Eat Jesus

Eat Jesus

John 6: 43-60 I haven’t copied the passage here simply because it is so long, you need to read it. But the response was this:

v43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered…

v52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

v60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Here is what Jesus was saying:

  • The Father draws people to Jesus.
  • Jesus raises them on the last day.
  • If you have gone to the Father then you have first gone to Jesus.
  • Only Jesus has seen the Father.
  • Jesus is the bread of life.
  • Eat Jesus and you will not die.
  • Eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood and you will have eternal life.
  • His flesh is real food.
  • His blood is real drink.
  • Eat his flesh and drink his blood and you remain in him and he in you.
  • Feed on Jesus and live.
  • Feed on this bread and live forever.

That’s simple isn’t it?

They grumble and argue and struggle, not to understand it, but to accept it.

And so do we? But the difference is we struggle to understand it also.

We squabble over its meaning. Is it speaking of the sacraments? If so is this transubstantiation (the conversion of the bread and wine into the physical body and blood of Christ) or is this symbolic and referring to having a relationship with Jesus, giving him your all?

Greater minds have understood this better than I can this morning.

Here’s my thoughts this morning as I ponder on these truly amazing but confusing verses:

  • The Jewish leaders thought they were the way to God the Father. But they were wrong. Neither they nor their Jerusalem Temple was the way. Jesus is still the only way.
  • The way to the Father was apparently through the sacrificial system. They would sacrifice the animals and the blood would be poured on the altar for God. In their practice, beliefs and culture, God would consume the blood and they laid the flesh of the animal and other food also out on the altar for God to eat. For generations this was completely understood and the only way to the Father.
  • God has turned the tables. Man cannot get to God that way. Imagine with me this conversation from God: “You can’t come to me, I have come down to you. I am not the one who will eat and drink your animal sacrifices. I have come to be the perfect sacrifice and to lay on the altar myself. Who is doing this? It is Jesus who will do it. Instead of me drinking and eating from you, you are invited to eat and drink from me.”
  • Of course this smashes the whole sacrificial system to pieces! No wonder they become offended! They totally understood what Jesus was saying.
  • Today thank Jesus that He did it all and laid down His life as a sacrifice once and for all. He invites us to the altar and when we get there it’s not our work nor our sacrifice that counts. That’s not the way to eternity. He’s not going to be feasting on that. It’s His sacrifice. That’s the big deal. That’s the true feast. It is us who eat and drink.

Outer wrapping

Outer wrapping

John 6: 36-42 “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

 

In 2-days I am leading an important conference. I know how important first impressions are: the welcome, seating, banners, music, sound, media, heating, food, drinks, etc. If this goes wrong then what follows may not be heard.

The outward wrapping is the human story.

The more important that becomes then you will make the precious and divine gift inside ordinary and explanatory.

They knew his human story so how can Jesus be from heaven?

What is the outward wrapping that prevents you from seeing or hearing the divine? Have you ever focused on the ridiculous tie the preacher was wearing instead of listening to what was being preached?

We discard quickly.

We judge at first sight a book by its cover.

But there are times when God ordains the wrapping to be ordinary and human, born to Joseph and Mary, so that step towards and into the divine becomes a true and genuine advance into life.

Even a dog gets used to things

Even a dog gets used to things

John 6 v 35 “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Last evening I watched the BBC drama, The Windermere Children. It tells of the true story of the child survivors of the Nazi Holocaust who arrive at the Calgarth Estate by Lake Windermere with only the clothes they wear and a few meagre possessions. We now call it therapy, for 4 months the children entered a rehabilitation programme of art and physical exercise led by the German Jewish analyst and social worker, Oscar Friedman.

There’s a striking scene at the first dinner when the children see the bread placed in front of them and they all rush off, before the traditional blessing can be said, snatching the bread, hiding it in their rooms and wolfing down small scraps they’ve torn off.

Those still alive are now obviously in their 80s and 90s, but one of them, Arek, recalls, ‘I remember the way we all grabbed at the bread,’ he says. ‘We’d hide it under the mattress and the people who looked after our rooms kept finding mouldy bread. We thought the food might suddenly stop.’ Another, Sam, who was imprisoned in four camps – Blizin, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Theresienstadt – nods in agreement, ‘I had bicycle clips on my trousers and I’d put the bread down my trousers,’ he recalls. Then he said the most interesting thing, ‘Eventually we realised the bread wasn’t going to end. Even a dog gets used to things.’

Across the world and for thousands of years bread is central to every culture and most religions. In Buddhist ceremonies they place it on incense burners to honour the dead. After Ramadan moves into a feast the Muslims bake their bread. For the Jews, bread is everything, mentioned numerous times in the Torah. Of course for Christians we will take bread during our Communion services and the birthplace of our Saviour means the ‘House of Bread’, Bethlehem.

But most of us will never know what it feels like to think there will be no more bread.

I’ve just read a moving story of an Indian lady who sold her hair for £1.50 because after her husband committed suicide because of mounting debts, she had nothing left to feed her children. Hunger will make us act in the most desperate of ways.

