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The Gospel of John   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus uses an extended metaphor of bread to reveal His saving grace

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John 6:22 ESV
On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.
:22Pray

Pray

Almost exactly one week ago, as I was taking the pulpit, an evil man burst through the doors of a sister church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire. By the time most of us got home, that same man was dead in his vehicle. He had been wounded by someone else, but he had taken his own life. Less than 24-hours later, CNN posted an opinion article that had the line, “Prayer won’t fix Texas.” And many evangelical leaders cried foul. I agree with the author in 1 sense, but not completely. Let me explain.
I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that the God we serve and pray to is able to change anything He decides to change. He is, after all, God! However, we need to be careful about how we talk about prayer. There are many people in the world who believe they will receive whatever they pray for. I do not believe that is a Biblical way to approach prayer. So, when someone pens, “Prayer won’t fix Texas,” they mean to say God can’t fix the problems of Texas. And if that is true, then I no longer can be in agreement, can I? You see, “Prayer won’t fix Texas,” assumes that God’s will and design and desire for Texas is that evil people will not be able to shoot other people, especially in a church. And this, my dear ones, is just another angle in the health-and-wealth heresy that is prevalent in our world today.
It goes something like this: if God is able to accomplish anything, and if God is good, then whatever I think is good should happen when I pray. But friends, that is a twisting of - And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. The idea that only good things happen to believers is not in that verse. Instead, what Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote is that God CAUSES ALL THINGS to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called by Him. In the next verse, Paul makes it clear that this goodness is us being conformed in the image of Jesus. And we must never forget that Jesus was beaten, whipped, mocked, and crucified for our good.
So, if we should not expect God to give us what we want, or what we think would be good, what should we expect? Or more importantly, if being a Christian is not about what’s-in-it-for-me, then what is it all about? As we look again to the Gospel according to John, we will see a dialogue between a crowd of people and Jesus. And in this dialogue, Jesus refutes the idea that following Him has any self-benefit beyond eternal life.
Because this is a rather long dialogue, I am going to break it up into pieces. What the crowd says and how Jesus answers. As I work through the passages, remember, Jesus is refuting the idea of following Him because of His blessings. I’m not saying Jesus doesn’t bless those who follow Him, but I am saying that following Jesus because you will receive those benefits is a false conversion, it is a false faith. It is a self-serving faith that is patently unbiblical.
I’ll remind you once again, this Gospel is different from the other 3 Gospels. While they are written to provide a timeline of Jesus’ life, John writes his purpose in
John 20:31 ESV
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
:31These words are written, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have eternal life. Last week, we looked at 2 stories, 3 miracles, and 4 reactions to Jesus. And all 4 of those reactions boiled down to 1 problem, unbelief. Now, as I read a few minutes ago, the crowd has figured out that Jesus went to Capernaum and they go to find Him. They still don’t believe. And Jesus addresses their need to have a genuine belief in Him and refutes the idea that belief should be motivated by self-interest, or self-gain.
These words are written, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have eternal life. Last week, we looked at 2 stories, 3 miracles, and 4 reactions to Jesus. And all 4 of those reactions boiled down to 1 problem, unbelief. Now, as I read a few minutes ago, the crowd has figured out that Jesus went to Capernaum and they go to find Him. They still don’t believe. And Jesus addresses their need to have a genuine belief in Him and refutes the idea that belief should be motivated by self-interest, or self-gain.
1. All the crowd wanted was more food
John 6:25–27 ESV
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

1. All the crowd wanted was more food

1.1. They ask Jesus when He came to Capernaum. Now think about that. They had eaten their fill just the day before near Tiberias. They had found Jesus this day in Capernaum. So, apparently Jesus came to Capernaum between the meal yesterday and now. When did you come to Capernaum? Their point is more like, “Why did you leave us?” They are looking to have their tummies full again.
1.2. Jesus answers that they are looking for Him for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t the miracle, but the very mundane fact that they had eaten until they were full the day before. They wanted that again. They were ready to eat again. They looked for Jesus at Tiberias, they saw the boat was gone. They got boats so they could find Jesus. They have been working to get a bellyful of free food. Why? Because they food they ate yesterday is gone.
1.3. So Jesus tells them not to work for the food that perishes, or goes away, but for the food that endures to eternal life. And that food can only come from God’s Son. No mere human can give them the food that endures, only God can do that. And they understand exactly what Jesus is saying. Look with me
John 6:28–29 ESV
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
2. The crowd just wants food.

