Today we are FINISHING up our summer sermon series, as we are FINISHING up summer and the Apostle Paul is FINISHING up his third missionary journey. The last time Paul had been on the continent of Asia, things had ended abruptly. He had been in Ephesus and there had been a riot. People thirsty for his blood had chanted against him for over two hours. For his own safety, Paul left early the next morning. He left the congregation that he had served for over two years very abruptly without any kind of final, farewell sermon.
Knowing what it’s like to be a pastor.
And how easy it is to love a congregation.
I’ll bet Paul wished he had that chance.
Similarly, I imagine the Ephesians also wanted one more sermon. Because without Paul, ministry questions came to them.
Should they keep preaching in Bob’s home downtown or should they move to Bill’s home in the suburbs?
Should they serve the community of widows or focus on the community of the homeless?
Would their new fellowship hall look better with Neutral Gray or Eggshell White trim?
How should we do ministry?
That’s a good question.
Even for us at Gethsemane Church.
Today we’re going to look at Paul’s encore sermon to the Ephesians and we’ll consider his encore sermon to us this summer. Our goal is to learn from Paul some key principles for Gospel ministry in Raleigh, NC in 2019. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Lessons about Ministry
The lesson starts with a bit of geography. Check out verse 17: From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.
Paul had been up in Troas. He wanted to get back to Jerusalem. An easy route would have taken him right past the Ephesians that he wanted to encourage. But Ephesus was still filled with people who weren’t very welcoming. So, rather than risk a riot, Paul took a trip down around Ephesus to Miletus. It was a city about 30 miles to the Southwest of Ephesus. From there, he sent words for the leadership of the Ephesian church to meetup with him.
When they arrived, they hugged.
They high fived.
They swapped stories about things that have happened without him.
Then, Paul got to teaching:
You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility… (v.18-19)
This is strange. Because by the time Paul had gotten to Ephesus, he had already started over ten different churches. He had preached to thousands of people. He had even begun writing a few books of the Bible.
You would imagine that Paul would come to town full of pride.
Talking about how impressive he was…
…and how the people needed to listen to him for community revitalization,
…as he handed out T-Shirts with his smiling face on them.
Paul was humble.
Paul reminded people how he was the chief of sinners,
How it was Jesus who saved him.
And Jesus who worked through him to do anything worthy of praise.
Here’s the lesson:
(1) Gospel Ministry is HUMBLE.
Gospel ministry points people to Jesus.
It lowers the importance of self.
It gives all glory to God.
Because if it doesn’t…
I’ve got this long-distance social media friend who recently underwent a bit of a transformation. He had been an alcoholic, now he’s been clean for a couple of months. He was a smoker; now he doesn’t own a pack. He had been drinking three coffees a day and now he drinks one lightly caffeinated tea.
He’s been sharing the story and, to be fair, when he first started doing this, he gave a lot of credit to Jesus. Jesus was the one who influenced him. The one who became the purpose behind his life. The one who empowered him to give up his addictions.
But it recently changed. His most recent post sounded something like this:
“Man, I’m feeling the change. I’m transforming myself. I reached down. I dug deep. I can give up all my vices. It feels good. It feels empowering. I love what I’ve become. If you need help, talk to me. I’ll get you the transformation that you need.”
Did you hear it?
All about him.
If Gospel ministry is about YOU, it’s NOT Gospel ministry.
If you tell your family that you’ve been on leadership for years and that’s why Gospel ministry is good at Gethsemane, that’s NOT Gospel ministry.
If you tell your friends that YOU have been teaching your kids some awesome values and YOUR devotion is the reason their life will be good, that’s NOT Gospel ministry.
If you post on social media that YOUR life has changed since YOU accepted Christ and YOU chose to change your life, that’s NOT Gospel ministry.
In those scenarios, there isn’t Gospel ministry going on, because none of those scenarios involve teaching the Gospel.
And, (this is a shocker), Gospel ministry involves teaching the Gospel.
It points people to Jesus.
It points people to their Savior.
It points people to the one who lived for them, died for them, and rose for them.
You didn’t do that for you, Jesus did.
And you didn’t do that for your friends, Jesus did.
You can’t save you, Jesus does.
You can’t save your friends, Jesus will.
Share the Gospel by humbly pointing to Jesus.
(2) Gospel Ministry is BOLD.
But don’t think of Gospel ministry as this meek, milquetoast thing. (Like the guy at Food Lion who is being forced for donations because his boss told him to. “Do you want to roundup and donate to the local hospital? It’s ok. I totally understand if you don’t. My boss makes me ask.”)
Nope. Gospel ministry is humble, but it’s also BOLD. Check out what Paul says next:
You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (v.20-21)
Think back to some of the ways that Paul was bold on his missionary journeys:
In Athens, he preached that Greeks gods weren’t gods at all, to a group of people who had devoted themselves to worship of these gods.
In Thessalonica, he taught that people are saved by Jesus and not Jewish customs, to a group of people who were firmly entrenched in the fact that their Jewish customs saved them.
In Corinth, he told people that sexual immorality was sinful, in a culture that sexual immorality was what all the cool kids were doing.
In Ephesus, he taught that money wasn’t everything, Jesus was; to a group of rioters who were upset that he was costing them money.
Gospel ministry is BOLD.
In fact, if you look closely at what Paul says, he mentions two different ways that Gospel ministry is bold.
First, Gospel ministry BOLDLY preaches ALL of God’s Word.
It isn’t like a timeshare salesman. (Ever listened to one of those?) The venue is marvelous. The site is incredible. You’ll have a wonderful vacation and it’ll be so great for your and your family. This week-long vacation at a five-star resort will be yours for only one yearly payment of $500!
…Plus, monthly maintenance fees.
…and monthly checking fees.
…and you’ll probably never be able to book a room when you want.
…and you’ll have this timeshare forever.
…and we own your soul.
Paul wasn’t a timeshare salesman. He didn’t hide anything.
If you want to participate in Gospel ministry, you don’t either.
And don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that the starting point becomes… “Friends, let me tell you what hell is like.”
Nope. But it does mean that we don’t shy away from truth in Scripture, even when it’s difficult to hear.
We BOLDLY preach ALL of God’s Word.
Second, Gospel ministry BOLDLY preaches to ALL.
Again, think of Paul. Some of the people he had to preach to might have been kind of nerve-wracking to talk to.
There were the Athenians, whose entire city was so foreign to him. Instead of the familiarity of churches, there were statues of other gods, another religion, everywhere.
Paul was bold. Paul preached to them.
There were the Jews. People who looked like him and talked like him, but when Paul told them they needed Jesus, they repeatedly persecuted him.
Paul was still bold. Paul preached to them.
The same is still true today. God is calling us at Gethsemane to share the Gospel with people who look like us, sure.
Those who look differently than us.
Those who dress differently than us.
Those who speak differently than us.
Those who cover their heads.
Those with tattoos all over their arms.
Those with three children from three different fathers.
Those who like the sports team that we can’t stand.
Those who came from a different state.
Those who moved from a different country.
Those who have a legal visa and those who don’t.
