Pentecost 11, August 5, 2018
For What Lasts
Text: John 6:22–35
It is common for us to look around at things and think they will always be there. Parents…friends…football. The folks in Washington State thought Mt. St. Helens was just a mountain until the top of it blew off almost forty years ago. We thought the World Trade Center would always be there. I am sure Yankee fans always thought the house that Ruth built would always be there. (Yankee Stadium)
Jesus tells us in today’s sermon text: “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” (v 27). Jesus uses a picture of food because he had fed over five thousand a short while earlier, and now He was being approached by the crowd who wanted Him to provide a sign He was the Messiah after that miracle!
We need to note here that those guys stood before someone who was eager to provide them with things far more valuable than dinner. Their attention was fixed on the mouthful of the moment instead of on that which would bless them eternally. Therefore, in our text today, Jesus tells them and us to Labor for What Lasts.
Perishable things, things that are not permanent, won’t satisfy our deepest needs (vv 25–27). We do like to think the next gadget or “new, in thing” will solve everything. We are not content to just go and get ____, we have to get the fancier version. For example, when you want a burger, do you go to McDonald’s or Five Guys? If you want a sandwich, do you go to Subway or Jason’s Deli? If you want a pizza, do you go to Little Caesar’s or do you go to Hideaway, or Humble Pie or B.J.’s Brewhouse? I mean, I love pizza but 25 bucks for one?
We’re not satisfied with a roof over our heads; we want a house with a pool table or man cave. We are not content with a car that gets us from point a to b, we need a car that makes a “statement.” We don’t just need a cell phone, we need a “smart” phone. We don’t just need a “smart” phone, we need the iPhone. If you listen to the right radio station, you hear people say OU has to win the National Championship, going 10-2 is not good enough. Depending on our age, we need all A’s or an Xbox, a date with Niall Horan, a greener lawn, or a retirement home in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas.
These things that don’t last can satisfy a perceived need or a want for a brief time, (HD TV’s and DVR’s are cool.) but they wear off, wear out, go out of style, get lost, get stale, break, or otherwise fail to maintain satisfaction. Have you ever, really, gotten peace and contentment from something you bought? I haven’t. I have gotten more room, or a little comfier. But not peace and contentment.
St. Augustine said to God, “You have created us for yourself; our heart knows no rest except that it finds its rest in You” (Confessions, book 1, ch 1). Remember Jesus’ parable of the rich fool (Lk 12:16–21)? The man’s fields had produced enough crops to set him up for many years, and they did give him pleasure for a while. Yeah, one day. And then God came to him and said, “Fool, this night your soul is required of you!”
You can’t take any such things with you when you die. Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? Job 1:21: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” 1 Tim 6:7: “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” The Bible is the source for that saying, “You can’t take it with you.”
You need to remember that what you see here is not all there is to get. One must not pursue only the things of this world. Lk 12:15: “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ ” Mt 4:4: [Jesus said,] “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” We need to receive all the spiritual blessings that God sets before us.
In the classic 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street, Doris Walker (played by Maureen O’Hara) and Lawyer Fred Gailey (played by John Payne) have an intense discussion after Gailey quits his job at a law firm to pursue the legal defense of old Kris Kringle. Doris is upset that Fred would throw away his career over a sentimental whim. Gailey feels compelled to defend Kris, who represents kindness, joy, love, and stuff like that. Doris tells Fred, “You’re talking like a child. . . . Those lovely intangibles aren’t worth much. You don’t get ahead that way.” Fred’s final contribution to the discussion is this: “Don’t overlook those lovely intangibles. You’ll discover they’re the only things that are worthwhile.” For once, a lawyer got it right!
The Bible is clear on this: Rom 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Mt 6:19–20: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust 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.” Rom 8:6: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
We need to look instead to the things that last forever, knowing God will provide the things of this world that we really need. God promises to supply our earthly needs. Mt 6:25–26, 33: [Jesus said,] “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Mt 7:7–11: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Have I made my point? (Not my usual sermon) Have I offered you enough Bible passages to convince you that God does not want us to be focused on what our houses, what our cars, what our clothes say about us? Jesus is much more interested in what our words and our actions say about us.
Our pursuit, then, should be of the things that do not perish (vv 27–29, 35). To labor for the food that endures is, “to believe in him whom (God) has sent.” To believe that Jesus came down from heaven and has died on the cross for us and risen again. That, you see, has secured both heaven and all that’s truly good for us in this life, because Jesus’ death has fixed us with God, the giver of all good gifts. Or as Paul said, Rom 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
We need to hold on to Jesus, who is the one thing we need now and forever, the one thing that lasts. Jesus suffered and died to take away our sins. He rose from the dead and has assured us that because He lives, we shall live also (Jn 14:19). He has gone to prepare a place for us. We don’t want to get bogged down, distracted, by what the banks think we are worth. Jesus thought we had enough worth to die for us.
We end with two quotes. First, a quote from Max Lucado, “We are not satisfied…As a child, we say, “If only I were a teenager.” As a teen, we say, “If only I were an adult.” As an adult, “If only I were married.” As a spouse, “If only I had kids.”…We are not satisfied….Why? Because there is nothing on earth that can satisfy our deepest longing. We long to see God. The leaves are rustling with the rumor that we will—and we won’t be satisfied until we do.” Second, I give you C.S. Lewis who said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” “God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.”
In Jesus’ Name.