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Dec 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 4, 2011

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35

INTRO: I’m going to set Luke aside for now and come back to it the first of the year

What we’ll do for the next for weeks is think about Christmas
– specifically, we’ll ask, “What entered the world on Christmas?”
– as we unwrap the answer, we’ll find a bunch of Christmas gifts

So what (or Who) entered the world?
– the gospels tell us that it was Jesus
In Matthew, Jesus is not only named, but he receives a title (Isa. 7:14)
– Emmanuel, “which translated means ‘God with us’” (Mt. 1:23)
– specifically, the God who revealed himself as Yahweh – I am

There are several instances in John’s gospel when Jesus makes an “I am” statement
– we will be looking at four of them
– today, “I am the bread of life”

The background gives us a way to hook into this story

That is, a way to fit it into our Christmas situation

Jesus had fed a crowd of 5,000 and afterward they followed him
– in verses 26-27, Jesus made two observations about them which I will refer to as:

  • “The empty stomach” and
  • “The free lunch”

The empty stomach represents our natural human cravings
– these are exactly what advertisers exploit during the holidays

Corporations spend a lot of money getting their brands into our heads

Skye Jethani in The Divine Commodity tells a story about his daughter’s first day of kindergarten and the homework she was given. In order to help the children to see how they could already read, she gave them a page of corporate logos to identify and to see how many more logos around their homes they could “read.”

“I asked Zoe if she could ‘read’ any of the logos on the paper. Without hesitation she identified Pizza Hut, Target, and Lego. At home she collected the logos for Disney . . . Jell-O, and Goldfish Crackers. Later, while drinking a glass of water, she proudly shouted, ‘IKEA!’ She spotted the tiny logo imprinted on the bottom of the glass.

“Should it scare me that my five-year-old has memorized more corporate brands than prayers, Bible verses, or even names of relatives? Also scary is the fact that no one taught her to identify logos. . . . Zoe has internalized these logos simply by living for five years in a brand-saturated culture . . . .”

Christopher Lasch – historian and social critic – made the following observations about our consumer culture:

  • “Advertising serves not so much to advertise products as to promote consumption as a way of life.”
  • “. . . it creates or exacerbates new forms of unhappiness”
  • has “a vested interest in discontent, because discontented people turn to professional prescribed remedies for relief”
  • “. . . uses facts not to support an argument but to exert emotional pressure”
  • “mass consumption is an addiction . . . . the need for drugs–that is, for commodities that alleviate boredom and satisfy the socially stimulated desire for novelty and excitement–grows out of the very nature of a consummerist economy”
    – you don’t get the “fix” from thing you buy, but in the act of making the purchase

Our bodies carry the energy and burden of our souls’ craving
– agitation (exhale but then wait to inhale – you feel it)
– nervousness, “Others will get there first” or “Others will get it before I do”

There is a story of twin brothers in the Old Testament – one an outdoorsman and the other a mama’s boy (Ge. 25:27-34)
– to gratify a temporal need and urgent desire, Esau, the older twin, traded something of permanent value–his birthright
– Jacob, the trickster, knew he could manipulate his brother’s physical craving and impulsivity
– what happened to Esau later on, after his meal was digested? He got hungry again
– that is what always happens — we meet a need and  are satisfied for awhile, but it does not last

Jesus told the crowds that chased him down, “You ate and were filled”
– note the past tense, they were filled, but now they’re hungry again and that is why they’ve come looking for him
(and in the conversation that follows, they are rather honest about this fact)

“The food which perishes” – Paul uses the same word when he talks about “things destined to perish with use”
– that is, they deteriorate — the things we crave get “used up”
– we have the further complication of obsolescence being built into the design of commodities like clothing and cars

The Free lunch or Free ride is trying to get something for nothing, without working for it
– but, as we all know, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” which means one way or another you pay for it
– these people had gone to the trouble to cross land and sea to get to another free lunch from Jesus

So he tells them, “Work for the food . . . which endures to eternal life”

The gift Jesus offered them (that entered the world through Christmas)

What we read in verses 33-35 is typical of the way John introduces and develops Jesus’ teaching
– first, Jesus will use a word or phrase that people take literally, and the beauty of this is that he usually begins where they are – e.g., with the Samaritan woman he began with water (Jn. 4:10)
– after they misunderstand him because they take him literally, Jesus moves deeper — to where they are psychologically
– gradually, Jesus corrects their wrong thinking and guides them to the spiritual truth that he has revealed

Bread was the most basic staple of life
– even today, in some places it would be a wonderful gift if everyone had enough bread to eat
– bread is universal – it is one of the most common foods in the world

Bread is ordinary, yet extremely important

For these reasons, bread makes a great example of what enters the world at Christmas:
– “. . . gives life to the world” (v. 33)
– “the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (v. 51)

In the hands of Jesus, the mystery of bread is revealed (the part of it that is transcendent)
– this, too, is a gift: Finding the mystery of the mundane — recovering a sense of wonder, awe, and reverence

But how does Jesus satisfy the soul’s craving?
(and I have to say, there aren’t a whole lot of Christians who provide good models of what this means)

With each “I am” statement we’ll look at, there’s a qualifier
– “good,” “true,” and so on
– the qualifier here is that Jesus is the “bread of life
– this is not literal bread that sustains biological life
– life here is eternal, and we experience it as an “abundance” of life (10:10)

Notice the way that life is a central theme of what Jesus is teaching in this passage:

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life . . . (v. 40)
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. (vv. 47-48)
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever . . .” (v. 51)
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he will also live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever (vv. 57-58)

Eternal life changes the way we look at desire and the fulfillment of desire

Now let me explain why this morning’s meditation is not going to do us any good

Let’s say that we really get what Jesus is saying
– we understand him and we can see the truth of it
– we acknowledge that he is right about our desperate craving
– so we’re happy to learn this analogy of the Bread of Life

What’s the problem? Why doesn’t the truth of it change anything?
– because it’s just an idea – it’s a concept of Jesus that we have just learned
– ideas and information are important, but they don’t change us
– it’s like praying, “Search me, O God, just don’t tell me what You find”

What’s missing? Jesus — Jesus himself is missing, “he who comes to Me . . . believes in Me
– we have to eat this bread

“Having dinner” doesn’t mean sitting around a table
– looking at the food on it
– talking about the food on it
– learning about the food on it
Having dinner is consuming the food on the table

When it comes to the Bread of Life, we want to smell it, feel it, taste it
– we want to savor our experience of receiving Jesus

To come to him and believe in him, we will:

  • turn our complete attention on Jesus
  • let down all our walls – of resistance – doubt – shame
  • let go of other concerns – dreams – fears
  • set free our treasures on earth – whatever we’ve been clinging onto
  • receive him now – not “plan to do it later,” but in this moment

CONC: I want to believe you’re ready to do this

But maybe you’re thinking, “Not now. I’m not in a good place ”
– Jesus doesn’t say you have to be in a good place — you just have to be hungry
– one message that comes through Christmas loud and clear is that Jesus has come to us in all kinds of bad places
he who was born in a stable, laid in a food trough, and died on a cross is not worried about entering bad places to find and rescue us

Perhaps we’ll find that moment of savoring the Bread of Life, but slip out of it later
– but, really, that is the point — we’ve eaten the Bread and now his life is within us
– now, when we’re drawn back into world, we will return to it without the greed, and grasping, and desperation

Yes, we will leave the moment we enjoyed at the table as we have to return to our normal life in the world
– but when we get back on the road, it will be with Jesus

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