God simply calls us to BOLDLY share Jesus with ALL.
(3) Gospel Ministry is DANGEROUS
Look at what Paul says next, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (v.22-24)
Because when Paul preached, sometimes people didn’t like it.
In Philippi, he was thrown into jail.
In Thessalonica, his friends were fined.
In Ephesus, a riot filled the streets.
The truth is that Gospel ministry is DANGEROUS to the sharer. In fact, when we are doing it right by boldly preaching ALL God’s Word to ALL people, there’s going to be an element of danger. Whether that danger is…
…Danger of losing a job. “You don’t bring up Jesus at work.”
…Danger of losing a friend. “We’re done. Keep your stupid mumbo jumbo to yourself.”
…Danger of losing a relationship. “I like you, but if you’re all about Jesus? We’re through.”
Gospel ministry is dangerous to the sharer.
But before you call it quits and say: “It’s too dangerous! I can’t handle that.” Consider this:
It’s even more dangerous if you don’t share the Gospel.
That loved one? Is in danger of never knowing God’s love.
That friend? Is in danger of a lifetime of guilt and shame.
That family member? Is in danger…of hell.
Share the Gospel.
It might be momentarily dangerous to you.
But…it will be eternally dangerous to the devil.
When the Gospel is preached, the devil’s stronghold on a person’s heart weakens.
When the Gospel is preached, Satan’s hold on a person’s conscience is lifted.
When the Gospel is preached, death is defeated.
That’s why Paul preached. In fact, look at what he says next:
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
Paul didn’t know what might happen next.
But Paul didn’t hesitate either.
Because God had his back.
God also has yours.
Don’t hesitate either.
II. What Now?
These lessons from Paul lead up to a shift in his sermon. First, the sharing lessons from his own ministry and now give straight up imperatives on what to do next. It’s kind of like his own WHAT NOW? section. Secondly, he shifts from talking about outreach to talking about inreach. Look at Paul’s own WHAT NOW’s:
(1) Be a Shepherd
Paul says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God. which he bought with his own blood.” (v.28)
Paul isn’t that interested in the Agrarian lifestyle. He doesn’t love wool so much that he wants whatever shepherds are in the congregation to “keep on sheering those sheep!”
This is an illustration of life in a church.
Because shepherds care for sheep. They feed the sheep. They give the sheep water. They protect the sheep. They go looking for the sheep when one of them is lost. They comfort the sheep when they are scared.
It’s the same way in a church.
A pastor (which is the Greek word for “shepherd”) cares for his people. He feeds them God’s word. He gives them the water of life. He protects them from doubts. He goes after them when they are straying from Jesus. He comforts them with God’s promises when they are scared.
Here Paul is sharing this with the Ephesian leadership.
But it’s also written down.
Which means it applies to you.
First, shepherd those assigned to you. If you’re an elder in the church, check in with those sheep. If you’re a spiritual mother to someone at this church, care for them. If you have been assigned children in your family, make sure they’re being fed God’s Word. If you are a Garden Kids’ teacher, guide your little ones to the Savior. If you’re a Precious Lambs teacher, keep your Precious Lambs safe.
Second, shepherd each other. We’ve got a great opportunity to do that. Back to Church Sunday is coming up next week. You might know someone who had been attending this church who hasn’t in a while.
Go after them.
Ask them how life is.
Tell them you miss them at worship.
Remind them the importance of being fed the Gospel.
If next week is Back to Church Sunday, consider this: Be a Shepherd Sunday…
…and…you get the point.
(2) Guard against Wolves
Paul says: I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! (v.29-31)
Spiritual wolves are those who distort the truth.
They are those who change the Gospel.
Those who feed their pride by leading others away from Jesus and to following them.
We need to be on our guard.
First, that we aren’t those wolves.
Second, that those wolves don’t get us.
Third, that those wolves don’t get others.
That can be hard. Because sometimes the wolf is in disguise. Sometimes he looks like a lamb. Sometimes the wolf looks nice.
But you’ll be able to tell who they are. Based on if they are someone leading you closer to Jesus or away from him.
Guard against wolves.
A wolf could be a coworker, a friend, a neighbor, even a boyfriend.
If they are leading you away from Jesus, be on your guard.
(3) Commit to the Word
Paul says it this way: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (v.32)
Because if we are going to be shepherds of each other, we need a tool. Just like the shepherd has his staff, you have God’s Word. And…just like a shepherd commits himself to learning how to use that staff to protect his flock, we commit ourselves to learning how to use God’s Word to protect each other.
That means more than just being able to conk a spiritual wolf on the head.
We learn to graze its pages for spiritual food.
We learn to drink deeply from its well of life.
We learn to wield its truth like a sword driving away sin and doubt.
We learn to dwell within its pages, protect from death itself.
Look at how Paul ends: I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (v.33-35)
Because the main reason that Paul was so involved in ministry wasn’t to get rich.
It’s the same for you and me.
We don’t participate in ministry so that God blesses us financially.
We don’t participate in church so other might bless us financially.
We don’t become part of this ministry in order to get something.
Because we’ve already got all we need in Jesus.
Instead, we GIVE.
We give gifts to help others.
We give time to help others.
We give talents to help others.
Ministry is all about giving because the one our ministry is about is all about giving!
It’s about God who gave his life.
God who gives forgiveness…
God who will gives eternal life…
After Paul says all of this. He left.
But he left with confidence.
Because that church was in God’s hands.
Friends, we leave with confidence.
We are in God’s hands. Amen.
John was excited.
Jesus was really on fire today. He was making some awesome promises and giving these people some incredible things to think about. Like a divine Presidential candidate, he was firing on all cylinders – He promised eternal life. He promised forgiveness. He promised peace with God.
This was good. Because, as much as he loved his friends, it would be nice to get some new blood in there. 12 just wasn’t a lot and there were only so many times he could listen to Peter’s best fish stories. They could use some more followers.
John turned around excited to see how well this speech was going.
He was shocked. Some were shaking their heads. Many had looks of disgust on their face. Others were leaving. The fast expanding hollowness of the synagogue picked up every last footstep as it left the building.
Why? Why were they leaving?
I. Too Tough to be True?
Take a look at what verse 61 says, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Notice it says, “Many.” As opposed to just a few, there were many. The majority of the people there in the synagogue listening to Jesus, didn’t believe him.
It wasn’t like the crowd was filled with just Jesus’ enemies either. It says “many of his disciples.” Not the Pharisees who planned his death. Not the Sadducees who supported his death. Not the teachers of the Law, not atheists, not evolutionists, not polytheists. It was people who were following him.
They called Jesus’ teaching tough. That was their explanation. “His teaching was too difficult.” Why was it too difficult for them? Here are a few reasons:
1) Because of Who Jesus Was
Jesus was a regular Jewish guy. He was a carpenter. He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have a degree. He wasn’t even a Pharisee or a Sadducee. He didn’t have a title. He didn’t have a degree. He didn’t spend years out on a mountain searching for the meaning of life. Nor did he hide in a monastery for 15 years of silence nor is there any record of him being a Big muscular, Mr. Universe, strongman type.
Jesus appeared to be so…plain.
