“We Know Where We Will Be Found”
Pentecost 10, August 1, 2021
We Know Where We Will Be Found
Text: John 6:22–35
Herman Gockel, in his book My Hand in His (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1975), shares the story of an elderly man on his deathbed. His family has come to be with him. One of his sons is a pastor. It’s Saturday, the next day is Sunday. The man tells his son to go home and preach to his people the next day. He said that if he dies while the son is gone, his son will know where to find him.
“You’ll know where to find me.” Imagine the kind of faith to be able to say that! When we hear this we are reminded that eternal life is real. Life in this world will eventually fail us. But not the life God gives. Not the life Jesus gives. Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “Do not work 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).
Earlier, Jesus had miraculously fed some five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish. A lot of people thought this was great and wanted Jesus to keep cooking for them. But this was meant to be a sign pointing to something more. To Jesus as the Son of God. To Jesus as the bringer of eternal life. To Jesus as “the bread of life.” For Jesus, the Bread of Life, Is the Source of Eternal Life.
Unfortunately, the people around Jesus stayed stuck at the sign, at the bread, at the free meal. Jesus attempts to move them along, to get them to look up to a higher level: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (vv 26–27). They respond with good intentions but the wrong grammar: “Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ ” (v 28). And Jesus answers: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (v 29). The work of God, the work God works in us, is faith. It’s not what we do but what God gives us.
The people had trouble catching on. They didn’t get what Jesus was saying. “So they said to him, ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat” ’ ” (vv 30–31). They were remembering how God fed his people in the wilderness with manna. Today’s Old Testament Reading is the backstory to our Gospel. And remember now, Jesus just fed thousands of them with a McDonald’s Happy Meal! Jesus says to them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father 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” (vv 32–33). Then, they begin to get it (sort of): “They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’ ” (vv 34–35). Eternal life is God’s gift in Jesus. Jesus is the true bread from heaven, the bread of life.
Jesus’ sermon on the bread of life goes on to the end of John 6. We’ll hear more of it from the Lectern next Sunday and the Sunday after that. At this point, all this talk of bread, hunger and eating, thirsting and drinking are all pointing to The Lord’s Supper, and Baptism. Put together, all together, they’re all about Jesus and believing in Him. Jesus is the source of eternal life. Believing in Jesus is God’s work in us. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
As with the crowd that Jesus fed and taught, we sometimes tend to stay stuck at the sign, at the lowest level of things, on material things, physical things. Have you ever thought about how much time we spend worrying about earthly stuff, and stuff that really isn’t all that important? We focus on food, cars, our toys (if you know what I mean), our stuff and on the comforts of this life. Those things are fine. They come from God. God is the source of everything good in our lives. But it is for higher things that Jesus came. It is for the purpose of giving and sustaining eternal life that God gave us Jesus.
Jesus told the crowd, “You are seeking me . . . because you ate your fill of the loaves” (Jn 6:26). What do we seek from Jesus? We often seek what we can get from Jesus rather than seeking Jesus Himself. How many times do we pray, “God give me this, God I need that.” We want things that make us feel good. I think a lot of times the last thing we want from Jesus is the spiritual stuff.
In describing Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand, John says, “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them” (6:11). “When he had given thanks.” Thanksgiving is not just “for” (I’m thankful for bacon!) but “to.” (Thank You, God, for bacon!) Giving thanks is about a relationship with the giver. God is the Ultimate/Eternal Giver. In today’s Epistle, Paul reminds us that Jesus feeds and nourishes His Body, the Church, to build it up in faith, love, and maturity: “Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7). Grace to live life fully, faithfully, and eternally with God, in relationship with God. We need the Spiritual stuff. We need the Bread of Life.
Life with God, our life with God, has been disrupted and messed with by sin. Our deepest hunger, though we don’t always realize it, is for God. I have told you before that there is a hole in each of us that only God can fill. Jesus, in His suffering and death on the cross, and in His resurrection from the dead, satisfies this hunger, fills the hole we all have in our hearts for God. He reconnects us with God. For eternity. As Paul writes in Romans, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ” (Rom 8:39). Nothing!
In this Bread of Life chapter, we see the word “Bread” a lot. Bread, despite the bad rap on carbs these days, is a staple of physical life. For someone like me, who runs, for any of us who exercise more than a little, bread is the fuel for our muscles. It sustains life. It’s the “stuff” of life. It’s with this in mind that Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” When he was in the wilderness tempted by the devil—when He was hungry, tempted to turn stones into loaves of bread—Jesus quoted words from Deuteronomy 8: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ ” (Mt 4:4). Jesus is that Living Word.
Let me try to wrap up all that these words of Scripture are telling us. Remember last year? 2020? In a lot of places, the COVID-19 “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive orders were very restrictive. Businesses, stores, restaurants, and bars were closed; everything considered unsafe and nonessential was shut down. Unemployment was at an all-time high. Some things were in short supply: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even bread. (Yeast was also really hard to find.) People were fearful, angry, anxious, uncertain, frustrated, bored, ready for it to be over, impatient for things to return to normal. Churches were closed, limited to streaming services. Zoom meetings became a way of life. But people missed being able to gather. And many of us Lutherans were not able to have the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35). He gave His life on a cross for you, for me, for everyone, so that we would have eternal life. So even then, even in 2020—the year we will always hate, there was no shortage of “the bread of life.” In and through all things, no matter what is going on, there is no shortage of “the bread of life.” Eternal life is ours in Jesus Christ. Nothing can rob us of it.
We often feel threatened by so many things: aging, health concerns, hostility (from the world around us and the people in it), weakness, brokenness, failure, and regret. More than anything else, we need Jesus. When we feed on Jesus, we live eternally.
We need to receive all the stuff God gives us, all the stuff Jesus did for us, and know we are saved and know who we belong to. When we do this, we will be like the guy we started off with at the beginning of this sermon. When we live with the Holy Spirit in here, when we live in faith, we know where we will be going. When that day comes when Jesus takes me to be with Him, you’ll know where to find me. When we live and die in the same confidence and assurance as the guy in the story with which we began, we know where we’ll be found.
In the Name of Jesus.