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Sermon for Sunday 2 August 15

First Reading                   Exodus 16:2–15

2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.  In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.  5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”  6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?”  8 And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him — what are we?  Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.”  9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'”  10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.  11 The LORD spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'”  13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.  15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”  For they did not know what it was.  Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.


Psalm                                                  Psalm 145:10–21

10 All your works shall praise you, O Lord, and your faithful ones shall bless you.  11 They shall tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your power, 12 that all people may know of your power and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.  13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures throughout all ages.  You, Lord, are faithful in all your words, and loving in all your works.  14 The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up those who are bowed down.  15 The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season.  16 You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.  17 You are righteous in all your ways and loving in all your works. 18 You are near to all who call upon you, to all who call upon you faithfully.  19 You fulfill the desire of those who fear you; you hear their cry and save them.  20 You watch over all those who love you, but all the wicked you shall destroy.  21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; let all flesh bless God’s holy name forever and ever.


 Second Reading                        Ephesians 4:1–16

1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  8 Therefore it is said,

“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”

9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)  11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.


Gospel                                                       John 6:22–35

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.  23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.  24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”  28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?  What work are you performing?  31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”  32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.



I read a story the other day about a guy who got a call from his wife just as he was leaving the office.  Honey, the wife said, can you stop at the grocery store and pick up some bread?”  “Of course,” he said.  “Do I need to tell you where in store to find it?” she asked. “Are you kidding?” the husband responded.  “I was born with a bread-aisle tracking system embedded in my DNA!”  Like a knowing wife, she hesitantly responded, “OK, but please stay focused, honey.”  As the husband later admitted, she was nervous, and rightly so.  Truth be told, I’m the Exxon Valdez of grocery shopping.

The husband continued by saying, my mom once sent me to buy butter and milk; I bought buttermilk.  I mistook a tube of hair cream for toothpaste . . . I’m a charter member of the Clueless Husband Shopping Squad.  I can relate to the fellow who came home from the grocery store with one carton of eggs, two sacks of flour, three boxes of cake mix, four sacks of sugar and five cans of cake frosting.  His wife looked at the sacks of groceries and lamented, ‘I never should have numbered the list.’”

Knowing that his wife was counting on him to carry out this simple task, the husband parked the car at the market and entered the door.  En route to the bread aisle, he spotted his favorite cereal, so he picked up a box; this, of course, made him wonder if they needed milk.  So he went and grabbed a gallon in the dairy section.  The cold milk then stirred images of one of God’s great gift to humanity:  Oreo cookies.  As the husband put it, “The heavenly banquet will consist of tables and tables of Oreo cookies and milk.  We will spend all eternity dipping and slurping our way through . . .” He didn’t finish the thought, but you get the idea.

He grabbed a pack of Oreos, which happened to occupy the same half of the store as barbecue potato chips.  What a wonderful world this is, he thought, cookies and barbecue chips under the same roof!  On the way to the checkout counter, he spotted some ice cream.  Within a few minutes he’d filled the shopping cart with every essential item for a happy and fulfilled life.  Pleased with his conquest, he checked out and drove home.  At home the wife looked at his purchases, then at him.  I’m sure you can guess the one question she had as he stood there proudly looking over his mastery of shopping; “Where’s the bread?”  Yup, he went back to the grocery store this time with a note.  He’d neglected the one thing he went to get.  The one essential product.  He forgot the bread.

A couple of weeks ago, we dealt with the feeding of the 5,000.  At the end of the story, the crowd was so excited about Jesus that they wanted to crown him King.  This, of course, was not the purpose for which He was sent.  So, He withdrew to a nearby mountain to be alone in prayer with God the Father.  Today’s lesson occurs some 24 hours later.

John tells us that, once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there at the site where He fed the multitude, they got into boats and went to Capernaum in search of Him.  When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  But Jesus, instead of answering the question, gets right to the point.

Jesus answered them by saying, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”  One of the interesting things you might have noticed is that John always uses the word “sign” instead of miracle, when describing the wondrous things that Jesus did.

John sees these signs as evidence, directional indicators, that point clearly to Jesus as the Messiah.  The feeding of the 5,000 with the fishes and the loaves is just one of many signs that was staring them in the face.  Jesus says to the crowd, “You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill . . .”  In other words, Jesus is trying to point them toward a spiritual reality rather than a physical one.  All they were interested in was having their bellies full.  And this, as you would expect, frustrated Jesus.

