• Introduction: The inspiration for the message on today is from John ch#6.  John 6 starts out with the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-15).  I should note the count was just of the men present.  There could have been as many as 25,000 people if every man had a wife and averaged three children.  Those assumptions are not out of line for the 1st century.  This meal was a big deal, considering they were in a desolate area near the city of Tiberias, and not the McDonnald’s where my wife Karla works part-time.  Her McDonnald’s probably conservatively serves 3,000 customers/day, so that’s 8 days of customers at the Sahuarita McDonnald’s.
    • There are examples in the Gospel according to John, where the sign represented in a miracle led to a representation of the significance of an associated teaching from Jesus[1].  For example, in John 9:1-7, Jesus healed a man who was born blind.  Ophthalmologists in the 21st century are not known for this miracle.  It was this occasion when Jesus identified Himself as being the Light of the world.
      • In John 11:23-27, Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus was dead for 4 days and already laid in a tomb.  No doctor has ever brought someone back to life who had been dead for 4 days.  Before Jesus performed this miracle, Jesus was speaking to Lazarus’ sister, Mary.  She believed Jesus would have kept her brother from dying, had He come to Bethany sooner.  It is in that conversation with Mary when Jesus identified Himself as the Resurrection and the Life.  In the ending portion of Gospel reading for today in John 6:32-35 (also v48), Jesus identified Himself as the Bread of Life.
    • We will spend some time on today looking at signs of bread from heaven from the OT reading of Ex 16:15, and from the Gospel according to John 6:11.   These signs are a representation of Jesus coming from heaven to bring eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 6:48-51).
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, the people in the crowd of 5,000 men who were fed by Jesus chased Him down.  They asked for yet another sign despite eating their fill.  The point of Your Son, Jesus performing miracles was to point to Him as the Messiah sent by You to redeem the world from their sins.  The point was not to keep performing miracles in an earthly kingdom.  Send to us the Holy Spirit, so that we do not receive from eating food that perishes, but for the food that lasts for eternal life.  We pray this, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.
  • Background: As I mentioned, John ch#6 starts with the account of Jesus feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14).  So often throughout Jesus’ ministry, He would perform a miracle, but people would either not appreciate the miracle, or criticize Jesus for performing miracles during the Sabbath.  However, with this miracle, the crowd was so appreciative, they wanted to take Him by force and make Him King (John 6:15).
    • Jesus was not, nor is not interested in becoming an earthly king. He realized the crowd wanted Him as a king, so Jesus then sent the disciples in a boat to Capernaum (John 6:16-21).  He then went up into the mountains by Himself to pray.  He had to get away from there, because, as Jesus later said to Pontus Pilate,  His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36-37).  The crowd went to find Jesus when they realized He and His disciples were gone.  People got into boats and started looking for Jesus.  They eventually found Him in Capernaum (John 6:22-24). 
    • When the crowd found Him, their motivations were not pure (John 6:25-26).  They asked Jesus, “Rabbi, when did You get here?[2]”  I can just imagine the tone of voice with our Lord as if He was supposed to get their permission before leaving the desolate area to the north of Tiberias.
      • Even so, Jesus used the feeding of the 5,000 as an object lesson for what is important in life as summed up in John 6:27.  You can read the version of this from your bulletin, but I would like to read to you a more accurate translation from a translator whom I trust - 27 Do not receive for eating the food that perishes, but the food that remains unto eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for it is upon him that the Father has set His seal, [that is,] God[3].”  We can’t work for the food which remains unto eternal life.  We can only reject this food from heaven.  Jesus has provided food from heaven.  It isn’t anything we work for any more than the people in the crowd who sat down and were served by the disciples who in turn received bread and fish from Jesus.  People of the crowd sat there on the grass and waited to receive the bread from heaven – just like we are today.
      • It appears what Jesus said to them went right over their head. They were still clueless on what Jesus’ purpose in coming from heaven was. They asked Jesus what they were supposed to do in order to accomplish the works of God?  The “work” of getting the bread from heaven like they received the day before still wasn’t clear to them that God provided to them the bread. What they needed to do is believe in Jesus who was sent by God the Father (John 6:28-35). 
