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Pentecost 13B: September 3, 2006 – The Bread of Life

02 Sep

Text: John 6:24-35

 The Bread of Life

Grace,
mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes
from the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Most of us
have heard the saying, “A cat has nine lives.” It’s not true. A cat has only one
life. Only human beings have, or are
meant to have
, more than one life. God intends that you and I have lives, plural. God intends that we have bodily life,
characterized by breathing, thinking, and muscular activity. He gives us this life through our
parents. God also intends that we have
spiritual life as well; the life of God Himself, characterized by loving God
with everything we’ve got and loving our neighbor as ourself. This life God gives us, and nourishes,
through Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Gospel message of salvation. In God’s design, we are to be born and then
be born again. In fact, unless the
second birth occurs, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus once told
Nicodemus.

Logically
then, designed for two kinds of life, bodily and spiritual, a human being needs
two kinds of bread, or food, bodily food and spiritual food. Today, we hear Jesus impress upon us this
truth: JESUS, THE BREAD OF LIFE, IS THE FOOD THAT ENDURES TO ETERNAL LIFE.

Today, we
may or not be overly concerned with what kind of food that we eat, just that
eat. A person on the street isn’t too
picky about eating scraps of food they find in the trash or leftover food that
a caring person gives to them. They eat
the food because that is the only food that they have at their disposal. Children, if given the choice, would probably
want to eat McDonald’s everyday over eating fruits and vegetables. What we fail to understand is that this is
food of the body; food that will ultimately pass away. What if we ate prime rib and filet mignon all
of our life? Will that sustain our souls? Of course not! But we don’t see it that way. We’d rather have the good food because for
some reason, we think that the better the food we have, the better live that we
will have. That, however is not true,
but it is sadly the way that some think. We need the bread that gives eternal spiritual life, not just the bread
that gives bodily life.

We need
daily food. This is evident from the
account of the feeding of the five thousand just prior to our text. This is evident from Israel’s need for food after they left Egypt;
God provided manna and quail to the Israelites in the wilderness. This is evident in the Fourth Petition of the
Lord’s Prayer; “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I’m a lover
of video games, ever since playing PONG for the first time. One of the video games that I’m playing now
is a game where people are stranded on a desert island. They need to build shelters, harvest food and
care for the sick. If they don’t have
enough food, it will say something like “Bob is worried about food.” In the game, Bob is worried about food for
the body, not food for the soul. We are
often like Bob, worried only about food for the body and not food for the
soul. We cannot live merely by bread
alone. Why not? Because we have another mouth to feed,
another life to sustain; our spiritual life.

When God
created the first people of the human race, He endowed them with both kinds of
life, bodily and spiritual. When Adam
and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they immediately lost their
spiritual life, the life of God. As God
had warned them, they died that very day – and eventually they would lose their
bodily life as well. By committing
spiritual suicide, our first parents spiritually murdered the whole human race
by causing sin to enter the world. Every
person born into this world since is alive in the body, but dead in the soul. David writes in Psalm 51, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from
the time my mother conceived me.”
Paul writes in Romans, “For the
wages of sin is death.”
We are
sinful from the start. With that sin
brings death. Every person born into
this world is sinful, whether we want to admit it or not. Every person in this world will die, whether
we want to admit it or not. That is a
reality due to what happened in the Garden of Eden. Damnation is what we deserve, hell is where
we are destined, game over. Fortunately
for us, what Paul wrote in Romans doesn’t end there. “For
the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus
our Lord.”

Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, came into our world as a human being to give us this
spiritual life again which was once ours. He achieved this goal by dying on the cross and by rising again from the
grave. This was something that was done for us, not by us! Even though
Jesus has made available the bread of life, His very body and blood for us, we
are still dead in our transgressions and sins. Just as a corpse cannot raise itself and come to the table for a meal,
so we are unable to raise ourselves and acquire the bread of life which gives us
spiritual life.

Yet for
some reason, we think we can. Even in
our text for today, those present asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” The rich young ruler asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The jailer at Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I
do to be saved?”
The answer to those
questions: nothing, we can do nothing to be saved, because salvation happens
from outside of us. Jesus tells us that “apart from me you can do nothing.” Nothing that we do or try to do will sustain
our souls. Only the bread of life, who
is Christ Jesus, can sustain us. Luther
tells us in the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I cannot
by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ…or come to Him.”

Only Jesus
can provide the bread that gives external spiritual life. Jesus warns us in our text, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for
food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
The food of this world is just that, of this
world. It’s materialism, worldliness,
pursuit only of the bread of this life. We gather all we can in this world to make us feel good about ourselves
or to fill some void in our lives. But
what good does it do us? We can’t take
it with us when we die. And the things
that we do have, they only get replaced by bigger and better items. But in the end, they do us no good. They can’t bring about salvation, they can’t
bring about forgiveness of sins and they can’t bring about life everlasting. Only the Son of Man can give us “food that endures to eternal life.”

The bread
of life that is given to us, we eat it when we partake of the means of grace:
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Whoever
eats this bread from heaven receives the “food
that endures to eternal life.”
We “will never go hungry.”

Since Jesus
is the bread of life and since He assures us that whoever eats this bread will
never go hungry, what shall we say to these things? What better response than the cry of our
text: “Sir, … from now on give us this
bread.”
In the name of Jesus, amen.

Now the
peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through
faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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