Work for Food that Endures (August 5, 2018)
Work for Food that Endures
Moses the model Christians loves God and his word. He can’t get enough! He goes to every worship service available. He goes to every Bible class – even though studies on the first 5 books are his favorite. And he has a 30 min devotion every morning! All of that time spent in God’s Word adds up quickly. All totaled up, it’s about 290 hours a year that Moses the model Christian spends in God’s Word. Or, about 5.5 hours per week.
How does that compare to the hours you clock weekly at your job? It’s no secret that many Americans are workaholics by nature. In fact, on average, Americans work more hours per week than most other countries. And that number keeps going up. If you work 40 hours a week and take a total of 4 weeks vacation or holiday time, you would be working 1,920 hours per year. Keep in mind that an estimated 40% of U.S. employees regularly work more than 50 hours per week, and 20% work more than 60 hours per week. That means there are plenty of people who easily come close to hitting the 3,000 hour mark year after year!
And what do all of these working hours get us? There are some who work long hours to keep the lights on and the kids fed. There are some working those hours just to have more and more. But I think most are working long hours to have our needs met, plus a little extra and build up security for the future. But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to work such long hours to meet our daily needs?
Those that were fed among the 5,000 just the day before thought they had found their way to provide for themselves day after day, year after year – without putting in those long hours. Jesus had just fed a huge number of people with just one boy’s lunch. The people wanted more! Yesterday’s bread was gone. Their stomachs were empty once again. They needed more. And to get more they traveled all the way back to the opposite side of the sea of Galilee in search of Jesus. When they had found him, they asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (Jn 6:25). But their question of “when” was really a question of “how.” They saw the disciples leave in a boat without Jesus. They saw Jesus retreat to a secluded place. And when morning came, they didn’t see him on any of the boats. Was it another miracle? Jesus, please give us the details! What amazing thing did you do this time?! Their only purpose for Jesus was to meet their needs in miraculous ways.
And Jesus does indeed meet our needs. He does it with extraordinary miracles, and he does it with ordinary miracles. We talked about that last Sunday. But this is not why Jesus came. He didn’t come to be merely a great provider. He didn’t come to be a “bread king.” Their focus on an earthly Messiah blinded them to the true significance of the miracle. “Very truly, I tell you,” Jesus said, “you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (Jn 6:26-27). There’s something much better than having your physical needs met, and that’s having your spiritual needs met. It’s something better, and it’s something which really endures!
Have you ever thought about it in that way? You need water to survive. You need food to survive. We all know that, and if we don’t get those things our bodies cry out to be filled. But do you realize that you also need spiritual food to survive? Do you hear your spirit cry out to be filled when you go too long without feeding on the words of Jesus? I think it’s very interesting that Jesus even uses a direct illustration of physical food and drink to talk about spiritual food and drink. Here, he talks about the “bread of life” that you need to survive. A couple chapters earlier, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at a well about the “water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4). You need spiritual food even more than you need physical food! “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life” (Jn 6:27).
So, the crowd is intrigued. Ok, Jesus, we get your point. How do we work for this “spiritual food”? “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (Jn 6:26). And here it is, the same old problem that comes up again and again. Human nature thinks that everything has to be earned, everything has to be worked for. Human nature doesn’t understand grace. And maybe that’s what gets us every time. Maybe that’s part of the reason we don’t take time to provide enough spiritual food for ourselves. We see it as “work” – something I have to do. Maybe that’s why we have no problem working an average of 40 hrs/wk to earn something we can see, to provide something which we can feel, but we grumble and complain about 1 hour a week, hopefully a little more at home, because we can’t see anything physical that we get out of it. It feels like our duty. And if that’s your attitude about it, then Jesus has something to say to you. “This is the work of God, that you believe in him, whom he has sent you” (Jn 6:29). This isn’t work. It isn’t something you do at all. It’s a time for God to serve you – a time for him to work for you! The Israelites were all about work, even spiritual work. But here Jesus tells them, God does this work! God creates faith in your hearts. God teaches you to believe in Jesus. God serves you spiritual food as he connects you to Jesus and his words. You wouldn’t consider it “work” to eat a nice meal that was prepared for you. So also, the table is set. On the menu is a banquet of spiritual food! The main course is the Bread of Life! That’s why we highlight the gospel reading every Sunday. That’s why every Sunday we read about the words and works of Jesus. “These words are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). They are spiritual food.
