The Bread - John 6:25-70

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the evening service on 14th October 2007.

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I want to begin by reading a quotation that always challenges me. Written by a man called Matthew Parris. He is a political sketch writer for The Times and is not a Christian and listen to what he says:

“The New Testament offers a picture of God who does not sound at all vague to me. He has sent his Son to earth. He has distinct plans for each of us personally and can communicate directly with us.

We are capable of forming a direct relationship, individually, with Him, and we are commanded to try. We are told this can be done only through his Son. And we are offered the prospect of eternal life - an afterlife in happy, blissful and glorious circumstances.

Friends, if I believed that, or even a tenth of that, how could I care which version of the prayer book was being used? I would drop my job, sell my house, throw away my possessions, leave my acquaintances and set out into the world with desire to know more and, when I had found out more, to act upon it and tell others.

I am unable to understand how anyone who believes what is written in the Bible could choose to spend his waking hours in any other endeavour.”

Three types of people who have just listened to this.

o A Christian but someone who has lost their passion. Their first love. There was a day but now the enthusiasm seems to be gone.
o A Christian who relates to the sentiments of Parris. You know this truth. You do want to share the good news with those around you. The question is: How?
o Those who have no idea what Parris is talking about. When you think of Christianity your mind is filled with thoughts of rules and rituals but not this direct relationship.

What I love about John 6 is that is speaks to all three groups of people. So if you are someone here tonight who…

Say this because John 6 answers three big questions for us:

o Why should people become Christians? (Great for…)
o Why do people become Christians?
o How do people become Christians?

Why should people become Christians?

Look with me at what we are told in verse 25. “When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi when did you get here?’”

Set the scene for you. Previous day Jesus has fed a very large crowd. 5000 thousand men so many more. Perhaps a crowd in excess of 15,000. They get fed miraculously by Jesus from a little boy’s lunch box.

Are we expected to believe this? Yes, it points us to the amazing identity of Jesus. Then the people tried to make him King by force. This is the guy you want at the head of the government. Free food all round. But Jesus although a King has not come to be this kind of King. So he withdrew from the crowd.

During the night he joined his disciples on the lake. They had gone out beforehand then Jesus joined them.

This caused the crowd a few problems. Look at what we are told in verse 22. “The next day the crowd that had stayed at the opposite shore of the lake realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.”

They are looking for him. Eventually find him they want to know, “Given the situation with the boats, how long have you been here?”

Don’t you love Jesus’ answer? Verse 26. He cuts through the pleasantries. “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.”

They’ve come back for more. Probably plenty more. Once you feed a crowd this size news generally gets round. Jesus reveals their true motives. They haven’t put two and two together. A miraculous sign points to his true identity. They have come for free food.

Jesus could provide this but he can offer something even more valuable. Even the best bread, so not your Tesco Value but Tesco’s finest baguettes or ciabatta. What will happen? Won’t last.

Choice between throwing all your energy into something that lasts or something that will perish what should you do? Something that will last.

Jesus saying to those people. Don’t come for bread that will perish but eternal food that the Son of Man will provide.

Daniel 7. Father grants another divine figure the rights to set up a Kingdom. Jesus is this person.

Crowd begin to get more inquisitive. Ask a question. Verse 28: “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

This spiritual sustenance that will enable us to live forever. How do we get it? What do we need to do?

Don’t you love Jesus’ radical response? Verse 29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Not earn it. Simply believe – we’ll come back to what this means later.

First notice the surprise of verse 30. They ask for a miraculous sign. They’ve just had one. Did they think Jesus had a lucky break. Something about the human hard that doesn’t want to believe. Keeps on making excuses to keep Jesus at a distance.

Jesus doesn’t play to the crowd and as we’ll see in a moment that there is a reason for this. He instructs them and points out their poor theology.

Not Moses but God the Father who provided. And then notice the subtle change. He has provided again and sent someone who can provide eternal sustenance.

Crowd: If you are this guy then give us this bread. What were they expecting to receive? Not pills nor a potion but a person.

Then Jesus makes it crystal clear what he is talking about. He is not someone who gives away something that leads to spiritual sustenance. But that he himself is the bread of life.

Not gone crazy. Not saying I am a loaf of Hovis. I am the basic nourishment for spiritual existence.

Life changing promise of verse 35. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Here is one reason why people should become Christians.

Stop running after the things that never fully satisfy and which will ultimately not last.

Come to Jesus and find nourishment for your souls.

Of course there will still be frustration. We still live in a messed up world. All throughout there is sustenance from Jesus himself that starts now and lasts forever.

Why do people become Christians?

