Exodus 16:1-21; John 6: 35-40
As you know, the gospel of John is highly symbolic and multi-layered. In John you never really know what’s what. When Matthew, Mark, or Luke say it’s dark, they mean you can’t see. When John says it’s dark, he means much more than physical darkness. Light is more than light. It is more of an awareness or a transformation. Water is not really water. Wind is more than wind. A door is more than wood and hinges. Bread is not only bread; it is life. Blindness is more than losing one’s sight. Jesus loves to use double-speak in the gospel of John. His words always meant deeper than what they seemed. Today’s reading from John chapter 6 is a great example of what I mean by Jesus’ double-speak.
The gospel of John introduces to us what theologians call the seven “I am” statements of Jesus. These are seven live changing truths. Here are the seven “I am” statements: I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48); I am the Light of the World (8:12, 9:5); I am the Gate for the Sheep (10:7); I am the Good Shepherd (10:11); I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6); and I am the True Vine (15:1). In our summer sermon series, we will be looking at these seven statements.
Why the Seven Statements of Jesus?
When someone says, “I am…,” it reveals something about their identity, about the core of their being, about what is most important to them and about them. For example, when I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m making a big, bold statement that my identity in Christ is what’s most important to me. So when Jesus says, “I am…,” we should pay close attention because He is pulling back the curtain on His glorious character. He is telling us something profoundly important – something we don’t want to miss. With that in mind, let’s spend some time savoring Jesus’, “I am,” statements. But before we look at the first statement, let us say something about the word structure.
I am Who I am
In these seven sayings of John’s gospel, Jesus uses a special phrase that doesn’t particularly come out in our English translations. They are the Greek words “Ἐγώ εἰμι” (Ego eimi) and they are used particularly in the Greek Old Testament when God is speaking about Himself. For example, when the Lord appears to Abraham in Genesis 17:1, He says “I am God Almighty.” Again, in Exodus 3:14 when the Lord appears to Moses in the burning bush and Moses asks what His name is, He says “I am who I am” – which is the root of the name Yahweh or Jehovah. The point I am trying to make here is simple yet profound: in these seven statements, Jesus isn’t claiming just to be a wise teacher or just a good man. He is saying He is God Himself. Jesus is the bread of life.
I Am the Bread of Life!
The first statement is found in John 6:35. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” The original audience of this first, “I am,” statement of Jesus would have had two things in mind. First, they had just seen Jesus miraculously feed a massive, teeming, ravenous crowd using nothing but a few loaves and fishes. Second, it brought to their memories as a nation the incident when God had miraculously provided bread in the desert for the people of Israel. But here is the thing: Both the feeding of the crowd and the manna in the wilderness were intended to point to a greater reality. Jesus Christ Himself is the Bread of Life. What does this mean to us today?
First: Jesus is our Greatest Need
Most people today may think they need more stuff. They think they need more money to feel secure, or happy. They think they need more money to be satisfied and fulfilled. You know what happens when we get the money. We are not happy as we thought. We are not secure. We are not satisfied with all the wealth we’ve acquired over the years. We all have a hunger in our hearts for God — an empty place in our souls that only Christ can fill. It was Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) who said, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
Friends, let’s not be deceived by the many voices that urge us to take a wrong road, no matter how glamorous or famous those voices seem to be. Instead, let’s make Christ the center of our life. God’s Word in Isaiah 55:2-3 is true: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?… Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.”
Bread nourishes. This is a simple yet the most profound truth we encounter here in John chapter 6. Bread nourishes. It works. It satisfies. It eases the pangs of hunger. It gives us nourishment that we need day in and day out. Back then, in the days of Jesus, as it is the same today in the Middle East, bread was the staff of life; it formed the basis of every meal. You can hardly eat a meal without bread.
In fact, even today, bread is so central to most tables. How many of you have eaten bread in the past 24 hours? Any kind of bread: gluten free, whole grain, bagels, biscuits, tortillas, crackers, injera, baguette, pita, challah, quick bread, English muffin, regular muffin… Most of us, yes? Bread is so central to most tables in the world.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” There is no substitute for Jesus. If He is in our lives, He is feeding our lives with joy, peace, and love. But if He’s not in our lives, an unceasing hunger pervades. There’s an emptiness that can’t be satisfied. There’s a steady sense of anxiety and unease and confusion.
Friends, Jesus is the “Bread of Life.” He feeds us. He fills us. He satisfies us. Do you know how this happen? It happens through faith. It is faith that joins us to Christ. Faith is the spoon and fork of the Christian life. Faith is the mouth of the soul. I would like to encourage you today to come closer and find full nourishment on Christ, the Great I am, the Bread of Life, not for a day or an hour but for eternity.
My hope in the next few Sundays is to help us as individuals and as a congregation to discover or rediscover Jesus in anew. He is the Bread to feed upon, the Light to follow, the Door to enter, the Shepherd to guide, the Resurrection upon which to wait, the Way of salvation to trust, and the Vine in which to abide. In 1745 William Williams, the Welsh composer and Calvinist theologian, wrote, “Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more; Feed me till I want no more.” May this line become your cry and mine today. In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, June 23rd, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor