Last week in the sermon “It Ain’t a Haint”. we talked about Jesus coming out to rescue his petrified disciples who were struggling for their lives in the storm on the lake by coming out to them walking on the top of the storm tossed Sea of Galilee. Jesus had sent them away earlier alone so that the crowds who were about ready to arrest Jesus and make Him king would not interfere with their leaving. This probably had left the disciples with a storm of questions as to why Jesus did not come no permit them to stay with Him when it appeared that everything they had been hoping for in the coming of the Messiah was about to be realized. I suggested that Jesus might have sent the storm to get the disciples mind off of the events of the day. Nothing makes one take their mind off something than danger which demands all attention.
Exposition of the Text
This week we find Jesus on the other shore. If verse 59 covers all these verses, then Jesus was at the synagogue in Capernaum teaching. Would this also make this the Sabbath day? If so, then the disciples were laboring on the Sabbath day which began at sunset the night before. If this was the case, and it certainly may not be, then what we learn is that Jesus is the source of the true Sabbath as they had no rest until Jesus calmed the sea.
The people who were on the other side of the lake were shocked that Jesus was not with them. Where was He? They were about to arrest Him and make Him king. How did He get away? There was no other choice but to get into the boats which had come over from Tiberius and cross back over to Capernaum to wait for Jesus. What a surprise it must have been for them to find Him already there. They ask Him “How did you get here?” In a sense they were also asking why He had left them.
Jesus, as He often did, did not answer their question. Instead he bluntly tells them that they had come for the wrong reason. They came because their belly was filled with the loaves he had given thanks over. They had failed to understand the significance of the sign He had done. They had set their eyes upon an earthly king and Messiah, one who would make His people prosperous and full by overthrowing the Romans and Herod and setting up a Messianic kingdom. But kingdoms of this world rise and fall just as people are born and die.
Instead Jesus challenges them to work for the imperishable food which leads to eternal life. Later on in this passage Jesus would identify Himself as this food. Jesus says that He is the One Whom the Father has sealed. We think of things like USDA certified food, or kosher food, or the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. What Jesus is saying as the bread of life is that He is God the Father certified nourishment to His people. What higher seal of approval could one get? Jesus is the food which gives eternal life. We see the outline of the Father’s seal in the other gospels at the baptism of Jesus and upon the Mount of Transfiguration. In this gospel, it appears later in response to Jesus’ prayer to the Father to glorify His name, to which the Father replied: “I have glorified it before, and I will glorify it again.” Of course this is looking forward to the cross when Jesus would lay Himself down as the Passover sacrifice. This sacrifice was eaten after the blood was poured over the doorpost and lintel of the house. This of course is a spiritual eating and is equivalent to believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In response, the Jews ask Him what they must do to do the works of God. This is a typically Jewish approach to salvation that was based upon Divine-Human co-operation. If one could keep the Law of Moses and live a good life, they could earn the life of the kingdom to come. There still had to be an element of grace too as no one could keep the Law perfectly. This is where the sacrificial system came in. Also there was trust in being God’s chosen people through Abraham on which they relied.
But Jesus answer comes as a shock. If one wants to do the work of God, they must simply believe in Jesus. “Is that all? Surely there is more we can do than this” was probably their response. No it is by faith alone, and even this work of faith is God’s gift as we learn elsewhere in Ephesians. Because this is a radical change in thinking, they demand more proof from Jesus. They weren’t satisfied with his multiplication of loaves the day before. They reminded Him that Moses had given their fathers manna to eat.
Jesus is quick to remind them that Moses was not the source of the manna. Moses was no more than the prophet through whom the manna was promised. The true source of the manna was God Himself. Also Jesus tells them that there is a better bread which comes from God. The manna could only nourish life, not create it. Jesus tells the Jews that the true bread from God gives life as well as sustains it. This bread is none other than Jesus Himself who came down from heaven and became flesh. We are reminded of the beginning of the gospel where it says “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Also it is stated: “All things were created by Him, and without Him was not anything created.” This same Jesus is the living bread which comes down from the Father.
The Jews response seems honest enough and is something I think we all pray—“Lord, give us always this bread.” Jesus’ words had struck up their interest. But Jesus’ words in verse 26 still hang over the request. They still did not understand what this bread was. They were still thinking in earthly terms. Jesus responds by identifying Himself as the true manna which comes down from heaven. The “I AM” goes back to the call of Moses. Moses asked God for His name. This is the simplest sentence in the English language that has the idea of “I live” or “I exist”. By calling Himself this, God is revealing Himself as life itself. And by Jesus using the formula, He is identifying Himself as God. The only way something can live is to be connected to the source of life itself. So if one isn’t connected to God, this person is truly not alive.
Jesus gives the invitation for the Jews to come by asking them to believe on Him. But at the same time he knew their heart. He knew they did not believe and tells them so. The only way they could is by the gift of the Father. The Father has to grant them to come to Jesus. Otherwise they cannot come. And if they cannot come to Jesus, they cannot come to the Father either. All that the Father gives to Jesus are entrusted to the Lord’s care so that none which the Father has given to the Son might be lost but be raised up by Jesus Himself on the last day. This is a promise of assurance to the believer because Jesus is trustworthy. It is the Father’s will that all who see and believe in the Son will have eternal life.
Application of the Text
We must remember first of all that there is more to life than this earthly existence. There has been a saying going around that some people are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. To this I say is that for each one of these, there must at least be a million who are too earthly minded to be any heavenly good. The Christian must set his/her affections to the life of the age to come. We receive a down payment of this in the change which the Holy Spirit effects in our lives at our conversion. But we are also reminded that this is just a down payment. There is more to come.
The bread of this life can only sustain life. As a matter of fact, the bread we eat actually slowly kills us by a process called oxidation. Oxidation actually is a process similar to rusting. Some foods will rust you quicker than others, but all food contains oxidants. Not only this, every breath of oxygen we take rusts us as well. Both out food and our breath sustain us. Without them we could not live, but they sustain life at a cost in that they eventually kill us. So the answer to this dilemma is not to quit breathing or to stop eating, but rather to look somewhere else for the bread and spirit of life. This promise comes to us in the person of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. So here the entire Trinity is at work here. The Father sends first the Son, and then the Holy Spirit. If we are to find life, we need to find life in God. This bread is God’s great gift to us. Pray that God might grant you to eat it.