John 6.24 thru 35 Its Like Manna from Heaven
It’s Like Manna from Heaven!
John 6:24-35 6:24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"
6:26 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."
6:28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?"
6:29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
6:30 So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?
6:31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
6:32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
6:33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
6:34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was a man who owned one of those little delis. On his way into work one day, he noticed another man sitting on a bench just outside his deli. The man looked tired. The wrinkles on his face, his sunken eyes, and his unkempt clothes made it seem that his life had been hard. The store owner could see the desperate stranger through the store window as he was opening up his shop. He was moved to compassion. He carefully took some bread, lettuce, some meat and cheese…and made a sandwich. He walked outside over to the man on the bench. He handed him the sandwich. The man on the bench looked up at him. He looked at the sandwich…and he looked back up at the man and said… “Is this wheat bread? I hate wheat bread!”
Are we really always grateful for the blessings that God gives us? Are we quick to look a gift horse in the mouth sometimes? Do we always trust in the Lord to provide what is right for us at this time in our lives? Do we trust that God is God and He is in control and will provide sustenance and guidance in our lives? Today in our gospel text the people have just witnessed and heard of Jesus performing the miraculous sign of the feeding of 5000 people (give or take wives and children). Now, just after this miracle, they ask Him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?” They challenge his little trick that could have even been of the devil and say, “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Let’s look at that story of the Israelites in the desert from our Old Testament lesson? The people had been in captivity for 300 years waiting for God to rescue them from the torment of slavery. God sees their plight and sends a deliverer…Moses. God saves them from their oppressors. Even as they are wandering out in the desert, God leads them and saves them again from the pursuing Egyptians…And remember what the people did?... They grumbled. “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger…” And what does God do? “…you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.” He sends them manna, bread from heaven! There weren’t a lot of resources out in the desert. God provided everything the Israelites needed. They lived in the desert for 40 years and God sustained them. Their sandals didn’t wear out, He provided water for them. He made and delivered food for them every day! He sustained them with food from heaven…
In John’s gospel passage, the crowd following Jesus cited Moses and said, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat” “…what sign are you going to give us then?” And then Jesus says to them, “It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it was my Father who gives you the true Bread from heaven”…. and “I am the Bread of life”… For hundreds of years after that time in the desert, the Jews had the words of the prophets and waited for the Messiah to rescue them to save them from the oppression of the law and from their sin…and God sent His son! The Bread of Life! Through Him they were freed from the oppressiveness of the law and their slavery to sin and guilt. God saves and sustains! And what do they do…they kill Him. They have Him hung on a cross!...
Jesus came down from heaven and spoke to the people in flesh and blood at that time. Today Jesus speaks to us (hold up Bible) through His word. Today He is here in flesh and blood (gesture to communion) through the sacrament of Holy Communion. God has saved US from the slavery of sin and the oppression of guilt and death. AND He sustains us through His Word and sacrament. You’ve heard people say, “…it’s like manna from heaven.” Think about what that saying means; how people use it. Usually what someone is trying to say is that something they got was like an amazing gift from out of the blue… that saved them. God has saved us and He sustains us in so many ways- through our baptism, through His Word, through His sacraments and…as He works through the body of Christ, His church. God has provided the food of life, the Bread of Life…Jesus and His love.
(Point to congregation) You have been like manna from heaven. This congregation here at Christ Lutheran Church has been like manna from heaven…for me and my family. The Spirit has worked through your loving actions for us. God has encouraged and supported me and my family through you. God has SUSTAINED us…even here in this desert of Cincinnati… We didn’t know where we were going when we left California for the Seminary. We didn’t know what to expect. And like the Israelites, we worried and even grumbled a little. But God has so generously blessed us! We’ve been blessed by the loving words of encouragement and by the many examples of love we have seen here at Christ. Through the wonderful home we enjoyed throughout this year. Through the fun activities my girls were invited to. God sustained me through the fellowship…even on the golf outings… The ladies in the Women’s Guild and knitting group were a blessing to Barbie and the girls. The inspiration of the young adult group was a great blessing to us. You shared your lives and who you are with us. I could go on and on… It was like manna from heaven! We’ve experienced the love of Christ, the Bread of Life, through you and all your generous words and actions…and it’s been delicious…(hold belly) truly delicious. Yes, I’ve even gained weight, here in the desert.
This experience has taught me to trust in the Lord. This…is a struggle for all of us. We don’t want to let go of what we perceive to have control of. We even grumble that this isn’t the right thing for us right now Lord. We don’t want to truly give it over to God. This is a leap…a leap of faith, to truly trust in the Lord to sustain us and guide us. It’s like the story of a ship which was returning from an oversees voyage. A heavy fog enveloped the ship on all sides, completely concealing the shores and all objects from the view of the passengers. Much to their amazement, the ship continued at full speed. The passengers became frightened considering such speed as extremely reckless on the part of the captain. Finally, one of the passengers expressed concerns to the mate, demanding that the ship be slowed down. The mate listened and then replied with a smile, “Don’t be afraid, the passengers need not be uneasy in the least. You see the fog extends up only a short way above the water and the captain is at the masthead. He is up above the fog and it is he who is directing the vessel.” In this same kind of way, Jesus is asking us to believe and trust in God as the captain of our ship directing us above all the foggy situations of our lives. God is directing our ship of life…because, as captain, God loves us and wants us to have a life that is abundant with all of his blessings.
The most remarkable thing about this Gospel message is that we find that we don’t have to do anything in return for His guidance and sustenance…except believe… When the crowd asks Jesus, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” He answers them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He has sent.” This is hardly a repayment that we are familiar with in the world… We work on His behalf by letting Him work on our behalf?! To show our appreciation to God, we’re directed to believe in Him…and that too, incidentally, is the work of God through the Holy Spirit and not of ourselves at all! And why are we asked to believe in Him? So that through our belief in Him, He might give us the gift of eternal life! It’s like receiving a gift and then getting paid to receive it! For all His gifts to us, God would like only this gift back…that we take another gift from Him…the gift of eternal life. Because of this we realize that God loves us so much…that He might love us even more. Unlike the world around us, all the blessings God gives us have this purpose: that we might be on the receiving end of God’s eternal blessings…for all of our life and all of eternity! It’s like manna from heaven!
We do need to “come to Him.” We do have the responsibility to pursue Jesus in our lives in all that we do. This is all He asks though, that we seek Him and then…“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” These “nevers” are emphatic in the Greek! We will never be spiritually hungry, in a world that hungers…and we will never be thirsty, in a world that thirsts, once we come to Him we will be sustained! So, don’t grumble and complain that you wanted white bread! Know that He is the Lord your God…Trust in Him to guide and sustain your lives…with Christ…the bread of life!
Now, may that peace which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds unto life everlasting. Amen.