AGCC Sun. a.m. 10/4/98

#3

"I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE"

TEXT: John 6:25-71

INTRO: When we go to a restaurant we usually decide first what kind of meat we want and then build our meal around the meat dish. To our western culture meat is the main factor in a meal. In Jesus' day however, meat was simply a side dish, but bread represented the major part of the meal, everything was built around it. We would think it strange to be served a meal that consisted of only a starch and vegetable, but in Christ's day it would have been an insult to serve a meal and not include bread as the main ingredient. This sets the stage for the importance of Jesus' words "I am the bread of life". What Jesus is saying is that He is the most important part of life! He is the "main" dish that everything else should revolve around. He is the most important part of our sustenance.

Bread in Jesus' day was the very symbol of LIFE. Hence it was often used to symbolize the gift of the gods, or used in reflecting spiritual life. This was also true with God's people. In the Old Testament it was placed every day in the Holy of Holies as a symbol of God's provision for His people. At the Lord's supper Jesus used it to teach about His sacrifice for our sins, a sacrifice that will bring us life.

PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the only source of real life, there can be no spiritual life without Him in the same way there can be no physical life without natural bread.

I. SUPERIOR BREAD 6:25-34

A. Short Sighted! 6:25-29

1. Jesus had just left this same crowd after feeding them miraculously with bread and fish.

a. They had followed Him to the other side of the lake after He had fed the 5,000 men plus women and children.

b. They were not following Him because of His teaching as much as they were the hope of an easier lifestyle.

2. It was Jewish popular belief that when the Messiah came, He would once again start the flow of MANNA from heaven like Moses had done for Israel.

a. This would provide physical bread for Israel again like in the desert.

b. The Messiah however would do even greater things than Moses.

c. Jesus had given them a starting point with this first flow of bread and fish, and perhaps they followed him to the other side of the lake to see now if it would continue.

3. The trouble was, they were focused on physical bread, a return to what they thought of as an easier lifestyle where God simply took care of their physical needs.

4. They were only looking to satisfy their immediate physical needs, they couldn't even see how empty their souls were!

a. It is tragic when people spend their lives just getting the stuff of this world and don't think about satisfying their spiritual needs.

b. Too many people just keep taking in the stuff of this world and don't realize how empty it will prove in the end. Severed from our soul, the things of this world will never fulfill us!

ILLUS: A recent novel by Madeleine L'Engle is titled A Severed Wasp, If you're addressing young people or some other audience with strong stomachs, the title, which comes from one of George Orwell's essays, offers a graphic image of human lostness. Orwell describes a wasp that "was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him."

The wasp and people without Christ have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life's sweetness. Only when it's time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition. -- Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3

5. Their desire for Christ was a short sighted one, temporal rather than eternal.

a. Yet many people are making the same mistake today!

b. Even some who come to Christ are doing so in the hopes that this will make life easier rather than make life godly!

c. When we think of our relationship with God in terms of material things we will find it very unsatisfying in the long run.

6. Jesus understood immediately that they had followed Him to the other side of the lake because they wanted more bread for the stomach rather than the soul.

a. He asks them to work for food that won't spoil (6:27)

b. When they ask what work they should do, Jesus tells them simply: "believe in me" (6:29)

B. Self Satisfaction 6:30-34

1. It is incredible that this crowd who had witnessed so many miracles of healing and Jesus multiplying the fish and bread only days earlier should now ask Jesus, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?" (6:30)

a. Their concept of "faith" was like most in this world, "prove it first, then I will believe".

b. This works backward however in the spiritual realm!

ILLUS: Most of us, in our desire for meaningful faith, seem to be saying to God: "Show me, and I'll believe!" This approach never works. God has made it very clear to us, in the life and teaching of his Son Jesus, that the process must be reversed. He is saying to us: "Believe in me, and I'll show you." -- John Powell, S.J., in Through Seasons of the Heart. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 2.

2. What they were really asking Jesus to do was to prove He was greater than Moses since they expected the Messiah to do MORE than Moses.

a. Moses provided bread for 3 million Jews, Jesus had only fed 5,000 men plus women and children.

b. Moses provided bread for 40 years, Jesus had only given them bread once.

c. Moses had given them bread from heaven, Jesus had used only earthly bread and multiplied it.

3. Essentially they were asking here for Jesus to prove He is the promised Messiah by starting up the MANNA again and meeting their physical needs in a greater way than Moses had done for Israel in the past.

a. In the next several verses Jesus explains how He is giving them greater bread than Moses…but they will have a hard time hearing this because they are thinking only with their stomachs, not their souls!

b. Do we do the same thing today? How much of our faith in God is based on our physical and material blessings?

c. How committed are we to Christ? Could we serve Him just as steadfastly if we didn't receive material blessings?

d. Is the strength of our walk with God based on Spirit or body?

4. Note that Jesus attempts first to correct their misconception about Moses, Jesus says that Moses was NOT the one to give them bread from heaven, that was God the father who had done that, they were giving credit to the wrong source! (6:32)

a. In this Jesus is telling them to look upward for their source of bread, not to a man like Moses.

b. He is promising them that they can find this bread in Him who is from heaven.

c. They then ask Jesus for this bread…but they are still thinking in natural terms not spiritual ones!

II. SAVIOR'S BIDDING 6:35-71

A. Savior's Secret 6:35-51

1. Jesus now clearly defines Himself as the "bread of life".

a. The MANNA in the Old Testament had only been a symbol of a greater reality to come in the Messiah.

b. They wanted bread…and here it stood before them!

