October 6, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Jhn 6:30-59 ESV] 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 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 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will 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 he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers 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. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
We now come to the dialogue of Jesus and the Jews in which he exclaims “I am the bread of life.”
This is the first of the seven I AM statements in John’s Gospels.
I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world.
I am the door of the sheep.
I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the good shepherd.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the true vine.
One could make the contention that there is an eighth such statement. We saw this two sermons ago in John chapter 6. There the disciples from their boat saw Jesus walking on the water and were afraid. But Jesus said, “It is I [or I AM] be not afraid.”
In that first I AM statement Jesus said merely that, I AM. He declared his divinity in using a phrase — ego eimi in the Greek — used of God Himself in the Old Testament.
Now, we come to the first full I AM statement of the seven in John’s Gospel. I say “full” because these statements are full sentences, full declarations, both of Jesus’ divinity and also of some other truth about him.
And this first statement is “I AM the bread of life.” Jesus—and Jesus alone—can feed the spirit of man and give eternal life.
This I AM statement — “I AM the bread of life” follows not far after the story of feeding of the five thousand. In a great miracle Jesus took the two fish and fish loaves of a young boy and fed—physically—the crowd of five thousand men plus untold numbers of women and children.
But a problem remains. And this is a problem we’ve seen throughout John’s Gospel. The people are more interested in the miracles than in the one whom the miracles to point. They are more interested in filling their bellies than in feeding their souls.
And thus they come to Jesus asking him for another miracle, for more bread. Jesus then uses this opportunity to proclaim truth about himself.
That which he proclaims can be summarized summarized in three points:
I. JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE
II. JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY OF SALVATION
III. JESUS ENSURES THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
First then, we have “Jesus is the bread of life.”
I. JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE
32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
This is another of the “truly, trulies” or “verily, verilies” of Jesus. Again telling us to pay close attention for he is going to proclaim an important truth.
First he explains that it was not Moses who gave the people bread, but God. We can say that this is true both with the physical manna which came from heaven in the Exodus account, and certainly also with Christ himself who is the true bread which has come from heaven. John emphasized this earlier in his gospel — Jesus is the Logos of God come from heaven to earth; he has assumed flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is truly from heaven.
Then also, the important truth Jesus tells the Jews with his “truly, truly” or “Amen, amen” is not only that is God the benefactor but that standing in their very midst is the bread of life. He says, “I am the bread of life.”
And like the thirst-quenching “living water” —that Holy Spirit that gives man eternal life— here is the “bread of life” given to man so that whoever comes to Jesus shall not hunger. And whoever believes in him shall never thirst.
Jesus is the spiritual bread.
As we need each day to eat bread (or some other food) so we need for our spiritual life to have spiritual bread. And this bread — Jesus Christ himself — is so effective that truly coming to him suffices means you will never hunger again. For it is Christ, and His salvation, for which man hungers. And finding Christ (or rather, being found by Him) satisfies that longing.
Yet we do still need Jesus Christ daily just as we need bread daily, for we sin each day and each day need a savior. In Jesus’ death on the cross our sins are forgiven, and Jesus declared “It is finished.” Yet still each day we are to repent of our sins and ask for forgiveness, knowing that in this life we are still mired in sin.
We are, as Martin Luther often said, “simultaneously sinners and saints.” We continue to sin but God continues to forgive us. The bread of life continues to keep us fed.
So the purpose of the miracle of the feeding of five thousand was not to show that Jesus can give you all things of your hearts desire here on earth, but to point to Jesus as himself the bread of life, giving life eternal.
And, Jesus proclaims not only that he is the bread of life, but that he is the ONLY bread of life. Or, we can say “Jesus is the only way of salvation.” And this is our second point. “Jesus is the ONLY way of salvation.”
II. JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY OF SALVATION (vs 43,44)
One of most well-known bumper stickers isn’t even really a slogan, but a simple word with religious symbols saying “Coexist.”
This is one of those tricks of language and meaning. Because on the one side, surely all (or more everyone) can agree that people of various beliefs should tolerate the existence of others. But there seems implied in the COEXIST stickers also the contention that all religions are equally good or valid. This is the eastern monk approach like saying “all paths lead to the summit of the mountain.”
