Portraits of Christ: Jesus, The Bread of Life
Of all the many wonderful miracles that Jesus performed in his three-year ministry this one, was perhaps, the most marvelous of all. Its shear magnitude obviously made a deep and lasting impression on the apostles. It is the only miracle which is recorded by all four gospel writers. Who wouldn't be impressed by such an awesome display of divine, supernatural ability?
The disciples had seen Jesus change water into wine. They had been witnesses as he cast out demons. They had seen Him cleanse the lepers, give sight to the blind, and strengthen the legs of the invalid. He had even brought life back into the lifeless body of a little girl. But now, to feed a multitude of thousands—surely only the Son of God could do this!
It staggers our imaginations that Jesus could perform such a miracle as feeding 5,000. But we must stand in utter astonishment just as the disciple must have—when we realize that, in all likelihood, he fed far more than 5,000 people. The gospels tell us that there were about 5,000 men. Can we not also assume that women and children were very likely present as well? It is very possible that Jesus more-than-likely fed as many as 8-10,000 people that day—all by miraculously multiplying a small boy's lunch of five Barley cakes and two small fish!
What does the miracle teach us? Well, it teaches us that Jesus obviously had compassion. When the crowds, which had followed him, grew hungry He fed them. The miracle also demonstrated His supernatural power and divine authority to his disciples. But the miracles which Jesus did always had a deeper meaning. In fact, the Apostle John refers to them as signs. His miracles were always meant to demonstrate spiritual truths and illustrate His teaching.
The 2nd line of the first stanza of the hymn "People to People" asks: "How do you tell a hungry man about the Bread of Life?" The answer is, "You can't." All the hungry person feels is his empty stomach. All he sees is his wasted body. But once you feed him, then you have the right—even the obligation—to tell him about Jesus.
Once hungry stomachs have been filled, Jesus has a message for them. The message is that he is the Bread of Life and all those who follow him will have their souls fed as well.
Let's look at this next Portrait of Christ and see what it has to teach us about Jesus.
I. JESUS TEACHES US THAT MAN'S SPIRITUAL NEEDS ARE OFTEN MASKED BY HIS PHYSICAL DESIRES
- vv. 1-2 "Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick."
- did the crowds that followed Jesus do so because they believed he was the Messiah?
- well, some thought He might—just maybe—might be the Messiah they had been waiting for
- “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14, NIV84)
- that phrase the Prophet is a reference to Deut. 18:15 where Moses tells the people that some day, God will rise up a prophet—a Messiah—from among them who will lead them
- “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15, NIV84)
- but the problem is that they didn’t understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was going to be
- “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:15, NIV84)
- the enthusiasm of the crowd which followed Jesus is praiseworthy, but they are woefully misguided and nearsighted
- they believed Him to be the Prophet, they wanted to seize Him and make Him King
- was Jesus a Prophet?
- was Jesus a King?
- but Jesus was also a Priest—a priest who would sacrifice himself as the perfect Passover Lamb to atone for the sins of the people
- bottom line—most sought him out because of what He could do for them physically
- “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.” (John 6:26, NIV84)
- Jesus has gone up into the hills for solitude and instructed the disciples to row across the lake where he would meet them later
- the next morning the crowd searches for Jesus, but cannot find him
- they are hungry again, but they cannot find their provider
- they look and look, but they are searching in the wrong place
- how typical!
- today's crowds are searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places
- finally, they get into their boats to go to the other side of the lake looking for him
- can you imagine the flotilla of boats this must have been?
- searching everywhere for fulfillment, but always choosing the wrong thing to satisfy their desire
- this crowd's greatest need was for spiritual bread
- all they want was wheat bread!
- they began by searching in the wrong place, now they are desiring the wrong thing
- these folks are looking for Jesus, NOT because they believe Him to be the Christ who taketh away the sins of the world but they’re looking for Him because they don’t want to lose their meal ticket
- is it because He’s saved you from your sins and following Him is an act of love and worship?
- or is it because of the blessings He so freely bestows upon His followers?
- would you still follow Jesus if you never, ever received another blessing from Him?
A. THE MULTITUDES WERE SEEKING PHYSICAL SATISFACTION, NOT SPIRITUAL FULFILLMENT
- the bible paints a pretty unflattering portrait of man’s basic appetites
- we’re rarely—if ever—full
- man is never satisfied
- he is always searching, always desiring, always coveting what he has not got
- ILLUS. A reporter once asked the wealthy industrialist J. Paul Ghetty how much money a person needed to really be happy. Ghetty thought for a moment and replied, "Just a little bit more!"
that statement sums up man's most basic yearning—we always want a little bit more
- we assume that if we can acquire just "a little bit more" we'll be truly happy
- but as soon as we acquire just a little be more, we usually discover that just "a little bit more" never makes us really happy
our culture’s pursuit of the comfortable life is a symptom of man’s deep dissatisfaction with life
- our materialistic binging masks our culture’s most important need
- that most important need is a relationship with God and the deep-felt satisfaction of his spiritual needs for redemption and forgiveness
we live in a society where people are desperately searching for enjoyment, for satisfaction, for pleasures, for recognition
- they believe that the pleasures of this world will satisfy – and for a period they might – but soon the newness wears off, the pleasures fade and, the satisfaction dissipate
- but none of these things can produce real inner fulfillment
- “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:2, NIV84)
- ILLUS. American Beauty was a 1999 movie that caused little stir among movie goers until it one five academy awards, including for best picture, at the Academy Awards. It’s one of the most depressing movies ever made, but it’s an amazingly accurate picture of suburban America. It is a satire on American middle class notions of beauty and personal satisfaction. It portrays a family that has everything: They live in a big house, in the right neighborhood, with well-manicured lawns, and big fancy cars in the garage. Mom and dad both have jobs making lots of money. The daughter goes to the right school and has cool friends. But in spite of all this, each member of the family is miserable and the family is falling apart.
