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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Jesus reveals himself as the true bread from heaven
Text:John 6:30-40 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-07-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 97:1,2

Psalm 97:5 (after the law of God)

Psalm 105:1,14

Hymn 4

Psalm 79:5

Scripture reading: Exodus 16

Text: John 6:30-40

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

A few years ago I was boarding a flight in Brazil back to North America.  As I came to my assigned seat, there was a woman sitting in my place.  I had been learning Portuguese and now I had a good opportunity to practice my skills.  I told her politely that she was in my seat and would she please move.  She responded back to me with something spoken quickly and unclearly.  Brazilians often speak rapidly and some regional accents are harder to understand than others.  So I asked her to please speak more slowly.  She answered back with more words spoken quickly and unclearly.  I then told her I was learning the language and could she please say everything again slowly.  Once again, she shot back with a stream of words at 110 Km/h.  Then one of the people in the row behind us tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You don’t speak Spanish, do you?”  It turns out the lady in my seat was from Argentina, not Brazil.  She didn’t understand me speaking Portuguese and I didn’t understand her speaking Spanish. 

Those kinds of misunderstandings can happen when you travel internationally.  But misunderstandings can even happen when you speak the same language.  You may be using the same words, but communication is being hindered because the understanding of those words isn’t the same.  We see that going on in our passage this morning too.  Our Lord Jesus is engaging the Jewish crowds.  Earlier in the chapter they were madly searching for him throughout the region and then finally tracked him down in Capernaum.  They found him at the synagogue, the Jewish place of worship.  In the words right before our passage, he confronted their motives for searching for him.  Jesus exposed the truth:  they were searching for him on their terms, not his.  They were looking for perishable bread, whereas Jesus on his own terms offers imperishable bread.  He urged them to chase after that, to work for that.  When they heard “work” from this Rabbi, their law-oriented minds snapped to attention:  “Tell us the works God wants us to do, Rabbi.”  Then he flipped their law-thinking on its head and said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

In our text from John this morning, we find that this dialogue continues to be plagued with misunderstandings.  There are things this Jewish crowd just can’t get.  Specifically, they don’t understand Exodus 16.  They misunderstand the significance of manna in the Old Testament.  They fail to grasp that this “bread from heaven” was not an end in itself, but was meant to point ahead to greater things, to a greater person, in fact.  I preach to you God’s Word this morning and we’ll see how Jesus reveals himself as the true bread from heaven.

We’ll see:

  1. The misunderstanding he corrects
  2. The encouragement he gives
  3. The call he issues

After our Lord Jesus told them God wanted them to believe in him, they tried to evade his words by demanding a sign from him.  If they’re going to believe, they need a sign.  Of course, it’s ironic that they say this, because most of this crowd was on the other side of the Sea of Galilee and they saw the sign of the loaves and the fish.  Jesus miraculously fed over 5000 men, women, and children.  They saw it, they experienced it, but they didn’t get it.  Their eyes may see, but their hearts are blind to who Jesus is and what he’s come to do.

This blindness is taken to another level in verse 31.  These Jewish crowds point back to what happened in Exodus 16.  There was miraculous food for their fathers in the wilderness.  There was this amazing manna, which Exodus 16:31 says was “like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.”  Then the crowds quote what the Scriptures say, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”  The quote seems to come from Psalm 78:24, but it could also be from Nehemiah 9:15.  We have to stop and notice a couple of important things with what the crowd says.

First of all, you have to know there was a Jewish expectation that the Messiah would come and again provide manna from heaven.  The miracle would happen again.  And it wouldn’t be just food for a little while, it wouldn’t just be food for a select crowd however large, but permanent food for the whole nation of Israel.  Manna was going to happen all over again, but bigger and better.  If Jesus is the Messiah they were hoping for, he should be able to do this sign.  That would be impressive. 

Second, from the way Jesus responds, we can conclude that the crowds misunderstood the words, “He gave them bread from heaven.”  Part of their misunderstanding had to do with the pronoun there, the word “he.”  They evidently thought that “he gave them bread from heaven” meant “Moses gave them bread from heaven.”  They focussed their attention on Moses.  Moses was the miracle man who made the manna happen. 

