Close Encounters with Jesus – John 6b
I want us to start off this morning with a little counting. How many times a day do you eat? Think of all the different times-maybe you wake right up and have breakfast, maybe you skip breakfast and wait until lunch, maybe you have a second breakfast once you get to work or grab a mid-morning snack. Maybe there’s always food sitting out in the break room to munch on. Then course, lunch rolls around so you eat then, but not long afterwards is the afternoon snack to power you through until dinner time, then there’s the late night snack-or even raiding the fridge at midnight. So how many times a day do you eat? Not how many meals-but how often do you eat? Just make a quick calculation in your head. It could be anywhere from three to five or seven times a day. Maybe you’re someone who grazes all day and says-I never really stop eating. I give great credit to those people who cut off eating after 7:00PM and say no more. Sure it’s healthy but when 10:00PM rolls around-who isn’t hungry? It’s been three or four hours since your last meal. I remember being in the dorms at college. The lobby was full of pizza delivery guys around 10:00PM. My roommate and I often ordered a pizza then. We knew it was wasn’t healthy -turning the freshman 15 into the freshman 20-but it was so good-actually it was cheap-college special $5 for a large pie! How could we ever pass that deal up? Every night the thought of a greasy pizza would tempt us until we picked up the phone and called in our order. It didn’t matter how much we’d eaten earlier in the day, give it a few hours and our stomachs were growling.
And that brings us to our passage this morning. Open up your Bibles to John 6 and we’re going to pick up where we left off last week. You’ll remember that there was that huge crowd of hungry people-over 15,000 of them wondering where their next meal was going to come from-until Jesus intervened. The first half of the chapter is all about Jesus amazingly creating food out of basically nothing. He took the 1 tiny meal that was available-5 loaves and 2 fish-and multiplied it many times over. Jesus didn’t just double it and make 10 loaves. He made an exponential increase of thousands upon thousands of times more until this huge crowd all enjoyed a huge meal-of bread and fish-or Twinkies and sardines as we more accurately determined. But Jesus made so much food that everyone was fully satisfied, probably stuffed, and there were tons of leftovers. No one went hungry that night. I’m still amazed by that-Jesus didn’t do the bare minimum just to feed the crowd in order to sustain them until the next day. He didn’t pass out rations-but as we said-He created an abundance. And that’s a detail we can never forget-with the Lord there is always an abundance, always an overflow-whether it is something physical or whether it’s something spiritual like an abundance of joy and peace in our hearts.
But as always the sun sets, everyone goes to sleep and then morning comes along. It’s a new day-and what does that bring? New hunger. Rarely do I wake up still full from the day before-do you? Sometimes I do if there was some huge banquet or feast-but often a new day means new hunger. So what does this crowd do in the morning-v.24. And so far that sounds good-it seems like they’re wanting to follow Jesus who did something miraculous-until Jesus exposes their true motive-v.25-26. Wow-talk about being blunt! Jesus doesn’t answer their actual question of how He got to the other side of the sea, instead He exposes their actual motives-You’re not here because you’re amazed at what I did and want to worship Me-you’re here to get more. It’s a new day and your stomachs are growling again and you want me to multiply more food. Jesus sees right through them. And let’s be honest, isn’t that what we humans are good at? Wanting more? When our kids were just beginning to communicate, we used that baby sign language. Anybody do that? The one they were best at was “More!” We’d give them a treat or a cookie and they would quickly sign “More, more,” while saying “Mo…, mo…” This crowd is the same. Can we have some more food, Jesus?That was some great stuff you whipped up yesterday-can you do it again? So you can imagine they were deflated when He called their bluff. I’m sure somebody runs up, “Hey, is Jesus going to make more bread this morning-how about pancakes?” “Shhh…” “He’s on to us, He knows we’re begging-I think He’s going to teach us something first.” “Really-I just want the food!” And isn’t that often the problem? We’d rather have the things Jesus can give us, not always the truth He wants to teach us. Have you been there? I don’t need the lesson, Lord-just rain down the blessings and I’ll be on my way. But Jesus is going to use the miracle of feeding the crowd to teach them a very important truth-and if we’re thinking food, here’s where we get to the meat of the passage-v.27a.
