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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

THE BREAD OF LIFE IS FOOD THAT SATISFIES
John 6:28-35

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen. The text upon which our sermon for today is based is John, chapter six, beginning with the 28th verse, as follows:

Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." 30 Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 "Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written,`He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." 35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." Here ends the text.

In Christ Jesus, whose Word strengthens and nourishes us, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Nothing is more substantial and solid than a good meal. Think back to the Christmas dinner or the Thanksgiving dinner that you enjoyed with your family. So many different foods heaped high in bowls, on steaming platters: meat and potatoes, vegetables, salads and deserts. Satisfying, wasn't it? What could possibly be more fulfilling and gratifying than a good meal like that?

Good food is satisfying. It satisfies your hunger, it's a pleasure for you to eat, and it gives nourishment to your body. Along with clothing and shelter, food is one of the three basic needs of every human being. There's a fourth item we all need, however. Something that's even more basic than physical food - and that's spiritual food. If you've been a bit spiritually malnourished lately, if you've felt your faith weakening, if you just don't feel as close to the Lord as you used to - perhaps you need to pay a little more attention to your spiritual nutrition. Our text for today holds the key to a satisfying and healthy spiritual diet. It lies in the words of Jesus, "I am the Bread of Life." Consider with me the theme:

THE BREAD OF LIFE IS FOOD THAT SATISFIES

The crowd who met Jesus in Capernaum that day were people who had food on their mind. Specifically, they were thinking about the miracle Jesus had performed the day before - the Feeding of the Five Thousand. With their own eyes, they had seen Jesus turn five loaves of bread and two little fish into a meal for over 5000 people. It was free food - all you can eat! Well, this was a Man they definitely did not want to lose sight of. So when Jesus and His disciples crossed over the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum, the crowd got into boats of their own and eagerly followed Him.

Now, any other religious teacher might have been flattered by their attention. But not Jesus. He could read their hearts, and He knew exactly why they were there. "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled." He tried to get their minds off free meals, and onto more important things. "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life." Work to get the food that really satisfies, He told them!

Unfortunately, all they heard was that word, "work", and then they were off on another tangent. As our text begins, …they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" It's the natural reaction of human beings: as soon as someone mentions eternal life, the first thing people ask is, "What can I DO to get it? What can I DO so God will be satisfied with me and let me into heaven when I die? What work do I need to accomplish?" It's the same question that rich young man asked Jesus; the same question the jailer at Philippi asked Paul and Silas. "What must I DO to be saved?" And God's answer is always the same: only believe. Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

It was the right answer to a wrong question. The only "work" that will satisfy God and insure you a place in heaven is to believe in Jesus Christ. And that's not really a "work" at all! At least, it's certainly not a work that we do. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us faith in Jesus, as Paul says in Ephesians, "...You have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (2:8-9). There's only one way to satisfy God - Jesus told the crowd - and that's by believing in Me.

But the people still couldn't get their mind off food. Well, they suggested, if we're supposed to believe in You, why don't you perform another miracle so we can have faith? What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? And if Jesus was going to do another miracle anyway, why not something else having to do with food? They said, Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" This was rather a transparent hint. They wanted some more free food. The Son of God was standing right in front of them, and the only thing they could think about was their stomachs! "Give us food, something we can see and taste, and then we'll believe you. Then we'll really be satisfied!"

Is that what true religion is all about? Food? A lot of churches today seem to think so. Many of the mainline denominations have long ago forgotten about spiritual food, and now concentrate exclusively on the physical. Every month they have bake sales and bazaars and spaghetti suppers. Volunteers take meals to the elderly. There are collections to buy food for the homeless. They send food aid to impoverished people in third world countries. None of which is a bad thing, by the way. Certainly, it is the Christians more than anyone else who are to reflect God's love by providing for the physical needs of the disadvantaged. But is that the main point of our religion? To be just another kind of social service provider? Is physical food the most important thing we have to offer people? If it is, then what did Jesus mean when He said, "Man does not live by bread alone?" -- Mt 4:4. What was Paul talking about when he told the Romans, "For the kingdom of God is NOT food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit?" -- Rom 14:17.

