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. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 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. 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.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 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? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 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. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”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."

John 6:24-35

Pastor Marc's sermon on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost(August 2, 2015) on John 6:24-35. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 

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Did you notice that the disciples aren’t in today’s gospel reading? 

Now usually, the disciples are everywhere. They’re following Jesus, doing what Jesus tells them to do, and also totally not understanding what Jesus is actually saying. But they’re always there, hanging out with Jesus before the crowds arrive and after the last person leaves. Even last week, when we started our five week journey into John chapter 6, the disciples were there. They’re there when Jesus feeds the crowd. And they’re there when a wind comes up and threatens to sink their boat. But now, there’s nothing in today’s text that says the disciples were there. So let’s say, for today at least, that they’re not. They’re not with Jesus when he crosses to the other side of the sea. They’re not there when he’s teaching and preaching in the area around Capernaum. Instead, Jesus is alone - with this crowd. And, today, we’re part of that crowd. We’re part of that 5000 - those men, women, boys and girls - who crossed the sea - to chase down Jesus. 

Now, we’re an interesting bunch. We’re here because, in our towns, and villages - in the marketplaces and in the fields - we heard rumors that there was this...Jesus….doing amazing things. He’s curing the sick! Casting out demons! Preaching and teaching, like one of those holy people we’ve heard about. So we came - some on our own, others with friends, still more with their families - to see if we could find him. We all had our own reasons why we came. You might be sick and looking for a cure. Maybe you’ve been cast out from your family and friends because of who you are or what you were born with. You might have done something - or not done something - and it’s been weighing on you for years. Or maybe you hurt. Or maybe you’re just curious because, honestly, we don’t meet holy folks every day. But, did we find Jesus. 

And it was awesome.

There he was. A little shorter than we thought. Not as strong either. But we found him, surrounded by these twelve guys, some women, and this...growing crowd. As he sat and taught, talking about the kingdom of God and what God wants for the world - more and more people showed up. It’s like the more he share  - the more he loved - the more people came. Pretty soon, this picnic in the countryside grew into this outdoor festival. But no one remembered to bring any food - except for this one kid - with five barley loaves and two fishes. And I know we heard this story last week - but it’s still amazing - because he fed all of us. And even though the food came from things we don’t like to eat - it tasted really good. There were even leftovers. If we hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have believed it. Because, really, who would believe a story like that? 

Then this word got out - I don’t know who started it - but it passed from person to person. As the food kept flowing - and as people kept going up to this Jesus and getting healed - and as he kept talking about God’s kingdom - we tried to make him a king. Not since David, before he took Bathsheba, or since Moses, when he was leading the people during the Exodus, had someone - had anyone - provided like Jesus did. Jesus wasn’t taking anything from us. He wasn’t taking our land, our money, our crops to serve some Empire that lived half-a-world away. No, Jesus just gave. And he gave in abundance. So we tried to grab him. We really, really, tried. But as we tried to make him king - he ran. He slipped out. He went into the mountains. And we couldn’t find him. 

Now, we searched. All 5000 of us - we tried to find that food again; tried to find that provider again. We stumbled onto some boats in the sea but they were empty. We even lost his disciples. But finally someone heard that Jesus was on the other side of the sea. So we boarded boats, headed over, and we found him - alone; by himself. So we pressed in on him - because this is someone that can heal; someone that can cure; someone that can bring peace. And we need to be fed. 

Now, G., is a kid who likes to be fed. He’s really into cheerios, ground meat, cheese - but he’s not really feeling blueberries or other solid fruits quite yet - we’re working on it. He does love bread though. He loves to gnaw on bread, chew on bread, throw it around, and sometimes he purposefully drops it so our little dog can have a snack too. G. is, at 10 months, learning not only how to eat; he's also learning what it means to be fed.

And as he gets older, he's going to start to figure out where bread comes from. He'll visit the store, the bakery, he’ll watch the loaves bake, and come out piping hot. He’ll learn what a baker is, and watch them work - taking ingredients, kneading and mixing the dough. G. will discover that there are things called farms and tractors; places where fields are covered in miles and miles of wheat. G. will discover that bread doesn't just happen. It takes time and energy, plants and trucks, farmers and bakers and grocery store stockers- to make bread happen. And then all of this needs to happen again and again, for G. to be given his daily bread. G. is experiencing bread. He’s starting to know bread. And, through Jesus, through baptism, G. is going to start being that bread for the world.  

The crowd came looking for Jesus because they wanted a king who would fill all their needs in the way they wanted them to be filled. But Jesus is pushing them to see how they can be God's bread for the world; nourishing people, healing people, bringing people together and making sure no one is forgotten, ignored, or left to suffer alone. Jesus is telling them that God is here; that God really does love the world: and that God has the guts to live the kind of life we, as human beings, have to live. The crowd wanted a Jesus who would work their miracles on their terms. And Jesus is telling the crowd that God has more in store for them that what they can imagine. What Jesus is talking about is relationship. He’s talking about what happens when we’re living with, and in, this God who loves this world. He’s talking about bread - and all of that makes bread bread - from the grain of wheat, to the cultivated fields, to the farmers and bakers and the busboy bringing that basket of bread to the table before the main course is served. Jesus isn’t asking us to focus only on that final product but, instead, to see the relationship; to focus on the journey together that leads us to where his bread is. Because God doesn’t only care about the end. God cares about the beginning and middle too. God cares about the relationship because, in the relationship, bread is made. In the relationship, ties are formed. In the relationship, we’re able to discover our neighbors in need and feed them. And, in relationship, when we’re in need, we have people we can turn to.  When we’re in a relationship with Jesus, we get to discover just who Jesus is and Jesus gets to discover just who we are too. The real miracle - is that once Jesus discovers who we are, Jesus doesn’t run away. Jesus doesn’t reject us. Jesus doesn’t let us be lost in the crowd. Instead, no matter where we are on our journey, no matter our age, our schooling, our wealth, or our social class - instead of turning away, Jesus says take and eat. Instead of turning away, Jesus feeds. And as G. is going to discover - and as we who are older struggle with everyday - Jesus never stops feeding, even if we can’t always recognize it. Because that’s what being the bread of life means. That bread can never stop feeding. That’s Jesus’s promise to G.. That’s Jesus’s promise to us. And as Jesus promises to us - to all of us in crowd - well - that’s what we promise to those around us, too. 

Amen.