The people wanted a Messiah who met their physical needs-and Jesus has healed them, fed them, maybe He’ll even liberate them from the Romans. Remember v. 15-they’re thinking they’d found their king who would restore their physical kingdom-but they had no real understanding of a Messiah who would restore their spiritual needs. But here Jesus is saying that’s why He’s come-to tell them, to tell us-of our spiritual needs-and point us to the true healing, the true “food” that our souls need-not merely our bodies-v. 27a And if you’re honest with yourself-isn’t this verse accurate for most of us? Isn’t the main focus of your day, your week, literally to work in order to put food on the table? Obviously your paycheck buys more than that-but the number one thing you need is food. You can do without all the extras that we get used to in our affluent lives-but not food. Food is essential-yet Jesus is saying don’t labor for that. Now that doesn’t mean Jesus is saying-Quit your job, stop working and just let your food fall out of the sky. What dos it say in 2 Thes 3:10-That person will decide he better get back to work when his stomach is growling and his bank account is zero! Working to provide food is a good, biblical thing, we need to do it-but it’s not the ultimate thing. It shouldn’t consume us. And here in America it often does. Jesus’ words here in John 6 are very relevant for our society today that says “Work, work, work”-and too many people pride themselves on long hours, early mornings, all the overtime and sixty-plus hour work weeks. But at the end of the day-money and work can only purchase perishable things. Houses grow old, cars wear out, technology becomes obsolete, clothes go out of fashion-and food-the problem with food is that you’re hungry every day.
Here’s the crowd-hungry again because it’s a new day-time for breakfast. All the Twinkies and sardines from yesterday didn’t last. So Jesus wants the people to make a very important shift in their minds-the same shift we need to make-which is not spending our lives consumed with laboring for perishable, temporary things that won’t last, but instead consumed with eternal things. To not look back at the end of our lives, after having worked all those years, wondering, “Is this all there is? Was it worth it?” But to spend our lives seeking that which is eternal and won’t perish. As Jesus said in Matt 6:19-20. And we’re not so worried about moths, rust or thieves-but operating systems become outdated, our phones have to replaced, roofs have to be repaired, our houses need new siding, cars get high mileage, nothing on planet earth lasts on its own-so Jesus is telling us to seek the things of eternity-the things that do last forever. And He’s brilliantly using the example of food to make this shift in our thinking-v.27>v.35>v.48-49. Jesus is saying that even the Israelites, as they lived in the wilderness, had a great abundance of food from the manna that came down from heaven every day. Each morning when they woke up they didn’t have to go hungry because there was bread right there on the ground-Ex 16:13b-15; 21. That would be like waking up and having pancakes covering the ground or a front yard full of bagels. Just go get one-but they used the manna in a variety of ways, in all sorts of different dishes to eat-their stomachs were satisfied from this bread-but as v. 49 is saying they still died. So what’s the answer? It’s what Jesus has been saying all along-and now makes very clear in v. 51. And Jesus defines it-v.51b. Jesus is saying-I, Myself, am the bread you need. v. 52. They’re baffled thinking-What to do you mean, Jesus? Your flesh is food-this sounds weird. And here we have another misunderstanding, a case of short-sightedness in what Jesus is saying. And this is happening a lot. Remember a few weeks ago when Jesus talked to Nicodemus? Look back at John 3:3-4. What are you talking about? Or the woman at the well-4:14-15. John is highlighting all these scenarios in which people are thinking physically-but Jesus is speaking spiritually. So back in John 6 this same misunderstanding continues-v.52-54. And let’s be honest, Jesus has said a lot of hard, strange things that cause us to think-but this might be one of the hardest. You can imagine the crowd trying to puzzle this one through, wondering if Jesus has finally lost it because it sounds like He’s talking about cannibalism. So we eat your flesh? We’re just going to cook you up, throw on some spices and take a bite? They’re probably thinking if we don’t eat bacon as good Jews, we probably shouldn’t be eating people either.”
