Sermon on John 6:41-51
Text: At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
When you go to the grocery store, many times, you will find an entire aisle dedicated to bread. It comes in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and consistencies. There are hamburger buns and hot dog buns, dinner rolls and English muffins. There are wheat breads, white bread, rye breads, etc. Some of you may still take the time and effort to make your own bread or rolls. Bread has been called the staff of life. It’s something that many of us enjoy. This morning, Jesus talks about bread. However, the bread that he is speaking of does more than fill our stomachs. The reason that this is true is that the bread that Jesus is talking about is himself. As such, JESUS IS THE BREAD THAT GIVES LIFE. As we look at this bread, we will want to 1. Note The Heavenly Ingredients and 2. Enjoy The Eternal Benefits.
A bit of background will help us understand why Jesus was having this conversation with the crowd that had gathered. The day before, Jesus had fed the crowd of 5,000 plus people with the five barley loaves and two small fish. The people who saw the miracle wanted to come and make Jesus their king by force. Jesus, wanting nothing to do with their plans, sent the disciples ahead, across the Sea of Galilee, while he withdrew to a mountain by himself. During the night, the disciples were caught in a storm that threatened to swamp the boat. Jesus came walking to them on the water and stilled the storm. He, then, got into the boat and crossed with his disciples to the other side. When they got there, the crowd saw Jesus and wanted to know how he had gotten there. Then, they said to Jesus, “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.’” It’s hard to believe our ears. ‘What sign will you give?’ Hadn’t they been fed, just the day before? Yet, they implied in their question the fact that Jesus’ miracle was nice for yesterday, but look at what happened as their forefathers ate the manna in the desert for forty years as they traveled from Egypt to Palestine. After Jesus told them about life-giving bread, the crowd said, “Sir, from now on give us this bread.” Then, Jesus said very plainly, “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.” It was because of this statement that we read in our text, “At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’” Who does he think he is? After all, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” They knew Jesus. They knew who his parents were. They knew where he had grown up. They could not understand how Jesus could say that he had come from heaven.
When I look at the list of ingredients on a loaf of bread, there are certain things that I recognize and can tell you just what they are and what they do. For example, as I look at the list on a loaf of bread from our bread box, I see things like “enriched, bleached flour.” There it tells me that this is made of wheat flour and barley flour. There are also several vitamins that I recognize, such as niacin and iron. Later on, I see ingredients that I don’t recognize, such as calcium sulfate, which, after doing some reading on the internet, is some sort of salt, but I’m not sure exactly what it does or even how we get it. By the way, it can also be heated and ground to make Plaster of Paris. I see calcium propinate, which is a preservative, and is used to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mold. Some of the ingredients I have no problem with. Some of them cause me to pause and wonder if a person really should be eating it.
This is the problem that the people of Jesus’s day had with him. He told them that he had come from heaven. That was one ingredient that they didn’t know if they could swallow. The reason for this is the fact that they didn’t think they needed Jesus and what he had to offer, at least spiritually. They thought that they were well-fed. In reality, they were eating spiritual junk food. They had filled themselves with the notion that they could get right with God on their own. They didn’t think that they needed Jesus, especially with the notion that he had come down from heaven. However, Jesus shows them that he is absolutely the bread that they needed. He says in verses 44-46, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day . . . Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.” Jesus had claimed that he was the only proper object of faith. These people looked at Jesus and said, ‘Who does he think he is that we need him to get close to God?’ Jesus makes it very clear who he is. He is the one sent from God, the only one who has seen God, the only one who is in complete unity with God. We cannot get right with God on our own, nor can we make the first step to God on our own.
This is why the fact that Jesus came down from heaven is such an essential ingredient. We would have been lost forever without him. There is so much spiritual junk food out there that begs us to try it. There is the thought that if you try hard enough, God will overlook whatever little faults you might have. There is the thought that it really doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere about it. There is the thought that the Bible is an antiquated book and what it has to say about morality really doesn’t apply today. All of these thoughts, and others like it, are junk food that will do far worse than make us a little flabby around the middle. They can well cause us to die, spiritually and eternally. We need Jesus, the Bread that came down from heaven.
The reason for our absolute need of him is the fact that we are all sinners. We were born sinful. We show that sinful nature every day in our thoughts, words and actions. One example of this, is a pursuit of the things of this world at the expense of our spiritual welfare. We get so caught up in the here and now, both providing for it and enjoying it, that our relationship with God takes second place. We know something is wrong, but we choose to do it anyway, because there is earthly pleasure. Every time we do that, we are breaking the First Commandment which teaches us that we are to put God and his will above that of our own. For this reason, as well as a host of others, we should well spend our eternity in hell.
However, Jesus the Bread of Life, came down from heaven. He took on human flesh and blood so that he could follow his Father’s will in our place. When faced with temptation, he did not yield, for that would be going against his Father. Then, he went to the cross and laid down his life for us. He paid the debt that we owed to God. Our sins of selfishness and all the rest were paid for in full. To show us that he was indeed the Son of God and our sins were paid for, he rose on Easter morning. He is exactly the type of Savior we needed. When we see the heavenly ingredients, we know that he is the Bread that came down from heaven.
Another that you notice on many types of bread are their claims of what health benefits you will receive, if you eat this bread. It will lower your cholesterol. It will help your heart. Of course, if you get the cheap bread, it doesn’t claim to help you, at all, other than filling your stomach. Jesus, as the Bread of Life, shows us exactly the benefits that we receive from him.
Remember that the crowd had brought to Jesus’ attention the manna that their forefathers ate in the desert those forty years. They wanted Jesus to duplicate something like that. Jesus responded by saying, “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” ‘Yes, they did eat that miraculous food. But, in the end, they still died. If that is all you are looking for, you will still die.’ Jesus offers bread “which a man may eat and not die.” What is that bread? Jesus says, very plainly, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
Jesus is the “living bread.” He is the bread that is full of life and the bread that gives life. When you and I are brought to faith in Jesus, we have eternal life. Jesus said in verse 47, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” There is significance in the word “has.” It is not “will have,” as though everlasting life is only something that we will enjoy once we get to heaven. It is a present reality. It is something that we enjoy right now. Because we know that heaven is waiting for us, it gives us a different outlook on the life that we are presently experiencing. It reminds us that God is in control of all things for the good of his believers. Even though we might not see why God allows something to happen to us or how it will work out for our good, yet we know that it will because God has promised it. We also know that however tough things might be for us, from time to time, we know that it is only temporary. It can only affect us for so long. There will come a time when all of the hurts and tears will be replaced with peace and joy. That is why Paul can write in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” We enjoy these benefits right now, because Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Truth be told, I like bread. I know some of it’s not really good for you, and you have to be mindful of your carbs, etc. But, there’s just something about a piece of bread that is still warm from the oven, that I really enjoy. Yet, I know that that piece of bread will only fill me for a little while and, it won’t be long before I am hungry again. How thankful I am that my soul never needs to go hungry again. Jesus is the Bread of Life that fills my soul. He is everything that my soul needs to be healthy. I get far more than a full stomach. When I am brought to believe in him, I have eternal life. God has seen fit to share with you that feast, as well. Having received this meal, we can well say, “O, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures forever.
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