Might think that’s obvious. Surely because they see the benefits of Jesus and make some sort of decision. There is some truth in this. But listen to what Jesus says in verse 37.

“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 should lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up on the last day.”

The Father has given a gift to the Son. Will of God is that none of those chosen will be lost. His will is always accomplished.

Even more than this. As we read on we discover that the Father ensures that those he has given to the Son will come to the Son.

Listen to what we’re told in verse 43. “Stop grumbling among yourselves.” He’s just claimed that he has come down from heaven and they say “Who does he think he is?” He’s the local carpenter’s son from Nazareth. How can he say these things? Jesus replies, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.” “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Why do people become Christians? Because the Father has chosen a certain amount of rebels and then draws them to Jesus to make sure they become Christians.

I know people struggle with this teaching. I don’t any more. In a moment I’ll tell you what you can do if you struggle. And it’s the reason I can do my job in the first place. Knowing that God has chosen a group of people to be saved is a wonderful motivation for evangelism.

People do struggle and I think it’s because they misunderstand the true condition of humanity.

Let me try and explain what I mean. Sometimes we talk of people seeking after God. This spiritual generation. A new era where people are really seeking after God.

Complete nonsense. People are finding new ways to turn away from the true and living God.

We must worship. The question is not ‘Will we worship?” but “Who will we worship?”

The condition of human beings is that we do not naturally seek after the true and living God. We were designed to need him. But we fill our lives with all sorts of idols to take his place. They never satisfy of course but they are there. One popular form of idolatry is religious idolatry. We may even use the God terms but it is not a heart search for the real God.

How do people seek after the true and living God? Only if God changes their desires and brings them to Jesus.

Picture is not that we are all banging on the doors of heaven trying to get in and God says “I’ll have you and you and you but not you.” But we are running from him and he graciously intervenes and says “I’ll have you and you and you.|”Not because some are more earnest seekers than others but because God is love and therefore loving intervenes to stop us facing the consequences of our responsible rebellion.

Not Father chooses some to damnation and some to salvation. We all choose our damnation for ourselves and then the Father chooses some to be saved and leaves others to their own wickedness.

This does not lead to fatalism as we’ll see in a moment because of the chosen way God draws people to himself.

Before we do let me say something more general about dealing with any teaching in the bible we find difficult. Choices are wonderfully illustrated in verses 60 onwards.

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Love Peter’s response. He doesn’t like it either but where else can he go? He has already concluded that Jesus is the Messiah and so he must accept anything he hears.

He is not a pic-n-mix follower of Jesus. There is no such thing.

He must continue to follow and work out the teachings from within a personal relationship with King Jesus.

That is a mighty lesson for us as we try and work out why people become Christians. This is biblical. We must not reject it because we cannot understand it. Seek to understand it properly and then believe it because God teaches it in his most excellent word.

Why does this not lead to fatalism? Well, it’s because of the chosen means God employs to draw people to Jesus. This brings us to our final question.

How do people become Christians?

I think the answer will be obvious. Let me just make it crystal clear by referring you to what Jesus says throughout this discussion.

o Verse 29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
o Verse 35, “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.”
o Verse 40, “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 on the last day.”
o Verse 47, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”

And then in verses 53 onwards we have a very vivid way of understanding what faith really is.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Some have misunderstood Jesus to be speaking about communion. Hasn’t been invented yet.

This is a metaphor of what it means to have faith in Jesus. A particular type of Jesus. A crucified Jesus. This is a metaphor of having faith in the crucified King. Trusting him for everything. Verses 40 and 54 are almost identical.

What is faith? Not simply observing or looking or touching but partaking.

God will not do our believing for us. We must have personal reliance on Jesus.

As we seek to persuade people of Jesus and bring them to events where they hear Jesus explained we must not think it is a mystical event where God draws them. Don’t ask people to sit in a quiet room until God draws them.

Why? His chosen means is to use the teaching about Jesus to convince them.

Makes sense of what Jesus says in verse 63. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

We need a rebirth. Our desires need to be changed. The HS does this. Happens as the word about Jesus is spoken.

Notice the patterns. God chosen a people. He then draws them to the risen Jesus as his people speak his word and the HS changes their hearts.

What does this mean for us? I mentioned three groups of people at the start.

o Lost your passion. Jesus is the bread of life.
o Passion but how? Trust God has chosen some. Trust his means. Take a risk. If they say no once it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. We need perseverance but these verses are supposed to be an encouragement to get on and take risks.
o Who are the people you can take a risk with?
o Observing but having never tasted of Jesus. Look at the evidence but then make sure you have a personal commitment to Christ. And when you do trust his promise to be true. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

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