And of course Jesus realizes they’re hung up on the idea of physical food, and can’t really grasp what He means. But He continues to press His point-v.55-58a. Jesus is making it clear He’s talking about something very different than physical food-v. 58b-59. Remember they’re not on the mountainside anymore, but across the sea at the synagogue in Capernaum. And you can imagine the synagogue is a packed crowd, filled with lots of confused and puzzled people. So the disciple’s response is very fitting, summarizing it well-v.60. No kidding, right? This whole cannibalism thing is a little hard to digest, literally! v. 61-63. So Jesus is telling them that He’s not talking about cannibalism or the flesh-that part is not the issue-it’s perishable, it comes to nothing. What He is talking about is that which does matter-and it’s spiritual, that His words about feeding on His flesh are an illustration describing an unseen but very true reality-which is the life of our soul. So Jesus is correct-His flesh and blood are true food-far truer than the actual food we eat-because only through Him will our souls live and have eternal life. Jesus is speaking of the Cross where His flesh is broken for us, where His blood is spilled-and we feed on the Cross not by chewing with our teeth and taking Him into our stomachs, but by trusting Him with our lives and taking Him into our hearts. Jesus is saying to the disciples, “To have eternal life I need to enter into your life.” Therefore, the truth of Jesus goes right inside you spiritually, just as food goes inside you physically. And conversion, becoming a Christian, is the moment you realize you’ve been feeding on lots of other stuff-pleasure, money, career, happiness, romance, your friends, your family, your hobbies, your house, your boat-whatever it may be-and realizing that it always leaves you hungry, always wanting more like a bad snack that never satisfies, that your stomach keeps growling, never satisfied with that stuff, until it hits you that Jesus Himself brings the satisfaction you’ve been missing. That He is the One who died for you, who has completely forgiven you, thereby filling your heart with His joy and grace and peace and hope-and so you stop trusting-that is you stop feeding on all that other stuff-and transfer your trust to Jesus-v.35-why?-v. 54. Every time you read the word feed in this chapter you can insert the word trust. Our bodies must feed on food to live, and likewise, our souls must trust in Jesus to live. That’s what the passage is saying. “Whoever trusts in my flesh and blood”-recognizing that Jesus gave His life for you, He died in your place. “Whoever trusts in my flesh and blood has eternal life.” That’s it that’s the gospel. That’s how you’re saved. So What Did Jesus Say? A real, ongoing relationship with Him is essential for eternal life.
Look at the tense of the verb-v. 54, 56, 57–whoever feeds. It’s present tense which means it is an ongoing, daily activity. And that’s why Jesus is using the example of food. Who eats one meal? When a guest comes over to your house and you ask, Hey, are you hungry? Want something to eat? Have you ever heard the response-No thanks, I‘m good. I ate once, eight years ago-excellent meal-so I’m done with eating. Not a chance! We can hardly go 8 hours without eating. But how many people treat the gospel that way? I trusted Jesus eight years ago-I prayed a prayer once, I walked down the aisle or raised my hand once-I was really serious about it 8 years ago so I’m fine now. Got my fire insurance so I’m just living my life. Christianity isn’t trusting once and you’re done with Jesus-rather just as you eat every day, so you must trust Jesus every day. It’s not coincidental that He’s using food as an analogy. Eating is something we truly do every, single day and that’s exactly how we ought to be trusting Jesus. As you grow in Him, as your relationship deepens-what you realize isn’t that you need to trust Him less-but that you actually need to trust Him more. That sounds counterintuitive-the more I get this, the more I don’t need someone watching over me or holding my hand-I can handle it myself. But as a follower of Jesus, you don’t graduate and Jesus says-you’ve got this now, you’re good on your own. The more we mature in Christ, the more dependent we are on Him. That’s what a mature believer is-someone who doesn’t go it alone but relies on Him every single day-today, tomorrow, next week, next year, for all of eternity. The trust never lessens, it always deepens. But here’s the problem, if you’re not daily connecting with Jesus and trusting Him for all the experiences you face, you’ll naturally resort to going it alone and trusting yourself. I’ll take care of this problem, I’ll figure out this issue, I’ll fight this battle and conquer this sin with my own determination. I’ll pull through and manage on my own, I’m a resourceful guy, I’ll rely on myself. How often do we naturally do that? And yet that leads down a dangerous road of thinking that you’ll make it to heaven on your own and because of what you’ve done. Look at all my hard work, Lord. There’s a lot of good deeds here, random acts of kindness. I’ve tried to do my best, not be mean to people or do anything too crazy. I’m not perfect, but I think you’ll see I’m a good person. But that’s not the qualification God’s looking for. It’s not “whoever’s good” it’s v. 57-it’s trusting in Jesus.