2. There would never be "hunger" or "thirst" to those who come to Christ and partake of Him who is the living bread!

a. The use of the verb "I AM … the bread of life" is emphatic in Greek. Jesus identifies Himself as the only source of life, the ultimate "bread" for life.

b. He is the source of life!

3. Jesus is demonstrating to them that the secret is out, He is greater than Moses, and His provision of bread is better than Moses' like they expected!

a. Moses had provided bread for 3 million Jews, Jesus was providing bread for ALL mankind, His provision IS greater than Moses'!

b. Moses had provided bread (in their way of thinking) for 40 years, Jesus was the ETERNAL bread, His provision will last forever, so it is greater than Moses'!

c. Moses had given them bread from heaven, but that MANNA perished, as did their forefathers! Jesus IS the bread from heaven, and He will never perish and those who partake of Him will never perish either, so this is greater bread than Moses'! (6:48-49)

4. They expected the Messiah to be greater than Moses…and He IS!

a. unfortunately however, Jesus states that even though He makes this clear to them they still choose to NOT believe! (6:36)

b. Only those who accept this work of Christ's will be saved, all others will be lost even If they have all the physical bread in the world!

5. Indeed the MANNA from heaven had fallen, the secret is out! Jesus uses the expression that He had come "from heaven" in this chapter at least 10 times!!!

a. It is clear He is showing them He is the MANNA in the ultimate sense!

b. The Father had sent this "MANNA" to feed their souls, but they were only interested in their stomachs!

6. They begin to grumble, they wanted bread for the stomach, not the soul!

B. Savior's Sacrifice 6:52-59

1. Their failure to accept the spiritual nature of Jesus' claims here is so obvious by their blindness to see the spiritual application of Jesus' proclamation that al those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will live forever.

a. They take this in the literal sense like cannibalism!

b. Their stomachs so ruled their hearts they could not see the spiritual truth of Christ's upcoming sacrifice for their sins!

2. Tragically, so many of them would never see the truth and so never find meaning in their lives.

a. It is a sad truth that so many people will go through their life and never find meaning and significance.

b. Only Christ can give life eternal meaning and eternal life.

ILLUS: Two years ago, a woman in my audience wrote to invite me to visit her, if I could. A few weeks ago, I was in her home city, along with my teammate and my wife. The woman was suffering from AIDS and by that time was dying. She had come here two years ago knowing she had AIDS. She hungered for something more than she had found in life. She had found Christ and came here for the deeper teaching and enrichment.

When we walked into her apartment, she was absolutely surprised. I'll never forget her expression. Her mom and dad stood next to her with a friend. She looked like a bag of just bones--a pathetic sight. She muttered words of gratitude that we had come. We spoke with her and prayed with her. When I turned to leave, I noticed a book on her table: The Hunger for Significance by R. C. Sproul. In her loneliest moment, her greatest hunger was being filled, her hunger for significance. That's what our faith in Christ can do. People are able to endure life's unavoidable passages. Today she is with her Lord. -- Ravi Zacharias, "If the Foundations Be Destroyed," Preaching Today, Tape No. 142.

3. Jesus attempts to reason with them, if they only truly wanted MANNA like their forefathers, did they realize that their forefathers though they ate heavenly bread still died?

a. This Old Testament bread while a blessing only met their physical needs, it did not give them eternal life!

b. Christ however was superior bread, the bread that will give them eternal life and not just temporal life.

4. Christ was offering up His body and blood as the sacrifice for their salvation, they only had to partake of Christ as the bread of life to find salvation.

a. The call was to die to self, and embrace the savior!

b. They were being asked to take their priorities and make them eternal not temporal…something that they will find "hard to swallow" much like many people today!

C. Salvation Status 6:60-71

1. All these who at the moment considered themselves disciples found this call of Christ's a tough one!

a. They were too comfortable with the idea of having their temporal needs met to have to rearrange their lives into spiritual priorities.

b. Many of them rejected Christ's call here…and so, many disciples turned around and no longer followed Christ from this moment on. (see 6:66)

2. All they had to do was believe, but this was too "hard" for many of them!

3. They were more comfortable with the material realm than the spiritual.

a. We must guard against thinking that God's work is accomplished through just natural means!

b. The Church is supernatural, and its life comes from Christ, not clever programs…it is by the Spirit of God!

ILLUS: The late Dr. A. W. Tozer, author and pastor, said, "If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference." -- Alan Redpath in "Christian Life" magazine. Christianity Today, Vol. 29, no. 18.

4. Jesus asks the 12 if they too will walk away now that it has been made known to them that they need to accept spiritual realities over physical things.

a. Peter is the first to respond that he won't leave, that Jesus is the only source of eternal life!

b. Peter had found the truth and he was sticking with it!

c. No wonder Peter was so endearing to Jesus, even when impetuous, Peter did have a desire for spiritual things over the material so there was something God could work with here.

5. There was one in the 12 however, who would choose 30 pieces of silver over the bread of life in the future, and therefore forfeit the eternal life in Christ that could have been his.

a. If we reject this "bread" there remains no other source of eternal life.

b. Have you taken of this bread of life?

c. Is material MANNA your only interest, or has your soul had its met in Christ?

CONCLUSION: Like so many today, people in Jesus' day were willing to embrace Him as long as He fed them with material things, but when called to make a sacrificial commitment to Christ, they turned away. There is greater bread to live off of than what you get from the store! It is the bread of life who is the savior. Are you getting the right bread?