When I was a child, our family lived in Germany and the bread was dark and coarse.
When we moved home to Canada my image of bread became my Grandmother’s home-made bread enjoyed warm with homemade strawberry jam and a slice of old cheddar cheese.
During my teen years, bread was used as a figure of speech for money. White bread was declared unhealthy and at our home whole wheat bread became the new norm.
At that same time in my life there was a rock band by the name of Bread, and I don’t know how many times I heard someone remark that something was the best thing since sliced bread. Which if you are wondering first happened when Kleen Maid Sliced Bread was introduced on July 7, 1928.
lt really caught on when Wonder Bread started selling sliced bread across the US and Canada in 1930, but many bakers said it was just a fad.
There are some great things that have been around longer than sliced bread, Kool-Aid, jellybeans, and Betty White.
When I was in college, my mother went through a sour dough phase and the bread was heavenly.
Angela makes incredible biscuits, which are a sort of bread. Again, they are best enjoyed warm with strawberry jam.
In Australia there were bakeries, called Hot bread shops on every corner it seemed, and you could get amazing hot bread there, imagine.
When I was in Egypt, no meal was complete without a stack of bread called Aish baladi
(Ash Balladi). It’s like pita, but it’s not pita.
Ash means life and Balladi means tradition. And historically we are told the art of baking bread originated in Egypt. So, it’s kind of fitting.
One Egyptian Proverb tells us, “Rather a piece of bread with a happy heart than wealth with grief.” And the Russian proverb says, “With a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.”
Actor Burt Lancaster remarked, “I judge a restaurant by the bread and by the coffee.”
Is it any wonder that Jesus described himself using the metaphor of bread?
This is week five of our “I am” series, where we are looking at the different times in the book of John that Jesus described himself metaphorically using the term “I am”
So far we’ve looked at his statement to the crowd, when he simply said “I am”, which incited the crowd to try and stone him because they recognized it as a statement of his deity. That is, through that statement Jesus was claiming to be God. And then I’ve led you through his statements “I am the light of the world” and “I am the gate.”
This week we are looking at Jesus’ words from John chapter 6 when he said, John 6:35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life.” And over the next twenty-five verses he repeated the statement multiple times.
And in a time and culture where there are so many different food options this doesn’t seem that important of a statement. I’m sure you’ve seen the meme that says, “Who knew that the hardest part of being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every single night for the rest of your life.”
Today there are so many choices for what to eat next, but two thousand years ago the metaphor of bread spoke volumes to those who heard Jesus’ words.
The word bread is first found in the book of Genesis and then is found woven through the Old and New Testament.
Bread is an integral part of the Old Testament stories, from Abraham to Moses, from David to Elijah. There are laws and regulations laid down in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that reference bread and how it was to be used for various offerings.
David includes bread in the poetry of the Psalms, while Solomon speaks of it in the wisdom literature of the Proverbs.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the first thing he was tempted with was bread, and at the Last Supper, when he was looking for something to illustrate his suffering and death he spoke of bread.
And of course, one of the requests in the Lord’s prayer is “Give us this day our daily bread.”
The question is, what does it mean for us today?
Well, as usual it’s difficult to fully understand the meaning of Christ’s words without knowing the backstory so that’s where we are going first. We often make the mistake of trying to take Jesus’ words in isolation. Just plucking them out of the air, but there’s always a back story.
This story begins in Chapter six with Jesus teaching on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The day ends with the miracle of the loaves and fishes when Jesus feeds thousands of people with five small barley loaves and two fish. After the crowd has been fed and dispersed, Jesus sends the apostles in Peter’s boat across Galilee. A storm suddenly comes up and threatens to sink the boat, but Jesus appears walking on the water and calms the storm.
The next morning, the crowd realizing that Jesus and the twelve have left follow them to the other side of the lake. And it’s there that Jesus confronts their motives, John 6:26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.”
So, It Began with An Awkward Truth If we are honest, we all want something. At some point we all ask that all important question: What’s in it for me? And sometimes that’s not a bad question to ask. But sometimes it can be.
