John 6: 35, 40- 51
Rev. L. Bryan McClain
There is nothing that gets your attention like the smell of something cooking. I can remember when I was just a kid growing up, and we would wake up to the smell of mom’s cooking breakfast. Bacon or sausage, eggs, biscuits, homemade preserves. Or sometimes it was pancakes. Even if you didn’t wake up hungry, the aroma alone would get you there in a hurry.
Mom’s bread was to die for. Whether it was her biscuits, or homemade sourdough, or yeast rolls. I tell you, my mouth is watering right now just talking about it.
Meal times in general were some of the best times we would have together as a family, and I think that is or at least was true for most families back then; not only because of the delicious food that was prepared right there in the kitchen, but because of the gathering of the family around it.
Meal time with family is more than chowing down and getting our fill of food. It is savored because it is communal. It is a time for telling stories and usually laughter. Meal times feed more than just our bodies, they feed our spirits with values, and most of all love. So we feed on not just the food, but we feed off of our connection to one another. In doing so in some measure we feed our souls.
Today’s story doesn’t really start here in the middle of chapter six. It really starts back at the beginning of the chapter when Jesus starts teaching from a mountain side and sees a large crowd coming to listen. He asks his disciples, “Where shall we buy enough bread to feed this many people?” the crowd was estimated to be about 5,000.
The disciples are all of a sudden caught off guard. They had not planned on such a turnout. They simply were not ready for what God was doing. One quick lesson here is how often do we find ourselves in similar circumstances? We’re just not ready for what God is about to do next.
But Jesus had a plan. The plan was there all along. But he poses the question to his disciples because he is needing to teach them as much as he is needing to teach those who are coming up the mountainside. The disciples look up to face what seems to be a hopeless situation. They have no idea what to do.
What his disciples didn’t realize any more than the crowd of 5,000 that showed up that day is that the one who could provide all that was needed was standing right there in their midst.
So, as the story goes, he has the disciples seat the crowd and serve them from the five loaves of bread and two fish, provided by the boy. The miracle there on the mountain side was a hit, but not for the reasons you might think. Because the next day when those people wake up and realize Jesus is gone, they begin to track him down. Why? Because now they wanted breakfast. They are ready for what will fill their physical hunger but they don’t seem to notice or even care where they food came from. They came looking for him because they wanted to make him king, they knew he could provide their next meal.
But Jesus puts them on the spot. When they finally find him on the other side of the lake, Jesus says “I tell you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the bread and had your fill.”
Did you catch that? A miracle had been done right in front of them the day before, but except for the disciples, nobody had noticed it. Why? Who knows? Maybe they weren’t aware of the problem. So seamless is the work of Christ in averting a major problem that the crowd never notices the miracle that takes place. My guess is they weren’t looking for anything beyond the next meal.
Maybe all they thought about was the feast that Jesus threw. Who cared how he did it, but they wanted to stick with him because they all ate well. Isn’t that human nature? Give them what they want and people will follow you anywhere. As soon as you run out though, off they go to the next person. Maybe that is what we are seeing in the world of politics today.
People tend to put a lot of effort and energy into things that have no root, no foundation, no compass, only because in the short run, it satisfies a hunger, but the next thing you know they are out there all alone with no real substance to sustain them physically, emotionally, or spiritually, because what they chased after turned out to be nothing much at all.
But Jesus has a message for them and for us. He says do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures for eternal life. Jesus is not talking so much about the things we put into our mouths, but what we put into our hearts and minds. So many people are looking at our next set of elections both this year and next like it is either a do or die situation. Elect the correct sheriff or the correct president and we will have elected God’s chosen. And they will lead us into years of feasting and victory. It’s the same reason those five thousand wanted to make Jesus their king. Elect the wrong candidate and we will have sealed our grave.
Don’t you think that if the political candidates could learn how to feed five thousand people out of five loaves of bread and two fish, they would do it in a heartbeat and they most definitely would telling their voting base, that is why you should elect me.
In my opinion that is why Donald Trump is ahead in the poles. It’s not so much about what he believes in, it is that he has billions of dollars and people think he is going to give them whatever they want.
But that is food that will spoil. This is not knocking Donald Trump. It is just suggesting that people are more mesmerized by what Donald Trump has in his bank account than what he has in his heart.
But Jesus said, work for the food that endures for eternal life. That is the bread of life. Jesus performed the miraculous feet of feeding five thousand people out of five loaves of bread and two fish, and nobody but the twelve disciples and a little boy noticed it. Even at that the disciples were too busy cleaning up to notice with any appreciation what Jesus had just done. They even asked Jesus after he had provided their fill of food, “What miraculous sign will you perform? I want to say Are you kidding me?
People came looking for Jesus to get more bread for the day or for the next four years. They were so focused on the temporal that they did not notice that the bread of life was right in front of them.
As Christians, we make a confession of faith. We confess as first and foremost that we believe in God; maker of all things, but also the one who establishes justice, the one who provides all that we need, the one who holds us accountable and so on. And then we say we believe in his only Son Jesus, begotten not made, the very word of God who has come in the flesh and blood.
And yet so often we live our lives like we don’t believe it, like we are going to have scrounge for our next meal, or like someone is going to take our homes. And so we reach out for whoever is selling the next big promise that from a human point of view sounds too good to be true.
So our work as Christians is to do exactly what Jesus tells us in verse 29. To believe in him. The Bread of life. That is to trust in him, to have faith that the way to eternal life is by feeding off of the bread of life, the Word of God. To love kindness, to be just in our dealings with one another and the sojourners we meet along the way, and to walk humbly with God. To do these things may not seem like there is much to it, but by feeding on the bread of life, not only are we feeding our bodies, we our feeding our very souls.
John 6: 35, 40- 51