"All this Talk about Bread is Making Me Hungry - #3"

Date Sunday August 12, 2018
Author Pastor Jean M. Hansen
Previous Sermon "All this Talk about Bread is making me Hungry - #2"

12th Sunday of Pentecost

Text: John 6: 35, 41-51; Ephesians 4:25-5:2


     For the third week in a row, all this talk about bread is making me ___________________ (hungry)! Perhaps that’s what we need to be as we continue our five-week focus on John 6, the context for which is Jesus feeding thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish.

     In today’s text, people believe Jesus is telling them a “fish story”; you know what a “fish story” is, I’m sure … it’s when someone catches a five-inch fish and describes it as a 15-inch fish. It’s exaggerating the truth (some would call that lying).  I was accused of that once, but it was about flowers, not fish. In a sermon I mentioned my 6-foot-high zinnias, and Jack VanAntwerp challenged my comment as a “fish story”. From then until his death, we had a zinnia-growing competition between us.

     That reminds me, did you notice the new addition to our cartoon collection? It’s of a woman talking to a group of children and clarifying that the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 is NOT another of the pastor’s “fish stories”.

     As it turns out, Jesus’ supposed fish story is not about that miracle, it is about himself. What he said seemed to his listeners to be a huge exaggeration, if not an out-and-out lie; it certainly rubbed them the wrong way.

     You’ll recall that after the crowd was fed, and Jesus had slipped away so that they could not continue in their stated intention to make him king, they tracked him down. Jesus accuses them of not really being interested in who he is, but of wanting free breakfast, lunch and supper. When he speaks of food that will not perish, that sounds even better, and they demand it for themselves.

     Then Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. And, also, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Well… that’s a bit much, don’t you think? What a fish story!

     They know too much to believe him, especially if free and imperishable food is not forthcoming. Bishop Craig Satterlee writes that there were at least three things that the crowd knew that got in the way of even hearing what Jesus was saying.

     First, they know who Jesus is, that he was from Nazareth, not heaven; they even know his parents Mary and Joseph.  Second, they know their scripture, and that the bread from heaven was the manna that fed their ancestors in the wilderness in the time of Moses. Third, they know the law, and that God said, “I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods.” (From where do gods originate but heaven?) (1)

     It may seem to them that Jesus is denigrating the earlier tradition of manna in the wilderness, but what he is doing is expanding and reinterpreting it, writes Victoria Lynn Garvey. “In his ‘I am the bread of life’ statement, Jesus is claiming that as wonderful and life-giving as the manna once was, this second gift of bread from heaven – himself – is even more beneficial, even more life-giving.” (2)

     I think, though, that the primary problem for Jesus’ listeners was, that Jesus was like them and since they know their own short-comings, to have their hope for redemption lie in someone like them was too much to accept, even if he did a miracle or two. They cannot grasp what it means for Jesus to be the bread that came down from heaven, the bread of life.

     How about us, do we get it? Here are some of my thoughts on what it means that Jesus is the bread of life: Jesus is our sustenance, like food and water he fuels our living, he nourishes our spirits, he fills our emptiness and satisfies our hunger. He is the bread we need, even though he may not be the bread we seek.

     That’s why it’s so significant that, according to today’s passage, whatever we need to comprehend Jesus, to come to Jesus, to see who he is and what he means, must come to us as a divine gift not through our efforts. Let me say that again: whatever we need to comprehend Jesus, to come to Jesus, to see who he is and what he means, must come to us as a divine gift not through our efforts.

     Remember, though, that even the gift of grace can be received or rejected. My opinion is that grace shows up even when we fail to acknowledge it, but it’s transforming power increases the more we do so.

     As we receive the gift, and are fed by Jesus, we are more and more who God intends for us to be. Think about it … if we are what we eat, then what does receiving God’s word in scripture and taking in Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine of Communion look like it our lives?

     There are many ways to answer that question, but today’s reading from Ephesians 4 gives us an excellent “snap shot” of what we strive for, that is, what it means to reflect the love and forgiveness we have received from Christ in our lives. I’m not going to “dress up” the passage because it’s self-explanatory but will instead make a list with a few clarifying comments.

1.      Do not lie (it destroys our relationships with one another).

2.      When you are angry, reconcile quickly (holding a grudge creates bigger problems).

3.      Make an honest living and support those in need.

4.      Let no evil talk come out of your mouth. Speak (type) only that which supports others and offers grace to them.

5.        Do not ignore the Holy Spirit (whose mark is on you, and guidance is with you.)

6.       Reject all emotions or actions that create division or revenge.

7.      Be kind.

8.      Forgive in the same way God in Christ has forgiven you (unconditionally).

9.       Live in love.

10.  Imitate Jesus.

     It can’t be done, you say? Well, perhaps not perfectly, and certainly not on our own, but when we receive the bread of life that has come down from heaven in which grace is free and abundant, then God’s love can be multiplied in the world. And that, my friends, is no fish story! AMEN


(1)   “Commentary on John 6:35, 41-51” by Craig A. Satterle, www.workingpreacher.org

(2)   “Living by the Word” by Victoria Lynn Garvey, Christian Century, July 18, 2018, pg. 21