Starting in verse 32, Jesus tries to correct the crowd’s perception of had happened when He fed the multitude.  He wants to point them back to God.  So He addresses their misperception concerning the manna given in the wilderness to the children of Israel, one of the watershed events of their life as a people.  For many Jews, Moses was seen as one of the top two prophets of all history.

As far as the first century Jews were concerned, it was Moses who gave the wandering Israelites manna.  Jesus, knowing they misunderstood this event, quickly gets to work trying to correct their perception in three ways:  First, He reminded them that it was God, not Moses, who provided the manna.  Second, He wanted them to see that God is still giving manna even now, not just in the past.  And finally, He tried to make them understand that He, Jesus, is the true Bread from Heaven.  Manna was food for the body:  Jesus is God’s full provision for the soul.  Jesus Himself is the Bread of God.  Sadly, the crowd couldn’t get it.

The crowd didn’t understand what He was talking about.  Just like the woman at the well who didn’t grasp the concept about the water that Jesus was offering her, the crowd didn’t understand Jesus, when He said that the food which He was offering was better than the manna their ancestors ate.  Both water and bread in scripture are used in reference to that which gives life.  Jesus called Himself both bread and water–for truly He is the giver of life (John 10:10b; John 3:16).  Jesus said, “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.”

Jesus, of course, wasn’t referring to the bread and water that only fills and satisfies temporally.  As He said to the woman at the well, if she drank of the well’s water, she would surely thirst again, but the water He was offering her was Living water, water that would satisfy her thirst forever.  In the same way, Jesus was now offering this crowd bread that would satisfy them forever.  In this passage Jesus is making a profound point in the statement, “I am the bread of life.” It’s a point that, as Westerners, we may not fully appreciate.

For many, especially in this country, bread is optional.   However, if your taste buds are anything like mine, you thoroughly enjoy it.  I especially appreciate the variety of breads we can purchase in our super markets today.  We can get our bread as white bread, whole wheat bread, multigrain bread, cornbread, flatbread, cinnamon raisin bread, rye bread, Italian bread, pumpernickel bread or sourdough bread.  We can get our bread as a biscuit, a roll, a waffle, a bagel, a croissant, a bun . . . and the list goes on seemingly forever.  But in Palestine, bread wasn’t seen in the same light:  bread wasn’t an add-on part of a meal.

Instead, bread was the essential staple.  You might not have anything else to eat, but as long as you had bread, you could survive.  Bread was seen as the basic food that provided life.   Jesus was saying to the crowd and is saying to us today, “I am the one who provides life abundant and everlasting.  I am not an option, if you really want life.  I am essential.  I am necessary.”

You may remember a story that came out of World War II.  The Germans forced many twelve and thirteen-year-old boys into the Junior Gestapo.  These boys were treated very harshly and given inhumane jobs to perform.  When the war ended, most of these young people had lost track of their families and wandered without food or shelter.  As part of an aid program to post-war Germany, many of these youths were placed in tent cities.  There doctors and psychologists worked with the boys in an attempt to restore their mental and physical health.  These boys were suffering from serious emotional problems.  They found that many of the boys would awaken in the middle of the night, screaming in terror.  One doctor suggested that the boys’ fears might relate to a lack of security.

But what could they do to make them feel more secure?  Someone had an idea for handling their fear.  After feeding the boys a large meal, they put the boys to bed with a piece of bread in their hands, which they were told to save until morning.  For children who knew the pain of near-starvation, this bread represented security to them.  That night, all the boys fell asleep peacefully, each clutching his bread.  The boys then slept soundly because, after so many years of hunger, they finally had the assurance of food for the next day.

Because we’re not as dependent on bread as Jesus’ original listeners, we may not appreciate, as much as they, what He meant when He said that He is the Bread of Life.  What He’s saying is something very important:  “You cannot live without me.  I am essential to your life.”  This may be why the fourth petition, the first personal request, in the Lord’s Prayer is, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  And maybe, this is the reason Luther explained that daily bread included everything we need; food, housing, family, friends, jobs, good government….you get the idea.  For many people historically, life without bread was impossible.  People in less affluent lands have a much greater appreciation of this idea than we do.

