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Give Us a Sign! August 5, 2012

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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John 6:22-35

Proper 13

August 4-5, 2012

Focus: God is the giver and source of true bread, that is life, that is Christ.

Function: That the hearers eat (that is believe) of the true bread that has come down from heaven.

Structure: Walk through the text.

 

Give Us a Sign!

            I doubt there’s a single person here today that hasn’t heard the phrase “seeing is believing.”  It’s commonplace in our culture.  We want the proof, the evidence, to see it right before our very eyes.  If we can’t, we dismiss it.  This very principle led to Robert Ripley opening his odditorium at the World’s Fair here in Chicago in 1933, something we know today as Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

But the expression doesn’t always hold true.  In his book “God’s Psychiatry,” Charles Allen gives an example of when seeing doesn’t mean believing.  As World War II was drawing to a close, the Allied armies gathered up many hungry orphans. They were placed in camps where they were very well-fed.  But despite excellent care, they slept poorly. They seemed nervous and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist came up with the solution.  Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed.  This particular piece of bread was just to be held—not eaten.  And it produced wonderful results.  The children went to bed knowing instinctively that they would have food to eat the next day.  That guarantee gave the children a restful and contented sleep.

The children saw the food.  They ate the food day after day.  But they were still scared.  They feared that there wouldn’t be any more food for them the next day.  Everything they saw failed to provide comfort.  So when that bread was placed in their hands, they knew that when they woke up, they’d at least have that much to eat.  It took more than just seeing to believe.

This is similar to what’s going on in John’s gospel.  Jesus had compassion on a large crowd of at least 5,000.  Rather than letting them go hungry, he performed a miracle and turned five measly loaves of bread into enough food to feed that crowd, and then some.  And this wasn’t all that He had done for them, either.  He preached and taught.  He healed their sick.  They saw Him cleanse the temple and perform many other signs and miracles among them.

But all of this wasn’t enough.  They didn’t get it.  The people saw many of the connections.  They saw how He was like Moses, in providing bread as Moses did with manna for the Israelites.  They saw in Him the prophet who was to come.  They saw things foretold in the Old Testament coming to fruition in Him.  And they wanted to make Him king.

They failed to see.  They chased Jesus until they caught up with Him in Capernaum.  But Jesus saw right through them.  He saw it before when they first started believing in Jerusalem.  He saw it again when they tried to force Him to be their king.  And He still sees it now.  “I tell you truth, you are looking for Me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”

Jesus knew what they were after.  The people saw the amazing things He could do.  They loved the free meal.  They loved the healing that He gave to their sick.  They loved His works.  But they didn’t see Jesus for who He truly was.  They were missing the main point.  He’s not a bread king.

We see this very same problem in the Christian church today.  So many people join the church thinking not of salvation and everlasting life, but of the benefits now.  If I just do everything Christ commands of me, He’ll bless me with a good job.  If I’m truthful, my family will be healthy and strong.  If I’m faithful, I’ll have a lot of nice things.  If I pray hard enough and go to the right church, God’ll heal me of this disease.

How many Christians today fit with the Galileans and the people of Capernaum?  How many of us are looking for a bread king?  Looking for someone to take away the pains and sorrows of this life?  If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place.  That’s not why Jesus came.

If you treat Him as a bread king, it creates a lot of problems.  Most lethal is that when things go wrong in your life, and God doesn’t miraculously intervene to fix them, you begin to doubt.  Satan tempts you, and you blame God.  You fall away because you convince yourself that He failed you.

But that’s not why Christ came.  “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  On Him the Father has placed His seal of approval.”  Stop looking for the free handouts.  Stop looking for a bread king who’ll make your life wonderful.

They still failed to see.  “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  What can we do Jesus?  How can we earn this?  Give us the list, give us the rules, let us know the seven easy steps, or whatever it takes.  They failed to see.

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”  Believe!  That’s it.  Jesus didn’t come bearing the law.  Instead He came in search of God’s people.  He came to restore a relationship.  He came to be our God and we His people.  But even after this, even with such a simple statement, the people still don’t see the truth.

“What miraculous sign then will You give that we may see it and believe You?”  It’s at a point like this that I can easily see some of my own faults.  I don’t think I’d have had the patience.  WHAT SIGN?!  Are you kidding me?  What do you think about everything I’ve already done?  Who else can feed 5,000 of you hungry complainers with just 5 loaves of bread?  Who else can take the lame among you and make them walk like new, the blind and make them see?  Yeah, I’d have probably lost my temper.

But that’s not Christ’s response.  He’s the perfect Son of God.  And His patience far outweighs mine.  At most, He said what He said with a just a hint of anger in His voice.  But likely, it was more sorrow than anything else.  Sorrow that they didn’t understand.  “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

You still don’t understand.  You still think Moses fed the Israelites.  You still credit Moses for what God did.  You still think I’m a bread king here to give you whatever you want.  You’ve missed the point.  That’s not why I’m here.  “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and He who believes in Me will never be thirsty.”

Belief.  That’s what God asks of the Galileans, the Capernites, and us.  Jesus came into this world to pay for our sins.  To surrender Himself, to give of Himself, to sacrifice Himself, that we might live.  He came to give us life.  He is the true bread, offering the true life, freely to all who believe.

In his best-selling book called, “Into Thin Air,” Jon Krakauer tells about the hazards that plagued some climbers as they attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Andy Harris, one of the expedition leaders, stayed at the peak too long, and on his descent, he became in dire need of oxygen.

Harris radioed the base camp and told them about his predicament. He mentioned that he

had come across a cache of oxygen canisters left by the other climbers but that they were all empty. The climbers, who had already passed the canisters on their own descent, knew that they were not empty but full. They pleaded with him on the radio to make use of them but it was to no avail. Harris was starved for oxygen but he continued to argue that the canisters were empty.

The lack of oxygen had ravaged his capacity to see what was right in front of him.  The people Jesus was talking to were so blinded by the petty things in their own life that they failed to see what was right in front of them.  Instead of seeing Jesus’ miracles and recognizing Him as the Son of God, they continued to think about how He could make their world a better place.  They didn’t rightly believe.

As Hannah and I move back to St. Louis for one final year of seminary, I have a lot to be thankful for.  I am thankful that through the blessings of the Holy Spirit you all have been brought to faith.  I am thankful to know that you are truly God’s people, firmly entrenched in your faith through the study of Scripture.  I am thankful to know that you are also in a wonderful congregation, with Pastor Allyn and the rest of the staff here safeguarding your faith.  And I’m thankful for the blessing that you have all been in sharing your lives and your community with us.

God gave us faith, He allows us to see His Son for who He truly is.  He enables us to understand what Christ came to do.  And we are blessed.  Because through the Holy Spirit, we know Jesus is the bread of life.  We know He is the bread from heaven above.  And we are blessed to receive that bread, Jesus, through faith.  We are blessed to eat and drink of the true bread and blood.  We are blessed in that we can come together and celebrate our Lord and His gifts at His table.  We can come to His feast and receive His gracious gifts for us.  By God’s grace, we believe.  And by God’s grace, through His Son, we live.

 

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