  • Analysis: Their response to Jesus’s answer to believe in Him in my book was really insulting.  These same people who sat down after listening to Him preach and teach, and then were fed until they were satiated, asked Jesus for a sign so that they could believe in Him.  Was not the teaching and feeding of the 5,000 already enough of a sign?  They were there when this HUGE miracle was performed by Jesus!  They saw firsthand what Jesus did!  There was no other explanation for what they had witnessed the day before.  And now, they wanted a sign. ☹
    • How could they miss the sign of signs?  This is the same people who were willing to take this same Jesus by force and make Him their king.  There were going to work at Jesus until they got what they wanted.  Forget about this idea of merely believing in Jesus as the Son of God and Son of Man.  It can’t be that easy.
      • Is it a leap to say they were spiritually blind? They were wanting a king who could provide for them.  26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate some of the loaves and were filled[4].  Had they actually “seen” with a believing heart the miracle that Jesus performed by feeding the 5,000 from 5 barley loaves and 2 fish, they wouldn’t have insulted Jesus by asking for another sign so that they could then finally believe in Him. 
        • You have to wonder how anyone in the presence of Jesus would miss the sign that He is the Son of God.  And yet, before we poke fun at these spiritually blind people who literally tasted and saw that the Lord was good, we need to look in the mirror.  Each time we are in church, we are in the presence of our Lord.  We taste and touch Him in the Lord’s Supper.  He knows we cannot free ourselves from our own sin that is pulling us straight to hell.  We must have the redemption He provided. 
        • We don’t have the ability to just believe in Him, much less work for food which lasts for eternal life.  Jesus commissioned the Holy Spirit who provides us with the ability to believe in the signs that all point to Jesus as being our Lord and Savior.  Without the Holy Spirit working faith in us through the Word of God, we would be as spiritually blind as this crowd who asked Jesus for a sign so they could believe in Him.  Again, I emphasize they asked Jesus for sign after having eaten the bread He provided for them literally the day before.  That is blind!
      • In fairness, we look back through the scriptures and see how people just muffed it when it came to understanding who Jesus is and what He did for them.  The Gospel accounts are pre-Pentecost.  Recall, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came into the hearts of people in order to empower them to believe in Jesus.  There is a “Pentecost” experience for each person on the day they are baptized. It was nonetheless difficult for people of the 1st century and even now to understand through the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus foreshadowed a new covenant meal.
        • That new covenant meal is something the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1Co 11:23-36.  You probably know the words well, because you hear them each time we participate in the Lord’s Supper.  The pastor who consecrates the wafers and the wine with the Words of Institution will say, “Take, eat, this is my body”, and “take, drink, this is the new covenant in my blood.”
        • Keep in mind, John ch#6 is not an actual description of the elements of the Lord’s Supper, because Jesus at the time of John ch#6 had not yet instituted the new covenant.  He was speaking to the people in the context of the feeding of the 5,000 and people hunting Him down for another free meal like it. Jesus told them the real work of God is to believe in Jesus who was sent by the Father.  Jesus wanted them to believe in the bread from heaven that was sent by the Father, and not look for food from Jesus that will spoil.  The manna the ancient Israelites ate would not keep for longer than a day.  When God rained down fresh manna, the manna from the previous day would be spoiled – except on the Sabbath Day.  God wanted the people 3400yrs ago to believe and trust in Him above all things and not just look for manna that will spoil.  Jesus’ message in John ch#6 is the exact same message as what was contained in Ex ch#16.
    • Decide for yourself whether the people of John ch#6 were seeking spiritual or physical food.  We have evidence the people were seeking physical food that would spoil. Otherwise, why would the people want to take Jesus by force and make them their king?  Why would the people insult Jesus by asking for another sign, when they already sat and ate bread and fish served to them by the disciples who in turn received the meal items from one source – Jesus.  Everyone in that crowd had to have known from where the bread and fish were coming from that they ate.
      • Remember from last week – Jesus’ ministry was not about the fringe of His garment.  Modern bible translations seem to have changed the focus from Jesus to the fringe of His garment as the source of healing.  We can speculate on why modern translations would do that, but it remains clear we must focus on Jesus who is the power of salvation from the evil of this Age. 
