustain us for the whole of our lives, so we continually need to have Jesus the bread of life. Otherwise we grow up spiritually anorexic and fail to grow and mature as we should. Maybe we are afraid of being considered “religious” or “super spiritual”. The actress Celia Imrie talked on the radio the other week about as a young girl being told she was going to be too big to be a ballet dancer. So she decided to become smaller by just not eating! She didn’t think of the consequences of giving up on food.
The Dutch born Christian writer Henri Nouwen once described Christianity as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. And so it is, as having met with Jesus we tell others about him.
We are reminded of our dependence on Jesus every time we meet around the Lord’s table. Every time we read or hear his words recorded in the gospels ie Luke 22:19 “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
We need to study our bibles, remembering that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 reminds us “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
There is a prayer written by Cranmer one of the English reformers for the 1549 Prayer Book which says:
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
We need to pray, to keep in touch with Jesus and seek his will for our lives. And also, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:18 we need to be filled with the Spirit.
So today if you are spiritually hungry why not answer Jesus’ appeal to you when he says “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. “
Come to Jesus and receive eternal life. Amen.