Jesus knew that what the crowd really needed was spiritual fulfillment what they wanted was physical satisfaction instead of desiring God the lost man seeks out substitutes to fill the void left in his life that only God can really fill
- and the sad thing is—even when we do follow after God, it’s often with ulterior motives
the multitudes were seeking physical satisfaction, not spiritual fulfillment Jesus teaches us that man's spiritual needs are often masked by his physical desires
II. JESUS TEACHES US THAT PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS MUST BE KEPT IN THEIR PROPER PERSPECTIVE
- vv. 5-6 "When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him he said to Philip, Where will we buy bread for these people to eat?' He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do."
- is Jesus concerned about hungry people?
- of course he is
- the place of this miracle was a lonely, isolated area on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee
- Jesus and his disciples had crossed the lake by boat
- the people who were following him because they had seen the miracles performed on the sick, saw the general direction the boat was headed and ran on ahead to meet him on the other side
- Jesus is sitting on a gently sloping, grassy hillside up above the beach when he sees the crowd approaching
- by the time they find him the crowd has grown and multiplied many times over, swelled by those who were probably heading toward Jerusalem for the Passover
- at their approach, Jesus asks one of his disciples, what really must have seemed a silly question, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"
- Philip is dismayed at the difficulty of the situation
- how in the world are they going to feed 8,000 people or more?
- Philip is logical, practical and matter-of-fact: "Eight months salary wouldn't be enough!" (sounds like typical church member, doesn't he?)
- Andrew is a little more inventive – he at least finds a kid who's brought lunch, but it's obviously not going to be enough
- Jesus took what was given him, blessed it and multiplied it
- “And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” (Matthew 14:19, NIV84)
A. BREAD FILLS THE STOMACH BUT ONLY TEMPORARILY SATISFIES
- “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12, NIV84)
- “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.’” (John 6:30–31, NIV84)
- verse 12 tells us that everyone who was there ate until they were full
- Jesus opened the first "all you can eat buffet"
- in Matthew 14:20 is says, "They all ate till they were satisfied."
- let me tell you a little bit about that word ate in this passage
- in the Greek it's a word used to reflect the way animals eat – faces buried in the trough
- here were a bunch of Jews who, if you'll pardon the pun, pigged out
- but you know what? morning came and they were hungry again so they went looking for breakfast
- they looked for Jesus and thought of bread
- they rowed across the lake thinking about bread
- when they finally find Jesus, they're still thinking about bread
- even after Jesus admonishes them, they're still thinking about bread
- man, these folks had a one track mind!
- how do we know they are still thinking about bread?
- look at verses 30-31 again: “So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” NIV
- the people asked, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" (v. 28)
- the answer, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (v. 29)
- can you believe it when they ask for a "sign" that they might believe him?
- what do you think they had seen the day before?
- the "sign" they ask for is—you guessed it—bread! "If you really want us to believe you, why don't you make bread fall from the sky like Moses did."
- these people only had physical satisfaction in mind
- physical bread is important, but it will only make us content for a short period of time
B. SPIRITUAL MANNA FILLS THE SOUL AND SATISFIES COMPLETELY
- vv. 32-35 "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 by thirsty."
- in a spiritual sense, Jesus wants men to "pig out" on him
- wheat bread fills the stomach, but only satisfies in the short term
- the Bread of Life—Jesus Christ—fills the soul and satisfies for all eternity
- just as wheat bread must be eaten and assimilated into the body to sustain physical life, so Jesus Christ must be assimilated into our heart and life if He is to sustain our eternal life
- “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:47–51, NIV84)
is physical bread important?
- of course it is, if you don't eat, you're going to die physically
- the spiritual truth is just as real, if you don't eat the Bread of Life, you're going to die spiritually
III. JESUS TEACHES US THAT WE NEED TO FOLLOW HIM FOR WHO HE IS AND NOT JUST FOR WHAT HE CAN DO FOR US
- vv. 60, 66 "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?' From this time many of his disciple turned back and no longer followed him."
A. JESUS IS NOT A "MEAL TICKET"
- Jesus was very clear
- if people were following Him for what He could do for them and not for who they believed Him to be, they were going to be disappointed
- there is a growing movement in our country toward what some have labeled the Prosperity Gospel
- ILLUS. Pastor John Bisagno, First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, was the first to refer to it as Name-It-and-Claim-It theology.
it's the idea that God rewards our faith with pennies or dimes or dollars or material abundance
- it's a doctrine that sounds really good
- today’s popular TV evangelists seek to persuade us that if we can somehow get God on our side prosperity is automatic
- it's an idea not too different from the mentality of those following Jesus because He fed them
- they were not interested in giving their life to the Son of God
- all they were interested in was what this miracle worker could do for them
- the Psalmist wrote, "Delight yourself in the Lord. . ." he did not say, "Delight yourself in the things of the Lord – only the Lord."
Jesus told his hearers, "I am the Bread of Life"
- notice that he did not say, "I am the filet mignon of life"
- ILLUS. Bread, you see, was the staple of life in that day. It was the main part of every meal. It was eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were many food items that a family could do without. Bread was not one of them. Without bread to eat a family would starve.
I hope the point is obvious
- Jesus is teaching that He is the staple of our spiritual life
- there are lots of things we can do without—Jesus is not one of them
What do you want from God? What do you expect from Him? Earthly things? The things of this life? Bread?
Or do you want more? Do you want the things of and for eternal life? Do you want the Bread of eternal life that feeds and nourishes us for all eternity?
All who partake of the Bread of Life – His Son, Jesus Christ – will be fulfilled and eternally satisfied. They shall never die!