So, Jesus is setting himself up to be a spiritual leader of Israel – a great prophet. Well, if anyone claims to be a great prophet, the Israelites are going to compare him to the greatest prophet they have ever known: Moses. “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness” (Jn 6:30-31). Look at how great of a prophet Moses was! And he proved it by feeding and preserving a whole nation of Israelites, not just 5,000! And he did this for 40 years, not just one evening! What will you do that can top that? Then, maybe we will believe you. You simply took bread which already existed and multiplied it. Your miracle was quite inferior to what Moses did.
Jesus sets the facts straight. “Very truly I tell you, 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 the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33). This manna that you cherish, came from a cloud of morning dew. The Bread of Life, truly comes from heaven. The manna sustained bodily life day by day and fed a nation. But the Bread of Life give real, spiritual life which endures! And it isn’t just for one nation, it feeds the entire world. Moreover, you ask for “signs” yet you reject the signs you have already been given. Earlier Jesus said, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill” (Jn 6:26). The very purpose of the miracles Jesus performs are that they are “signs” pointing to something greater. They aren’t meant to be the main event. But they focused on the miraculous sign, and so missed the real miracle: the Son of God, come down from heaven and standing in their midst. God the Father set his seal on Jesus when he was baptized, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). They did not come to find the Savior Jesus claimed to be, they came looking for the Savior they wanted Jesus to be, and so were dissatisfied with what he offered.
How often do we share the same dissatisfaction with what God provides for us? It could be preemptive worrying: “I’ve gotta save up more in case something unexpected happens. My time right now needs to be on providing financially. I can’t afford to take Sundays off.” It could be comparative complaining: “Look at the things my neighbors have. Why hasn’t God provided me with just a little bit more than the necessities?” We get caught up in the physical, that we forget about meeting our spiritual needs. We forget that God has saved us from a truly miserable and agonizing life separated from him, and he desires to preserve us for an eternity of indulging on all the fullness of the blessings he has in store for us. It’s true, you may not have all the luxuries you see others have if you take time off from working for things that will eventually fade. But you will gain things that are so incomparable to anything here and now when you let God work for you something which endures.
Peace. You can’t really earn peace, but knowing that your life is in God’s hands gives peace! Hope. You can’t buy hope, but believing God when he tells you that there is a better place fills you with hope! Perseverance. Feeding on the bread of life every day gives you the strength and perseverance to face another day entrusting yourself to God’s care.
God’s Word is powerful! At least some in the crowd were moved, “Sir, always give us this bread” (Jn 6:34). And finally, Jesus reveals the food that endures to eternal life, “I am the bread of life.” He says, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35). It’s hard to trust your life to someone else. When we live in a reality where every day we get hungry and meet that need with food, or have bills and we meet that need with money, it’s hard to come to grips with the fact that we also need to be fed spiritually. It’s hard to trust that taking small amounts of time during our week to simply sit at Jesus feet is really better spent than working extra hours or catching up on rest because we have been so busy with work. And I’m not saying you have to be Moses the model Christian. I gave that example so that you could see that even if you could do it all, that 290 hours a year is just a small portion of the 1,920 hours a year that many of us spend working. Don’t make 5 and a half hours a week your goal to begin with. Start with just 1 hour a week – here at church or if it doesn’t work out from time to time, then eat your spiritual food at home. And slowly build your appetite. Because when you feed on his Words, the bread of life, you realize that life is more than just eating, drinking, and enjoying life. It’s about knowing and trusting in the one who provides for all of your needs, physically, spiritually, and into eternity.