Do any of you know who Arielle Barill is? She is an 11 year old girl who appeared on America’s Got Talent this season. Her audition is very interesting. She entered the stage like so many had before. She looked very plain. Nothing fancy. Probably after a long dryspell of talent the judges were a little restless. “Go ahead” they say without a lot of confidence that this will be worth their while.
Then, she opened her mouth. She sang some of the most beautiful opera I’ve ever heard – and I don’t even like opera! She looked like nothing, but she was something.
Same thing with Jesus. Jesus looked like nothing but He was everything. Yet people only saw the ‘nothing.’ So they disregarded him.
The same thing might be happening with you. Jesus isn’t a flashy politician. He isn’t a respected talking head on Fox News. He isn’t a cool rapper. He isn’t a famous movie star. He doesn’t make it into People on a weekly basis. He doesn’t have as many followers on Instagram as Kim Kardashian.
He’s a guy who lived along time ago and was sentenced to death. Do we really want to listen to Him?
God forgive us for trusting our sight more than your Word.
2) Because of What He Taught
The second reason they were having problems with Jesus couples with the fact that Jesus didn’t look like much. What he taught was very tough. Below are just a few of his incredible, audacious statements:
· v.35 I am the Bread of Life…whoever eats of me will never go hungry again
· v.39 God wants me to raise up believers on the last day
· v.40 I will raise them up on the last day
· v.47 All who believe (in me) have eternal life.
· v.50 I am…from heaven.
· v.53 You must eat of me, if not, then there is no life in you!
When’s the last time you said something like that? When’s the last time you told a coworker, “You went to Cousins Subs? They’re good. But if you want a sandwich that really fills you up, take a bite out of me!” Or have you ever written down on an application for a credit card that your address was “Heaven” and your birthday was “before eternity"? Or have you ever went to visit a relative in the hospital and said, “If the doctor’s don’t do a good job fixing you, I’ll bring you back to life when it’s over."?
Can you understand why these statements would have been shocking to the people at Jesus’ time?
To be honest, they are still shocking today. People treat them accordingly.
Ever heard of the Thomas Jefferson Bible? It’s pretty interesting. Jefferson took the four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and developed a chronological, comprehensive telling of the Gospel story. All four books rolled into one.
I got my hands on a copy the other day. I skimmed to the end. Wanna know how Thomas Jefferson’s Gospel ends? “They laid Jesus in the grave and rolled a great stone in front of it.”
Did you notice something about that? Is it missing anything? Maybe an incredible earth shattering event three day later where Jesus rises from the dead and appears to over 500 people in a variety of places, at a variety of times, in a variety of ways.
Thomas Jefferson deleted that. He didn’t believe it. In fact, he deletes every miracle in the New Testament and every reference of Jesus to himself as the “Son of God.”
That’s Jefferson’s Bible. But…what about your version? What offensive parts have you dropped? What embarrassing truths do you hide? What ‘intolerant looking laws’ do you ‘fail to mention?
God forgive us when we trust our own sinful reasoning more than the surety of your promises.
3) Because of Peer Pressure
Of course one of the biggest reasons that so many people leave Jesus at this time is probably not their own opinion, but the opinions of others.
You’re sticking around and listening to Jesus? I don’t know who’s a bigger lunatic? You or him.
You’re buying what this guy is saying? You’re stupid.
If you are going to hang out with him, then know that I am not going to hang out with you.
Following Jesus was not the cool thing to do. Not then. Not now.
Tell me if this doesn’t happen to you on Facebook:
Hmmm. Let’s see. What should I post today? I’m really thankful that God has made this day, but…I don’t want to offend my angry atheist cousin. I did really like that devotion, but it implied that the Bible was right in teaching homosexuality as a sin…I don’t want to lose any friends. There’s a nice photo of Jesus with the children, but I know Uncle Joe will just leave a rude remark. Hmmm. Hmmm. I know…. Funny cat video.
Peer pressure’s a tough thing.
God forgive us if we let it affect our faith in you.
4) The REAL Reason
Of course – Jesus wanted the crowd –and us—to dig deeper. Listen to what Jesus says in verse 62 “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” I love that first part. “Do you find it tough to believe that I am the Son of God? What about when I lift off of the ground before your very eyes, a glorious light shines from above, cherubim and seraphim escort me into the divine halls of heaven itself? Would you believe then?”
But then look at verse “63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” Stop trusting your own sinful reason. Your own sinful eyes. Your own sinful peers. Stop trusting your own sinful self. Because (this is key) your own sinful self doesn’t even have the capability to believe. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
In other words – the real reason that humans pass up the most glorious, incredible, life giving, sin forgiving, guilt removing, God’s love proving message of all time is IT’S WHO THEY ARE!
Think about it. Humans are sinners. All of us. Sin means rebellion from God. Sin doesn’t believe God. Sin refuses to trust God. Sin does not believe.
On our own, that's what we are. Unbelievers. And what does unbelief do? It UNBELIEVES. It convinces itself it doesn’t need a Savior and it doesn’t need saving and it’s doing just fine. Unbelief rejects Jesus’ teachings!
Here’s where it gets interesting. The word used for ‘teaching’ here is logos. It’s a Greek word that means “word” or “teaching.” This is the exact same Greek word that the Apostle John earlier in this very Gospel used to describe Jesus. “The Logos.”
This means that the people were rejecting not just Jesus’ teachings – but Jesus himself! When we reject Jesus’ teachings – we reject Jesus himself!
God forgive us for our rejection!
II. Too True & Too Marvelous to be Too Difficult!
The doors of the synagogue shut.
Jesus stared off in sadness. He had spoken the truth. He had told them of sin. He had told them he was the Savior. They didn’t believe them. It hurt. It hurt him now; it would hurt them later.
He turned around, wiping away a tear, and was shocked. There they were – Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, James, Jude, Simon, and Judas. His 12 friends. His 12 disciples. They were still there.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For the disciples, this faith was too true to be too tough.
1) Because of Jesus’ Words
Listen again to Peter’s two reasons. First he says, “You have the words of eternal life.”
Has anyone here seen the show House? It’s an interesting show. It’s about a Doctor who has a terrible bedside manner. He is selfish. He is rude. He isn’t any fun to work with.
But people come to him – far and wide. Why? Because he is brilliant. He solves medical mysteris that no one else can!
Jesus solves medical mysteries that even House can’t solve. Jesus solves sin. Jesus solves death. Even if coming to Jesus means that you have to admit some difficult things, He is worth it.
Like the Brussel sprouts I used for the kids devotion. They are bitter. They don’t taste great. (In my opinion, mom.) Yet they bring great health benefits. The same is true with Jesus. If we swallow the bitter pill that says, “I am a sinner; I need a Savior; You Jesus are that Savior.” The benefits are incredible!
It starts with forgiveness right now. To hear your Savior speak to your sinful heart and say, “You are forgiven. You are forgiven for rejecting my teachings. You are forgiven for falling to peer pressure. You are forgiven for doubting me. Be at peace. We’re cool. I will always love you.”
The blessings continue in heaven.