No, God has given us something that's more substantial than physical food, something that's more satisfying than a thick steak or a fresh loaf of bread. He has given us His Son, Jesus Christ! Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." More than any other food, the Bread of Life is food that satisfies!

I was in the supermarket one day and I overheard a woman talking to herself. She was in the packaged meat aisle - hot dogs, lunch meat, that sort of thing - and she was reading a package label. "'Healthy Choice Sausage,'" she laughed, "Ha! That's a joke!" And it is, kind of, because sausage is one of those foods that you don't expect to be good for you. And yet marketers will try every trick in the book to convince you that all the foods they sell are 'healthy choices.' If they don't say it out loud, they at least imply that using their products will lengthen your life dramatically and stave off all sorts of terrible diseases. The truth, of course, is that what kind of breakfast food you eat probably hasn't got a whole lot to do with how long you live. But what if that were true? What if there was a particular food available- say, a certain type of whole grain bread -that was proven to add at least ten years to an average person's life? Well, you'd buy it, wouldn't you? You'd pay whatever it cost to get that particular brand of bread for yourself and your family!

My Christian friends, Jesus is that Bread! He is the Bread of Life. Jesus Christ is the food that adds years to your life. And not just five years or ten years, either, but hundreds and thousands of years. Now there's a healthy choice for you! In fact, eternal life is the guaranteed result for any person who partakes of this Bread of Life - who receives Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior by faith.

And faith is a key word there. Because faith is the means by which we consume this precious Bread of Life. A little later on in this chapter, Jesus says, "The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.. he who eats this bread will live forever." -- vv. 51, 58. Eating the Bread of Life means having faith in Jesus. Not just having faith that He exists. Not "foxhole faith", which turns to God only in times of terrible danger. Not "rabbit's foot faith", which trusts blindly and superstitiously, without ever reading what the Bible has to say about Christ. True faith means actually relying on Christ's sacrifice on Calvary for the forgiveness of all your sins. On the cross, Jesus gave His own body into death, with you in mind. The blood which He shed from His hands, His feet, His wounded side, He shed to cover your sins, now and forever! Paul says, "Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." -- Eph 5:2.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." --Mt 5:6. Once you have realized what your most important need is, and how that need can be satisfied, there is no limit to how much of that precious food you can have. You will be filled! Every day, you can bring your sins to Jesus for forgiveness. In repentance you can cast off the spotted garment of your flesh, and put on the white robe of Christ's righteousness. Jesus promises, He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

And if any nagging doubts remain - if the devil casts the sins of your past before your eyes and whispers, "You are not worthy," then I ask you to remember another promise Jesus made. A promise that is simpler still. Two verses beyond our sermon text of this morning, Jesus says, He who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. Only come to Jesus. Only trust in Him, and pardon shall be yours! By no means will He cast you out!

Do you believe that? Then that's all there is to it! To the question, "What must I DO," God answers, "ONLY BELIEVE." Let go of any works or merits or righteousness of your own, and hang on tight to the perfect righteousness of Christ. The result? You have eaten the Bread of Life, and you WILL live forever!

My Christian friends, this is our religion. Jesus Christ is the Bread that gives life to the world. This Bread is by far the most important thing God has given to us, and it's by far the most important thing that we, as Christians, can give to other people. By all means, let's partake of this heavenly food ourselves as often as we can - here at church, in our family devotions, in our personal Bible study. Let's make sure we provide it for our children, recognizing that giving them the Bread of Life is even more important than serving them nutritious food at mealtime. And let's share this precious Bread with those around us. "As newborn babes," Peter said, "desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." Well, we have tasted it, and we know: the Bread of Life is food that satisfies! AMEN.