John 6.1-35


Well John Seaton and I are two different people,
but we do share one common passion -
good coffee.
Not for us the tins of International Roast or Nescafe.
To us, instant coffee is anathema, it is madness,
it is the abomination that causes desolation!
But even amongst us purists there is a difference
- John Seaton uses a plunger to make his coffee
while I use an espresso machine that sits on our stove.
John Seaton buys pre-ground coffee
while I purchase beans and then grind them.

But what happens if my coffee is taken away from me?
Well, after three days, I would have a splitting headache.
Without the theobromide,
the theophylline
and the paraxanthine in coffee to relax my muscles
and increasing the blood and oxygen flow to my brain, I
'll start to feel a bit funny.
A day later and I will have full-on caffeine withdrawl.
Fortunately at one cup of brewed coffee per day,
my intake of caffeine is not dangerous,
thus making the withdrawl process easier to deal with.

But can I live without coffee?
The scientifically correct answer to this is yes - I can live without it.
I don't need it. I enjoy it but if I stop drinking coffee my life will continue.
It's the same with a lot of things we consume
- cigarettes, alcohol, even chocolate!
Our lives are not dependent upon these things.

The passage that we're looking at today, however, shows what we do need.
Here in John chapter six,
Jesus tells us exactly what we need to live.
He shows us what we cannot do without.


Well the first thing I'll be doing today is explaining how this chapter of the Bible fits together. S
o please have your bibles open to John chapter six
- I'll be referring to it directly as we go along.

Let me read 6.1-4:

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.

So here is Jesus continuing his ministry.
He sails on a boat to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
This is a freshwater lake in North-Eastern Israel,
By way of comparison, the Sea of Galilee is around one third bigger than Lake Macquarie.

Now a bunch of people followed Jesus to this location.
The reason why they were following him is explained simply - they had seen Jesus do miraculous signs.

Then Jesus went up a mountain to teach his disciples.
He wasn't planning to preach to a crowd or do miracles.
One of the important things we do see here is in verse 4 - John tells us that this event was occurring during passover.
Passover was the most sacred religious festival for the Jews since it celebrated their rescue from Egypt.
It reminded God's people of the circumstances of how God saved them.
And, in this particular time in history,
it was also an expression of their national identity -
which was important considering they were a nation controlled by the Roman empire.

Let me keep reading, verses 5-11

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages[a] would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

So there is Jesus with his disciples on the mountain and they see the crowd heading towards them.

Confronted with the thousands that had turned up on their mountainside retreat,
Philip works out that not even eight months' wages would not be enough for each person to have one bite of bread.
Translated into our situation, taking into account average weekly wages and so on, the figure is around $33,000 Australian Dollars.

Andrew, another of Jesus' disciples, pipes up and says
- and you could sort of hear the uncertain tone in his voice
- that he had just found some kid with 5 loaves of bread and two fish.

Now we need to realise that this kid's food supply is actually smaller than what we might realise.
For loaf of bread, think of the equivalent of a bread roll -
that's what is being talked about here.
For two small fish, don't think of an undersize snapper that you've pulled out of Lake Macquarie,
but a small tin of Tuna chunks in Springwater.

So Jesus gets them to sit down on the green grass.
It says that there was about 5000 people,
but a lot of experts believe that the number represented adult men,
and did not include any women or children with them.
This means that there could have been in excess of 10,000 people there at the time.

Then Jesus gave thanks.
he was thanked God for the provision of the bread.

Well we all know happens next. Verses 12-15

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Twelve baskets of food are left over.
The thousands who were present had been fed by Jesus' miracle.
There is no magical explanation or special effects that are used by the author here
- Jesus thanks God for 5 bits of bread and two small fish
and then he hands them to his disciples.
Obviously Jesus' miracle involved a multiplication of the food,
but what I really like is the fact that the details are sketchy.

Naturally the people
- people who had come along to see a miracle
- were impressed.
With Passover near,
they were a bit nationalistic
and understood that Jesus was the "coming Prophet"
that had been prophesied about way back in Deuteronomy.

Let me read to you Deuteronomy 18.15-19

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."

The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.

Obviously such a figure was closely aligned with the expectation of a Messiah.
The Jews at Jesus' time expected God to send someone to rescue them -
a person who was simultaneously prophet, priest and king.
But these Jews minsunderstood who the Messiah would actually be.
Given the fact that the nation of Israel had been conquered by the Roman Empire,
this Messianic figure, to their minds,
would literally come as a king like David,
raise up an army and overthrow their Roman rulers.
So the crowd, amazed and emboldened by Jesus' miracle,
begin to plan to make Jesus king by force.