Is your bread running out today?

Are you fearing it is going to run out and tomorrow you won’t have anything?

Are you trying to make your own bread because you don’t think you can ask Jesus again?

The response of Jesus is to a prayer that we need to pray every day of our lives:

V34 “Always give us this bread.”

“Give me you today”

You won’t go hungry if you continually come to Jesus.

Once we realise that Jesus continues to supply who He is to us, that He is new every morning and He rises every day giving life, purpose and hope, then we will stop hiding in fear, for even dogs get used to things.

 

The lessons of miracles and signs

The lessons of miracles and signs

John 6:25-34

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

  • If you have received a blessing, a gift, an opportunity, an answer to prayer, it is possible that you become so fixated with it that you miss what is hidden behind that blessing.
  • Don’t marvel what you see but search for what is behind it. What is unseen is often the real blessing what God wants to give you.
  • The blessing will often fade but what is behind it will remain if discovered.

These are the lessons of miracles and signs.

So let’s unpack this conversation Jesus was having:

V26 The sign lies within the miracle. Within the work of Jesus (the feeding of the 5,000) is the identity of Jesus.

V27 If you miss the sign within the miracle (the identity within the work) it is like receiving your salary with imperishable food (in their culture as today in many nations people are paid not just with money). However if you receive the sign, his identity, then the opposite is true, your wages are food that never perishes (eternal).

V28 They definitely want the end result. They want the imperishable, the eternal food. But they miss the point. It is seen in their question and the thought that a person doesn’t receive anything without working for it. What must we do to do that work?

V29 Again the answer lies within. The work is to believe not only in God, that was a given, they had received that, steeped in their culture, but to believe in the one (Jesus) whom God has sent.

V30 Incredulously, having already eaten the miraculous bread, they ask for proof. They want him to do something again. They ask for a sign. They are wanting to see what is hidden behind him, who Jesus is, they see the miracles, but they cannot see the signs. How fickle! They had just wanted to make him king. But of course this is proof it would have been an earthly king. They wanted to use him for their benefit. They again compare Jesus with Moses and the stories of old.

V31-33 Jesus points out their ancestors did not follow Moses (the miracle-worker) but God (the sign). The manna (the miracles) was actually the bread of God (the sign). Therefore, complain and reject the manna and you grumble and walk away from God.

V34 Wanting the sign (the bread of God) may be applaudable if the motive had been correct! And we will see over the coming days nothing could be further from the truth as Jesus presses into their motives.

Look around you today. Look at all the things you have been blessed with. Maybe even in the last few days.

  • What are the hidden treasures within this outer blessing?
  • What does God want you to learn and discover and develop, keep looking?
  • We often say ‘what is God teaching me?’ when we go through the trials of life but there is a lesson in every blessing. What good is the miracle if we don’t see the sign pointing to Jesus? What good is the sign if it doesn’t lead us to kneel in awe of Him and to discover more of who He is?

These are the lessons of miracles and signs.

 

The journey across the sea

The journey across the sea

John 6: 15-24

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. 22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.”

 

The Jewish people were not known for being great sea-travellers. They viewed the sea as supernaturally dark, fearful, sinful and chaotic.

Here is a story of the sea. The sea of Galilee is today 14 miles long and 8 miles wide. Matthew and Mark also tell the same story and all 3 gospel writers place this story after the feeding of the 5,000 which was the story linking to the marvellous provision of heavenly manna to God’s people on their journey in the wilderness. The link with Moses having been made we then move to a miraculous story of the sea. Can you remember a miraculous sea story of Moses?!

This is an incredible story.

I remember a Bible College student who wanted to be like Jesus and who tried this very same miracle of walking on the water of the swimming pool at the college. Unable to swim thankfully there were lifeguards on duty who managed to dive in and rescue him. He hadn’t at that stage mastered this miracle but I admire his attempt!

This story is not only a supernatural event, it is a teaching event.

  1. There is a journey of obedience.

Our lives are journeys. There are times when our obedience to the Lord doesn’t feel like He is with us.

Jesus was on the mountain and they were 3-4 miles into the lake. They had expected that Jesus would have joined them by now, rowing alongside in his own little boat, but it had now fallen dark and there is no sight of him. Maybe they began to question each other over whether Jesus did say he would join them.

Obedience doesn’t mean you are going to be blessed by His presence. Obedience can be lonely. You may wake up to go to work today because you are being obedient to the place God has put you. You may wonder why you are doing it, you may think the feeling of absence of the presence of God is an indicator He doesn’t want you to do this, but nothing could be further than the truth. Simply, the journey of obedience is a lonely road at times.

  1. The journey of invitation

In that obedience road it can get worse than lonely. You can have very bad days when your life is knocked about by the wind and waves. In the chaos of the day or the sleepless night when your head is raging with noise it may be that you can experience His presence. You may attribute it to an enemy at first that things are getting worse but if you listen you will hear Him speak comforting words, ‘I am here, I am with you.’ Then your journey has moved from obedience to invitation welcoming the presence of Christ into your journey and life. When that happens it is amazing how quick things can move and you may well have moved to a new chapter of your life before you know it and the storms of life become the past stories.

