The Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 19, 2023
[John 6:35] - 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.”
Jesus, Our Bread in Abundance
Bread is found throughout the Scriptures. Bread is first mentioned as the food of man’s fall into sin - Adam would now eat bread by the sweat of his brow - hard work - the ground would not cooperate with him.
When God’s people wandered in the wilderness for forty years, waiting to enter the promised land, they had no bread and no water. So God provides them bread from heaven - Manna - every morning, a bread they did not work for. And God gave them water from the Rock that Moses struck with his staff.
In today’s Gospel [John 6:1-15], our Lord Jesus provides bread in the wilderness. Five thousand men, plus wives and children, are in a desert place. They had gathered to Jesus there because they saw the signs He did on the sick.
In that desert place, there was no bread to eat except five barley loaves and two fish, provided by a young boy - a small offering of all he had.
Jesus has the crowd of five thousand sit down in a grassy area. Jesus gives thanks to the Father for their bread and then distributes it to the eaters - bread and fish, as much as they want.
The crowd eats bread to their fill. Jesus has the disciples gather up the leftover fragments. They collect twelve baskets full - more than they began with. Jesus, Lord and God, provided their bread in abundance.
And John’s Gospel gives us some detail not given in the others. Verse fifteen - “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.”
Jesus is king, the king of the kingdom of heaven. But this crowd is seeking to make Him their earthly king, for the sake of earthly bread. They don’t want Jesus Himself - and they don’t want heaven - they want the ease of abundance. To never have to worry about bread day by day. To be set for life.
This same crowd - as you continue on through John chapter six - follows Jesus for the sake of this bread. Now, really, what is the “bread” they are after?
“Bread” is not just loaves of bread. Even today, we call our money “dough”, right? Bread is that daily bread which includes all those things needed for this body and life - “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” [Luther’s Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayers, the Fourth Petition]
This is all “bread” which we need. Like that crowd in the wilderness, we are unable to provide it for ourselves. We enter this life empty-handed. What we have, we have through Jesus, our God and Lord who provides.
“All this” my Lord gives me “only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” [Luther’s Small Catechism, Creed, First Article]
For all the bread we have, do we take credit for it ourselves - “I deserve it”? Or do we give thanks and praise to God by serving and obeying Him with all the bread we have? We thank and praise God when love for God and love for our neighbor governs how we use our bread - both when we have a lot and when we have a little.
Our faith and love are wrong - off track - when we fall in love with and put our trust in the daily bread itself instead of loving and trusting the Bread-Giver alone.
The crowd in today’s Gospel was in love with the bread. Their earthly troubles would cease, if only they could make the right man their president (or, um, king). They finally found him!
But Jesus isn’t interested in being your president or king. He doesn’t want you putting your trust in princes [Psalm 146:3] or in men of this world in whom their is no salvation. He’s not interested in an earthly kingdom.
And it is sin when we want Jesus only for the benefits He gives, instead of truly wanting Him Himself as our greatest and only good. Jesus tells this crowd: “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.” [John 6:27]
And this food is Jesus Himself: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” [John 6:35]. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” [John 6:33]
“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.” [John 6:51].
Jesus became your Bread by giving His life for your life on the cross. He gave His flesh into death. He died so that you may live. He Himself is now your food and drink so that whoever comes to Him will never hunger, forever - and whoever believes in Him will never thirst, forever.
Are you in love with the good things in this life, which He provides - or are you in love with Jesus Himself who isthe better thing provided? Is your trust in the quantity of your daily bread - or do you trust in the Man Himself, Jesus, who is your greater Bread?
Consider the Christians in today’s reading from Acts 2:41-47 - “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They were devoted to those things pertaining to the Bread of Life.
And for their love of God’s people and kingdom, they showed great ability to let go of the bread of this life: “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Love Jesus Himself. Have Jesus for His own sake - for the sake of having Him, your greatest love. Trust Jesus Himself - knowing that having Him is more than having all things in the whole world. Having only Him, you are rich - and He gives even more.
Put neither your fear nor your love and trust in rulers of this world or your nation. You have the King and the Kingdom of Heaven, which is everlasting. Love God’s Kingdom of heaven and its people most of all.
Like bread, everything in this life has a limited shelf life - doesn’t satisfy forever - and can go bad and moldy. Only Jesus is the Bread of Life which lasts forever. Amen.