Food for Thought

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  August 1, 2021

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John 6:24 – 35
Our New Testament lesson comes from the Gospel of John and can be found in many Bibles under a heading that makes reference to “The Bread of Life.”  It is with that idea in mind, that I want us to focus on the subject: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
This passage of scripture which calls for our attention this morning follows the stories of two miraculous signs that are also found in this sixth chapter of John’s gospel. 
The first is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with only two fish and five loaves of bread.  This is certainly one of Jesus’ more spectacular miracles – first, because of the miraculous way in which Jesus was able to take the meager offering of a young boy’s lunch and use it to feed five thousand people. 
But what is even more amazing about this occurrence is that there were twelve baskets filled with the leftovers from the loaves of bread…
It harkens back to our text from just last week in Ephesians 3 where we read in verse 20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”
So, if five thousand people had already been fed with those five loaves, just think what more could be done with those leftovers… I would dare say, far more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Then after the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, we find the story of another miraculous sign, Jesus walking on water (John 6:16-21).  This story appears in both Matthew and Mark’s gospel, but John gives us something closer to the CliffsNotes version. 
Now for those of you who may not be familiar with CliffsNotes, they were started back in 1958 and were written by real teachers and professors to be used as study guides on a variety of subjects. The CliffsNotes for literature contain summaries of each particular book and are designed to be used as supplements to a student’s reading.  Although, as I am sure both of my English teacher parents would confirm, some students think they can get the whole story by just reading the CliffsNotes.  But what they actually get are really just the highlights, the more significant points of the story.
And in John’s account of Jesus’ walking on water, we get the most significant points of the story…
Jesus had gone to the mountain to be by himself and the disciples set sail in their boat.  While the disciples were heading across the lake for Capernaum, it got dark, the winds picked up and the waters got rough.  Suddenly, the disciples looked up and saw Jesus heading toward the boat but rather than being excited, they were terrified. 
In Mark’s gospel, it says they thought they were seeing a ghost but John gives no explanation for their terror.  Matthew and Mark both record Jesus as saying, “Take courage! It is I, don’t be afraid.”  John on the other hand cuts straight to the point, simply recording Jesus as saying, “It is I, don’t be afraid.”  Keep in mind, the CliffsNotes only gives you the summary of a story, the highlights and not the full detail.
And according to John, once the disciples realized who it was and let Jesus into the boat, “immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”
This is the point where we come to our text, with the crowd that Jesus had fed the day before making their way across the lake to where Jesus and the disciples had landed. 
And once they found Jesus, they began to ask questions… and Jesus began to answer them, giving them some serious FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
The first thing Jesus’ followers asked was when did He get to the place where they found Him.  It was a seemingly innocuous question… one that we might ask when we come upon someone unexpectedly, “Hey, when did you get here?”
But unlike the typical response that we might anticipate such as, “I just got here,” or “I’ve been here since this time or that time,” Jesus gave an answer that was more than they likely bargained for.
Reading from the Message Paraphrase, listen again to verses 26-27:

You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.
In other words, Jesus was admonishing those in the crowd who were less interested in the mighty and miraculous things that Jesus was doing and were more concerned about what was in it for them.  Rather than focusing on temporary physical benefits, Jesus wanted His followers to set their sights on the eternal benefit that only He can provide.
This is definitely FOOD FOR THOUGHT for us as well.  There are some people who see the church and religion simply as a means to an end, one that is self-centered… the old WIIFM proposition – what’s in it for me? Power? Prestige? Position?
But let me suggest that when we follow Jesus with the right motivation, it is no longer about “what’s in it for me” but “what’s in me for it…” 
God fills us with His Holy Spirit so that we can live lives that bring glory to Him.  Which means, rather than looking for what we can get, we ought to be asking ourselves, what can we give?  What gifts and talents has God given us so that we can be a blessing to others?  How can we be like Jesus and serve, rather than being served?
And that led His followers to ask Jesus a follow-up question, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
To which Jesus responded, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  Simply put, it is ultimately not what we do that is pleasing to God, but it is in Whom and what we believe.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8 – 10)
Jesus wanted to be sure His followers understood that there were no “works” that they could do in order to gain eternal life, because the gift of eternal life comes only through belief in Jesus Christ. 
We cannot do good works in order to be saved.  We do good works because we have been saved.  Jesus explained that the real work is to believe.  After that, everything else should fall into place.
But evidently, this was not a good enough response for the crowd because they then asked Jesus to give them a miraculous sign so they could believe Him.  They told Jesus that Moses had given their ancestors a sign by sending them manna, bread from heaven, to eat.  And they wanted Jesus to do something of that magnitude. [Apparently, that little incident with the fish and loaves was not enough to convince them…]
But Jesus set the record straight, telling them that it was not Moses who had given their ancestors bread from heaven… it was God who had given it… He explained further that the bread of God is not simply something to eat… the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  Again, highlighting that the bread of God is not something that simply fills a temporary physical hunger but is that which gives life.
And then, just like the Samaritan woman in John 4 asked Jesus for the living water that He had told her about… Jesus’ followers asked Him to give them this bread that He was talking to them about.
That is when Jesus gave them a little more FOOD FOR THOUGHT, telling them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
When we eat bread or any other food, it is meant to satisfy a physical hunger and to sustain physical life… and we must continually go back and eat more each day.  Even if we gorge ourselves at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and declare, “I am stuffed. I cannot possibly eat another bite,” … there will come a point in time where we will feel hungry and have to eat again.
And no matter how many 7-11 Big Gulps we may have downed on any given day, there will come a point in time when we will be thirsty and will need to drink again.
But Jesus’ declares that He is the bread of life and that whoever comes to Him will never go hungry and who ever believes in Him will never be thirsty.  In other words, when we have a relationship with Jesus, it fulfills our spiritual hunger and thirst. 
Now, unlike physical food and beverage which dissipates and causes us to go in search of more… once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He takes up permanent residence in our hearts, filling and nurturing us day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment.
And unlike our physical tastebuds that tend to change, needing new and exciting things in order to be satisfied, Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
We don’t need to go looking for anything more exciting or satisfying because the fact of the matter is that there is no one more exciting and nothing more satisfying than Jesus.  

Who or what can compare to the One who gave His life in exchange for ours?  Who or what can compare to the One who loves us unconditionally?  Who or what can compare to the One who has given us eternal life?
The answer is simple, nothing and no one.
And that is definitely FOOD FOR THOUGHT that will last us for a lifetime, better yet, that will last us for all eternity.