  1. The journey of pursuit

The crowd are puzzled. They had head-counted the disciples into the boat the previous day and they definitely knew Jesus was not on that boat. But there was only one boat. They were searching for the miracle-worker, their Moses. They knew if they found the disciples they would find Jesus. Even if their motive was wrong they show us their desire, their pursuit of the Messiah. There are people today who need the Lord. They need a Saviour and they know it. They need a miracle worker and they know it. Do they think if I find the Church I find what I am looking for?

Only John puts a small but wonderful detail which answered the problem of getting the crowd across the lake. Boats arrived! What we know is that when people seek the Lord then help will come to aid that desire. Pursue him today and provision will come to help you get near him.

The left-over teaching of Jesus

The left-over teaching of Jesus

John 6: 12-15

“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

Was this gathering of all the left-overs a ‘keep the countryside clean’ campaign? Was it because the Jews believed it was sinful to throw food away?

Maybe the reason is found in what Jesus will reveal later when he says ‘I am the Bread of Life’.

What went out to the 5,000 that day was fragments of the Bread of Life.

The Gospel writers gathered the pieces of Jesus’ life and his teachings and they formed them into a narrative, preserving them so that even to this day we feast daily on the left-overs.

Jesus did not want them to forget his miracles and teaching.

John preserved the I am sayings: I am the Bread of Life, I am the Light of the world, I am the Sheep gate, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Resurrection and the Life, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, I am the True Vine, Before Abraham was born I AM. At the end of the gospel he will say there was simply so much that there are not enough books in the world to record them all.

Today as you read the Bible, as you hear it preached, we are doing what Jesus told the disciples to do. We are gathering the left-overs that remain of his life here on earth. And if like me there isn’t a day when you fail to marvel and be filled to capacity with a fragment then it only serves to point to a feast of knowing Him one day soon.

 

The Power of thankfulness.

The Power of thankfulness.

John 6: 10 “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”

You may not like who you are, your life shape, your age. You may feel insignificant and worthless. But give YOU to HIM, to the miracle worker.

Give HIM your mind, your heart, your material things.

When the head of the Church gave thanks for what was in HIS hand you knew something was going to happen.

When the Church gives thanks for what it has and who they are and the town and city they belong to then something is going to begin to happen.

Stop complaining. Try thanking. It just may work!

Sit your problem down

Sit your problem down

John 6: 10 “Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).”

If you are facing a huge challenge today find a new perspective.

Five thousand men all standing up, walking around plus we presume women and children running around looks chaotic.

How did they know there were about that number? Mark and Luke recall the crowd were also put into groups of 50 and 100.

Sit your problem down today. Don’t let it become any bigger than it is.

And don’t forget the grass. Old man John didn’t, even after many years he remembers the grass. He makes me lie down in green pastures.

Your life can be painted differently. The landscape can be changed. You may still need to address the problem but bringing some calming order to it will be a great start.

 

Small things in the hands of a Big God.

Small things in the hands of a Big God.

John 6: 8-9 “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

That’s all Jesus had to work with.

There wasn’t much placed into his hands.

5 loaves and 2 titbits of fish which were no more than a garnish to cover the bread compared to the huge need of feeding 5,000 men plus women and children.

In comparison to the need it was small, mere crumbs, but never under-estimate what Jesus can do with the crumbs of life!

You may describe your life like crumbs today for whatever reason; you are the left-overs of a better past but God specialises in using cast-offs and left-overs.

God will build with whatever and whoever you have become.

I don’t understand it but God is a master at using small things.

You may be in a gigantic problem with 5,000 people to feed.

Put who you are and what you have into the hands of Jesus and see what He does.

 

Jesus can do it

Jesus can do it

John 6: 5-7 “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Two crowds of people separated by history. Following two deliverers. Moses was not the Messiah, he would only write about him, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” (5:46)

But during the Moses years the crowd miraculously found food and the story was still etched in the minds of the 5,000 men plus women and children following Jesus. He knew the connection, the parallel stories and he knew that just as God tested His people in the wilderness so he must begin to test the hearts of those following him.

The test to Philip is a simple question. Philip is from this area (1:44) and is asked, “Where can we buy food?”

The one who has already turned water into wine asks Philip where they can get food.

Here is the right answer: “Lord you know you are able to provide.”

But Philip thought only in terms of how.

He did not understand the identity of Jesus. If only what he had said previously had truly changed him at this point, ““We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:45). He had found Jesus but not understood what that meant.

Today it may feel there is a great crowd pressing on you, expectations and hopes that you will be able to provide what they are wanting from you. How will I get through this? What will I do? Where do I go?

The question is still the same: who is Jesus?

Can you resist coming up with your own ideas?

Can you turn to the one you are following and realise Jesus can?