Jesus is the Bread of Life
This sermon was presented at Resurrection by Pastor Jim Kniseley on July 26, the 8th Sunday after Pentecost. The text is the gospel reading, John 6:1-21.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The gospel readings for today through August 23rd are from the “Bread of Life” chapter of John’s Gospel, chapter 6. In John, Jesus identifies himself in a number of ways, from “I am the Light of the World” to “I am the Door” to “I am the Good Shepherd.” Today’s account of the Miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000 is a great way to launch us into thinking about Jesus when he calls himself “the Bread of Life.” I pray that by the end of this sermon, you will marvel in what Jesus means when he uses this wonderful and descriptive metaphor.
Did you know that God has an MO? MO is Modus Operandi. Usually we associate that phrase with law enforcement and how they try to understand the pattern of how someone they are trying to identify thinks and acts. If we think about God’s MO as revealed in scripture, we see that God loves starting small. God loves starting small and then from a small beginning grows something amazing. And we learn in scripture that Jesus carried on the family tradition. Jesus had a fascination with all things small and humble:
Grains of wheat
And in today’s account, the remnants of a boy’s lunch.
There are 4 characters in our miracle story that I want to lift up today. We can find ourselves in some of these characters. There’s Philip and Andrew and the boy and Jesus.
The setting for this miracle is a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We’re told that 5,000 men have gathered, plus women and children. Perhaps there were as many as 15,000 that day. They came to hear Jesus, not really knowing how special he was, just knowing that he could put on a great show, perhaps do miracles. It was time to eat and Jesus whispered to Philip, one of his disciples, “Where can we buy food for all these people to eat?” Philip gave him the answer that perhaps many of us might give too: how should I know? There are too many of them and we don’t have enough money to buy the food.
A few years ago, Bill Easum wrote a book with the title Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Hamburgers. He says that too often in the church community, we think and act like Philip. He writes, “Established churches worship at the feet of the sacred cow of control. Personally, one of the most controlling statements I’ve heard over the years in any church I’ve served is ‘we can’t afford it.’” Usually it’s couched in scarcity thinking, “we don’t have enough money, and we don’t have strong enough leaders…”
John tells us something important. Jesus asked the question of Philip to test him, for Jesus already knew he was going to perform a sign or miracle that day.
Andrew, another disciple, gave Jesus this information, “There is a boy here who has five barley loves and two fish.” Why is this information important? I could give a whole sermon just on this part of the story! A boy willing to share. A disciple bringing a gift to Jesus. Folks looking at their resources and thinking that they do not have enough, it will take a miracle to make this happen. And Jesus, who never gives into scarcity thinking.
That Jesus could have simply said the word and the bread and fish were multiplied, I have no doubt. Jesus has that power. That others in the crowd were so moved by the powerful witness of sharing by the little boy that they too shared their food, I think could have happened also. We are told what Jesus did with the gifts of that boy, “Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.” We’re told that all the people had enough to eat (they were “satisfied”) and Jesus then instructed the disciples to collect the leftovers, that filled 12 baskets. And the people realized they were in the presence of a mighty prophet, not yet knowing Jesus is the Son of God.
Something occurred in the lives of Pastor Carol and me this past month that I need to share with you. I do so a bit hesitantly, because I fear it may be received by some in the wrong way. I don’t yet understand it fully. It has to do with God’s abundance and my own scarcity thinking. We pledged a good amount to the building fund back in 2007, thinking that the stock market would continue to do well and that we could take some funds out of my pension plan at the time allowed by law to fulfill our pledge. You know what has happened with the stock market. You can imagine what has happened with my pension funds. We have been praying about all this and felt led to make a withdrawal anyway, in order to fulfill our pledge. Carol told me that God would take care of us. I admit to you that I was feeling resigned to living on less in our retirement. Do you know what has happened to the stock market since we mailed our withdrawal request? Here’s what I have to tell you with utter humility and awe: every dollar that we withdrew to fulfill our pledge has been restored in our pension through the unexpected rise in the stock market. Some might say that is pure coincidence. For us it is pure joy.
In the end, it is not about money or possessions. I believe that the Feeding of the 5,000 Miracle Story and understanding Jesus as the Bread of Life has more to do with trust and confidence. Is Jesus who he says he is? Is all power in heaven and on earth in his hands? Is he God? Will he provide for us abundantly as he promised? Will we trust him enough to take the first step? Remember the story of entering the Promised Land by crossing the Jordan River? God told the people he would provide the miracle of making the river stop flowing, but the priests had to actually step into the river current first and then he would stop the flow.
Dear friends in Christ, today I invite you to place all your trust and confidence in Jesus. The bread that he promises is eternal life. He did great miracles during his earthly ministry, and he continues to do even greater miracles today.
Thanks be to God. Amen.