So the situation is now rather serious.
Jesus is now sitting amongst a group of people who were now planning a revolution against the Romans.
This was not what Jesus was intending to do.
Jesus, being God, knew exactly what was going on and what these people were planning,
and so he withdrew back to the mountain by himself.

Now in verses 16-24 we have another miracle by Jesus.
That night, while his disciples are out in a boat on the lake of Galilee,
Jesus walks on the water.
The following morning, the crowd who had been fed the night before went looking for Jesus and eventually found him in Capernaum,
a town on the Western side of the lake.

Then comes a very important section in the text.
In verses 25-35, Jesus reveals to the people his true nature.
Although we will stop at verse 35, Jesus' dialogue lasts pretty much until the end of the chapter.
At some point, probably around verse 27, Jesus begins to address the local synagogue in Capernaum -
a fact we learn in verse 59.
So when we hear Jesus' response to the crowds here in these verses,
we need to also remember that there are a number of people from the synagogue who are listeninig in as well.

Let me read verses 25-27

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

So here we are, moving into from the crowd into the synagogue.
Jesus is hardly impressed by those who have chosen to follow him.
He discerns that the crowd are only looking for him
because he fed them,
not because he did anything miraculous.

Then he moves onto the real meaning of his miracle
- that they should not work for food that spoils,
but to work for food that endures to eternal life.
This food, says Jesus, will be given to such a person by the Son of Man.
Why will this "son of man" give such food?
Well, according to Jesus, God the Father has placed his approval on him.

Let's keep going with verses 28-35

Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' "

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, 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. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus has stated that a person needs to work for food that endures in verse 27.
In verse 28, the listeners ask Jesus "Alright then, what is this work of God we have to do?".
Jesus' reply is simple - believe in the one that God has sent.
Have faith in the person the Father has given them.
Place their trust in the son.

Now at this point - verse 30 - some of the members of the Synagogue ask him for a sign.
This is quite ironic since Jesus has already given a sign in the feeding of the 5000 the day before.
But, of course, the fact that John put this question here is important.
Because in verse 31 it talks about how God provided the Israelites manna in the desert in the book of Exodus.
Jesus then points out that Moses was not the one who gave them bread from heaven,
but instead Jesus says that his Father is giving them true bread from heaven.
Then he says that the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

Now you need to remember that Jesus is being poetic here.
Jesus is referring to himself in the third person.
He says "Believe in the one God has sent",
and "The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world".

Of course, the listeners understand.
They say to Jesus "from now on give us this bread".
And then Jesus finally comes out and says it
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

So Jesus is both the giver of the bread of life
and the bread of life himself.


Well, what does all this mean for us?
What does this part of the Bible teach us about God,
and how shall we apply it to our lives?
Well, what we need to understand is that Jesus is everything we need.

Some of you have sampled one of my Thai curries,
so you know how nice they can be. I love making Thai curries.
You put sesame oil and garlic in a wok and heat them up
until you see the oil sizzling underneath the garlic.
Then you put the chicken in,
and you stirfry it until the outside is white.
Put the vegetables in, like carrots or broccoli or beans.
Add a teaspoon of curry paste
- I prefer the May Ploy brand... you can get them from an Asian supermarket.
I also tend to mix the curry paste with a bit of boiling water to make sure the paste is not lumpy.
Add fish sauce, a teaspoon of raw sugar, basil leaves and, of course, coconut cream. When it's all cooked, serve it on a bed of steamed rice.

So, hopefully, there in your mind's eye, in front of you is a nice Green or Red Thai Curry.
Your mouth is already watering isn't it?
But what is the most important part of that meal?
Which element of that meal is essential to our living?
Well, believe it or not, it's the rice.
No other part of the meal contains the complex carbohydrates that our bodies need for energy.
If you took away the rice, the meal might taste nice,
but it would not be as good for you.

We have to remember that when Jesus says that he is the bread of life, we need to understand both the simplicity and the importance of that statement.
In the ancient world at that time, bread was the staple
- it was the most common food and it was the most important food.
Rich people could afford to spend money on delicacies,
but the ordinary person in the ancient world needed bread to survive.

So when Jesus says that he is the bread of life, what is he saying?
He is saying that he is everything we need.

The most basic of human needs is physiological.
We need food, we need water, we need air to breathe.
If we have these things, we then seek safety,
which includes clothing and shelter.

Yet despite this, Jesus is saying to us that he is our greatest need.

Look at how Jesus' argument is put forward.

1. He states that we need to work for food that endures to eternal life.
2. He says that this food is given to us by the Son of Man, who has been given the approval of God the Father.
3. The work that God wants us to do is to believe in the one God has sent.
4. The true bread from heaven is given to us by God the Father.
5. The bread of heaven is a person who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
6. Jesus is the bread of life. Those who come to him will neither hunger nor thirst.

