John 6: 35-59 I am the Bread of Life
What do you depend upon?
Jesus give us two images in our passage this morning:
and the Flesh.
This morning I am speaking about the Bread. This evening at Evensong I am going to speak about the Flesh! Please do come and hear Part 2 of today’s talk at 6pm Evensong at St Mary’s Avington.
Have you ever been hungry? One of the privileges of my generation is that we have never been really hungry.
As many of you will know I spent some time in the Army. One of the delights of the Army were the biscuits that they issued with the ration packs: ‘Biscuits, Hard Tack’. They were pretty disgusting, but when you were hungry they were wonderful! My best man Piers who was in the Welsh Guards in the Falklands War found that his soldiers were chucking out these biscuits. He collected them up and put them in his rucksack. 24 hours later when the rations had not come up, he reissued them and they were delighted!
Most of us have never been anywhere close to starving thus we tend not to know know how much we depend on food.
When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus, he led them into the desert. They soon ran out of food and were starving.
When you don’t have food for several days, nothing else is important until you have some. The Israelites in the wilderness absolutely knew upon what they depended and it was bread and water…these were the essentials for life
in the empty desert and God (through Moses) wonderfully provided manna,
a sort of heavenly bread.
In our reading Jesus, in a parallel of Moses’ action, in providing the manna has just fed the 5000. But then, in a curious twist, Jesus says that he himself
is the bread that came down from heaven: (verse 35)
“I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me
will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me,
will never be thirsty.
What is he saying?
The problem with bread and water is once we have eaten and drunk it, we will be hungry and thirsty again. But Jesus is saying that those who come to him
will never be hungry and never be thirsty again.
So he is clearly talking about depending upon something other than regular bread and water.
He is talking about the sense of need that we have, however much we have eaten. He is talking about the hungry heart, not the hungry belly.
We are built by God with a yearning for something which we need to flourish……..As it says in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 “God has set eternity
in the human heart” and as the great theologian St Augustine of Hippo wrote
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”.
That restlessness has led us to depend upon every possible physical, material and spiritual means of filling the inner emptiness of the heart.
We have in our times placed a chasing after riches, possessions, booze, drugs, power and sex as the principal occupation of man and woman and we have called it ‘choice’, but we still remain unhappy…we are still not flourishing.
But Jesus’ claim is that if we turn to him we need never ever have that hungry heart again: he is the Bread of Life, we can depend on him.
We can depend on Jesus, the Bread.
We can depend upon the Bread.
And this is where we come onto our baptism today.
Today Amelia is being formally welcomed into the world. But she is also being welcomed into the family of Christians who depend on the Bread of Life; who fill the yearning in their hearts with Christ; and not with the things that the rest of the world spend their lives chasing after. As a mark of this welcome, she is given the Christian name that she will carry for the rest of her life.
Baptism is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It’s like an iceberg: there is more to it than you can see on the surface. Amelia is being welcomed into the family of Jesus Christ: the Son of God the Creator of the whole universe. By marking her head with the Cross and by baptising her with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus is saying “this one is for me and I will guide her and protect her, if she will let me”.
By arranging for Amelia to be baptized as a Christian today, Vincent and Georgina are making a choice for Amelia that represents the best possible start that she can have in life: a start in a family who seek to depend on Jesus the bread of life; who seek to depend upon the bread. A family whose lives are not led by a yawning ache for meaning, but rather a family in which the choices and decisions which are made will be informed by a Christian view of the world.
Later, we will light a candle for Amelia which is a symbol both of Jesus Christ who is the light in a dark world but also of the spiritual light which is being placed in Amelia today by God.
It is a spiritual light of relationship with Jesus, which, if encouraged and protected by Vincent and Georgina and by her godparents, will, I believe, one day light the way for many and have a huge impact on people far and near.
Parents and godparents kindle and encourage the spiritual light lit in Amelia today: by prayer and by personal example, help her to learn the difference between right and wrong as Christ teaches all of us and bring her, as an adult, to the Bishop to take ownership, by confirmation of her relationship with Jesus Christ.
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. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.