Wonder Bread!

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA 
Friday Night Gospel Celebration, July 8, 2011
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Introduction: Everyone is impressed by miracles.  We love to hear about mysterious, unexplainable events that others have experience.  When we hear the stories, we wish that something like that would happen to us too!  And when we do experience something great and unexplainable in our lives we inevitably want more and we long to repeat the original experience.  This is how the crowd that followed Jesus from the other side of the Sea of Galilee must have felt.  They wanted more…more of His wonder bread! 

I. We read in our gospel, “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. (Jn.:22)  When the crowd 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?” (24-25) Oh they were saying, “Bless us again Jesus!”  They knew there was something miraculous happening once again with Jesus.  “He didn’t take a boat to get here, and he couldn’t have walked around the shore or we would have spotted Him.  OK you wonderful miracle worker, how’d you get here?  Come on fess up.  You did something fantastic again didn’t you?  You’re the man Jesus!  As long as you keep making that wonder bread and amazing us with these unexplainable happenings, you are our lord and teacher!” 

The people wanted things.  They wanted to be amazed.  They didn’t really need more bread; they simply wanted the experience of the bread.  Now anyone who’s heard me preach God’s Word knows that one of my common themes is that we shouldn’t look to politicians for a plan for a better future or to a preacher for simple steps that we can follow so God will bless our lives make life more pleasant.  Today, we’ll expound on this. 

In our Old Testament reading (Exodus 16) we see the very same kind of attitude from people who lived long before Israel was even a nation.  They too had an insatiable appetite for miracles.  God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt with one miracle after another.  He even parted the Red Sea so that they could escape the Egyptian Army.  God had proven time and time again that He would care for His children whom He had called out of darkness and into His light.  Did they trust Him?  Well only so long as the miracles continued.  When the daily supply of food was running low, instead of waiting on the Lord to provide, or even asking Him to provide, they began to grumble: “Oh that we would have died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill us with hunger.” 

To all of these people and to us today, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Don’t work for food that perishes (for things), but (work) for the food that endures (and will give you) eternal life, which (I) the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”  (There is no other way for you to obtain this true food of God except through me!) (Jn. 6:27)  Friends, in Jesus own Words, we hear Him explain exactly why the crowd followed Him; not because of His miracles and His teaching but because they wanted “things”!  They wanted Him to be a political savior, their messiah who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  They wanted Him to provide them with the desires of their hearts and gratify all of their wants.  Even today, we see these people gathered in churches across our nation eagerly welcoming politicians to speak during worship, so that they can assure them that if they elect or reelect this person, they will have their needs met and they will have a bright future.  And right along with those eager to hear from politicians, are those who are just as eager to hear a gospel message of prosperity from their preachers.  They don’t want to hear God’s message of Law and Gospel; no these people are flocking to churches wanting to hear a message that will ensure them of an easy life here of earth.  And then there are those who gather where God’s Law and Gospel is correctly and boldly preached, but they find no meaning or comfort in His Word.  And when they leave worship and the company of other Christians they seek out a new message; a different way to satisfy their desires.  They live as if Christ didn’t matter and God doesn’t see.  They long for the experience of another type of teaching.  Just like the Hebrew people that were led out of the Egyptian captivity, they begin to pant after the meat of prosperity.  You see friends, in all three cases each group has turned to God and said, “Don’t give us want you say we need, but instead give us what we want!” 

II. And there is yet another type of person that listens to Jesus but doesn’t hear the message; it is the kind of person that looks to replace His ministry of grace and faith with a ministry of self righteousness.  These people actually think that they can earn God’s love and forgiveness, and a place in heaven.  Listen to their words in our gospel reading: “They said to (Jesus), “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (vs. 28)  It’s as if they’re saying, “OK teacher, tells us what you say is the bottom line of your teaching.  What do we have to do to make God happy?  Tell us and we’ll do it!”  Do you know how St. Paul answered these holy rollers?  He said something like this: “OK let’s look at how God wants us to love Him and our neighbor, and treat each other.  Aside from living out your calling to love God with all of your heart and soul, He’s also called you to live a life of humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, and being eager to maintain the unity of peace with Him and each other.” (Paraphrase of Eph. 4:1-3).  So how do you think the people Jesus was addressing were doing in their attempts to fulfill God’s demand for perfection and holiness in their lives?  Well, never mind them, how are you doing with it?  Not too well huh?  But Jesus spoke the gospel to them then, and He speaks the good news also to us here tonight.  He says that there aren’t many works that “we” must do, but only one work that God must do so that we can please Him.  “This is the work of God” Jesus said, “that you believe in him whom He has sent.”  (vs. 29) 

Friends, the only work that is sure to please God the Father is to believe in and not reject the person and teaching of His Son.  You see, the Son is the only way that the Father has provided salvation for us.  He’s the only one who has come with the Father’s seal.  Believing in Jesus is the only work that assures you of eternal life … we must have faith in Him!  Now Jesus did call faith a work, but He doesn’t call it our work; you see, it is a work of God.  Sure, we are the ones doing the believing, but we believe because God is working within our hearts.  Yes, we are the ones who must trust Jesus, but it is God’s Spirit who first moves us to trust Him through the hearing of His Word.  So you see, faith is the opposite of all of the other works we can think of.  Faith receives from God and the other works only return to God what He first gives to us.   Friends, the truth is that if we don’t know and trust the Son we can never truly know and please the Father.  And a heart that is not trusting in Jesus is always saying… 

III. Prove it to me!  “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.” Oh how quickly they forget!  They forgot the miracle of the wonder bread because they wouldn’t receive the teaching that went with it.  You see, once their appetites were satisfied by the teacher, they no longer were impressed by His teaching.  But to these selfish hearts Jesus still reaches out with His grace; with His message of forgiveness and says: “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 of heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vs. 32-33)   Oh friends, do you understand the wonderful meaning of these words?  God isn’t giving us worldly bread that will only satisfy our hunger for a few hours, or for just a select group of people.  No He is giving you bread that will last forever and satisfy the whole world.  He is giving you Himself.  Then “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”” (Vs. 35) 

CONCLUSION: Friends, do you want to prosper and experience God’s blessings?  Then come to the bread of life!  Do you want to know that you are accepted and loved by God?  Then come to Jesus!  Come to church each Sunday expecting to hear Jesus speak to you; come here on Friday nights expecting Him to teach you and change you.  Hear His message and hunger for the bread that He is giving to you.  It’s bread that you neither earned nor deserved.  It’s the gift of His Spirit, real food and real life.  It is His Word!  A Word that you get in every aspect of your worship here in His house! 

Dear friends, by faith we trust that the supply of His bread of life will continue to nourish and strengthen us.  And by faith we will continue to receive it and give Him thanks and praise.  Every time we gather dear friends, may we come hungry, with a holy appetite!  We ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

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