Ever had a sliver? Slivers aren’t cool. They hurt. They can be a bother to get out. You might use a tweezers or a needle. My mom used alcohol – it felt like torture.
There are no slivers in heaven. In heaven, arthritis is no more. Kidney struggles are gone. Terrorism is conquered. Hate is removed. Racism is non existent. Fear is too afraid to show its face. Guilt is evaporated. Sin is unwelcomed. The devil is banished. Death is dead!
2) Because He is the Son of God
Peter continued, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
For Peter – maybe it was earlier that very morning, when they were stuck on a boat in the middle of a stormy lake and they saw Jesus come walking towards them on top of the water! Or maybe it was when Jesus called to Him and enabled Peter to walk on the water as well. Or maybe it was the feeding of the 5000 that had happened just before that with a few loaves of bread and two fish. Or maybe it was the miraculous healing of the blind man, or the deaf man or the lame man or the leprous men or the boy who had an evil spirit or his mother-in-law who had a fever.
Jesus had convinced the disciples he was the Son of God by doing things that only the Son of God could do!
Including speaking the Word of Life. Literally. Whether it was “Little girl, get up!” as he grabbed the dead girl's hand and returned her to her family alive. Or “Young man, get up!” as he helped him off of his coffin in the midst of his own funeral procession. Or “Lazarus, come out,” as he called into the grave that Lazarus’ dead body had been placed into almost a week ago. Or when he said, “Destroy this body in three days and I will raise it again.” They did...destroy him. Three days…did pass. He did….rise again.
Jesus spoke the Words of Life, because he was the Son of God! Trust Him.
Your evolution profession? Not God’s Son. The angry atheist blogger? Not God’s Son. The LGBT activist? Not God’s Son. Your doubting family members? Not God’s Son. You? Not God’s Son. Neither are your feelings, your reasons, or your desires.
Jesus is! Don’t choose to follow an ‘easier’ teaching; choose to follow the only teaching.
Because, and this is incredible, look at the last thing Jesus says to his disciples, “Haven’t I chosen you?” This is strange. Usually you stroll down the grocery aisle and you choose what kind of bread you want to take home to your kids.
But Jesus? He chooses you. Rather…he has chosen you. He has chosen you to hear his message of Grace. If you have faith in Him, then know that he has chosen you to be his child. He has chosen you to live. He has chosen you to be His.
Trust Him. Trust Him, because what he has to say is too true and too marvelous to be too tough.
“I will raise the believers up on the last day.”
Did anyone else notice that Jesus had said that? Bartholomew looked around. He saw the people uneasily shifting their weight. If the whole idea of Jesus as Bread wasn’t strange enough, now Jesus was claiming that he could give people eternal life. He was making the statement that he could raise dead bodies back to life. No one could do that!
Sure. He’d seen Jesus do all kind of amazing things. He made the sick well. He made the blind see. He made the lame walk. He had just gotten done feeding over 5,000 people with just a few loaves of bread and two fish.
But death? Nobody could cure death. That was impossible.
But as Bartholomew scanned the crowd that had gathered in the synagogue, he saw a strange sight. In and amidst the sea of disgust and mistrust, he saw hope.
The grandma in the corner whose body was betrayed by arthritis and crumpled from degeneration.
The woman whose family had a history of heart disease.
The boy whose father had been diagnosed with the incurable and fatal disease of leprosy.
Was Jesus sure of what he was doing? Did he really want to give people the hope of eternal life?
Jesus spoke again. “Truly, Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in me, has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life” (v.47)
Bartholomew gulped. Jesus didn’t stutter.
What do you think about that? Today we’re going to take a look at perhaps the most outrageous claim that Jesus makes in this section of John 6. We’re going to hear that the Bread of life not only enriches your trust, nourishes your soul, and improves your vision – but it also Extends Life…to eternity. And we need to be asking the question: How? How can Jesus make such a promise where all of the minds at UNC and Duke combined have failed? How can Jesus defeat such a thing as death?
Let’s get into the Scriptures and listen to Jesus’ answer.
I. Bread that Gives Life…Gives Life
Here’s that phrase that we just talked about in context. It comes from John. 6:47 “Truly, Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in me, has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life.”
Ever been to the cereal aisle in the store? If you walk up and down it, you’re going to see all kinds of large print, flashy description – Vitamin enriched! Fiber Packed! Excellent source of Riboflavin! It makes it way into other things too. I saw an Orange Juice – probably for the lactose intolerant – it’s says “Vitamin C Injected” on the outside.
So it makes sense. When you eat Cereal of Fiber, you get fiber. When you drink milk of Vitamin C, you get Vitamin C.
Jesus’ claim is similar – and really simple. When you eat the Bread of Life, you receive – wait for it – LIFE!
This isn’t what normal bread can offer you. Go to the store. Eat some Wonder Bread. Grab some little Debbie Snacks. Try on the Kroger version of multigrain bread – they might be healthy. They might help you extend your life a bit. But no other bread can make the eternal life extension claim that the Bread of Life can.
Jesus says as much. In verse 49 he says, Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.” Interesting too. Because the bread in the wilderness, literally came down from heaven. It came down in a mysterious and miraculous way! Every morning the people got up in the desert, they’d look around. They’d see white stuff. Not snow. But a piece of a bread-like substance. This was a miracle.
But even that miracle bread did not stop them from dying. All of those Israelites saw their bodies turn to dust. That bread went into their bodies. Turned into calories. It was burned. It was gone. It didn’t prevent anyone from dying. It didn’t save anyone from eternal death. It didn’t have any ability to raise a dead body back to life.
But… the Bread of Life does. 50 Here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. That’s quite the promise. So how do you suppose Jesus can make that promise? How can Jesus promise our bodies a resurrection and our souls to pass on to eternal life? What makes the Bread of Life so special? It gives life.
II. Jesus’ Flesh is Resurrection Packed
51 "I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Notice the reminder in verse 51. He is the bread that “comes down from heaven.” In other words, He is God’s Son. He has divine flesh. His flesh has divine power. That means three very important things:
A) Jesus’ Blood is Universal
What type of blood do you have? Blood types are tricky. If you have A blood, you can’t receive B blood. If you have B blood, you can’t receive A blood. If you have O blood, then you can only receive O only blood!
But Jesus’ blood? It covers the sins of all people. It cover sins of lust. It covers sins of greed. It covers sins of pride, gossip, angry, unforgiveness, hatred, disgust, apathy, idol worship – you name it. Christ is a universal donor.
On the cross, Jesus didn’t have a needle stuck in his arm, but he had nails driven into his hands. He was killed in order that your sins might be covered.
Why is that a big deal? Because the Wages of sin is death. With sin covered and removed, there is no death!
B) Jesus’ blood is Infinite
But it’s more than just universal – and able to cover any sin. Jesus’ blood is also infinite.
Think of POWs. If you have a prisoner of war, you trade. One prisoner for one prisoner. One life for another. Blood for blood. One human for one human.
But what about God’s blood? Can you imagine how many people his blood could trade for? Infinite. If God’s blood pays for an infinite number of people, that blood pays for you. It pays for your sins.