2. The crowd just wants food.

2.1. They understand that Jesus says they must work for God to get this eternal food, but they still think this food will fill their bellies. They are still thinking in very temporal terms. Right here and right now. So they ask what they work they should be doing that would get them this eternal food.
2.2. Jesus tells them that the work is to believe in the one whom God has sent. Now, Jesus has already been telling people that He is the Son of God. So, it is no surprise that He makes that claim again. But notice that Jesus is answering their question by calling them to change. They have to believe that Jesus is who He says He is. That is the work of God. And that is how they will get the food that endures.
2.3. Do you see how John is weaving the purpose of the book in this narrative? Jesus brings the focus right here to believing that He is the Son of God. And it is that believing that will result in the bread that endures. It is that believing that will give eternal life. Do you see? Jesus is speaking metaphorically. The crowd is still looking for actual bread. So they try to test Jesus by asking about His credentials.
John 6:30–33 ESV
So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
3. The crowd now wants a sign

3. The crowd now wants a sign

3.1. The question is downright silly, isn’t it? What sign do you do so we can believe? What work are you doing? Before I go further, let’s just think about this question for a second. JUST YESTERDAY, they had seen Jesus take 5 small barley loaves and 2 fish and feed 20,000 people. It is a miracle of food. And now they say, give us a sign? But it’s worse. They reference the miraculous feeding that God did when the Israelites were in the wilderness after being rescued from Egypt. They ask Jesus to do something like giving them manna. JUST YESTERDAY they had eaten miraculous bread, and now they are asking for a sign that includes miraculous bread!
3.2. Jesus answers that the bread did not come from Moses, but from God. And only God can give the true bread from heaven. Because the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Jesus calls Himself God’s true bread from heaven. In other words, the sign is standing right in front of them! The sign, the bread, is Jesus. And they want more.
4. The crowd wants food forever.
4.1. Give us this food always. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Do you see the insanity? Even though Jesus just told them He was the bread, they are still thinking about their empty bellies.
4.2. So Jesus expounds even further. It was thinly veiled before, but now He says it outright. I am the bread of life. Now, before we go any further, I want you to think about this. Because if you are not careful, you’ll forget that Jesus is speaking in an extended metaphor here. He has just said, I am the bread of life. Did He transform at this moment into a loaf of bread? Did the flesh and blood body suddenly become gluten? Of course not! As we move on through the passage, remember, this is a metaphor.
4.3. Whoever comes to Jesus shall not hunger and whoever believes shall not thirst. I think Jesus is talking about their desire for a sign. Do we not sometimes say a desire is a want? Or a hunger? Or a thirst? They were, if you will, hungering and thirsting for God to give them what they wanted. But Jesus is the only thing we should be hungering and thirsting for.
4.4. He was standing right in front of them and they still did not believe. Why? Because the Father has to give Jesus those who will believe. In other words, the Father is the one who saves. And those who are saved will never be lost again. When the Father chooses to save someone, they are saved forever. And while the Father is the one who saves, Jesus is the means by which they are saved. He says in verse 40, this is the will of the my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. Those who are truly saved, are saved truly even unto the end of the world. That is the answer Jesus gives for a desire for an endless buffet of bread. In essence, Jesus says they should desire the one whom God has sent, but they can’t do that unless the Father has chosen them. Yet, once chosen, they are saved for eternity. They will never taste death. The crowd doesn’t like this answer. Jesus is basically telling them they will not be saved because they do not believe in Him. So they grumble.
John 6:41–51 ESV
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
5. The crowd wonders who Jesus thinks He is.