Now remember that Jesus is obviously speaking symbolically.
Jesus is not literally bread that is eaten,
and those who eat it don't suddenly need to eat and drink any more.
When I was a kid that's what I thought it meant.
The answer is obviously spiritual in nature.

The way to interpret this part of the Bible is actually quite simple.
All it is saying is that Jesus is everything we need.
In Jesus we are to place our trust and our faith.
In Jesus do we rely for God's work in us.
In Jesus eternal life is found.
Those who come to Jesus and have their faith in him will have eternal life.

The problem is that, because of our sin,
we often think that Jesus is not enough.
We think we need more of God.
We think we need to find out how we can unleash more of God's blessings in our lives.
We think that the reason why Jesus came was to make us happy or to lead us to some form of ecstatic spiritual state.
But that's not what we should think.
If we have Jesus,
if we have the bread of life,
we have everything we need.
I'm not saying that we whouldn't strive to be more godly or to grow as Christians
- that's a given.
What I am saying is that we should always realise just how wondrous and amazing is the bread of life that God has given to us in Christ.

The world and the devil throw a lot of false teaching our way.
We're constantly barraged by values and beliefs that cause us to be dissatisfied with our life and our faith.
Dissatisfaction leads us away from contentment and the reality that we have in Christ.
That's why so many fads in the church come and go,
where someone has finally discovered the so-called secret of being a successful Christian.
The fad lasts a few years,
and then is replaced by something else,
and all the while Christians remain deeply dissatisfied with everything that God has given them in Christ.

You see the reason why these fads fail is,
apart from the fact that they are unbiblical,
is that they always focus on what we can do.

If YOU pray some magic prayer,
or if YOU give 10% of your finances,
or if YOU pray three times a day.

What happens is that God is reduced to some form of divine stimulus-response.
If YOU do this then GOD will do that.
If YOU pray some magic prayer then GOD will magically bless you.
The problem really is that the focus is on what YOU do.

But here in John 6 we see that it is not what WE do,
but on what GOD does.
The only thing we need to do, the only action we are commanded to do,
is to believe in Jesus
- to have faith in him.
We don't strive to reach the bread of life.
We don't have to pray for 3 hours per day
and give 10% of our income in order to get this bread of life
- we have to have faith in Jesus.
But even faith, ultimately, is something that God gives us.
Our faith in Christ exists not because we choose to believe in him,
but because God has regenerated us by his Holy Spirit.
So even the act of faith that is commanded of us here has its basis in the actions of God.

It's hard to understand,
but we must remember that when we have Christ,
we have everything we need.
Our need of Christ is so great that it is even more important than real food and water.
And when we have Christ, we need nothing more.
When you've eaten the bread from heaven,
when you've placed your trust in Christ,
what more do you need as a Christian?

And it's only when we realise that we need nothing but Christ that we begin to understand how we grow in godliness.
We pray to God not to get closer to him,
but because he is close already.
We love one another not so we can get something good from God,
but because we have already been given the best thing there is.

The Christian life is not some series of hyped up emotional crisis events where we seek to go above and beyond where we are now,
but a joyful and simple acceptance of everything that God has given to us by his wondrous grace.

But what did this gift cost God?
It cost him his son.
When Jesus died on the cross in our place,
when he took upon himself our sins and rebellion,
his death brought us forgiveness,
his death brought us reconciliation with God.
And when Jesus rose from the grave,
he brought us new life,
he brought us the promise of eternal life.

And I want to challenge you all now
- do you have faith in Christ?
Do you trust him as your saviour?
Do you bow down to him as your Lord and King?
Have you turned from your sin and rebellion and have humbly come to Christ for forgiveness,
trusting that his death and resurrection is enough to save you?
If you have then know that you have everything you need
- know that you have eaten the bread of life
and have the assurance of eternity in paradise with God.

But if you do not have faith in Christ,
then you have not eaten the bread of heaven,
you have not had your sins forgiven
and you remain outside of God's love and grace.
If this is you, then God is calling you to repent and believe.
Jesus, the bread of life,
has been sent by God and God is calling for you to believe in the one he has sent.
Don't delay this decision.


When Jesus said that he was the "bread of life", he was saying to us all that he is the only thing we need.
God sent Jesus to us so that we can never be hungry or thirsty again.
If we have placed our faith and trust in Christ
then we can know that God has blessed us and has provided for us,
not because of anything we have done,
not because we deserve it,
but because God in his love and compassion has given it to us.

Let's pray:

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you that he is everything we need. Teach us to be content with all that you have given us, and give us wisdom and patience to grow as Christians knowing that you have given us such a great gift. Amen.

From the Kerygmatic Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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