In verse 32, Jesus corrects their misunderstanding.  He does it by telling them it was not Moses who gave manna, but God.  Yet he doesn’t say it exactly like that.  He tells them his Father gives them “the true bread from heaven.”  Yes, God did give the original manna back in the time of Exodus as well.  But now, in the present, God is giving true heavenly bread.  The manna from the past was pointing ahead to what’s happening in the present. 

And then our Lord makes it clear what this true bread from heaven is:  it’s the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  There has been Someone who has travelled the distance from heaven to earth.  He has come with life for a world under the curse of sin and death.  This is the true bread of God, the true bread from heaven.  This is what will truly nourish you and sustain you, not only in this age, but also in the age to come. 

Then look at how the crowd responds in verse 34.  They say, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  It sounds like a positive, promising response.  But skip ahead in John 6 to verse 41:  “So the Jews grumbled about him…”  And verse 52, “The Jews then disputed among themselves…”  You could even go ahead to closer to the end of the chapter, verse 66:  “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”  So in the aftermath of this conversation, we have grumbling, disputing, and even some of his disciples stop following him.  There’s definitely a negative reception to Christ’s words.  And verse 34 has to be understood in that context as well.  When the Jews say, “Sir, give us this bread always,” that’s not a response of faith in Jesus Christ as a Saviour.  On a certain level, they’re interested in what Jesus is saying, but they don’t really want the true bread from heaven, because they don’t understand what Jesus is talking about.

So Jesus makes it even more plain in verse 35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  This is the first of seven “I am” sayings in John’s gospel.  Jesus now explicitly says that he himself is the true bread from heaven given by God.  Look, he doesn’t just give bread as they expected the Messiah to do, he is the bread in his own person.  You can find eternal satisfaction in Jesus Christ – spiritual hunger disappears, spiritual thirst vanishes.  The famine of life under sin turns to a feast when you have Jesus. 

This is for anyone who comes to him.  Take note of that word “whoever.”  Anyone who comes to Jesus will have their spiritual hunger addressed.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve grown up in the church or in a non-Christian family.  Your level of education doesn’t matter, nor your social status or ethnicity.  Whoever comes to Jesus shall never hunger.

And what does it mean to come to Jesus?  That idea runs parallel with believing in him in the second part of verse 35.  Coming to Jesus is the same thing as believing in him.  It’s the same thing as placing your trust in him as your Saviour.  It means to look to him and say, “I need Jesus to rescue me from the punishment I deserve from God for my sins.”  Those who speak in that way will never spiritually thirst.

In the Bible, hunger and thirst are part of the horror of hell.  In Isaiah 65, God warns those who forsake him that they will face hunger and thirst, while those who believe will enjoy food and drink.  On the cross, when Christ bore hell in our place, do you remember what he said in this regard?  He said in John 19:28, “I thirst.”  In John 6, Jesus is saying that if you believe in him, that will not be your experience.  If you place your trust in him, instead you will have eternal contentment – satisfaction, no hunger, no thirst.  You will join him at the eternal marriage feast he’s going to host. 

And then verse 36 confirms what I said earlier:  with the crowds, they really didn’t want the true bread from heaven.  Jesus saw things the way they really were.  They saw him with their eyes, but they didn’t believe with their hearts.  You must understand this:  the image of the Son of God entered into their retinas, but their hearts refused to trust him as the Saviour sent by God.  You also have to understand this:  these are God’s people.  These are the covenant people of God.  They are the church of that day.  Yet they are unbelieving.

But brothers and sisters, what about you?  What about the church of today?  What about you, God’s covenant people in 2018?  You too have seen Jesus.  I mean not literally with your two retinas, but you have seen him in the Word of God.  The Word has been preached to you repeatedly.  What have you done with it?  Have you come to Jesus so that you would never hunger?  Have you believed in Jesus so that you might never thirst?  We can say, “How sad that the crowds in our text didn’t do that.”  But look, it would even be more sad if you didn’t, especially considering how much more revelation you’ve been given.  God has told you so much more about Jesus than he had these people at that point in time.  Loved ones, the warnings about eternal hunger and thirst in Isaiah 65 were addressed to God’s own covenant people.  Those warnings are for us too.  If you don’t come to Christ and don’t believe in him, you will certainly starve, you will certainly be spiritually dehydrated and die eternally.  Life already now is a famine without Christ, but it only gets worse after you die.  See how much better it is to hear his words here in John 6 and believe.