5. The crowd wonders who Jesus thinks He is.

5.1. They are wondering how Jesus can claim to have come from heaven when they know Joseph and they know Mary. Remember, we are in Capernaum, a city in Galilee. This is the region where Jesus grew up. They did know Mary and they did know Joseph. And they are wondering how this kid they had watched grow up could now be claiming to have come from heaven.
5.2. Jesus tells them to stop grumbling. Only the ones whom the Father draws can come to Him. And it is those whom the Father draws that will be raised up on that last day. Now, there are people today who grumble at this concept. They say, “If the only way people can be saved is for God to draw them, then we should stop sharing the Gospel.” That thinking is foolish. Jesus commanded us to make disciples by teaching everything He commanded. He told us to be His witnesses throughout the whole earth. Paul reminds us that people are being saved by the foolishness of the message preached. So here is what you must remember. It is absolutely true that only God can draw someone to Jesus, but I believe God uses His Word, spoken, as the means by which this happens. Jesus even says here in this passage that God is the one who teaches. And those who learn from God are the ones that are given to Jesus and come to Jesus. What better way to be taught by God than by His very words in the Scriptures?
5.3. Then Jesus says no one has seen the Father except the one is from God. In other words, Jesus has seen The Father because Jesus is from God. And anyone who believes that Jesus is from God, that Jesus has seen the Father, that Jesus is the bread of life. Anyone who truly believes in all that Jesus says He is has eternal life. Verse 47
5.4. Now Jesus is going to speak more specifically about eating. So let me remind you that this is a metaphor. Think about it. In his commentary on John, G.R. Beasley-Murray says, we are more familiar with this kind of ‘eating’ metaphor than we may realize: we devour books, drink in lectures, swallow stories, ruminate on ideas, chew over a matter, and eat our own words. Doting grandparents declare they could eat up their grandchildren. As Jesus talks about eating the bread of life, let’s keep in mind that this is a metaphor.
5.5. Jesus says again, I am the bread of life. Those who ate of the manna that you are asking for died. But the bread that comes from heaven, namely, Jesus, you can eat that bread and never die. Jesus is the living bread that comes from heaven. Eat of that bread and live forever. And the bread that Jesus gives for life is His own flesh. Now, let’s remember some other verses from John right here.
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
So, in a way, Jesus is saying that we must consume the Word. He is the Word that became flesh. And He is telling us that by eating that flesh we may have life. By feasting on the Word of God we may have life. By taking the Word of God in, we may have life. It is the Word that tells us about Jesus. It is the Word that shows us our own sinfulness. It is the Word that tells of how to be saved. That is the bread that gives life. Jesus, the Word become flesh. And the crowd still fails to understand.
6. The Jews still don’t get it.
John 6:52–58 ESV
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. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

6. The Jews still don’t get it.

6.1. Notice that John tells us the Jews are now the ones who are grumbling. They are disputing what Jesus said to themselves. Why the Jews now? Well, in verse 59 we see that Jesus spoke in the synagogue at Capernaum. It is not clear from the text when Jesus was speaking just to the crowd who followed Him across the sea and when He started teaching in the synagogue. But I imagine the conversation began as Jesus was going to the synagogue and by the time Jesus calls Himself the bread of life, they are at the synagogue. And now the Jews are disputing what Jesus is saying by accusing Him of advocating some kind of cannibalism. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? They are repulsed at the thought. And, to be honest, so are we. We have no interest in eating the actual flesh of anyone, so we? But Jesus answers and remains true to the metaphor He has been using all along.
6.2. Unless you eat the flesh and drink his blood you have no life. Those who feed on the Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood have eternal life and He will raise them on the last day. And that is true because, Jesus says, My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Now, I have no doubt that someone in the sound of my voice has heard that this passage is about the Lord’s Supper. And that Jesus is saying it is the observance of the Supper that saves. But friends, that honestly doesn’t make sense. Jesus has been talking about Himself as the bread of life this whole time. In the previous passages it is easy to see the metaphor. To all of a sudden change from metaphor to reality makes no grammatical sense. Language doesn’t work that way. When we speak in extended metaphor, we have to tell our listeners when we stop using the metaphor. Otherwise, there is nothing but confusion. Jesus does not signal that the metaphor has ended, so He must still be speaking in metaphorical terms. Also, John’s purpose for writing the book is that the reader would believe in Jesus to be saved. Not that the reader would understand church rituals. No, friends, this passage simply cannot be about the Lord’s Supper. John does not even record the institution of the Lord’s Supper in this book. Why? Because His purpose is that the reader would believe in Jesus and have life by believing.
6.3. So, this metaphor about the body and blood of Jesus is about taking in all of Him. About believing everything there is to believe about Jesus. That He fulfilled the prophecies. That He came from heaven. That He can give life. That He is doing only what His Father tells Him to do. Truly believing all of that is what it means to feed on the flesh and drink the blood. Verse 56 explains that it is by feeding and drinking that we abide in Jesus and He abides in us. Those who ate manna in the wilderness still died. They ate with their mouths. But those who feed on the bread that is Jesus will live forever. Do you see? It is not what you eat with your mouth, but rather who is in you that brings life. And the way to have Jesus in you is by knowing and believing all you can about Him.

Jesus is the unexpected answer

I know this has been a bit of a longer sermon. However, I also know that I needed to present this entire passage to you in one meal. To break up the metaphor would hinder understanding. But here is the bottom line, most important thing you can take from this passage. God gives Jesus those who will be saved. And those who will be saved are those who will learn and believe all that they can about Jesus from the Bible, God’s own Word. Do you believe Jesus is all God’s word says He is? Do you know that you have broken God’s laws? Do you know that no matter how hard you try you cannot fix what you have broken? Jesus is the unexpected answer.
- for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Is God drawing you to Jesus this morning? If so, then I know you believe what I have said about Jesus. What is stopping you from confessing Him as your Lord today?
Let’s PRAY…
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