Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost based on John 6:22-35
Dear recipients of the bread of life: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The crowds just didn’t get it. Jesus miraculously fed them in the desert, but they missed the miracle and only thought of the food. They laboured for the food that perishes, while being ignorant of the food that endures to eternal life.
Well, really they didn’t even labour for the food that perishes, they simply received the free food Jesus miraculously gave them and stuffed themselves with it, then followed him to the other side of the lake and begged for more. They missed the point. They didn’t understand that the miracle was to teach them something, not just to feed them. They didn’t understand that the miracle was teaching them not about food that perishes, but about the food that endures to eternal life. They didn’t understand, and thought that Moses was a bigger deal than Jesus. They were so caught up in earthly needs, that they missed their spiritual needs completely. Yes, they were following Jesus, but they were only following Him because they thought they might get another handout.
How different are we? How much do we labour for the food that perishes compared to how much we receive the food that endures to eternal life? How many hours per day do we spend worrying about food that perishes – our work, our houses, our taxes, or the stock market? How many hours per day do we spend receiving the food that endures to eternal life – reading and hearing God’s Word, and receiving His forgiveness?
We get so caught up in our earthly lives, that we neglect our spiritual lives. We would rather eat the food that perishes than the food that gives us eternal life. We can come up with a million excuses to skip church. We prioritize just about every activity over personal devotions. We don’t have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday because we would lose ten minutes from our day that we could spend sitting at a restaurant eating food that perishes. We should also keep this in mind as we discuss changing the way we deal with the offering as right now we send out our offering counters away from receiving the bread of life to count the bread that will perish.
Why are we labouring for food that perishes when Jesus wants to feed us with food that gives eternal life? We are obviously missing the point, just as the crowds following Jesus for bread missed the point.
We are like the Israelites, grumbling because even though God has saved us from the slavery of sin, we are more attached to the things of this world than we are to eternal life. And when God gave the Israelites bread from heaven, they became more attached to the food than to God’s promise to provide it. God told the Israelites to only gather the amount of manna they would need for a day (Ex. 16:19). But many were so attached to the food that perishes, that they tried hoarding the manna and storing some for the next day. It bred worms and stank (Ex. 16:20). The Israelites laboured for the food that perishes rather than receiving the food that endures to eternal life.
Everything that we are attached to in this life will breed worms and stink. Food, money, power, possessions, sex, fame, health – all of these will pass away along with those who are attached to them. They are all the food that perishes. Let us not labour after the food that perishes, but let us rather receive the food that endures to eternal life.
There is a food that endures to eternal life, and you don’t even have to labour for it. In fact you cannot labour for it. You can only receive it as a gift. Jesus says that He is the bread of life. Jesus can fill your hunger and your thirst like nothing else can. All the things in this life that we are attached to still leave us empty, wanting more. We can never be satisfied by them. Jesus is the food that endures to eternal life and does satisfy.
Despite all the things that we are attached to in this life, Jesus attached Himself to us. In our Baptism, Jesus attached Himself to us and made us His. And He works through His Word to detach us from earthly things. Jesus works through His Word to break us free from our attachment to food that perishes; from everything that will breed worms and stink; from everything that is decaying and temporal.
Jesus breaks us free from all these attachments, from this slavery, through giving us Himself – the food that endures to eternity. Through giving us the forgiveness of sins, Jesus breaks us free from all our sins. He continually wants to focus us on eternity so that we would not get caught in earthly attachments and fail to receive eternal life.
But do not ask what you have to do. That’s what the crowd asked Jesus. When told by Jesus that the Son of Man gives food that endures to eternal life, they asked, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (v. 28) They were so accustomed to labouring for food that perishes, that they could not wrap their minds around getting food that endures to eternal life as a gift. Jesus responded by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (v. 29) So the bread of life is Jesus, and it is the work of God that we believe in Him.
Our believing in Jesus is God’s work because faith is a gift. Ephesians 2(:8-9) says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Romans 11(:6) adds, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
This is saying that we receive the bread of life as a gift. If it was something that depended on our works, then grace would no longer be grace; then the gift would no longer be a gift but rather our wages for what we have done. That is why Jesus says that He will give us the bread that endures to eternal life.
Jesus gives us Himself, because He is the bread of life. He gives us His body and blood which was broken and shed for us on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus gives us His Word of Absolution which speaks our sins forgiven as a free gift. He gives us Himself – the food that endures to eternal life. And He gives Himself to us freely as a gift.
Jesus is the bread of life that endures to eternal life. So don’t labour for the food that perishes. Don’t resist Jesus as He breaks you away from worldly attachments. Don’t cling to food that will breed worms and stink. Instead, receive the gift of the bread of life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believe in me shall never thirst. Amen.”
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.