Sunday 3rd January 2020

John Chapter 6:1-35

‘I am the bread of life…’

Well, 2021 is here.  I heard at least one person say they were staying up to midnight on 31st not so much to see in the new year, more to make sure 2020 was over! And what about New Year’s resolutions? I did came across an article that recommended what it called, ‘A Positive Plan’ – not dissimilar to resolutions – here are some of the recommendations, you may find some of these helpful:

  • GET MOVING: Exercise is always good, whether it’s a lap around the lighthouse or a lap around your living room…exercise is always good…
  • EAT WELL: Again, always important, always good for us…
  • SET NEW TARGETS: Big or small – from learning a new language to trying out a new recipe – pushing ourselves can give us a helpful new focus and can be good fun!
  • The Positive Plan also suggests – DON’T WORRY ABOUT DOING IT BADLY: This one links to the one above – that is, don’t wait until you think it’s the perfect time to try something – don’t listen to that inner voice that chatters away saying things like, ‘You could never do that’ etc. If you want to try something – go for it!
  • AND REMEMBER IT’S GOOD TO TALK: Of course, it’s not possible to meet up as we’d like, but don’t let that stop you chatting on the phone, via FaceTime and WhatsApp, even on the doorstep –talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to your dog – it’s always good to talk!
  • So, get moving, eat well, set some new targets, don’t worry about doing it badly, and remember it’s good to talk!

A Positive Plan for a new year – and it’s also a positive plan that also fits beautifully with a life of faith – but we’ll get back to that…

Today, we focus on one of the great ‘I Am’ sayings of John’s Gospel. These are simple but profound declarations Jesus made about Himself, each one revealing something of who Jesus is and what that means for this world. In John Chapter 6:35, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Now, there is a lot wrapped up in those words as they point us to:

  • How God provides for His people, His generosity, His loving care, the sheer abundance of His love,
  • Jesus also linked this saying specifically to the miraculous feeding of God’s people in the desert back in the time of the Exodus and to the recent feeding of the 5000 on the hillside,
  • In this simple saying, ‘I am the bread of life’, just six words, Jesus takes the ordinary and the everyday and applies it in a hope-filled and extraordinary way,
  • A way with profound implications for you and for me…

Now that’s a lot to unpack, but before we do, let’s take a moment to pray:

Heavenly Father, Once again we want to thank you for this opportunity to ponder Your precious Word. May this familiar but profound saying from John’s Gospel speak to us in fresh and new ways. Open our hearts to all You would say to us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Way back at the time of the Exodus the Bible tells us that God rescued His people from the clutches of the wicked Pharaoh and set them on a journey to a special land He would give them, the Promised Land. He gave them a leader for that journey, the man of His choice, Moses, and God Himself pointed the way by a cloud in the daytime and fire in the sky at night. God even miraculously provided food in the desert – honey-sweet bread, fresh every morning, with more than enough for everyone…And God said, “You will be filled with bread…then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” Exodus 16:11. So, here we see God’s generosity and His loving care and how that should have drawn His people closer to Him…

Step forward thousands of years to a mountainside and another hungry crowd…they too will be miraculously fed, this time by the ultimate man of God’s choice. Jesus, God’s own Son. Picture the scene:

All day long, Jesus had given himself to the crowd. It was late in the day now and we’re told Jesus and His disciples tried to slip away and rest, but the crowd came after them… they had seen other miraculous signs, they had witnessed healings, and they were hungry for more…Jesus seizes the moment to minister to the crowd and to test the faith of His disciples…Turning to Philip He asks, ‘Where shall we buy food for these people to eat?’

