Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
12 June 2016 / Ordinary Time
May the grace and truth of Christ be with you!
As we enter into the story again, I want to remind you that in this story John is comparing and contrasting Moses and Jesus. Why? Because Moses was the superhero of the Jewish people. But as great as he was, someone greater is now here.
From the beginning of his Gospel til now, John has been telling us that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus.
Now, we do not have time to cover all the OT echoes in this story, but if you listen closely you can hear echoes of the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt and the sojourner in the wilderness reverberating in the background of this story.
Keep in mind that in this story, Jesus is portrayed as the true and better Moses.
Like Moses, Jesus feeds a crowd of people a Passover meal of bread, and he then leads them on a new exodus — against the wind and across the sea.
Like Moses, Jesus confronts the people with their sin and he challenges their unbelief.
Like Moses, Jesus performs signs and points the people to look up to heaven and believe the Lord God as they travel through the world.
The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus.
Last week we looked at the story of the sign of Jesus multiplying the bread and fish to feed a crowd. This week and next we will look at the meaning of the sign. So Jesus multiplied bread and fish and fed thousands: What does the sign mean?
Our sermon text for today is John 6:22-40. It is printed in your worship order if you would like to follow along.
If you are willing and able, I invite you to stand and pay close attention to God’s Holy Word.
On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking 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, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking 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 to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father 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.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (ESV)
The word of the Lord. May God add his blessings to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word. All the church says: Amen. You may be seated.
As you just heard this story contains lots of talking. It starts out as a dialogue but ends up as a monologue.
This story takes place at the synagogue at Capernaum. A synagogue was a gathering place like a church building where devout men came together to hear the word of God read, explained, and discussed.
Dialogue — 6:25-34
One of the things I appreciate about the crowds is their willingness to talk to Jesus and ask hard questions and share their thoughts and opinions with him. There is something right and good about a healthy exchange of ideas.
As a pastor, I appreciate and admire the people who come to me and want to do such things. We need to have more conversation and more open dialogue with each other — especially when it comes to the gospel. A couple of weeks ago I gave you an open invitation to fill up my summer calendar so we can search for Jesus in all the scriptures. So far, no one has taken me up on the invite. But the invitation still stands.
Now, as I was saying, conversation is important and necessary as a means to an end, but it must not be treated as an end in itself. That’s what the leaders of the emergent church movement (McLaren, Padgett, Bell) urged their cohorts to do. Some of you remember that short-lived movement. It emerged just a few years ago. It was presumptuously all about conversation and dialogue. They were ever asking questions, but rarely ever able to come to a knowledge of the truth. That’s one reason (among many) that it submerged into emptiness and nothingness.
That’s why I said, conversation is important and necessary as a means to an end, but it must not be treated as an end in itself. When conversation is a means to discovering the truth it is a good thing.
It seems to me that the crowd was trying to get at the truth.
Notice that the people call Jesus “Rabbi.” That is a Jewish way of showing respect and calling someone Teacher. The crowd recognized that Jesus was a Rabbi. He had the credentials and chops to be a Teacher of the Law and Prophets and they knew it.
But they also felt that he was more than a Rabbi. Remember, in context of the story, just one day ago they called him the Prophet who was to come and they wanted to make him King by force.
So what’s going on here? It seems that the crowd might be trying to flatter Jesus in some way. Why?
Like many people in our day, they were seeking Jesus for what they could get out of him. They were not as interested in knowing Jesus as the Word made flesh as they were interested in using Jesus to get the their “felt-needs” met. They felt hungry and wanted Jesus to make them some more bread.
Like their forefathers, they were driven by the flesh not by the spirit. When they needed something from God, they wanted him come close. When they didn’t need anything from God, they wanted him to stay far away.
But Jesus will have none of it. He was in no mood to make deals with them.
No, he criticizes them for making all the effort and going through all the trouble to find him. Why? Because he knew what was in their hearts, that they were seeking him, not for who he is as the Word made flesh, but for what he can give. He says in effect: “You don’t want True Bread, you just want more bread. You don’t want eternal life, you want your best life now.”
