daily biblical sermons


Christ is the true bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world, to all that believe in him
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the 18th Sunday of the Year, August 01, 2021
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15, Psalm 77, Ephesians 4:17, 20-24, John 6:24-35


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“When they [the crowd] found him [Jesus] on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has the Father set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing 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, ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’ Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father 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, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:25-35).

 

 

Jesus has just multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish with which he has fed five thousand men, not counting the women and children. The next day he meets up again with this same crowd in Capernaum, and he criticizes them because he knows their motives for seeking him.

 

 

First of all, they wanted to make him king, because they figured that he could miraculously feed a huge army and so – also doing other miracles – could conquer their great enemy, the Roman Empire. This is hardly a spiritual reason for seeking him. And now he tells them, “You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26). In other words, they are not coming to him for spiritual reasons, because they saw the sign of the multiplication of the loaves and now believe that he comes from God and has divine teaching to impart to them. Rather they are simply interested in another free meal.

 

 

So, Jesus tells them that they have to raise their sights, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you” (John 6:27). This does not mean that we are not to work for a living, but it does mean that we are not to put all our efforts only into earning our daily bread, but rather we should put our deepest interest in “the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (John 6:27).

 

 

This is what Jesus wants them to focus on. He himself is the living bread, and he will give them this bread for the life of their spirit, and this bread will endure to eternal life. If they eat this bread, they will obtain eternal life.

 

 

But the people are not interested in this spiritual bread. They only want to see another miracle and have another free meal, and maybe many more free meals. So, they take him up on this point and ask him, saying in effect, “We will work for eternal life and for the food that does not perish. So, tell us what we must do to be doing this work for eternal life.” “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28).

 

 

Jesus gives them an extraordinary answer of great importance to the whole world for all time. He tells them how we must work for eternal life, what we must do, saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). This is the fundamental thing that we must do. All other work and actions that we must do follow up on this, and without this, we are lost.

 

 

We know that justification and salvation from our sins and the gift of eternal life come to us by faith in Christ, not by actual works that we do. So, Jesus is making this point here, and he even calls faith in Christ a “work,” although faith is not really a work that merits or earns us anything. Jesus is simply telling them what they must do to be working for eternal life, namely believe in him, cast off their own attempt to be righteous by their own efforts, and stop working only for earthly food, but rather seek heavenly food by believing in him.

 

 

Of course, this crowd cannot really understand the full significance of this at this time, but they can get the basic principle. Trust and believe in Christ, and he will feed you with spiritual food, spiritual teaching and nourishment; and if you keep following him, it will all become clear to you after his death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Then they will enter into the gospel dispensation, where their faith is counted by God for righteousness (Romans 3:21-22; 4:5). This is because Christ is the Savior sent to us by God who would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities and whose chastisement would make us whole (Isaiah 53:5). This is because “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6) so that he could punish our sins in him instead of in us (Romans 8:3-4).

 

 

We benefit from this punishing of the sins of the world in the flesh of Christ when we put our faith in Christ. God then counts his suffering and death on the cross as paying our debt of suffering and death that we have with God in just punishment for our sins. In this way our sins are paid for, our death sentence is served for us by our proxy Jesus Christ, who was sent to us for this purpose. God therefore sees us as having no sins needing punishment and therefore declares and thereby makes us ungodly sinners righteous and reckons to us his own righteousness (Romans 4:5) so that we shine with the righteousness of God himself.

 

 

This is the full blessing that comes to us from believing in Jesus Christ. We gain thereby our justification and salvation. Then we begin a new life of good works and grow thereby in holiness (sanctification).

 

 

But the people start to object to Jesus when he tells them that the work of God is to believe in him. So, they ask him for a sign so that they can believe in him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?” (John 6:30) – as though the sign of feeding five thousand men, not counting the women and children, with only five loaves of bread were not enough for them to put their faith in him. They want still another sign.

 

 

They want a sign like Moses gave them, not just one meal for five thousand men, but three meals a day every day for forty years. They make it clear that they considered Moses’ miracle much greater than Jesus’ miracle, for Moses fed not just five thousand men, but more than half a million people, and not just with ordinary barley bread that Jesus multiplied, but with bread that came down from heaven itself, namely the manna in the desert. They said, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31).

 

 

Jesus, however, corrects them. First of all, he tells them that Moses didn’t have anything to do with giving them manna. He didn’t even pray for it. God simply gave them the manna during the time when Moses was leading them through the desert. So, it had nothing to do with Moses, but only with God. Furthermore, the manna was simply natural food that didn’t come down from the highest heaven, where God lives, but rather only from the air. Jesus, however, will give them bread that really does come from heaven where God lives, and it will not simply be natural food, but will give them eternal and spiritual life, not simply ordinary human life, as the manna did.

 

 

Furthermore, the manna was for one nation only, the Israelites. But the bread that Jesus will give them is for the whole world, as he says, “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6:33).

 

 

So, when the people say to him, “Lord, give us this bread always” (John 6:34), Jesus answers, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). By not hungering and thirsting Jesus is speaking of spiritual hunger and thirst. The bread that Jesus will give us, namely himself, for he is the living bread, will satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst. This bread is Jesus himself who transforms our life when we put our faith in him. Furthermore, as we will see over the next two Sundays, Jesus will show us that this bread is the Eucharist, namely his own body and blood for the life of our spirit.

 

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