You can almost imagine Philip taking a pencil from behind his ear and a notebook from his pocket and doing a few calculations, 5000 people times bread for everyone, equals impossible! It can’t be done!  Andrew, another of the disciples, goes to a little more trouble to search for a solution. He finds a boy with five flat loaves and a couple of small fish but even Andrew is overwhelmed by the task before them and exclaims, ‘But how far will they go amongst so many!’ Andrew and Philip see an impossible situation. But what they don’t see is that impossibilities are solved by miracles, and so the stage is set:

  • Jesus turns to the boy. He doesn’t have much, bread made from barley, not wheat, salted-down sardines, it is the food of the poor, but it will be enough.
  • I imagine the Lord flashing a smile as he instructs the disciples to have the people sit down – no easy task in itself.
  • Once that’s in place, the Lord takes that little packed lunch and gives thanks. Can’t you just imagine the disciples looking at each other as each one thinks, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ They had no idea of the sheer abundance they were about to witness…
  • Jesus then multiplied the meagre offering. He broke the food again and again and again…
  • He divided that lunch many thousand times over and each person received more than a little, each person received ‘as much as they wanted’.
  • Generosity and abundance, these are the things that are at the very heart of the Gospel…
  • There were even leftovers…Jesus not only fed them…this was an ‘eat all you want’ banquet, and at a time when hunger was common place this was perhaps the first time in a long time that many went to home on a full stomach.

Two miraculous feedings – one in the desert and one on a hillside – what are we to make of all this? There are many layers of meaning here:

At its simplest level, people were hungry, and they were fed. God provided manna in the desert and Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes on that hillside. God loves us and cares for us, and in these two miraculous events we witness that loving care – all were included, no one left out…

Take it up a level, and we see on that hillside a little boy willingly gave all he had. The application can simply but crucially be, when we are prepared to give all we have to Jesus, our time, our talents, our commitment, miracles can happen. It’s like miracle maths with Jesus – to do what we can – to give what we have – then allow the Lord to multiply it. Jesus accepted that little lunch and He multiplied it. Miracle maths!

But what’s the next level of understanding? Jesus Himself gives this to us…

Firstly, not long after, Jesus pointed back to the manna in the desert, reminding those listening of what happened there, “The real significance of what happened”, teaches Jesus, “Is not that Moses gave the bread from heaven but [and this is where Jesus takes things up a level], that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread…the Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world” (John 6:32-33) 

The followers jump in asking, “Give us this bread!” And we know how Jesus replies, “I am the bread of life…” In Jesus, we have the once and for all gift of life:

  • Jesus, through His Word at work in our lives, feeds and nourishes our very souls.
  • And this is not for an exclusive group – this invitation is for all who accept the gift of new life that Jesus offers – this is for you and this is for me – Jesus said, “My Father’s will is that everyonewho looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.” John 6:40
  • To hear Jesus say, ‘I am the bread of life’, is to have our hearts warmed on a winter’s day – for these are words of hope, of life, of generosity…Words that speak of the sheer abundance of a life in Christ…
  • Not because we deserve it, but because of God’s love, and because of all Christ has already done, dying on the Cross for you and me. Jesus the bread of life broken on Calvary’s hill so that a hungry, lost and grumbling world could know forgiveness and new life, now and forever, praise God…

2021 – Now, what about that Positive Plan?

  • GET MOVING: Laps around the lighthouse, laps around the room, but what about moving on in your life in Christ? Why not take time this week to reflect – Do you know more about God today that you did this time last year? What have you learned? How have you moved on? And how can you keep moving on in your life of faith?’ Get moving, keep moving on with God…
  • EAT WELL: Do you remember what Jesus said on this? “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4 So, eat well – nourish yourself on God’s Word…
  • SET NEW TARGETS: What about setting a January target for your Bible reading? Maybe read through the Gospel of John or do some digging around the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus…Maybe write them out, stick them on your fridge. Get out your Ipad or phone, type in the ‘I Am sayings’ and up they’ll pop – Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life, light of the world, the door and the gate, the Good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth and the life, the true vine…’
  • DON’T WORRY ABOUT DOING IT BADLY: Never let lack of confidence keep you from God. He wants to hear from you today!
  • And of course, IT’S GOOD TO TALK: Talk to God every day, talk to others about God. Why not phone someone up and tell them about the I Am’s…
  • A POSITIVE PLAN – The possibilities are endless…

This time last year, we had little clue what the year would hold, and none of us knows what lies ahead this year, but hopefully and prayerfully, better days are ahead. But whatever they hold, we know Jesus, the great ‘I am’, will be with us every step of the way.

Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, You are the extraordinary One, we are just ordinary people. But what we have we offer You now; our God-given gifts and talents, our time, all that we have and are…Take us and use us we pray, and all for Your glory. Amen.