There are times that I talk to folks and they want to know why we don’t offer what the church down the street offers or what the church across town offers.
They tell me about BBQ’s and bouncy castles and concerts, and I’m reminded of a quote I heard that was attributed to Charles Spurgeon, who may or may not have said, “If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back.”
One source online said, “Spurgeon is the most widely quoted author in Christian history, but also sadly, the most misquoted!”
But Jesus knew if the crowd was only following him for the miracles, eventually the shine would wear off. Instead of being satisfied with loaves and fishes eventually they would have wanted cake and beef, and pretty soon they would wonder why Jesus couldn’t make them rich.
When you think of all the people that Jesus fed and all the people that Jesus healed. People who weren’t anywhere in sight when he was arrested and crucified then you realize the truth of his statement.
Many who were following him were simply fair-weather friends, who were following him for a free lunch, or a free healing. And they disappeared when the fair weather disappeared.
And that’s where we picked up the story in our scripture reading this morning.
John 6:30–31 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
So let’s start with the fact that They Knew What they Wanted At least they were truthful about it. They said, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you.” You gotta give them kudos for their honesty. They were upfront about what they wanted.
If you have known me for any length of time, then you know I’m a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Super Star.
There is a scene after his arrest when Jesus stands before King Herod who sings,
“Jesus, I am overjoyed to meet you face to face.
You’ve been getting quite a name all around the place.
Healing cripples, raising from the dead.
And now I understand you’re God,
At least, that’s what you’ve said.
So, you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ.
Prove to me that you’re divine; change my water into wine.
That’s all you need do, then I’ll know it’s all true.
Come on, King of the Jews.”
Some people come to Jesus looking for healing, others for material blessing or to have their marriage restored. We have folks who start attending church because they see it as a solution to their marriage problems, or perhaps they want help with their parenting or to help in conquering their bad habits.
And they are basically saying, along with the crowd that day, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do?
Or as Herod would go on to sing,
“I am waiting, yes I’m a captive fan.
I’m dying to be shown that you are not just any man.
Feed my household with this bread.
You can do it on your head.”
But more than the crowd simply asking Jesus to prove himself, each one of them was asking, “What can you do for me?”
And that day, they were just looking for something simple. They just wanted lunch. If Jesus was able to feed them yesterday, then there was no reason he couldn’t feed them today.
Maybe the loaves and fishes hadn’t just been multiplied, maybe they had been transformed and had become the most incredible fillet of fish sandwiches they had ever tasted.
That had happened when Jesus turned the water into wine, we are told it wasn’t just any wine, it was really good wine. And if he could do that, why couldn’t he make really good sandwiches?
The bottom line is that they were looking for a miracle that would satisfy their immediate need. They were hungry, and they wanted Jesus to fix their problem by feeding them. They knew what they needed, they needed lunch.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
But in this case, they didn’t need bread because they were starving, they simply wanted bread because they were hungry. It was an immediate problem.
But not all of our problems can or should be fixed immediately.
Boyd K. Packer wrote, “We seem to demand instant everything, including instant solutions to our problems. It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal.” In other words, to demand an end to those things is ultimately to demand an end to life.
The crowd that day was seeking immediate gratification, they wanted Jesus to provide them with lunch and they wanted it right then.
Often, we are tempted to view the desire for instant gratification as a new problem.
Author Faye Kellerman wrote, “We live in a time of instant everything, courtesy of the electronic highway. It creates a community of toddlers. When they don’t get immediate gratification, they get petulant and sulky.”
But long before there was an electronic highway, there was that desire for “I want it, and I want it now.”
When Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, they were tempted with the immediate.
They were offered a taste of the forbidden fruit, right then. They were offered knowledge, right then. Basically, the Devil was asking them, “Why wait, when you can have it now?”
And the Devil didn’t change his strategy when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. It worked with the first couple, so why mess with success?
With each of the temptations Jesus was offered the immediate. He was hungry, so he could have bread right then. He could have the adulation of the crowd immediately. The devil offered him world domination, right then. And each time, Jesus went back to the word of God, and what was promised in the long game.
And you know as well as I do, that Satan still tempts us with the immediate.