So What Did the Disciples Hear? Jesus is our only option. Jesus didn’t present a menu to the crowd with multiple options. He didn’t say we’ve got steak, chicken and lobster what do you like. He didn’t say we’ve got about 4 or 5 things you can feed on, 4 or 5 ways to be saved, pick your option, pick your religion, whatever works best for you-go with that. He narrowed the entire scope of the gospel right down to Himself-whoever feeds on Me will live because of Me. He is completely specific that it’s based on faith in Him alone. Look at how this turned out-v. 66-67. Jesus gave the 12 their opportunity to go their own way, pursue their own salvation. And maybe you’ve thought about going your own way too. Maybe you’ve had your doubts, you’ve wrestled with different questions, you’ve wondered if there’s something better than this whole trusting-Jesus thing. You’ve thought about throwing in the towel and giving up on following Christ. But Peter realizes the truth that you and I must realize-v. 68-69. Jesus is our only option. If we want the words of eternal life, there’s only one place we can go to; if we want real hope that lasts, there’s only One person we can turn to; there’s only one who gave His life for us so we could live-and that’s Him. So ask yourself the very same words that Peter did-Lord, where will I go? If I leave you, what will I pursue? Everybody’s pursuing something but where does it all lead? Where does anything in this life lead, short of Jesus? He’s the only one who brings eternal life to come and that joy and peace now-v. 35.
So What Do We Learn? To feed on Jesus every day. Ask yourself-why does Jesus use this example of bread? It’s a staple. When a big storm’s coming snow storm, hurricane-what do people rush to the store for? Bread and milk. “Snowing outside-we’re stuck, but I’ve got a big glass of milk and a slice of wheat bread!” I suppose but for me when a storm’s coming I just want to make sure I’ve got the pizza ordered! But bread is something you eat everyday-and not even once a day-but multiple times-bagel or a roll for breakfast, sandwich at lunch, some sort of bread or roll with dinner. We’re constantly eating bread-but are you constantly trusting and relying on Jesus? He says, “I am the bread of life” yet is He the bread for you? If you’re honest with yourself maybe He’s more like the occasional snack of life. Maybe you only seek Him once or twice during the week, or maybe it’s just Sundays when you seek Him-or even less than that. Maybe you only check in with the Lord when your tank’s running empty, or when you’re feeling low, or when tragedy strikes and you get really desperate. There’s a reason Jesus didn’t say-I’m the oil change of life. Come around and see Me every 3,000 miles or so and we’ll get you fixed up and back on the road. Jesus isn’t there for the occasional tune-up. He’s there for a daily, even hourly relationship of trusting and walking and following Him-especially when the road gets dark and life is hard-He’s always at your side-patiently and quietly directing you. I like how Jesus says it later on in John’s gospel-John 15:4 NIV. Stay right here-right with Me, Jesus is saying. Without Him where will you go, what will you accomplish on your own? Jesus is saying you must stay continually connected to Him, always feeding on Him. CJ Mahaney, 132-and that’s a truth you have to feed on every day!
Do you plan on eating lunch this afternoon? Anybody skipping lunch? Probably not. Our stomachs have a way of getting hungry by about this time. Or think about tomorrow? Do you plan on eating breakfast when you wake up? Will you be hungry in the morning? Or will today’s meal good be enough for tomorrow? Or maybe last week’s meal is still sufficient for this week-and you’re thinking-I’m still feeling stuffed from that pasta I ate last Tuesday. But I doubt it. I asked at the beginning of the message how many times a day do you eat-because we can’t fathom missing a meal. But what about missing the Bread of Life? Why are we okay to do that? I must say, late Friday morning, when I finished putting this message together-I, was really hungry-and it hit me-Do I hunger for Jesus in the same way? Does my heart hunger for Him, like my stomach hungers for lunch? I rarely miss a meal! But why do I think it’s okay to miss time with the Lord? Why is physical food higher on my list of priorities, than the spiritual food I know I need? As Jesus says in v. 27-Don’t labor for food that perishes, but long for the true food which the Son of God will give to you-which is Himself. Might you and I and each of us as Dix Hills Church-together feed on Jesus-the living bread. Might we together trust and rely on Him-continually realizing how much we need Him. May He be our source of life, our strength, our salvation, our sustenance-v.57b.