A story is told of Sadhu Sundar Singh, a converted Sikh, who became a Christian missionary in India many years ago.  Singh was distributing Gospels in the Central Provinces of India and he came to some non-Christians on the railway train and offered a man a copy of John’s Gospel.  The man took it, tore it in pieces in anger and threw the pieces out of the window.

You would think that would be the end of the story, but it so happened, in the Providence of God, there was a man anxiously searching for truth walking along the train tracks that day.   Seeing the torn up gospel, he picked up a little bit of paper as he walked along and looked at it.  The words on the bit of paper were in his own language.  They said simply, “the Bread of Life.”  He didn’t know what that meant; but he inquired among his friends.  One of them said: “I can tell you; it’s out of the Christian book.  You must not read it, or you will be defiled.”

The man thought for a moment and then said:  “I want to read the book that contains that beautiful phrase, the Bread of Life.”  He bought a copy of the New Testament.  He was shown where the sentence occurred in today’s lesson, “I am the Bread of Life.”  As he studied the gospel, the light of Christ flooded into his heart.  He not only became a follower of Jesus, he became a preacher of the gospel in the Central Provinces of India.  “That little bit of paper, through God’s Spirit, was indeed the Bread of life to him, satisfying his deepest need. This brings us to the essential truth we need to take away with us this day: Christ alone can satisfy our deepest need.

Pastor Ronnie Floyd puts it this way:  “People will do anything to be satisfied in life.  In fact, people are searching for life and meaning in life.  The drunkard is looking for life.  The drug addict is looking for life.  The gambling addict is looking for life . . . The corporate climber is looking for life.”  Even the backwater hick, whatever that is, is looking for life.  In each person, God has created a void.  That void is the desire for meaning and fulfillment in life.  Even though all persons are looking for life, many are searching in all the wrong places.  Jesus is the life people are looking for.  I believe firmly that all persons are in the process of searching for Jesus.  On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 standing for an atheist and 10 standing for the faithful Christian . . . everyone is searching for Jesus.  Each person here today is in the process of coming to Jesus.  They think they are searching for meaning in life, but what they are really searching for Jesus.

In the Lord’s Prayer, the fourth petition is “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Of course that’s everything we need for life here on earth to live.  However, we have another need and that’s for the bread that satisfies the needs of the soul.  That need can only be satisfied by the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.  Who else loves us as much as He?

There’s a popular fable of a man who was in love with a girl who was blind.  He loved her so much that he was willing to do anything for her, including help her gain her sight.  She knew of his love but never wanted to burden him with being in a relationship with someone who was blind.  She kept insisting that he should choose someone else and move on with his life.  But he was unrelenting!  He loved her unconditionally and didn’t find being with her a burden but rather, a pleasure.

One day, he received the best news ever!  Technology had made it possible for doctors to do an eye transplant to help the blind gain sight.  What an amazing opportunity, he thought.  But she would need a donor.  Unfortunately, there was no suitable donor.  So he made the most selfless, loving decision one can ever make–he sacrificed his own eyes.  However, after surgery, and after she had recovered, the girl opened her new eyes and was amazed at how fair she was to look upon.  Outside, waiting to see her, was the one who had loved her from the start.  He walked in and called her by name.

“Who are you?” She inquired.  He told her who he was and to his shock realized how hostile she was.  “I’m sorry, but I cannot be with any eyeless man.  I need a handsome man by my side.  Do you see how beautiful I am?”  Hurt and feeling dejected, he walked away.  Later, when her family came to visit her, she told them of the audacity of this out-of-order man.  From her descriptions, they realized to whom she was referring.  They informed her of the young man’s great sacrifice and chided her for her indifference toward him.  Stricken to the heart, she searched profusely for him but it was too late.  He was gone.

Somebody else made a selfless sacrifice over 2,000 years ago in our behalf.  Jesus sacrificed, not just His eyes, but His life so that we could have life.  His was a far greater sacrifice.  Ours was a far greater gain!  Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Isn’t it time that we stop searching and grasping at all things that don’t satisfy? Jesus is the Bread of Life. He’s all we need to fulfill all our spiritual needs.



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