[Note: I underline Scripture in my manuscripts to make certain I read it word for word. I’ve left it underlined below to avoid confusion, since I’m reading through all of John 6]
I posted this comic this week in a Far Side group. For those of you who don’t recognize it, who were born like last year, this is a comic strip called The Far Side. I see two schools of thought on interpretation here. First, people running amok in the world are an accident. We were supposed to stay in a bottle in God’s chemistry set, but God bumped us with an elbow, knocked us off, and the rest is history. The second is God intended to set us loose, but wasn’t actually finished fine tuning us yet, which would also explain a lot. I understand this is not 100% theologically accurate with the Genesis account of Creation. But it is funny. If it isn’t funny to you, um…
We’re starting a series today on Sharing Jesus. I want to tell you this is not a series on evangelism, but it is…but it isn’t. Evangelism is sharing Jesus, but Sharing Jesus is greater than evangelism.
So people think
If Sharing Jesus and Evangelism are concentric circles, evangelism is the small circle within sharing Jesus.
We’re doing a series on Sharing Jesus, the Big Circle. We’ll address evangelism in several ways, but I’m hoping we’ll understand it as part of the larger, more expansive view, the Life of Sharing Jesus.
Okay, if that’s not enough Big Picture for you, I’ll do one more. There are different ways to conceptualize, to picture what all of Life is about. One is to say “All of Life is Worshiping God.” And that’s true. We don’t just have an hour and half of worship on Sunday morning; we followers of Jesus worship God with our whole lives, every minute. That’s our calling and we’re learning to make every aspect of our lives worship. Another perspective is that all of Life is discipleship to Jesus. Life on earth, for us, is learning to follow Jesus, every minute of every day (plus every night, in my case), so we can conceptualize Life as discipleship, learning to live the calling, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” There are strengths and weaknesses to each view. I would say each is true, and useful to think about to help us to grasp that there is no life apart from God; we’re not part-time followers of Jesus. Jesus is our life. C.S. Lewis writes:
“What cannot be admitted–what must exist only as an undefeated but daily resisted enemy–is the idea of something that is ‘our own,’ some area in which we are to be ‘out of school,’ on which God has no claim… When we try to keep within us an area of our own, we try to keep an area of death…”
(As always, when I quote C.S. Lewis I’m tempted to read the entire book or essay to you, but I won’t. Read “A Slip of the Tongue” in The Weight of Glory. Please.)
So if you want to understand what this series is about, “Sharing Jesus” is another way to understand that Jesus is our whole lives and must be our whole lives. Imperfectly, of course, because that’s us, and grace abounds, but this is always our intention. Our lives are to be Sharing Jesus, sharing in Jesus, sharing Jesus with one another as community, sharing Jesus with our world, those who don’t know Jesus and those who know Jesus.
Reading from John 6:
6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
This is one dividing line for people who do and don’t believe in Jesus: do you believe that God literally made more bread and fish, that Jesus multiplied the food so that there was enough for everyone or is this more of a symbolic “multiplication,” in which people shared uncharacteristically because they were inspired by Jesus’ example to be generous? In other words, do you believe in miracles or do you not? Do you prefer to explain events in other ways? Personally, I think John wrote it this way to prevent other explanations. We know how many fish and how many loaves they started with and John says specifically, “So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets” Five barley loaves, whole, don’t fill twelve baskets. John doesn’t say, “and from what everyone pitched in, there were twelve baskets left.” No. From the five barley loaves, all five thousand people ate their fill, and twelve baskets of bread were left over. Likewise the two fish went around: “So also the fish, as much as they wanted.”
Then disciples got into a boat to cross the Sea of Capernaum and Jesus walked on the water. Lots of sermons in that, but I’m not focusing there today except to say that’s how they got across the water. Only the folks in the boat saw Jesus do this, and I don’t think you’d forget it if you were there and saw it with your own eyes. Miracles.
The Bread from Heaven.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave 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 that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Just to summarize, those people who enjoyed that miraculous feast come looking for Jesus, which is understandable to me. Jesus says, “you’re looking for me because you liked that feeling of having a full tummy, not because you saw a miracle, an act of God. Don’t put your energy into just getting food that will eventually go bad; pour yourself into getting the food that will last forever, the food only I can give you.” The people kind of miss the point and ask, “So what works of God, what actions of ours to obey God’s Law, do we gotta do? What will qualify as the right obedience on our part?”
Jesus says, “Believe in the one God sent. That’s the work of God which will give you life.”
Then the people are like, “Well, what sign are you going to give us to prove it? Because our ancestors received manna, so what do you got?” And I just think, isn’t this funny and exactly what we’re like? Yesterday, something crazy and inexplicable happened and this much food fed a massive crowd. I had a great meal yesterday and today I’m asking, “What are you going to show me?” When I’m having conversations with God about whether he will provide for us, I’m sure I sound exactly like this. “Just because you always have provided, God, why would I think you will today?” And God is patient and answers me.
Jesus, in the same was, is patient and answers, “Yeah, that manna wasn’t from Moses, but from my Father”—Jesus is big on the my Father thing—“because my Father sends the true bread, the bread from heaven, that gives life to the world.”
Now the people are intrigued. Who wouldn’t be? True bread! Life-giving bread! “Yeah, multiply that, Jesus. Let’s see it! I’ll have seconds! Give it to us always.”
And Jesus says, “Yes, I will give you that bread always. Absolutely.” What is that bread?
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.”
So that’s the Gospel, right? Anyone who comes to Jesus, Jesus will receive and never drive away. Jesus is doing the Father’s will, that if you see the Son and believe in him you have eternal life, and you will join Jesus in his resurrection. You will overcome Death. Jesus will atone for your sins (that’s part of believing in him).
But the crowd doesn’t love this answer:
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’?”
So Jesus, being Jesus, reads their thoughts, knows their conversation among themselves, and pushes it a lot farther:
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.”
It’s not just that Jesus is the bread from heaven that God sent into the world to give people life; to believe in Jesus means that you have to eat of this bread.
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.
Remember, they started out saying, “Sir, give us this bread always.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. [Remember they asked “What must we do to perform the works of God?” This is the answer. There is nothing. You can do. To give yourself life. Jesus. Gives. Life.] The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
“Sir, give us this bread always. No, wait, I don’t want the bread like that.” Literally, Jesus taught this and they bailed on him. Cause and effect. “Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”
And now we’re down to it. We’ve gone through this whole chapter to get here: “Do you also wish to go away?”
Simon Peter has his moments. He rebukes Jesus when Jesus talks about being betrayed and crucified, to which Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan.” But here, Peter answers just the way we hope we would in that situation. Truthfully, I have reached this conclusion, many times, when I’ve come to crossroads in my life with God of “This teaching—this suffering—this life is hard! Who can accept it?” In the end, my only real answer is, “Jesus, where else would I go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Sharing Jesus. The first thing, the primary thing, the thing we have to say for anything else in this series to make sense, is: There is no life without Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life. We share the bread of life together. With one another, we share the bread of life. We share Jesus. Together.
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.
Do you believe in miracles? Because I believe this is one. We’re going to do something completely ordinary: eat a piece of cracker, drink a thimble of juice. And we’re going to share JESUS together. That’s what he says. We have life in Jesus, all the sinners in this room, after all the things we’ve done this week, and because we share Jesus, we have life in him. You think multiplying fish and bread was a miracle? This is the real miracle.
COMMUNION LUKE 22:14
When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it [again] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.