Our Saviour goes on to give encouragement to those who do believe.  He gives encouragement to those who are being led to believe.  Jesus gives powerful motivation to believe.  In verse 37, he says, “All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  These are beautiful words and we need to consider them carefully. 

The first thing we need to ask is:  who are those who have been given to Jesus by the Father?  To answer that, we need to go elsewhere in John’s Gospel.  In chapter 10, Jesus says that the Father has given “the sheep” to him.  The sheep are the elect.  The sheep are those who have been chosen by God for salvation.  The sheep are those who then believe in Jesus Christ.  The Father has entrusted these specific individuals to his Son for salvation. 

All those, all the elect, will come to Jesus.  In other words, they will all in due time believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour.  All the elect will share in the gift of faith.  The Holy Spirit will come to their cold, dead, sinful hearts.  He will make hearts of stone turn into hearts of flesh.  He will work the miracle of regeneration.  The Holy Spirit will cause people to be born again and then they will believe in Jesus Christ. 

And when they come to him in faith, he will never cast them out.  Just like in verse 35, when Jesus says he will never cast them out, he’s using the strongest possible terms in the original Greek.  He will certainly never throw out anyone who believes in him.  The idea behind that can be likened to a house.  You can come into a house and then someone might throw you out.  But Jesus says, if you have come into my house, I will never toss you out.  You come into his house through faith.  And once you are in his house, really once you are in him, he will never fling you away.  Believing in him, you are secure with him. 

That encouragement he gives only grows stronger in the following verses.  He affirms in verse 38 that as the Son of God his mission is to do the will of the one who sent him.  His calling is to do God’s will.  Verses 39 and 40 lay out exactly what that will is.  Here if you’re not paying attention, you’re going to be missing out on some of the best encouragement that Jesus has to offer believers.  Listen carefully.

Christ says that the Father’s will is that he should lose not a single one of those given to him, but raise them all up at the last day.  We already saw that those given to him are the elect.  Now Jesus says that he has come to do what the Father wants.  The Father wants each one of those elect people to be preserved.  The Father wants them all to be kept safe and Jesus is going to do so.  He has the power to do it and the will to do it.  So it will be done.  The elect will be preserved.  Right here we have that beautiful doctrine of grace known as the perseverance of the saints.  The saints, all true believers, are going to persevere, they’re going to stick it out to the end, and they’re going to do that because Jesus is going to see to it.  He’s going to preserve them.  He will lose not a single one.

Loved ones, this is an awesome gospel truth.  It’s not only something that’s an interesting doctrine -- this is powerful stuff for life.  Let me explain how.  We live in a world vandalized by the fall into sin.  Things are breaking down.  We’re breaking down.  Right now, if you’re healthy in your mind and the Holy Spirit fills you, you’re able to listen to this sermon and respond with faith.  If everything is clear upstairs and God’s grace enables you, you can take hold of Christ and believe.  He holds on to you, but you’re also holding on to him.  But what happens when that mental capacity is no longer there?  I often think of my maternal grandfather, my Opa Vanderland.  In the last four years of his life, he suffered with dementia.  It’s a terrible disease.  Every time I’d go to visit with him, I would have to introduce myself.  And then five minutes later, I would be a stranger to him again.  He didn’t have the mental capacity to remember me or any other family members.  For a long while, he still knew about his God and Saviour, but eventually that went too.  He became a shell of a man.  Throughout his life up to then, he had been a professing Christian, but now he couldn’t tell you anything about his faith or the Saviour.  When he died, was he lost?  No, because even if you lose your grip on Christ due to illness or some other circumstance, he will never lose his grip on you.  You have to learn this now while you can. 

