Pentecost 10, Year B
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 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. 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.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, and that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 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? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 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. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
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.”[i]
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….
Most of us think we know what Jesus meant when,
2000 years ago, he said to his followers:
“I am the bread of life.”
But I wonder what his disciples thought he meant.
Remember, the word “disciple”, comes from the Greek for “student”.
They were studying Jesus. They were trying to figure him out.[ii]
Can you imagine how weird it must have seemed when he said:
“I am the bread of life.” [iii]
Many of us like to imagine Jesus as the King of Love.
A friend when we need a friend. A nice guy.
A brave guy. A savior.
We claim Jesus as our brave, noble, wise and kind Savior.
“What a friend we have in Jesus”, the old song goes.[iv]
But How friendly? How brave? How nice are we?
Another old hymn says,
“… he walks with me, and he talks with me.
And he tells me I’m his own.”[v]
We all want to own Jesus.
But do we really let him own us?
Are we really willing to be who Jesus calls us to be?
Back in his day, folks who followed Jesus,
gave up a lot to be in his crew.
Even so, since his disciples were fisherman, they kept their boats.
Like most of us, they stretched a little bit to meet Jesus,
but they didn’t step out too far.
They held onto their safety nets, at least in the beginning.
Like we do.
Most of us have hopes and dreams and plans.
That’s always been true.
Jesus’ guys surely held onto the plans and dreams.
But, what about Jesus’ plan for us? Where does that fit in?
I bet that Adam and Eve,
and every Mom or Dad since then, has said to their kids,
“What do you want to be, when you grow up”?
Some of us grew up fast. Really fast.
Some of us grew up not so fast.
Some of us hardly grow up at all.
But, no matter how grown up we are, we all have dreams.[vi]
I had a lot of strife, growing up. But it wasn’t just me!
Many of us have struggled,
Because we felt a call to do or to be something.
Because, we had a dream.
Some dreams come true. Mine did.
But some dreams don’t come true. Life takes its toll.
Sometimes the price, of a dream fulfilled, is too high.
And still, God will always call us. What is your dream?
Who is God calling you to be? What is God calling you to do?
What is God calling us to do, or to be? [vii]
Martin Luther King went to The Mountaintop.[viii]
How far can we go? How far are we willing to go?
When we know who God is calling us to be …
And what God is calling us to do,
And we work faithfully … His peace will be our reward.
If our main battle is simply to hold onto whatever we have,
Or whatever we imagine we are supposed to have…
There can be no peace!
And so, there is no peace in the world today.
St. Teresa prayed for God’s kind of peace.
“May today there be peace within me.
May I trust God that I am exactly where I am meant to be….
May I not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of my faith.
May I use the gifts I’ve received, and pass on the love that’s been given to me”.[ix]
If we really want God’s peace, we need to ask:
What gifts has God given us?, And
What have we done with those gifts?
What is God calling us to do? Who is God calling us to be? [x]
Each of us is a unique expression of God’s love, and joy.
We’ve all had dreams. Most of still have dreams.
Dreams are God’s gift to us.
In dreaming and in living, God asks us to work with Him.
Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Sit with Him. Listen to Him.
God asks us to pursue not only our own dreams,
But God asks us to pursue His dreams …
for each one of us, for all of us, and for this place.
When he said, “I am the bread of life”,
Jesus intentionally upset people, 2000 years ago.
He knew he would freak people out.
Jesus intentionally asked people to do, what they didn’t want to do.
And he still does.
Jesus spoke for His Father. His Father pushed Jesus hard.
God’s dreams still push us outside our comfort zone.
Jesus never said, “Don’t worry about your bank account.”
He never said, “I’ll make sure that you have plenty of money.”
But, he did say, “I am the bread of life”.
And he fed 5000 strangers.
When Jesus said “I am the bread of life”,
He was talking about the world as it is, and the world to come.
The world as-it-is is largely our responsibility.
The world to come, is His alone.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life”, and He meant:
“Don’t worry y’all. I’ll feed your body and your soul”.
But he told us: “Don’t overlook your hungry neighbor.”
Jesus didn’t tell us how to feed our neighbors.
He left no grand strategy. We will always bungle along.
Jesus didn’t give us all the answers.
But He did say, “I am the answer”.
Jesus has plans for each of us.
His plans point us away from ourselves, and towards the World,
And towards His Kingdom, both on earth and in heaven.
When we ask, what those plans are,
let’s remember what Jesus said….“I am the Answer”.
Ok. But let’s get clever for a moment.
If Jesus is the Answer… what’s the question? [xi]
Who am I, Lord and what do you want me to do?
Who do you want me to be?
Sometimes we’d probably really rather not know.
Today’s political and social battles are nothing new.
People have been pointing fingers since Adam and Eve.[xii]
Jesus came to help us build one new humanity, out of many.[xiii]
So, Jesus prayed for unity among His people.[xiv]
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the answer to broken relationships.[xv]
As soon as we seek Jesus’ answer, and seek Jesus’ love,
We will find His way to understand the world.
We will find the way to live rightly, within in the world,
By serving whomever God places in our path,
However God calls us to serve.
[i] John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
The crowd failed to understand when Jesus spoke of “the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (v. 33), so Jesus makes his meaning clear. “I am the bread of life,” he says (v. 35).
There are many “I AM” (Greek: ego eimi) sayings in the Gospels, which remind us of the burning bush, where Moses asked God who he should say had sent him, and God told him to say, “… ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (See, Exodus 3:14). See, John’s Gospel
- “Ego eimi – he” (4:26)
- “Ego eimi – the bread of life” (6:35).
- “Ego eimi – the living bread” (6:51).
- “Ego eimi – the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5).
- “Before Abraham came into existence, Ego eimi“ (8:58).
- “Ego eimi – the sheep’s door” (10:7).
- “Ego eimi – the door” (10:9).
- “Ego eimi – the good shepherd” (10:11).
- “Ego eimi – the resurrection and the life” (11:25).
- “Ego eimi – the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6).
- “Ego eimi – the true vine” (15:1).
[ii] As we are today!
[iii] So far in the NT, following Jesus had meant lots of excitement and crowds; even when he challenged the authorities, the risk must have seen small, to his disciples. But just a bit later, when he said “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” things , must have seemed really weird. 1st century Romans, who were quite flexible about many behaviors were appalled by these words, seeing them as indications of cannibalism and child sacrifice.
[iv] What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Songwriters: Charles C. Converse / Joyce Eilers Bacak / Joseph M. Scrivener
[v] In the Garden, Austin Miles (1868-1946), written 1912.
[vi] I always wanted to be a priest. And here I am.
I also wanted to be a cowboy. And for a few years, I was.
I wanted to travel and see the world. And for a few years, I did.
I wanted an education. And I got one.
I wanted a normal, happy family. And by the Grace of God, I’ve got a smart, beautiful, fine wife and daughters.
I didn’t want my parent’s struggles, and pain. And I was able to skip that, with the help of friends and lots of hard work.
[vii] Right now? Right here?
[ix] See, St. Teresa’s Prayer of Daily Trust and Joy.
[x] Right now. Right here.
[xi] An old but interesting joke: Jesus asked many questions. He often answered a question with a question. Have you ever noticed that? Imagine, a man approaches Jesus and asks, “Why is it you always answer a question with a question?” Jesus pauses for a moment, and then says, “Do I?” https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-is-the-answer.html
[xii] See, Genesis 3:12, 16, 4:8,
[xiii] Ephesians 2:14–18; cf. Galatians 3:26–29.
[xiv] John 17
[xv] See, v, supra.