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
We know so many people who treat Jesus like a lucky charm, a magical genie, or a vending machine. When they need help, they call on him in prayer and expect him to give them exactly what they want no matter what it is. Health. Money. Security. Answers. Whatever.
But Jesus confronts the people with their sin and he challenges their unbelief. How? When he says, Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.
Notice, Jesus does not chastise them for wanting a hand-out, or for wanting bread without working for it; rather, he chastises them for working for food that perishes instead of working for the food that endures to eternal life.
One comes by the sweat of your face, the other comes by the blood, sweat, and tears of Jesus’ face. One is a wage you earn; the other is a gift he earned for you. One is a curse; the other is a blessing.
Sadly, for most people in the world, working for bread is not a means to an end, it is an end in itself. Working for bread that perishes is a way of life that ends in death.
As it is written: By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen 3:19)
Jesus commands them: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but [work] for the food that endures to eternal life.”
This echoes the story of Jesus and his disciples at the well in Samaria. Jesus said: “I have food to eat that you do not know about. My food is to do the will of the Father who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (4:32, 34)
So, the food that endures to eternal life is the will of the Father. Jesus commands the crowd to work for it.
On the surface, they responded positively: “What must we do to do the works of God?”
They act like they are willing to do whatever Jesus commands in order to get the soul-food that he is talking about.
They were willing to trade their works for his goods and services. But first they wanted to make sure that they were going to be doing the right works.
They wanted to know exactly how many steps to take, rules to keep, and boxes to tick off in order to get a supply of soul-food.
In other words, they wanted to figure out how many works they would have to do in order to obligate God to reward their hard work with the soul-food they craved.
Can any of you relate to that? Have you ever played this game with God?
Sometimes it looks like this: O God, if you will do X for me, then I will do Y for you. But sometimes it looks like this: O God, if I do A for you, then you must do B for me.
We rarely ever put it that bluntly or crudely, but this attitude of unbelief and ingratitude comes out whenever we grumble about how little the Lord does for us after we have done so much for him; or complain about how the Lord did not live up to our expectations after we tried so so hard to do better.
So “what must we do to do the works of God?”seems like a valid question.
But Jesus’ answer is shocking: “The work of God is this: sola fide — that you believe in Christ alone.”
To be clear: the work of God is not that you believe in anyone or anything. It is not enough to believe in yourself or some other object or person. The work of God is that you believe in Jesus, the one who was sent on mission to save you.
It is the object of faith (Jesus) not the subject of faith (you and me) that saves.
As Sinclair Ferguson puts it: “True faith takes its character and quality from its object. Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ. Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others!”
Your faith is only as good as the object to which or to whom it is directed.
It sounds so counter-intuitive even to our spiritual and religious ears.
Most of us come from religious traditions that required us to do something — perhaps many things — in order to get our hands on the soul-food that Jesus offers. The so-called works of God came in many shapes and sizes. For some it was do these five steps; for others it was do these four spiritual laws. For some it was do penance; for others it was do mission work. For some it was don’t smoke, drink, cuss, chew, or go with girls who do. For others it was don’t wear make-up, jewelry, or pants.
Jesus says the work of God is simply this: trust in the Word made flesh for the life of the world. Yet we have a hard time receiving his word much less believing it. Why?
Like arrogant fools, we carry a sign that says, “will work for food” — but Jesus is God’s sign that says, “Free Bread Today.”
Our flesh insists that we cannot accept hand-outs; and that we must pay our own way. But the Spirit insists that we “come, buy and eat without money and without price.”
And he asks us,
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
Then he counsels us,
“Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-4)
That promise is so good, but it almost sounds too good to be true. It seems too easy.
In fact, when the crowd heard it, they asked Jesus for another sign, “that we may see and believe you.”
Whether they meant to do it or not, they showed their hand. They just acknowledged that they were unwilling to do the work of God. They did not believe in Jesus; they believed in Moses.
In their hearts they compared and contrasted Jesus and Moses. Then they concluded that Moses is greater and better than Jesus.
After all, from their point of view, Jesus only fed a few thousand people with five loaves and two fish one time, but thousands upon thousands of our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness for forty years; when — as it is written — ‘[Moses] gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
But Jesus pushed back and said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”
Jesus was right. It is not written that Moses gave the people bread from heaven. It is written that God did. Not only did Moses say this repeatedly, but a psalmist sang it as well:
Yet the Lord God commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.
