I am… (John 6:27-71)

Publié le 14 novembre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Luciano Branco, Pastor of Église Évangélique Baptiste de Toulon, on 7th November 2021

I’d like to set up the backdrop for the passage we’ve just read:

– Verses 1-15 narrate the multiplication of the loaves. The text says that « a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. » (Jn 6.2). John provides a significant time clue:  » Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. » (Jn 6:4) For Jesus, it’s the last Passover. He is crucified a year later. That’s the final stretch, yet a crowd of at least 5000 men have only one obsession: miracles.

– Verses 16-25 recount how the disciples sailed across the Lake of Galilee to Capernaum. It’s obviously an unparalleled experience: Jesus walks on the water, Peter steps out of the boat to walk a few steps too, Jesus calms the storm, etc. The crowd still follows Jesus as paparazzi! Look at their concerns: « So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (Jn 6:24-25). Bus Jesus questions their intentions and motivations, « What are you looking for? What do you want from me? » Jesus answered, « Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. » (Jn 6:26)

Let’s update Jesus’ statements, « You came here this morning because you want your prayers answered, you want God to do miracles, to multiply. You are here only because you are going to eat and drink. That’s why you are here this morning! » It’s the kind of speech that sets the mood, isn’t it?

Basically, it’s as though Jesus were saying:

– You’re here because your stomachs have been filled and not because your hearts have been filled!

– You’re here because I’m useful to you and not because I’m precious to you!

– You’re here because of the miracles I’ve already performed but not because you have seen the Son of God in me!

– You’re here because you want to improve your earthly condition while I have the desire to improve your heavenly condition!

– You’re here because you’re looking for a miracle worker and not because you’re attached to me!

Let’s remember the following verse: « Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. » (Mt 4:4)

JESUS THE MAIN THING

1. I am Superior

After that, what do they say to Jesus? « Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? » (Jn 6:30)

Literally, it’s a joke! Jesus has been performing miracles all along. But that doesn’t convince them! They ask for a great sign comparable to the manna provided in the desert for 40 years (Jn 6:31-32). Jesus then says something that will cause his listeners to react violently, « it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. » In short, Jesus says to the Jews, « I’m superior to Moses. » How do they react?

– « The Jews murmured about him, because he had said, « I am the bread that came down from heaven » (Jn 6:41).

– « The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat? » (Jn 6.52)

Their murmuring, quarrelsome spirit show that they are no different from their ancestors, who wandered forty years in the desert for want of faith despite the manna.

As long as a man remains skeptical and is happy to remain skeptical, he cannot « come » to the Lord and cannot « believe »:

– « Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ » (Jn 6:60)

– « After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. » (Jn 6.66)

Why do they find Jesus’ words too harsh? As Bruce states in his commentary on John: « What they wanted, he did not give them; what he gave, they did not want. Just as there is faith and faith, there are disciples and disciples. At the most basic level, the disciple is the one who follows his master, isn’t it?

Saint Augustine said: « It is better to limp along the way than to walk briskly off the way ».

2. I am the Food

Here’s what Jesus says, « I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, « Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. » (Jn 6:51-55).

At the time, not only are these words difficult to hear, but they also are enigmatic.

Why are these words so difficult to hear?

Jesus is talking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. These words are a scandal for the Jews. The law of Moses is more than clear on this point. It is absolutely forbidden to eat blood. Blood is life. It is by shedding blood that one atones for one’s sins. And here, Jesus invites them to drink his blood: his blood is a drink.

« It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life, but there are some of you that do not believe. »  (Jn 6.63-64a)

Why are these words almost enigmatic? Because it doesn’t take long to see several theological deviations in the history of Christianity. For example, transubstantiation: Those who literally apply, « my flesh is really food and my blood is really drink ». The Catholics believe that during a service by an ordained priest, the bread and wine, after the prayer of consecration, will no longer be bread and wine but will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. There is a transformation of substance beyond appearances, for it is not only the function or meaning of the bread and wine that change, but their very substance. According to this theological concept, we must literally feed on the flesh and drink the blood of Christ.

Martin Luther said, « In the first place the sixth chapter of John must be entirely excluded from this discussion [of the Supper], since it does not refer to the sacrament in a single syllable!”

Don Carson also says: « … some passages that do not primarily refer to the Lord’s Supper at all but have a rather indirect connection (such as the « bread of life » discourse in John 6). »

We perfectly understand Jesus’ metaphor, « unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you » (Jn 6:53). Don’t we naturally use this kind of metaphors in daily conversations? For example, we can say:

– I literally devour books!

– These students drink the words of their professor!

– it’s a bitter pill to swallow!

Likewise, I want to make Jesus my food, my nourishment, my source…

As the target audience of the time and later the readers can’t understand Jesus’ statements, the Spirit of God, through John, clearly shows Jesus’ thoughts: « I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger » (Jn 6:35)

By saying, « Lord, give us this bread always » (v.34), they suggest to Jesus that it must be renewed. but Jesus corrects them again, « he who comes to me shall not hunger » (v.35).

It means that:

– Those who are hungry are satisfied once and for all in Christ

– Those who are thirsty are quenched once and for all in Christ

– Those who are washed are cleansed once and for all in Christ

3. I am Vital

« Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life » (Jn 6:27).

When Jesus tells the people not to work « for perishable food », he is reproaching them for being exclusively concerned with earthly needs. As bread is essential to the physical body, so Jesus is essential to the spiritual body. But what do we actually expect from Jesus?

We may expect Jesus to be:

– … a great provider: Give me money Lord!

– … a great doctor: Heal me Lord!

– … a great protector: Reassure me Lord!

– … a great confident: Listen to me Lord!

– … a great matchmaker: Find me a wife Lord!

– … a great judge: Do me justice Lord!

– … a great marriage counselor: Improve my marriage Lord!

– … a great child educator: Keep our children Lord!

But let’s remember that if Christ dwells in me, it means that I am loved by God, forgiven, alive; that I am a New Creature, holy, a child of God, co-heir with Christ, heir of eternal glory, light of the world, salt of the earth, etc.

That’s all I truly need. Jesus says to you, says to me today, I, Jesus, am vital to you. I meet the most intimate needs of your existence.

It is because the apostle Paul perfectly grasps that Christ is essential that he says, « Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. » (Phil 3:8-9)

Let’s now conclude with two other verses:-

« I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. » (Rom. 8:18)

« Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God » (Jn 6:68-69)