24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 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. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
It’s good to be back with you this morning after a much needed, and very much enjoyed albeit short, vacation with my family. I’ve heard great things from Dave Workman and others about last week’s service. I actually listened to the sermon and much of the service while I was on a run in Seattle! One of the great things that we are doing now out of the pandemic is having our services out on Zoom and Facebook Live! It was so good!
I also texted Dave right after the service! He enjoyed being with y’all and I’m looking forward to catching up with him.
On our vacation this year, we went to visit friends in Seattle and to take time to hike in some amazing places outside the city. Our son wanted to go to Seattle because of the University of Washington. As many of you know, he’s deferred his college admission for a year to take a gap year and serve with AmericCorps. He’s committed to the University of Pittsburgh for next fall, but can break that commitment if another school gives him a better offer (and pay his parents back for the tuition deposit that we had to pay Pitt to hold his spot for a year!!).
We had a great time exploring the city. I’ve been to Seattle quite a bit and we’ve had relatives that used to live there, but there’s always more places to find! We also had some epic hikes with amazing elevation gains that gave us beautiful heights, lakes, waterfalls, and snow capped mountains to explore.
And, then, there was our visit to the University of Washington.
We may have lost our son to the PNW.
We also found out that Seattle is known, not only for coffee and IPA’s, but for biscuits! We had a biscuit the first day that was so huge and so good, I wanted to get more…but, when I went back later in the week, there was a 30 minute wait just to place an order!
In today’s Gospel lesson, the focus seems to be on bread. Jesus had just performed the miracle where he fed the 5,000 from a few loaves of bread and fishes. There was so much food that they had leftovers. The Gospel narrative implies that folks had their fill, they were well fed.
We start at verse 24 where Jesus has left that occasion and the crowds are wondering where Jesus and they go looking for him. They catch up with him in verse 25 and give him the respectful address as Rabbi or teacher and ask when he got there, as if to say, where have you been? They wanted more of that bread, just like our family wanted more of those biscuits! It had filled them up and they not only wanted more, they had some questions.
Jesus picks up on this and makes a statement that they weren’t really looking for him, but for what he could provide for them. They were not simply looking for a show of power or a miracle, they were at they simply wanted more feed. They had a needy outlook and what to meet needs. Jesus has none of that, and simply says that you are so much more than simply trying to satisfy your needs or the needs of others.
It reminds me of how we, in the church, and in the non-profit world in general, often ask, what are our needs or even the needs of those around us? Sometimes those are good to identify, but there is a deeper question to ask, what are we aiming for? Who are we? What do we have already? I think those questions are exemplified in the feeding of the 5000. Jesus knows that folks need to be fed, but instead of asking how do we get to a place, he simply says, what do we have? What are our assets, then he uses those assets to bless the people gathered.
Jesus goes on to say in our passage this morning that we should not work for food that spoils. Again, he’s saying that we can provide for needs of the moment, but we should look for something deeper, something more meaningful or even empowering. We should look for food that doesn’t spoil, that lasts forever and is eternal. And, remember, as we’ve mentioned before, the word eternal in the gospels has much more to do with quality than quantity. Jesus wants us to have big, meaningful, and full lives together with each other and with God.
Jesus also goes on to say that God has placed God’s seal of approval on the Son of Man. Two things about that: in those days, a seal was meant to be placed on something that was being offered as a sacrifice, it meant that it was an acceptable gift. The Son of Man also signifies identity with humanity, God has placed his seal on Jesus who represents us, therefore God has given us, humanity, his approval through Jesus. It’s also a gift, we can’t work towards it, it is given to us.
The folks hearing this, much like us today, don’t get it. They feel that they have to somehow do something, earn it. Jesus says, no, the only work that you have to do is to believe. Of course, that can be harder than any physical action. Movement in our lives towards believing in God and in others can be difficult. It takes trust, love, and a recognition on our part that we don’t have to be defensive or try to prove ourselves, we simply are called to believe in God and, subsequently, to believe in others. That doesn’t mean we can’t question or have our doubts, on the contrary, believing in something or someone causes the beauty of mystery and curiosity to flow as it is held together by a bond of friendship, of relationship.
Which, is what Jesus is driving his listeners towards. They keep on asking questions and go to the place of trying to connect Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 to Moses providing Manna from heaven. Moses’ Manna lasted for 40 years and helped the Jewish population stay alive physically, but the point of that is that it came from heaven. God provided through Moses. Jesus says this, says this is truth telling, God has given them, and us, the true bread from heaven, that gives life to the world, everyone.
They clamored for that kind of bread and asked where they could get it. Jesus then declares with a double imperative, which translates from the Greek “I am, I am the bread of life.” Whoever is willing to believe and to dare to grow and become the person that God created them to be, to receive the gift of relationship from God will never be thirsty.
Friends, this world needs this kind of bread. I used tell my cross country runners all of the time that there are good carbs and bad carbs. Bad carbs can fill you up but have no nutritional value other than making you a larger person, but good carbs give you energy and are building blocks for getting stronger, healthier.
Jesus is coming to us with the promise of Presence, of relationship. A promise that he will be with us, even in the darkness of our lives. He doesn’t promise some self-help technique, he simply gives us relationship.
Jesus is the bread of life, and that bread starts with yeast rising. That yeast has been planted in this world through Jesus’ coming to us, entering humanity, being one with us, while also being one with the Father and with the Spirit.
God’s Spirit is also moving in and through us like yeast in dough. We’re being molded and moved around, it’s sometimes a bit awkward, but that yeast is working its way through the dough and Christ is rising up within us and around us.
Friends, as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, let’s remember the seed that God has planted in us, God’s very self, God’s Presence, that is growing, that is giving us ideas and new life, and is moving us towards being the body of Christ to the world around us and to each other.