Pentecost 11 + August 2 & 5, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin Download PDF
Text: John 6:24-35
If I were not a pastor, there is one job I would like. I would want to be a restaurant critic. Just think. A restaurant critic’s job is to go out to dinner. His “work” is what normal people do for fun. If you were a restaurant critic, you get to eat at all the new restaurants. You can order anything off the menu, including appetizers, desserts, and drinks. And, no matter what you order, you don’t pay for it. To make it even better, not only don’t you pay for your meal, you actually get paid to eat it. How great is that?
Well, for as great as it would be to be a restaurant critic, Jesus shows us something even better. Of course, when Jesus talks about eating, he is not talking about dinner at a restaurant. He isn’t even talking about physical food for our bodies. Jesus says, “My Father…gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v 32-35)
Jesus spoke these words to a crowd of people. They had followed him because they had just eaten the bread and fish that Jesus miraculously multiplied to feed the five thousand. They were amazed at Jesus. They wanted more of Jesus. But Jesus knew their unhealthy intentions. Jesus said to the crowd: "you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." (v 26)
The crowd knew that Jesus had performed a miracle. But they focused on the result of the miracle—namely, the food. They were more concerned about the result of the miracle than the meaning of the miracle. So, Jesus had to explain. Jesus tells the crowd: "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." (v 27)
Jesus performed this miracle—actually, Jesus performed all his miracles—not as an end in themselves. Jesus performed miracles to show that God, the Father, had approved of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus performed miracles to show that he was the promised Messiah. Jesus was the promised Savior.
So, Jesus told the crowd that the spiritual food he offers them was better than the physical food he had just given them. That’s why Jesus said, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life." (v 27) So, once the crowd finally caught on to the spiritual nature of Christ’s ministry, they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" (v 28)
To their question, Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (v 29) Jesus told the crowd to believe in him. But faith is not really their work. A sinner without faith cannot do the work of God. Rather, God does the work when God blesses a sinner with faith in Jesus. So, God’s gift of faith is even more amazing than the miracle of feeding the five thousand. Miracles do what is normally impossible to do. A miracle overrides the laws of nature and physics.
But, when God gives faith, he overrides and overpowers something stronger and more constant than the laws of physics. When God gives you faith in Jesus he is overriding and destroying the power of your sinful, stubborn unbelief, and the power of Satan himself. And only God can do the work of giving you faith. Saint Paul says in Corinthians, No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 12:3) So, faith is God’s work in us. But, once God gives us faith, we put our faith to work. From our text we see what that work of faith is. FAITH FEASTS ON THE BREAD OF LIFE.
Now, since faith is God’s work in us and God powers our faith, the work of faith is like being a restaurant critic. A restaurant critic’s work is what most people do for fun—they go out to dinner. And restaurant critics get to eat the best food, and usually as much as they want. And restaurant critics don’t have to pay for their food. Their company pays for it. And, even better, they get paid to eat that dinner. So, at least from my perspective, you can hardly call being a restaurant critic “work.”
That describes the “work” of faith. Faith is a free gift from God. Jesus Christ, who is the food that faith consumes, is also a free gift from God. When your faith feasts on Jesus, you don’t get money in a paycheck. No, when faith feasts on Jesus, you get even greater blessings than money.
Feasting on Jesus gives you eternal life. Jesus said, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." (v 27) Faith in Jesus makes you live forever. Faith in Jesus means that your physical death is not the end of your existence. Faith in Jesus means you will spend eternity in heaven.
And heaven is the only place where real, true life exists. Life, as God intended it to be for us, can only exist in heaven because in heaven there is nothing that can hinder or harm our life. In heaven there is no suffering, no pain, no disease, no arguments, no crime, no fear, no hatred, no war, and no problems, whatsoever. Heaven is life as it is meant to be because in heaven we will have a perfect relationship with God. Flowing from that perfect relationship with God, we will also have a perfect relationship with everyone else in heaven.
Heaven is ours because Jesus lived, and died, and rose again to pay the penalty for our sins. Heaven is ours because Jesus ascended to heaven to prepare a place for you and for me and for every believer. Heaven is yours because Jesus rules over all creation and he will not let life, nor death, neither the present nor the future, nor any power separate you from the love of God. (Rom. 8:38) Heaven is yours because Jesus is coming again to judge all humanity. Then he will take you and all believers to that paradise of God’s everlasting love, glory, and peace. That’s what faith feasts on. Faith feasts on the bread of eternal life and eternal life is Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Now, the word, “feast” means to have a big meal of celebration. A feast has an abundance of food. After a feast nobody should ever say, “There wasn’t enough to eat. I’m still hungry.” Well, when faith feasts on Jesus, it is satisfied. As Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v 35) Jesus always satisfies all our needs for life and for salvation.
Unfortunately, we don’t always want to feast on Jesus. We let the guilt of past sins block our spiritual appetite. We think, I am not worthy to feast at God’s banquet of salvation. So, I’ll just have a morsel of grace and sip of forgiveness. That’s all I deserve. Or, fear and doubt keep us away from the banquet of blessings. We think, My faith is so weak. I want to be a firm believer. But so many times, the Bible does not make sense. I struggle to understand God. I struggle to believe in God. And far too often we just let our sinful nature kill our spiritual appetite. We think, I don’t like the menu at God’s restaurant. I want to feast on all the pleasures of this world. I want to feed my ego with stories about how great I am and how much I am worth and how I deserve the best for just being me. Yes, guilt, doubt, and ego all interfere with feasting on Jesus, the Bread of Life.
But praise be to Jesus. He loves us too much to let our guilt, our doubt, and our egos prevent us from feasting on his blessing of life. So, Jesus increases our spiritual appetite by calling us to repentance. He shows us our sins. He even makes us suffer in this world so that we know nothing in this world can satisfy our hunger and thirst. And then, as he always does, he forgives us. He restores us. He invites us to the banquet of salvation through his Word and sacrament. And he feeds us. Jesus feeds us himself. He gives us his life so we can have eternal life. And then, with Jesus, our faith has a feast.