C) Jesus’ blood is victorious
Although it doesn’t appear like that way. Even look at Jesus’ words. He says, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” In other words – I will give up. I will give to the cross. I will give to nails, and thorns, and a spear to the heart. I will give up to God’s wrath against sin. I will give my life to death.
But that’s not how the story ends. Jesus returns. He is victorious over the nails, over the thorns, and the spear to the heart. He is victorious over sin. He is victorious over death. He is alive!
Do you understand why Jesus promises life? His blood is universal, infinite, and his blood always beats death!
III. It’s About Faith
Ok. So. How do you make this yours? How do you make eternal life yours?
52 … the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
This is a really good question. Because Jesus isn’t talking about cannibalism; he’s probably not talking about Lord’s Supper – something he hasn’t even established yet.
What’s interesting is Jesus’ answer. Take a look at it. It isn’t so much an explanation but a call to faith. 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”
I’ve gotta be honest. I don’t know how fluoride works. But I use it. (Good news, right?) It works. How about you? Can you explain Ibuprofen? Does it work? Could you draw or me a diagram to show how Nasonex works? Do you still use it?
There are plenty of things we don’t understand how they work. But we use them anyway. In trust.
Jesus flesh doesn’t require you to understand the scientific, divine process behind the removal of sin and the promise of eternal life. It’s not a matter of reason – it’s a matter of faith. Because faith connects you to Jesus. Faith connects you to the Bread of Life. Let Jesus continue, “56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”
Has this ever happen to you? You’ve gotta get up real early in the morning. You set yoru alarm. Your phone is getting close to dead though, so you plug in the phone to the battery charger and then place it on the window ledge. You set the alarm for 5:30am. You wake up around 7am. Why? Turns out, your black lab thought it would be nice to walk right past the dangling cord of the phone and pull the charger out from the phone.
When the phone isn’t connected to the charger, it’s dead. When we aren’t connected to our Savior, we’re dead! How can you expect to live forever if you aren’t connected to he one who gives you the power to lives forever?
You can’t. So stay plugged in to Jesus. Get connected to Him with devotions. Get connected to coming to Bible classes. Get connected to Him by getting involved in church.
Because being connected to Him means life.
Let me tell you about Lisa. Lisa was a mother of three with a preschooler at the congregation I vicared at. She was a blessing to the congregation. She played music. She taught kids.
Lisa also taught us strength. She had cancer. When I was there, I got to see her battle cancer. I got to see her go to chemo. I heard her encourage others. She focused on her Lord. She found him as her strength. She trusted in him.
Then, the cancer got real bad. She had weeks to live.
I want to read to you her Facebook note. This was about a week before she died: “I know this brings much sadness. Death always will. But I hope once the shock wears off you will be able to rejoice that I am almost home. I will be waiting with open arms to greet all my friends who are saints through what Christ has done for us. To God Be the Glory!”
How can she make such a statement? She was connected to Jesus.
She...is...connected to Jesus in a way unlike any other.
You too. Stay connected to Jesus.
What did he just say?
The crowd looked around. Mouths were agape in shock. Brows were frumpled in confusion. Eyes were darting about in disbelief.
Did he just say he was the Bread from Heaven?
Yeah, it was pretty cool when he healed an aunt from her paralysis and a brother from deadly leprosy. And it certainly was awesome to get a belly full of free food from that magic, Mary Poppins-like basket he had. But…Bread from Heaven? Eternal Life? Never going hungry again? Now Jesus just sounded like he was off his rocker.
Looking around, it appeared as if everyone in the crowd was in agreement. Everyone…besides the disciples. There they stood a rag tag, group of fishermen, accountants, and political zealots misguided by this Jesus.
What did they see in Jesus?
Have you ever asked the same question? Have you ever wondered why Christian folk get so involved in church? Have you ever wondered why so many people change their lives, follow the rules of an ancient book, and bank their eternity on some guy who lived and died 2000 years ago?
Have you ever doubted yourself and wondered why you are doing it?
Today we’re taking a look at the next part of our sermon series – It’s called Vision Improving – and we’re gonna let the words of Jesus in John 6 help us to see the truth behind Jesus.
I. See the Real Problem
By the time Jesus finishes his discourse in John 6, the crowd leaves him. Many refuse to believe that he is the Bread of Life. This isn't so different from today. According to Barna research, the fastest growing religious movement in American is the “nones.” No, there hasn’t been an increase in long black headdresses in the Sears catalog. Not NUNS, but NONES – as in “My faith affiliation is none.” My faith in religion is none. My faith in God is none. My faith in Jesus is none.
Maybe you know someone like that. Maybe you are someone like that.
If Jesus is supposed to be the the Savior of the world, why then are there so many Americans that don’t believe?
In America, it probably isn’t for lack of information.
To test out this theory close your eyes the next time you are driving up and down Falls of Neuse. (OK, make sure you are a passenger in the car, not the drive). Close your eyes. Then, wait a bit. Open your eyes and look right. Chances that you see a cross, stained glass windows or some kind of church are pretty high.
If the information is there and Jesus is this great Savior, why don’t more people see him as Savior?
Fair or not, you might blame Jesus. It’s like when you’re searching for a Thai restaurant to go to and you Google restaurants in Raleigh and the first one that pops up has a ½ star rating with over 50 reviews. This probably isn’t the place to take your wife on a date; you probably aren’t going to try it. Because so many people disapprove of the restaurant, it's fair to assume that the restaurant is no good.
My fear is that so many people disapprove of Jesus it has become cyclical, negative, peer pressure. People disapprove of Jesus. Other people disapprove of Jesus because the first group of people disapproved of him. As a result, more people disapprove of Him and more people believe that group only to disapprove of him too.
Is there really a problem with Jesus?
Check out Jn. 6:35. Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Last week we said that isn’t a reference to physical food, but it’s a reference to spiritual food. The spiritual food Jesus has to offer lasts. It’s always there for you. You never hunger and never thirst.
Verse 36 is similar. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
It almost sounds like a commercial for a really high rate credit lender. “No credit? No worries. We never drive anyone away. No matter how bad you’ve messed up in the past –we’ll loan to you! (At the low, low rate of 39.99%)
Jesus’ promise is similar. Are you a porn addict? Are you an adulteress? Are you a drunkard, a thief, an outspoken atheist? Did you spend time in the slammer? Have you been divorced? Did you live a homosexual lifestyle?
Guess what? It doesn’t matter what you did. All those the Father gives to Jesus will come to Jesus, and whoever comes to Jesus he will never drive away!
The problem, then, isn’t Jesus.
Look at verse 36 and see the real problem. Jesus said, “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” He told them He was the bread of Life. Jesus told them He was the Savior. Jesus told them he would lead them to eternal life. Jesus proved his authority to do this by feeding over 5000 of them with a basket full of a few food items.
But still they did not believe.
If you don't believe in Jesus, the problem isn't Jesus. It's you. You don't believe.
This happens to me. Tell me if it happens to you. I go to Whole Foods. I’m feeling especially healthy. I pick up some Asparagus stalks, a bunch of apples, some broccoli, and even a Cole Robby – even though I’m not sure what it is. I’m just excited for all the healthy food. Then, I go home and put it in the veggie drawer in our fridge.