Man ate of the bread of the angels;
he sent them food in abundance. (Psalm 78:23-25 ESV)
Once, the bread of God was called manna. But now, the bread of God is called Messiah. Manna was a shadow of the real thing.
The true bread is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
Now, when the crowd hears about the true bread of heaven, they appear to ask for it. “Sir, give us this bread always.”
[ Note: This echoes the story of the Samaritan woman. She said, “Sir, give me this living water.” (4:15) ]
At face value, it seems like a valid prayer request. But it is not a prayer request at all.
Reading between the lines, we can safely deduce that the crowd asked for the bread with a heavy dose of sarcasm. I imagine they were shaking their heads and rolling their eyes and scoffing under their breath.
“Yeah right — give us this enduring bread forever.”
Like their forefathers, “they did they did not believe in God, and did not trust his saving power.” (Psalm 78:22) His word was not enough for them — not even the Word made flesh — they demanded more signs and wonders.
We know that is the case because of what Jesus says to them in his monologue: “you have seen me and yet do not believe.”
Up to this point, Jesus has been engaged in conversation with the crowd, but the time has come for conversation to end and proclamation to begin.
Monologue — 6:35-40
In the monologue, Jesus drives home the point he has been making all day: “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3 ESV)
That ancient text takes on a whole new meaning in light of the fact that Jesus is the Word made flesh and the Bread of Life.
The point is that true life can never be found in multi-grain gluten-free bread; it can only be found in found in Christ alone.
When Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” he was simply echoing what is written about him in the book of Isaiah:
Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and you shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. (Isaiah 49:8-10)
That is a tiny glimpse of eternal life in Christ in the new heavens and earth.
The crowds were dead wrong about Moses and Jesus. Jesus is the true and better Moses, because he gives his people true bread from heaven and true water from the Rock, and because he gives his flesh and blood and his Spirit for the life of the world.
Now, we have waded through a deep conversation today. I realize that I did not use enough captivating illustrations or make enough cutting applications. Perhaps some of you have even zoned out along the way. It’s hard to listen to a sermon about a sermon.
But now we come to some of the most important things Jesus ever said in the Gospel of John. So I urge you to listen diligently with all your heart.
Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, makes the following promises to all the people that the Father gives him:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but I shall raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks* on the Son and believes* in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
What are the promise of Jesus? Jesus will never cast out, lose, or destroy anyone comes to him. He has come into the world to save sinners and to secure salvation for them. As John Murray put it, “Security inheres in Christ’s redemptive accomplishment.”
Who can come to Jesus? Whoever wants to come to him may come.
Who ever wants to come to Jesus? No one. Left to ourselves, left to our own desires and devices, none of us would ever want to come to Jesus. Only those whom the Father gives to Jesus ever want to come to him. They come by the Father’s will, not their own will. They come by grace through faith in Christ alone.
That means if you have come to Jesus it was the Father’s will — if you have received him and believe in him the Father has given you to him. If you are coming to Jesus — perhaps the Father has given you to him as well.
What is the will of the Father?
(1) That Jesus shall lose none of all the Father gives him, but raise him up on the last day.
(2) That everyone who keeps looking and keeps believing in Jesus shall have eternal life, and Jesus will raise him up on the last day.
[ Note: This echoes the story of Nicodemus which echoes the story of the bronze serpent. Jesus said to him, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 cp Num 21:9) ]
Unlike our forefathers who perished in the wilderness, we will be preserved and protected by our Savior all the way to the end. They perished because of their unbelief, but we will be preserved by grace through faith in Jesus. In other words, we will be saved by the work of God which is looking to and believing in Jesus.
Nothing is able to prevent the Savior from keeping you safe and secure in his salvation; not even death can come between you and Jesus. He will save all the people his Father gives him and he will keep them saved all the way to the promise land.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts; do not go astray in your heart, do not ignore his ways. Or else you will never enter his rest. (Psalm 95:7-8, 10)
But if you trust him and obey his voice, eat the bread of life and you will never ever perish.