SUPERVISION not Revision!
9th Sunday after Pentecost
John 6:22 The next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the multitude therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?" 26 Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. 27 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal." 28 They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." 30 They said therefore to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, 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 out of heaven to eat.'" 32 Jesus therefore said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." 34 They said therefore to Him, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." 35 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.
Grace, peace and mercy from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!
One of my favorite saying of Mark Twain is, “It’s not what you don’t know that tends to hurt you, but what you think is so that just ain’t!” Let me give you an example of that. There’s a story of a man that woke up one day convinced he is dead. His wife and kids are exasperated. They keep telling him he's not dead. But he continues to insisting he's dead. They try telling him, "Look, you're not dead; you're walking and talking and breathing; how can you be dead?" But he continues to insist he is dead.
The family finally takes him to a doctor. The doctor pulls out some medical books to show to the man that dead do not bleed. After some time, the man admits that dead men don’t bleed. The doctor asked him: “Are you absolutely sure dead men don’t bleed?” Yes he reiterates, dead men don’t bleed, it’s a fact!
The doctor then takes the man's hand and a needle and pokes the end of his finger. The man of course yells out, “OUCH” and starts bleeding. In disbelief the man looks at his finger and expounds, "I was wrong, DEAD MEN DO BLEED!"
Just because someone thinks something is so, it doesn’t make it so. Truth, or true reality doesn’t start here in our hearts, or even here in our minds. Even when we try to do good, all by ourselves, we fail. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that: “We are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteous works are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” We are fallen creature incapable knowing the truth without God’s intervention.
In our text today the crowds had followed Jesus and the disciples from the place the masses were fed with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Our text says: “When they found him 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 are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
The miracles which Jesus performed were proofs that he came from God. To seek Him because they had seen them, and were convinced by them that He was the Messiah, would have been proper. But to follow Him simply because their wants and desires were supplied was nothing more than selfishness of the grossest kind. Unfortunately many seek religion from no better motive than this. They suppose that it will add to their earthly happiness or security. Or they seek to escape from suffering or from the convictions of conscience. Some seek heaven only as a place of enjoyment, and regard religion as valuable only for this. All this is sheer selfishness. Religion doesn’t forbid looking for our own happiness or seeking it in any proper way; but when this is the prevailing motive, it is evident that we have never yet truly sought God just satisfaction. We are aiming at the loaves and fishes, and not at the honor of God, not the good of His kingdom and not His will for our lives. For if this is your only motive for entering church, there’s truly a good chance that you’re not saved. For people who believe such as this, holding to some form of prosperity theology, focus on the things of this realm, of this world and make themselves god to be served. Their security is not in the cross of Christ but in the wealth and treasures of this life.
Jesus says to those who would hold to such belief: “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Jesus is speaking plainly. Don’t try to gather only the perishable, don’t trust things, but trust God. Matthew 6:19-21 says "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.”
The people who sought out Jesus were looking for a bread God. A Messiah that would live up to what they thought He was supposed to be. They suffered from Mark Twain’s quote. “It’s not what you don’t know that tends to hurt you, but what you think is so that just ain’t!” Had they gone back to the Scriptures they would have understood the task of the real Messiah. When it comes to religion, people want signs and people want works. In other words, they want proof, but they also want something to do.
That's why the people liked Moses. He came with signs, like the ten plagues, the Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea. More to the point for today's Gospel lesson, it was during the time of Moses that manna fell from heaven for forty years, and the people of Israel were fed. Those were amazing signs, and people like signs.
But Moses also came with works. He brought the people the Ten Commandments and many more laws besides. He told the people what to do, how to live. He gave them direction; and in that direction, they found purpose. Moses told them what works to do, and people like works. Works put us in control; we can control our lives and earn what we desire. In a sense we can be our own gods and direct our own destiny.