2 and a half weeks later I stumble across them again on accident—rotten. The problem wasn’t he veggies….it was the person who didn’t eat them.
The same thing is true with Jesus. If you don’t eat of the Bread of Life – the problem is not that the Bread of Life didn’t have the nutrients you need, the problem is you. If you don’t believe in Jesus, the problem is you.
Whether you can’t see that you need saving OR you can’t see that you’re sinful OR you can’t see how Jesus could possibly save you OR you can’t see how Jesus could help you defeat your worst sin – the real problem is not Jesus…it’s you!
II. The Father’s Will
Of course, once we’ve established that – you might begin to wonder why Jesus is even bringing it up? Apparently things are just fine between Him and God. Why does he have to bring up how spiritually depraved and far apart from God we are on our own? Is He just gloating? Does he get a kick out of seeing us squirm? Does he want everyone to “believe in Him” because it gives his ego a big ole boost?
8 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. This wasn’t Jesus’ plan. This was his Father’s plan. He wasn’t doing this for some egomaniac thrill. He was doing this because this was exactly what he had been commissioned by his Heavenly Father to do.
Which (and this is pretty neat) gives us the unique opportunity to see something far beyond our meek human 20/20 vision. It enables us to see into the Divine Eternity/Eternity vision of God. Look at verse 39: And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me… 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life…
Notice what God’s will is. It isn’t that you have a million dollars. It isn’t that you get a nice home in North Raleigh. It isn’t that you send your kids to Ravenscroft. It isn’t that you retire in style with an NC State Red Ford Mustang in your garage.
God’s will is that you be with Him.
God is not your boyfriend who uses you for a sex and dumps you.
God is not your boss who uses you for a few good years then dumps you.
God is not your friend who uses you to listen to her problems, but when you need help, dumps you.
God is not your former spouse who uses you until something ‘better’ comes along, then dumps you.
God wants to be with you forever. He doesn’t want to ever dump you! Not even when you dump him.
The only way that this happens is through Jesus. So God the Father, who wants this eternity spent with you to with all of his Divine heart, sent Jesus.
III. See Who this Jesus is
Of course, this leads us back to where we started. Why Jesus? What’s so special about Jesus?
The people didn’t get it. Look at verse 41 “The Jews there began to grumble about him…“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Didn’t he go to school with my boy, Avram? Didn’t he play on the soccer team with your nephew? Didn’t he help install the furniture at your Sea of Galilee House? We know who he is. We saw him grow up. How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
To fully grasp their confusion – think for a moment of the last kid that your kid spent time with. What if an angel came to you and said, “That kid is the Savior.” Do you believe it? Not so much?
Listen to Jesus’ response. 43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them." Which means the Father is actively involved in this belief in Jesus process. Stop and think. Why is it that God is so actively invested in this Jesus? Why are they working in such close conjunction? It isn’t just a figment of Jesus’ own imagination either. If it was, how could Jesus walk on water? How could he heal the sick? How could he stop storms and feed 5,000 some people with only a few loaves of bread?
Jesus continues, 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Jesus is claiming that He is the fulfillment of that Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 54:13. He’s also claiming that his teachings, again, are from God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.
How did Jesus know the Father’s teachings? Read verse 46 and be amazed at the implied answer: 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only He has seen the Father.
“He” is Jesus.
Do you see it? Jesus has this special connection to God not because he is crazy. Not because he lived a good life. Not because he’s really good at meditating or because he climbed a tall mountain. Jesus had a special connection to God because He was from God. Because He had seen God. Because He was of God.
Because He was (and is) God’s Son.
This is huge. Because it means that the author of your salvation is God’s divine Son. It means that Jesus is a part of the holiest, most perfect, all powerful, all knowing, all wise, all present, all loving family of heaven.
It means that he did not fail in his mission. He lived perfectly, he died innocently and he rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all your sins! Your salvation is accomplished. You are saved by Him. No matter who you are and what you’ve gone through, by faith, I want to see yourself in a brand new way – you are God’s child!
There was a woman who stopped by my office a while back. She was very sad. She had been struggling with sexual sin and had also just gotten out of trouble with the police. When she went to her church, the basic message she was told was "You did bad. Do better. Amen."
After sitting down, God improved her spiritual vision. She saw the real problem was her sin. She saw God's will was to be with her forever. She saw that God sent his Son to be her Savior.
She smiled. She believed. She saw herself differently too. She saw herself as God's dear daughter.
If you haven’t before, put your faith in Jesus.
If you haven't before, be baptized into his name.
If you haven’t before, be baptized and wash your sins away.
If you haven’t before, confess your sins and he will forgive you all your sins.
If you haven’t before, dig deeper into God's Word. Immerse yourself in his love. Ingest the Bread of Life.
May God bless you as you do this. Amen.
That was amazing!
From what they could see in the back, Jesus had made the bread come out of thin air. He had been feeding them all from what seemed like one never ending basket of food. There’s no way that thing had the thousands of loaves of bread and the thousands of fish necessary to feed the whole crowd stuffed inside of it’s wicker sides.
Jesus had done a miracle.
And, come to think of it, there was probably only an hour or so more before it would be time for late night snack. They could go back into town and use some of their hard earned money to buy few dates to satisfy their late night hunger or…
“…Hey! Do you wanna follow that Jesus!?!”
With Jesus, they’d never be hungry again. They’d never need to walk to the store, beg on the side of the road, work all week long, farm the fields, raise the chickens, or even so much as unpackage the wrapping paper. With Jesus, they could sit back, relax and take it easy. Jesus could provide all that their bodies needed.
Now…if only they could find him...
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel if God would simply ‘show up’ in your life and take care of all your earthly needs – then you’d be set? Do you ever feel like the most important thing you need is a better job, plenty of food, a new home, the right guy, the right children – more money?
The North Carolina powerball is currently at 50 million dollars. Dream with me – what would that be like? Most of your problems would go away, right? You could pay off your mortgage. You wouldn’t have to work. You could catch up on child care payments. You could get a nice car whose driver side window went all the way up. You could pay for all the doctor bills and appointments necessary at Duke and UNC in order to heal yourself of every ailment that bothers you.
I think it’d be an awesome way to ensure that we break ground on a brand new facility for Precious Lambs tomorrow! With state of the art robot assistant teachers in every room. Each kid could have their own iPad!
If only God paid more attention. He needs to provide more physical blessings for us. Afterall, there is nothing more important than physical blessings…right?
Physical blessings were the reason the crowd searched for Jesus through the night. While he was on the lake with the disciples, they were frantically going through the neighboring towns just like the search party in Beauty and the Beast – “Where is he? Have you seen Jesus? Have you seen my ticket to easy street?”
Take a look at your text. Listen to what happens when finally found him the next day They asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” As if they knew, Jesus is going to want us to talk about spiritual stuff. Rather than calling him what we want -- FREE FOOD PROVIDER -- we should call him teacher. It’ll placate his conscience and we’re sure to get some more food.
But Jesus saw right through their plan, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill."