Whether you’re young or old, you never know what might happen to you in the future.  It might be dementia.  You might suffer another type of disease.  You might have a depression so severe you can no longer see your Saviour clearly.  You’ve lost your grip on him.  It happens sometimes.  But listen:  if you lose your grip on Christ, he will never, ever lose his grip on you.  He is going to do the will of his Father.  He is going to lose nothing, lose no one.  Brothers and sisters, if you’re truly trusting in Christ now, he’s not going to lose you, ever.  As I said, learn this now while you can.  Fix this in your heart.  You may get to a point where your grip on him is starting to slip away – you know you have that illness and it could be just a matter of time.  This will be a huge comfort to you then.  Even if you don’t remember anything else from this sermon, remember this:  even when you lose your hold on Christ, he will never, ever let go of you.  He encourages you with that powerful promise in verse 39.

However, I need to make something clear.  When I say that Christ is not going to ever lose his grip on you, that’s not about apostasy but about infirmity.  That’s not about turning away from Christ through deliberate unbelief, but about losing your grip on him due to circumstances outside your control.  In the crowd in Capernaum was a disciple named Judas Iscariot.  He was a follower of Jesus, but not a true believer in Jesus.  Scripture calls him “the son of perdition,” which means the son of lostness.  Judas never lost his grip on Christ – he never held on to him in the first place.  When he fell away and betrayed Christ, he simply revealed the true colours that had always been there.  Here in John 6, Jesus is speaking about the elect and the elect always share in true faith.  So no one should understand what I’ve been saying to mean that Christ is going to unfailingly hold on to someone if they’re an unbeliever, whether it’s you or a friend or a family member.  The promise of verse 39 is encouragement for believers only.        

He also encourages all believers with the promise of resurrection.  It’s at the end of both verses 39 and 40.  He is going to raise up all believers at the last day.  Jesus is going to raise up your dead body.  Your soul and body will be reunited.  Your body will be glorified and perfected.  All the troubles, diseases, aches, pains and discomforts will be gone.  You will be raised up to eternally live with your Saviour in the fullness of what it means to be a human being – both body and soul.  Our joy will then be complete.  There is a glorious future in store for us. 

It’s a glorious future for “everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him.”  In these words, our Lord Jesus was and is giving an implicit call.  He was calling those Jewish crowds to believe in him.  He’s calling all the readers of John’s gospel today to do the same. 

Jesus says that eternal life awaits all who look on the Son.  Earlier in this passage, in verse 36, Christ went at the Jewish crowds because they saw him, but did not believe.  Two different words are used in these two verses.  The word for “look” in verse 40 is not the same as the word for “see” in verse 36.  Seeing in verse 36 means actually physically seeing with your eyeballs.  But looking in verse 40 is something spiritual.  Looking on the Son means gazing upon him with faith, it means intently looking at him with trust.  It doesn’t mean just taking a single glance at him, but constantly fixing your heart on the Saviour. 

Brothers and sisters, this is what we’re all called to do.  In this passage, we find divine sovereignty in our salvation – that Christ preserves us so that we persevere.  But there is also human responsibility.  There is also the call to look on the Son and believe in him.  If you do that, you will certainly have eternal life and Jesus will raise you up on the last day. 

In this passage, we’ve seen some misunderstanding.  It’s like Jesus and the crowds are on totally different wavelengths, speaking different languages.  It makes you think of 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  Truly we need the Holy Spirit to understand what Jesus says here – and anywhere for that matter.  If we are to consistently see Jesus as our true bread from heaven, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes.  So, brothers and sisters, let’s pray that he will do that work in our hearts and continue doing it.  AMEN. 

PRAYER

O God our heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us the true bread from heaven.  We thank you for our Saviour Jesus, who is the bread of life for us.  Believing in him, we thank you that our eternal hunger has been satisfied and our thirst quenched.  Please strengthen us with your Spirit so we can continue to look on him and believe in him.  We thank you for giving all the elect to the Son, along with your will that not one should be lost.  We’re grateful for the comfort that gives us in life and death.  Help us to remember these things throughout our lives, so we would never despair of your grace, but always have the sure hope of the gospel.  Father, we also praise you for the hope of the resurrection again.  How we look forward to the day when Christ raises us up with glorified bodies.  We earnestly pray for you to bring the day quickly.

                                  




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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