      • The same people of our OT reading, read earlier this morning from Ex ch#16, were the same people who complained to the Lord’s servant, Moses, about the crummy manna and quail they had to eat every day for 40yrs.  This “crummy” manna and quail came literally down from heaven by God to His people (Ex 16:2-15).  To the complainers we learned about last week in Num 21:4-5, it was just physical food that would spoil and not spiritual food recognized as having come from heaven.  God therefore sent poisonous serpents against the Israelites which would bite and cause death.  The Israelites cried out for salvation from the serpents, so God had Moses raise up on a wooden pole a serpent, so that anyone who was bitten would be saved from the venom of death.  Generations after those Israelites would eventually worship the same bronze serpent that Moses constructed – instead of worshipping God in thanksgiving for sending salvation from the venom of death. 
      • Last week’s message was similar to this week in that people 1400yrs after the exodus from Egypt were looking for a sign, despite one literally hitting them in the face in the form of the bread from heaven.  At least the crowd of today’s Gospel acknowledged God fed those ancient Israelites (John 6:31). 
        • Let’s not make that same mistake in our lives by focusing on things that spoil.  Everything of this Age will eventually be gone.  Nothing of this sin-corrupted Age will remain.  We receive bread from heaven in 2021 in the form of the gifts we receive from God each day.  It should behoove us to give thanks for everything we have instead of complaining.  A majority of the 7.7 billion people in the world right now don’t have enough to eat. It can easily happen to us, especially how things are deteriorating so quickly in this nation.
  • Conclusion: Dare I ask, what signs of bread from heaven have we personally missed? It’s pretty easy to see the mistakes of others, isn’t it?
    • One might say that since Jesus ascended into heaven, we no longer have Him around to provide us with visible signs of His salvation from the venom of death.  Actually, we do!  In the NT era which is the End Times, we have the signs of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Each has the visible means of grace, a sign if you will, that is something we can touch.  Baptism has the means of grace in the water consecrated with the word.  The Lord’s Supper has the wafer and the wine as its means of grace, both of which are consecrated with the Words of Institution.
      • Unfortunately, some religions stop here in John ch#6 regarding the Lord’s Supper.  Lutherans agree that John ch#6 is not about the physical eating and drinking of the Lord’s flesh and blood.  That comes right at the end of Jesus’ ministry on that first Maundy Thursday.  These other religions which look at Communion only as a spiritual eating don’t make it to the night Jesus was betrayed.  That was when it became clear the Lord’s Supper is the new covenant foretold of by Jeremiah amongst others. 
        • That new covenant is a spiritual eating and drinking.  But what Jesus foreshadowed as recorded in John 6:51 came to pass on the night before Jesus hung on the cross with our sins – not His own, because He didn’t have any sins to nail there.  Listen to Jesus in v51 -  51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world also is My flesh.[5]
        • A doctrine concerning the Lord’s Super as being spiritual-only ignores the completeness the physical aspect of the New Covenant meal founded in Jesus. Jesus ties the spiritual and physical eating together just a few verses later - 56 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, the one who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread that came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate and died; the one who eats this bread will live forever.[6]” 
    • In a moment, we will partake of the meal the Lord has prepared for us in His body and blood.  We will have a sign of His presence in the meal, because He told us - 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink[7].  We also will receive from Him spiritual strengthening, because as He said - 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh provides no benefit; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life[8].  
      • Many people who were in the crowd of 5,000 missed the sign Jesus performed.  We saw that in their reaction the next day after hunting Him down and then speaking with Him. Let’s *not* make the same mistake! In addition to the signs of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we have signs every day, if we are willing to acknowledge them, that Jesus is very active in our life.  May the Holy Spirit open and keep open our spiritual eyes to the Lord’s grace, mercy, and peace all the days of our life, now and forevermore. Amen!

[1] Conclusion drawn from Weinrich, William C, Concordia Commentary on John 1:1-7:1, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 2015, p.646

[2] John 6:25b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[3] Translation from Weinrich, William C, Concordia Commentary on John 1:1-7:1, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 2015, p.657

[4] John 6:26 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[5] John 6:51 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[6] John 6:56-58, IBID

[7] John 6:55, IBID

[8] John 6:63, IBID