In other words – you guys couldn’t care less that I am the Messiah doing incredible, soul saving miracles. All you care about is your stomach.
Quiz Time. The Israelites thought that feeding their bellies was the most important thing. What body part do you think is the most important to keep healthy?
Take a look at the options below. Then, write down the one that you think is most important to keep healthy.
Stomach --- Brain --- Sex Drive --- Wallet --- Smile --- Soul
Maybe you circled stomach. This probably depends on how your stomach feels. (We could all circle it at one time or another). As long as you aren’t hungry, things are ok. It’s why you get cranky when you haven’t had enough to eat. It’s the reason you work. In your prayer life, this the only thing you ever really ask God for. If you’re a kid, you might have picked this one. There was a young girl not that long ago whom I asked, “What is your favorite part of church?” Answer? The cookies. At least she’s honest.
Maybe you circled brain. If you did, you value education above all else. It’s important to get your kids in the best academic school. That’s the number one thing you look for in a Preschool, an elementary school, a middle school or a high school. It’s why you read the way you do – biography here, science there, dominate all my friends on Trivia Night there – so that I can place my doctorate on the wall there. It’s why you never bring up a bunch of Bible stuff like Creation and the Flood and Jonah inside of a big fish in front of your friends because that would make you look foolish.
Maybe you circled sex drive. Maybe you didn’t cause it’s kind of embarrassing, but a look at your life would certainly make a case that this is most important. You throw out all of your morals for a moment of excitement. You ignore God’s warnings for your soul, because you are too busy listening to the longings of your sexuality. XXX.com is favorite on your computer’s webpage while Biblegateway.com isn’t even highlighted as a “recently visited’ website.
Maybe you circled wallet. (Which isn’t technically a body part so perhaps we should have placed “hip where your wallet or purse goes instead) If you did circle that, then congratulations – you agree with millions of Americans who verbally disavow wealth but secretly think money is the only thing necessary. You love watching your stocks grow. You have an entire shelf of “Get rich quick Books”, but you don’t have any idea where your Bible is. Your least favorite part of the service it the offering because “God better not be asking for my hard earned money."
Maybe…and this is tricky…you circled your smile. “God I just want to be happy.” If you did circle this, you’ve watched plenty of Disney films. Who cares about money. Who cares about food. Who cares about my wallet or my sex drive – just as long as I’m happy. And honestly? Who cares about what God says? My moral compass will consist of “Does it make me happy?” If it does, well, sorry God.
Of course there is only one answer that I haven’t read yet. Maybe you circled it. If so, that's a good answer.
Your soul is the only thing listed that you cannot live without. It is the only thing that lasts forever. It's what makes you -- you. It's what will be judged by God Almighty at the end of your life.
If you wrote down soul, good for you. But don't get too excited. Next I want you to think -- if soul is the most important part of your body to keep healthy -- how healthy have you been keeping it?
If someone looked at your life this past week, would they be able to tell that soul feeding is your number one priority?
If not, repent for the times that you haven’t made it your priority.
It's time to change.
Of course if you are going to start feeding your soul, then you need to know what to feed it. There are plenty of bad options out there. What is the best option for feeding your soul.
Allow Jesus to answer. Let him tell you about the Bread of Life -- the best soul food you'll ever eat.
1) It’s Longevity.
Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Have you ever had stale Doritos before? It's such a sad event. They taste stale and kind of soggy. Yuck. That’s why it’s important to look at the sell by date on the back of the packaging – for any kind of food! Imagine if grocery stores never changed their produce or sent things out after they expired - not good.
That’s the problem with anything physical – it will expire. Food spoils. Knowledge fades. Sexual highs last a moment. Money disappears with the change of the ticket tape. Your smile comes, goes, and appears as a fake pleasantry even when you are feeling lonely and empty inside.
But the food that Jesus is offering, lasts much longer than the end of the month. It’s shelf life will outlast the brick and mortar of any store. It even outlasts the pickles down in the cellar of your grandma’s house.
Jesus offers Food that endures to eternal life. As in…it lasts forever. Just like your soul. Which when you die, will continue to live eternally. Either in the joyous, painfree courts of heaven OR the painful, awful, fiery depths of hell. A forever that could start at any moment.
Sounds important, right?
2) It’s Producer
The people are interested in what Jesus has to say, so they respond, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
The people are very interesting in their next answer. They asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’"
In other words – "Maybe Jesus, we’ll believe you…if you make us some more of that FREE bread out of thin air bread!” (At least they’re persistent).
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” Moses wasn’t doing magic tricks by providing manna to fall from the sky in the desert – that was God. Consequently, the bread of life that Jesus was speaking of also came directly from God!
Ever been to a family reunion before? The truth is that some of the dishes at the family reunion potluck are better than others. Grandma made that pie? Delicious. Uncle Bob fried that chicken? I’ll have some. Crazy Aunt Gertrude made that Jell-O with some kind of floaties in the middle? I’ll pass.
The bread of life comes from God! It comes from the only holy, perfect, all powerful, all loving, all knowing, all incredible Being in the universe! He will provide a sweetness beyond Little Debbie, a nutrition beyond the Green Giant and a satisfaction beyond Snickers.
3) It’s Source
Jesus continues and we get another reason this bread is so good – similar to the last one. “The bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
How about that for a factory location? Heaven is perfect. Heaven doesn’t have any sanitation points knocked off its operation. Heaven doesn’t have any bad reviews on YELP. Its customer satisfaction is beyond perfect! Any product from there would be incredible.
I love the Pit. Love the chopped pork, the fries, the fried okra. As far as I am concerned, anything from the Pit is great. At least that’s what I thought. Then, I ordered the BBQ Chicken. It was...ok.
Heaven isn’t like that. It doesn’t disappoint. This bread that Jesus speaks of from heaven – will not disappoint!
Hopefully Jesus’ pitch is working in your heart. It certainly excited the people. 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Their mouths were watering. Their stomachs were growling. I’m sure a few of them even held out their hands.
35 Jesus sighed. “I am the bread of life.
This fits in with what Jesus said earlier. The work of God is to Believe in the one he sent. The food Jesus was talking of wasn’t some kind of food that you at with your mouth and tasted with your lips. It wasn’t an inanimate object.
It was himself. His very being. A being that God had sent for them. A being that would go to the cross to remove their sins. A being that would rise from the dead on a glorious Easter Sunday.
A being that feeds our souls.
When tired? Jesus makes us strong.
When hopeless? Jesus gives us hope.
When sinning? Jesus gives us rebuke.
When guilty? Jesus forgives our sins.
When doubting? Jesus gives assurance.
When facing death? Jesus makes us live forever!
So get up. What are you waiting for? Feast on the bread of Life. It doesn’t come in packages. You can’t buy it at the store. It doesn’t grow in the fields. It comes to you in the Word of God. It comes to you in the Gospel. It comes to you in the message of Jesus your Savior.
Start your day with a balanced breakfast -- a prayer and a bible reading. Listen on your iPhone if you have to. Don't forget the Bread of Life! Amen.
This wasn’t how it normally went.