Of course, those people didn't really get the story of Moses right. It wasn't Moses who brought manna from heaven, but God. It wasn't Moses who authored the Ten Commandments; again, the Lord gave them to Moses, and Moses simply repeated them to the people. Moses never claimed any pride in these acts; he merely acknowledged that they were from God.
When Jesus came to the people they ask a question: "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" In other words they ask; “What works will God approve, what works will bring salvation?” This is an earnest inquiry of men who are seeking to be saved. They had crossed the Sea of Tiberius to seek Him; they supposed Him to be the Messiah and they sincerely desired to be taught the way of life. Yet we observe that they expected to find the way as other sinners commonly do - by their works! The idea of doing something to earn salvation is one of the last things that the Old Adam ever wants to surrender.
So Jesus sets them straight. "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." This is the thing that will be acceptable to God, or the thing you must do to be saved. “That’s it!” The work of God is to believe in Jesus. Believe in Jesus, and you will have eternal life. It's a strange message, and it goes against all that we naturally believe: To get something good, we have to work for it; to get something eternally good, we must have to work a whole lot harder. But please note, Jesus didn’t tell them they had nothing to do, or that they were to sit down and just wait. There was a work to perform, and that was duty was imperative. It was to believe on the Messiah. This is the work which sinners are to do; and doing this they will be saved, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Faith is a work we can’t do by ourselves it’s a gift from God. But can it be that easy? And if so, then why don’t they just do it?
In verse 30 the people ask Jesus, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” People are people, and the people still want God to act the way the Jews requested of Jesus. They want signs and they want works. I’m reminded of a Rod Sterling quote: “Seeing is not always believing, but believing is often seeing!” What miracle Jesus will you do for us that we might believe? They had already seen the miracle of the five loaves, and didn’t believe; was it possible for them to see anything more expressive of unlimited power and goodness of God? Even miracles themselves are lost on persons whose hearts are fixed on the perishing things of the world, and whose minds are filled with prejudice against the truth. They had preconceived notions of what the Messiah was to be. They were guilty of revisionism. They tainted the Word of God. They had created a messiah who was in their minds image. They created a messiah to provide them with the things of the world rather than the things of God.
Come on Jesus our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, show us a sign. People want signs: They want proof that God is at work here and now, and this proof must be something they can see or feel or experience. If a man can heal the sick on TV, he must be worth following. If the numbers of members or dollars are growing tremendously in a church, it must be God at work. If the message leaves someone with a peaceful feeling or feeling energized, that must be a good and godly message. These are the sorts of signs that people want today.
The question that needs to be asked is this: “Are these the signs that people desire, or are these the signs that God promises to provide?” On top of that, people want works. Religion makes sense when it involves working your way to heaven. That's how it works in this world: If you want something good, you've got to earn it. This truth may come as a surprise, as something you have never thought about: Every religion, except Christianity, is a religion of works. Every other religion besides Christianity teaches that you get to heaven by what you do. These works might be works of physical labor, mental exercise or emotional ecstasy. But they are all things that you must do in order to be saved.
The question then comes back to us in our Scripture lesson, “What work must you do to be saved?” What work is great enough to pay the debt of your sin? The Bible is quite clear on this. Romans 3:10 + 23 "There is none righteous, no not even one and “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It is impossible for you do anything to save yourself! The answer is not inside you, it’s outside of you it’s at the cross, it’s in Jesus.
And this is why we preach Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life. Truly, God sent manna to the Israelites every day for forty years; and yet remarkable as that miracle was, it was only to point to a greater miracle: God sent His Son to earth, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. To demonstrate His godhood, Jesus performed miracles and fed 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish; but this, too, was only to point to the greater miracle: As Jesus provided food for the multitude; He has won salvation for all the world by His death and resurrection. He has finished the work, and all who believe in Him will be saved.
All this you know to be true, not by human understanding or reason but solely by the Super-Vision of the Holy Spirit. For Jesus has paid the price in full, and feeds you with the very Bread of Life, Himself. To Him be all glory and dominion now and forevermore, Amen and Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen