Sunday, August 01, 2021

The Food That Lasts Forever

[This is the text of the message shared today during worship with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Below that is a video of the day's worship service. God bless you.]

According to Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson, there are two kinds of foods. There is food that spoils and food that lasts forever.

Both kinds of foods are gifts from God. 

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches to pray in the fourth petition for “our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) In The Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains, “God indeed gives daily bread to all, even unbelievers, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that He would help us to recognize this so that we would receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” 

Luther then goes on to explain what “daily bread” is: “[It]...includes everything required to meet our earthly needs, such as food, drink, clothing, home, property, employment, necessities…” and so on. 

In other words, in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus tells us to pray and thank God for the “food,” the “daily bread,” that we need to be sustained in this life. 

But, of course, all of this kind of “food” spoils or dies or runs out. 

Back when God’s ancient people Israel were in the wilderness between their time of slavery in Egypt from which God freed them to their entry into the land God promised them, God gave them manna, a bread-like food. The people were limited in how much manna they were to gather each day, an amount God calculated to keep them all healthy and well. But when some of them, apparently reasoning that they were free people who ought to be able to do whatever they wanted, gathered more than their allotment, the manna rotted and filled up with maggots.

It’s not wise to put too much faith in earthly food that spoils

I once heard the true story of a man who became extremely successful. But in centering his life on more than daily bread, he was destroying his marriage and family. His wife delivered an ultimatum: Find a different way to live or she and the kids would leave. Chastened, the man quit his job, cashed in his stocks, and moved his family to a place next to Lake Michigan. There was a little marina there that he and his family could run together. The marina was purchased and at first, all seemed to go well for the man and his family. The family got away often for sailing trips or getaways. 

But then, the man began to consider the "potential" in their little business. Soon, he sprang into action. He bought more lakeside property and expanded the marina, then put in a luxury hotel and a dockside mall. The place, no longer a family business, consumed him as he continued his pursuit of “the food that spoils.” His wife and kids left. About a year later, a visitor told him, “You must be so proud of all this.” But the man replied, “Every time I look at it, it makes me sick to my stomach.” Within a year, he was dead from a heart attack.

Today’s gospel lesson, John 6:22-35, occurs right after John’s account of Jesus feeding the 5000. According to John, the fed crowd wanted to make Jesus a king. But Jesus didn’t come into the world to be the kind of king who marches to the demands of self-centered mobs. 

So, while the disciples took off on a boat across the sea, Jesus went to a mountain to pray. Eventually, though, Jesus reconnects with the disciples and the crowd finds Jesus. Jesus knows their game. “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus says, “you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (John 6:26) 

Signs is the word Jesus used to describe His miracles; they were signs that pointed to Jesus being God the Son, the One in Whom we must believe in order to have forgiveness of sin and eternal life with God. 

That’s why Jesus tells them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:27) 

“Here you are,” Jesus seems to say, “tearing around the countryside, wearing yourselves out, to get your bellies filled with food that spoils, when I’ve come to give you food that never gives out!” 

Folks, what are you wearing yourself out for today? 

Are you wearing yourself out to get God’s approval or the approval of others so that you can get the things of this world you crave?

That’s where the crowd was at. After hearing Jesus’ promise of “food that endures for eternal life,” they ask Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28) In other words, they wonder what work they have to do to earn God’s favor? Do they have to be in worship every Sunday for a year? Do they have to give to the poor, tithe to the church, bring twenty people to the Lord, pick up groceries for a neighbor, take an elderly person to the doctor? What’s the key, they wonder, that will open up God’s storehouse for them? 

Jesus’ answer is stunning: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29) 

There is nothing we can do, there is nothing we must do, to receive the food that lasts for all eternity. 

The food that never spoils is a gift from God that we receive only by faith in Christ.

It all seems too good to be true to the crowd. And so, clutching for their self-respect and their desire to be their own gods, they ask Jesus what sign He can give them to prove His authority to say this. 

Seeming to forget that He’s just fed them with five fish and two loaves of bread, they recall that in Moses’ day, their ancestors had been fed on manna. They attribute this miracle to Moses rather than to God. Jesus corrects them, reminding them that the manna, the food that spoiled, actually came from God and then points out, “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33)

Back in John 4, when Jesus met a Samaritan woman by a well, He promised that, the living water He gives would mean that those who received it would never give out. "Indeed," He says, "the water I give [to people] will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) The woman, not fully understanding what Jesus meant, exclaimed, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15) Now, the crowd tells Jesus, “Sir...always give us this bread.” (John 6:34)

And Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) 

Martin Luther writes of this passage:
"Out of the mass of powerful words in the holy Scripture there is almost no stronger word that Christ is a bread and meal given by God, and that whoever eats this bread lives forever and becomes content, no longer hungering or thirsting. . . . 

"It is a settled point that here in this chapter the Lord is speaking about spiritual food, for he himself explains it as the hunger and thirst of the soul. The soul wants to live forever, to not be cursed, to have a merciful God, to be able to stand before the wrath and judgment of God, to not be condemned by sin and the law or go to hell. Those are the soul’s desires. It is a spiritual thirst and hunger, for which we need a spiritual meal and drink. And so the Holy Spirit comes and says, 'If you do not want to die or be damned, then come to Christ, believe in him and cling to him. Eat this spiritual meal, believe in Christ, that is the most important thing.'”
Friends, we are born imprisoned to the sin, death, and darkness that comes from the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. As a result, like the crowd in today’s gospel lesson, most people in this world spend their lives thinking about what they can get by works, by wheeling and dealing, by shrewdness, or by theft from God, if they believe there is a God, or from the world.
Jesus is telling us today, quit your tearing around and wearing yourself out. If you’re doing a single good work because you think it will make God love you more, favor you more, forgive you more, or give you more, STOP IT

If you’re doing any of it to gain the compliments of good people that you think God will count in your favor, STOP IT RIGHT NOW! As God says through the prophet Isaiah, all our righteous deeds--or what we think are righteous deeds--are filthy rags in the sight of God! 

And, by all means, stop living your life simply to gain more of the stuff that this dying universe can give you, stuff that will do you no good when you meet God face to face on the day of judgment

Instead, turn to Jesus daily, trust in Him, call on Him even when your faith is weak, and He will save you. 

He will feed you Himself, through His Word and through His Supper, the living bread of heaven, the food that will eternally sustain you in the love, forgiveness, grace, and presence of God now and for eternity. 

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29) 

That’s it, folks. 

That’s all there is. 

Trust in Jesus.

Jesus is the food that lasts forever. 

And He is more than enough for us always.