If we stop and look at some of the things we’ve regretted in life, how often were the consequences of our actions directly connected to the need to have it now?
Whether it was an unplanned pregnancy, too much debt or struggles with our addictions and our eating habits. Would things have worked out better if we had of waited?
In an article on instant gratification that I recently read; they gave this list of situations where people seek instant gratification.
- Addiction to substances like alcohol/smoking/drugs
- Wasting time
- Social Media
The list ended with this advice; “Once you know where you fall victim to instant gratification, use the first tip to avoid the temptation itself.” And the first tip the article had given was: eliminate the source of distraction. In other words, avoid what tempts you.
That almost sounds biblical. Remember, in the Lord’s prayer when Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead me not into temptation.”
Timothy was a young pastor who Paul was mentoring, and Paul offered his protégée this advice in 2 Timothy 2:22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace.
So, now we know what the people wanted let’s continue with the story.
John 6:32–33 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
They knew what they wanted, and Jesus Knew What they Needed
Jesus knew that at the end of the day, even if their physical hunger was satisfied with lunch, they would be hungry again.
You’ve heard me talk about the cult of the next best thing, a bigger house, a faster computer, a nicer car. But the reality is, even without that, our physical hungers are only satisfied for a little while.
Jesus goes back to the reference the crowd had made, about how Moses provides their forefathers with mana in the wilderness. But every day they had to be provided with new mana, and Jesus made it clear. It wasn’t Moses who provided the mana, it was God who did it through Moses.
But, the miracle of the mana, was only a temporary fix. It just solved the problem for the day, and the next day more mana had to be provided and collected.
Our physical hungers can only be satisfied temporarily. It doesn’t matter if you are craving food, or drink, or sex or emotional intimacy, the need constantly needs to be met again.
Jesus knew that even if he provided a miracle and gave them bread, that tomorrow they’d be back for more bread.
And how often have we sought to fulfil a need, thinking that If do it, whatever it might be, now than I will be satisfied, only to realize that we should have waited?
Let’s keep reading in the story, John 6:35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
So we looked at what they wanted, and Jesus revealed what they needed, and here we see What Jesus offered
They wanted a snack, and they were offered a feast. They wanted bread for the moment, and they were offered bread for eternity.
Now, you know, and I know that Jesus wasn’t offering them physical food for the rest of their lives. Think if Cornerstone could offer that to people, it would be better than BBQs and bouncy castles.
And you can find churches that preach a prosperity gospel, that all you need to do is name it and claim it. But again, what they promise is only good for today.
If we go back to the account of when the Devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness. When he told Jesus to prove himself by turning the desert rocks into bread, do you remember Jesus’ reply?
Let’s take a quick look at that story, it’s found in Matthew 4:1–4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus was referencing a scripture that was talking about God providing mana for the Israelites in the wilderness, He was saying; we think we know what we need when we seek to fulfil those physical cravings, but there must be more to life than that.
If that’s all there is, eating enough for today, satisfying our sexual needs for today, having that glass of wine, or joint to get us through the evening. If that is all there is, then we are just like any other animal.
But we aren’t any other animal. We were created in the image of God the creator and master of the universe, and there is a deeper craving that we have that needs to be fulfilled.
And that is what Jesus was offering to fulfil with this statement.
Last week we I referenced Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 Jesus said “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
Regardless of what some people may think, Christianity doesn’t involve sackcloth and a vow of poverty.
Jesus promised us a rich and satisfying life, some translations use the phrase abundant life, but in either case it is a word picture of a life full and more than full. But it is a life where we have our priorities straight.
Jesus spells it out in Matthew 6:31–33 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
If each of our decisions was governed by the principle of seeking the Kingdom of God above all else, how would that effect the choices we make?
And if you are wondering how that is even possible it’s spelled out in Galatians 5:16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
And when we let the Spirit guide our lives, this is what happens, Galatians 5:22–23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Two of the characteristics mentioned speak directly to what we’ve been looking at this morning, patience and self-control.
So, what are you looking for from Jesus? That which will satisfy for today, or that which will satisfy forever?