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Scripture: Exodus 16:2-4, 13-15, John 6:24-35
So we’re in week 2 of five weeks in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, commonly referred to as the “bread of life discourse”
This whole thing began last week with the feeding of the 5000. John’s Gospel uses signs (like the feeding of the 5000) to reveal who Jesus is – and then Jesus will have a conversation after the sign to help explain it more deeply.
If you were here last week or listened to the podcast you remember that we talked about scarcity, and how God isn’t about scarcity but about abundance. When we look around and think that there isn’t enough, or that we aren’t enough, God reminds us that there is always more than enough. As we go through these verses today, remember this theme of abundance – and what it means for us to change our mindset to abundance instead of scarcity.
So here we are this week – Jesus has fed the people, there are baskets filled with leftovers, and at some point Jesus and his disciples snuck away and crossed the sea of Galilee to Capernaum.
When the people (the 5000 from last week) realized Jesus was not with them any more, they got into boats and started to search for him.
They finally find Jesus and say: “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
This is where the discourse, the conversation that explains the sign, begins.
Jesus answers their simple question in this less than simple way: “very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Jesus, we just asked when you came over here.
I think there is a bit of snarky Jesus here. He’s essentially saying: You didn’t come to find me because of that thing I did, where I fed lots of people with only a little food, you’re coming because you are hungry again, and you want me to give you another meal.
See? snarky Jesus.
But also, honest Jesus.
Because that’s exactly what the people were doing.
Getting enough to eat, enough that you were FILLED, was not a common occurrence in 1st century Israel.
You ate a meal and then usually, unless you were among the wealthy elite, you wondered almost immediately where you were going to get your next one.
And you didn’t eat until you were full.
You ate what you could afford, which is a very different thing.
When Jesus fed the people until they were filled?
That was a BIG DEAL.
Of course the people would want to experience it again.
So what if it wasn’t really about the miracle they had just been a part of, they were hungry!
But Jesus isn’t in the business of short term fixes.
He tells them to work for the food of eternal life that is given by the Son of Man.
So here they are, hungry, coming to Jesus to eat again, and they get this super complex response to their relatively simple question –
So they say – ok Jesus, we’ll play along here…
What do we have to do to get this enduring food?
And Jesus says, believe in me.
And then here is when the people really get into this conversation – they say, ok then Jesus – show us a sign so that we can see it and believe in you! Our ancestors ate manna from God – every day they saw this food from heaven and so they had proof that God was providing for them.
What are YOU going to do for us?
Nevermind that it was these same people who saw Jesus take 5 little loaves of bread and two fish and feed 5000 people just a day earlier.
Jesus says “Moses didn’t give them that manna, God did. And God now is giving you a different kind of bread, the true bread from heaven that will give life to the world.”
Now we’re on to something. The people think.
Yes! We want that!
Jesus give us this bread you speak of, and give it to us forever.
And Jesus says – it’s me.
I’m the bread.
I’m the bread from heaven.
I am what will sustain you over the long haul.
I’m more than a temporary fix.
You are thinking day to day, but I can fill you forever.
It’s no wonder Jesus needs about 40 more verses to keep explaining this.
This was not easy for the followers of Jesus to understand then, and it’s not easy for us to grasp now.
We too get caught up in the day to day.
We get hungry and we look for food.
We need something and we find it.
We often think of our relationship with God in the same way we think of our relationship with food.
When we are hungry, we eat.
When we’re full, we go do something else.
When we need God, we go to church.
When we feel better, don’t. We do something else… we sleep in, have a leisurely morning at home.
Sometimes, we are just like those followers of Jesus – we have an experience that fills us up, that makes us overflow with God’s love, and then we spend weeks, months, years, trying to recreate that experience, so we can feel the same way.
Jesus is telling us something pretty important about the Kingdom of God in this 6th chapter of John.
Last week, Jesus reminded us that there is no scarcity in the Kingdom of God.
Scarcity is a short term fix mindset.
There’s not enough, so I’m going to grab what I can.
When the Israelites were escaping Egypt, God gave them manna to survive.
Manna was a day to day food.
It didn’t last.
And when the people began to grow their own crops and were able to feed themselves, the manna stopped.
Now here the people are again, hungry.
Here we are, hungry again as well.
And God no longer gives us manna,
God gives us Jesus.
Not manna, but the true bread.
Jesus is more than a short term fix.
Jesus sustains us not just for the moment, but forever.
The Kingdom of God is about abundance.
Today we take one more step away from the mindset of scarcity toward a mindset of abundance.
And this mindset of abundance means long term sustenance.
Where we are filled, not just once, but for good.
Jesus looks at the people, he looks at us, and says I’m not going to give you the bread that you are asking for, I’m going to give you something else.
I’m going to give you me.
Instead of giving us another miracle, Jesus gives us his own self.
And instead of being sustained for the moment, we are sustained for a lifetime.
This can be difficult – because, like the followers of Jesus on that hillside in Capernaum, we want the momentary fix.
We want to be filled now.
We want our prayers answered right now the way WE think they should be answered. We want our lives to be the way we want them to be and we want them to be that way now.
And God says – I’m going to give you me.
We are filled with the bread of life again today – not manna, not bread meant to take care of a physical, literal hunger, not manna that fills us for the moment, but the true bread.
So we come forward, and receive the bread of life in our hand, and know that we are filled.
Filled for today.
Filled for tomorrow.
Filled through all the moments of hunger we will have in all the days ahead.
Filled, and reminded that life in Jesus, life with Jesus, is one that sustains for the long haul.