Philip had been to Passover plenty of times. Jerusalem was always bustling. They came to see the beautiful trellises of the temple and the powerful foundation of the city's wall. They crowded in the marketplaces to sample the city fare. They went to the synagogue to catch a glimpse of Caiaphas or Annas as they went up their business.
But as the Passover approached, the crowd wasn’t in Jerusalem.
As Philip sat with Jesus and the other disciples on a hill near the Sea of Galilee, he saw the crowd approaching. They moved across the rolling landscape like bunch of cattle roaming together toward their shepherd.
There was a lot of them.
“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Jesus asked.
Philip blinked. Jesus was looking at him.
What was he talking about? It had been a long day. He was sweaty and tired. The other disciples were sweaty and tired. Jesus was sweaty and tired. Yet, all he could think about was getting these people food?
Not to mention there were thousands of these people. 5000 men alone. Do you know how many pieces of maza they’d have to bake? The sheer amount of horses they’d need to load up all this food? There was no catering. There wasn’t online ordering. Domino's wasn’t around yet and no one delivered. In fact, there probably wasn’t a restaurant in Jerusalem who was prepared for such an incredible order. If they wanted to pay for all these people, Jesus should have started taking donations months ago.
Philip responded to Jesus’ question, “Month's wages wouldn’t buy enough food for all of them!"
In other words: This was impossible.
Can you really blame the disciples?
Imagine with me, getting ready for Easter breakfast here at Gethsemane. Guys. We’re cooking up some delicious pancakes, lots of bacon, and some of that special sausage gravy. Then, someone comes in to report that there’s a line of cars that goes out of the parking lot, wraps down Newton and around Falls of Neuse all the way –in two lanes of traffic – past the 440 intersection.
Do you think we’d have enough food?
Actually we panic in circumstances not nearly as impressive. We panic when the supper party is only supposed to be a ‘few close friends’ and then a couple of the single people from work bring guests with them. Will there be enough Cheez Whiz? Did I get enough meat? Will ten bags of Doritos be enough?
But it’s more than just parties. Anytime a situation seems impossible, we begin to doubt:
“I can’t believe that I got injured. Now I have to see the doctor and my health insurance isn’t even that great! How will I pay for it?”
“NC Car tax is due? I didn’t remember to figure that into the budget? How will we get by?”
“The mortgage is behind and the collectors are calling from RoomsGo! What’ll we do? Sell the kids?”
“The doctor says my aunt has what? That’s terminal. There’s no way. It’s impossible.”
"The relationship with my kid has soured. She won't talk to me. It's impossible."
"My husband and I have done too much wrong for each other. To stay married...it's impossible."
Why the doubting? The problem is simple.
Scripture says “Jesus did this to test Philip.” What was Jesus hoping Philip would think of when he asked him that question? He was hoping Philip would think of all the incredible things that he had seen Jesus do. That in spite of the impossible situation Philip would have thought of the time Jesus impossibly changed water into wine. Or the time he cured incurable leprosy. Or the time when he healed people with impossible lameness so they could walk again.
But Philip thought of none of that. Instead, he focused solely on the problem. He was convinced. This was impossible.
When problems arise and we doubt, we do the same thing. We are focusing on the problem. When our mind is zeroed in on that problem, it’s hard…impossible for us to see a way out of it.
But that’s not where God would have us focus.
Andrew agreed with Philip. “Here’s a boy with 5 loaves of bread and two small fish.” He told Jesus, “But how far is that gonna go?”
Philip nodded. They couldn’t feed the people. It was impossible. Jesus nodded too. Philip was happy that Jesus was listening to reason.
But then, Jesus reached out. He grabbed the basket from the young boy. He patted him on the head and then returned to where he was seated. He looked up. He prayed.
Then, Jesus did something crazy. He started passing out the bread.
At first, Philip thought this seemed a bit rude. Afterall, his mom had taught him that it wasn’t very nice for them to eat in front of all these people. But Jesus tapped his shoulder. And pointed. The disiples were to start passing the food to the people.
So they did. They passed out a loaf. Then a fish. Then another loaf. And another. And another. And another.
They passed out bread and fish until every single one of those 5,000 plus people had some.
Not just “some.” It wasn’t as if everybody got a little crumb. Philip looks around and he saw people smiling. Some were rubbing their bellies. He heard a few of them say, “I’m stuffed.”
Then Philip saw something even more incredible. Matthew was holding a basket filled with –get this – bread and fish. He wasn’t the only one. All the other disciples had baskets full too. In fact, there were 12 baskets filled with food.
12 x more left over than before they fed over 5,000 people? "That’s impossible,” Philip thought.
Then he smiled. “No. That’s Jesus.”
Take a look at this simple passage from Luke 1:37 It’s a great passage to memorize and place on your heart this week, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Brothers and sisters, the same is true for you. I don’t care your situation.
Incurable illness? Not impossible with God.
Unworkable job environment? Not impossible with God.
Awful relationship conditions? Not impossible with God
Impossible to deal with children? Not impossible with God.
Not enough food to feed family? Not impossible with God.
Unpayable bills? No impossible with God.
Sin hardened addictions? Not impossible with God
Unshakeable guilt? Not impossible with God.
Nothing is impossible with God. Not feeding close to 10,000 people with a few loaves of bread and two fish. Not sending birds to feed you when there isn’t any food around. Not having your sins of doubt – and mistrust – and “God this is too big for you to deal with” – removed.
Talk about impossible! We can’t get rid of our guilt. We’re sinful mistake ridden people. All attempts to rid ourselves of sin are sinful and mistake ridden. It’s impossible for you or me to do anything about it.
But Jesus did. He did the impossible! He cured the incurable disease of sin. He breathed life into our dead souls. He bridged the unleapable cavern between us and God. He knocked down the impossible barrier of our sins. He died and then he did the impossible (doing anything while you are dead is pretty impossible, but Jesus did the impossible while he was dead) he brought himself back to life!
Jesus has done the impossible for you. Jesus will do the impossible for you.
So…if you’ve got trust issues, how do you deal?
Do you remember Flinstones vitamins? I used to eat those growing up. I ate them because they tasted good and because they had Barney Rubble pictured on them. But the real reason my mom gave them to me (and your mom gave/gives you vitamins) is so that you are nourished and enriched.
It’s the same thing with our spirit.
When you trust count is low, eat some of the Bread of Life. Struggling to get through the day? Stop and read this section of John 6 again – focus how God provides. Trust deficiency? Read the rest of John and see our Savior do impossible things. Malnourished in faith? Meditate on this passage “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Give your soul the divine vitamins and minerals necessary and not only will you have a healthy trust, but your trust will begin to grow strong.
When you stop focusing on the problem and instead focus on the problem solver, your trust will be enriched.
That’s what happened to the crowds. When they saw what Jesus did, they trusted. They trusted him to give them all the food they wanted. They moved to make him king.
Jesus disappeared. He got away from there. Now he was testing them. They knew what they thought was best. Did they trust Jesus to do what was best?
Do you? If you don't, I challenge you to read more about the one that I recommend you put your trust in. Meditate on Jesus. Read about what he's done and feast on the Bread of Life.