This idea of religious pluralism is entirely rejected by Jesus who proclaims that he, and he only, is THE WAY, THE truth, AND THE life.
We can COEXIST in society, but you should never allow multiple God’s to coexist in your heart.
Jesus demands exclusivity. He is the ONLY way of salvation.
Saying that Jesus is the bread of life is saying that we cannot live apart from him. He is not the popcorn, or parmesan, or pecan pie of life. He is he bread of life. He is essential and necessary.
He is the only bread that brings life. He is the ONLY way of salvation.
There is no other successful way.
Jesus makes this clear in our passage when he says:
53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, UNLESS you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Unless the Father draws you and unless the Son gives you life, you have NO LIFE in you. Without Jesus all do perish. But with the bread of life there is life eternal.
Jesus is the only way of salvation and this is not a way of man but a way of God. We are saved through his irresistible grace.
When, in verse 44, it says that men cannot come to Jesus unless the Father DRAWS them, this is not a woo-ing of man so that man will believe, but it is an overpowering pull where God is the active agent.
We are like water in a well drawn up towards God not be own efforts — which merely have us falling downward by the pull of sinful gravity—but we are drawn up by God whose bucket and rope do their work without fail. God’s drawing of us is His action, and it is successful.
And this point—which is the third point of our sermon today—is one that Jesus here makes. To use the theological language we can say “Jesus ensures the perseverance of the saints.” [REPEAT: Jesus ensures the perseverance of the saints.]
III. JESUS ENSURES THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
This is the lonely letter “P” sometimes overlooked at the end of the well-known TULIP acroynym. T-U-L-I-P
This acronym is well used to explain Biblical teaching about the doctrines of God’s grace and our salvation.
The “P” is “Perseverance of the saints.”
It is becoming more and more common in Reformed circles to call this also “preservation” of the saints. Either way—perseverance or preservation— this is the teaching that God completes the good work that he has begun in you. Or, to say it another, the salvation you have in Christ “sticks.” You need not worry but rather are to be assured that Christ who saved you will keep you forever in his arms and preserve you so that you shall persevere to the end as a child of God and have eternal life in heaven.
This doctrine is a great comfort for Christians.
And we find it taught a number of times in our text today:
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I WILL NEVER CAST OUT.
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.
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life
58 Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.
This teaching of the “perseverance of the saints” is not a confidence in our own abilities, but a confidence in the promises of God.
It is taught unmistakably in the Scriptures.
This wonderful truth that we can take confidence in is also found, for example, in John 10 and Romans 8.
[Jhn 10:27-28 ESV] 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
NO ONE can snatch you out of Jesus’ hand.
And, so impossible is it to snatch you—believer—out of Jesus’ that Paul says in Romans:
[Rom 8:38-39 ESV] 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is certain. You shall never hunger. You shall never thirst. These are the promises of God.
Jesus is the bread of life, the only way of salvation, and in him we are promised to be kept in his grace for all eternity.
1. Seek to serve the Lord rather than seeking to be served by the Lord. [REPEAT: Seek to serve the Lord rather than seeking to be served by the Lord.]
Jesus, it is said in the Gospel of Matthew to have come “not to be served, but to serve.” And he did just that. Jesus’ mission was accomplished in his death on the cross.
This provides a good example also for us.
A counter-example is the crowd following Jesus. They are miracle-seekers, always asking for another miracles.
I think we all have a tendency to do that from time to time. And it leads the problem of us not serving God, but seeking to get stuff from him. We should rather worship God and serve Him at all times, and not just for the bread and fish that we get.
2. To satisfy your spiritual hunger partake of Jesus Christ by coming to him and believing in him. [REPEAT: To satisfy your spiritual hunger partake of Jesus Christ by coming to him and believing in him.]
Come to Jesus in repenting of your sins and asking forgiveness. And believe in him by learning and confessing the truths of God in the Holy Scriptures.
Come to Jesus because there is nowhere else to go with your sin.
As Peter says in the next passage in John’s Gospel, “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.”
The words of eternal life are the words of Him who is the bread of life. Be assured that because you come to Christ and believe in him that you indeed have eternal life. For Jesus says: “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” and “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Amen.