Date: August 10, 1997
Sermon Title: Bread that endures to eternal life
Text: John 6:35-45
Within each of us there is a certain craving for more. I can say that with conviction because I see evidence of that every day. In my own life, for example, when I sense a burning desire for greater fulfillment in life. In the lives of my children, when they constantly come complaining “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” I see it with some of my friends, whose bank accounts are always overdrawn, and yet, as soon as they think they can afford another payment, they go and buy the next toy to keep up with the Jones’s.
Our lives hunger and thirst for a greater fulfilment. Sometime ago I read an article in Christianity Today by John Ortberg entitled, HAPPY MEAL SPIRITUALITY: Why my kids are convinced they have a McDonald's-shaped vacuum in their little souls. You see, McDonald’s has capitalised on our cravings for more. They promise their young costumers a meal that will make them endlessly happy. And it’s incredible how many of us fall for their empty promise. I’ve seen homes where the little “Happy Meal Toys” are lined up from one end of the room to the next. Almost as a mocking shrine that screams at you, “There’s more happiness where that came from. Come and get it.”
The frightful thing is that the same phenomenon happens in our spiritual lives. There seems to be a vacuum, always sucking for more, that doesn’t seem to find satisfaction or fulfilment. There is a deeply rooted need in our lives.
I believe it was Saint Augustine who prayed, “My soul is restless, until it rests in thee, God.” A friend of mine made an inspiring revelation to me some time ago. He said, "The only true need that we as Christians have is the need for forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. Every other need is trivial." I couldn't agree more! Yet, there is that nagging feeling that we have deep in our subconscious mind. It is a feeling that hungers to be satisfied.
The problem is that we seek to satisfy our hunger in the wrong way. We search for things to satisfy the yearning of our souls. And that is something, only the Bread of Life can do.
In John 6 we have the story of the feeding of the 5000. As a result of this miraculous feeding, the still unfulfilled crowd was ready to crown him as King. John 6:15 says, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
When the crowd caught up with Jesus again they wanted an explanation, why he had left to escape them. They saw in Jesus a miracle worker who would satisfy the “McDonald’s-shaped little vacuum in their souls”, as it were.
But, Jesus answered them in verse 26, “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.” Jesus saw right through the intentions of the crowd. They wanted only another hand-out. Another Happy-Meal toy to enshrine on the walls of their homes. They wanted a quick-fix.
And Jesus said to them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” The earthly cravings are going to come back. They will nag us all our lives… until our soul finds satisfaction in Jesus Christ.
They probing questions of the crowd, however, reveals that they were willing to do some leg-work. They asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” The people who wanted to crown Jesus as their king were counting on the fact that, if they did the right works - they could earn their way to God. Jesus, however, was making it clear to them that, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”
You see, God is not in the business of handing out medals for a job well done. Pious works do not make us any more deserving of God’s love. Our works may be an expression of our thankful dedication to God - and they get translated into an act of worship. But, good works will not earn us a spot in heaven.
It is not our works, but the work of God that offers satisfaction for our hungry souls. The work of God is that Jesus came to earth to reconcile mankind to God. The work of God is the sacrifice of His only begotten Son on the Cross. The Christ-event is the crucial intervention of God in our human existence. The work of God is that He gave us Bread from heaven.
As much as we’d like to remain independent of God’s intervention for our salvation, our own efforts will leave us unfulfilled and wanting. Whatever the world has to offer in terms of self-help for the souls is futile and chasing after wind. That approach is nothing other than a modern-day pharisaic attempt to achieve our own salvation. We turn ourselves into workaholics saying, “If I only put in a big enough effort I will earn God’s favor and He will satisfy my every need.”
As much as we sometimes wish it were so, salvation is not a commodity that we can buy or even earn through model behavior. The stilling of the hunger of our souls is the free gift of God to those who believe. That’s right… believe! Faith in Jesus is the key to a satisfied and fulfilled life.
I want to read the words of Jesus from John 6:35-40
We may ask, What did Jesus mean when He said, “I am the Bread of Life.” First of all, bread sustains life. Carbohydrates, which are a major ingredient of bread, is metabolized by the human body and used for fuel. Just the same, our spiritual body needs the Bread of Life (Jesus Christ) for sustenance and growth.
But what is the Life that is meant here? Life is the new relationship that we have with God - a relationship based on our surrender in faith to God, and His unfailing love for us. Real life consists of the intimacy, the trust, the obedience, and the love that we share with God. This new life is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ. Without Jesus it is impossible to have the fullness of life that God has willed for us. Without Christ a life is more like an existence… empty, nagging, longing, hungry for the real thing.
In Christ the restless soul finds rest, and the hungry heart is satisfied. Real Life is ours for the taking. “Take and eat unto eternal life”, we hear Christ’s invitation.
As we fill our soul with the Bread of Life God will satisfy the deepest desire of our soul. The hunger and the thirst are gone. The endless vacuum in our being is no more. The void has been filled. There is a new meaning in our life. There is a reason for living. And it is a reason that goes far beyond our earthly existence. The offer of Christ is for life in time and in eternity.
Christ’s invitation is open to us today. We are encouraged to take and eat. We’re invited to fill our heart and soul and mind with the ageless wisdom and promises of God. We are invited to BELIEVE and LIVE.
Whatever our longings and cravings may be, God understands our innermost needs and desires. Let us count on His promises. Let us have faith. Let us feast on the Bread of Life. And let us praise God for His gracious provisions.