I AM the Good Shepherd

  I.      Introduction

Sheep aren’t the smartest animals.  Have you ever seen a sheep act at a circus?

Now, they aren’t completely dumb.  I read about one study that shows they can recognize faces and voices.  They have excellent hearing but very poor eyesight, so they tend to mindlessly follow wherever the sheep in front of them goes.

Sometimes they’re stubborn and won’t budge.  Usually they’re peaceful, but sometimes they try to bump into you with their head when they’re mad.  But usually they’re afraid and timid, so they prefer groups of sheep for protection. 

They’re defenseless.  They can’t outrun predators.  They have no fangs or claws, so they’re only defense is their pitiful head-ramming. 

And they get lost if not penned, they can’t find they’re way home.  While they’re lost, they tend to fall into rivers and bogs.  Even when rescued, they might fall back into the same river.

And God says we are like His sheep.  That’s not exactly a compliment.  Sometimes we’re stubborn, won’t budge, bump into each other when we get road rage.  We don’t have any teeth or claws to defend ourselves, so we usually have to resort to name-calling.  And even when the Lord rescues us from our stupidity, sometimes we fall right back into the same stupidity.

I know you can relate.  I certainly can.

II.      Ezekiel

We’ve been going through the 7 “I am” discourses of Jesus.

  1. I AM the Bread of Life
  2. I AM the Light of the World
  3. I AM the Door
  4. I AM the Good Shepherd
  5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life
  6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life
  7. I AM the True Vine

Each discourse from Jesus is meant to bring us a deeper understanding, both of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and our relationship with Jesus, and each statement echoes the “I AM WHO I AM” statement God said to Moses.  This week, we’re going to examine Jesus’ statement from John 10:11a that begins with His statement, “I AM the good shepherd.”

The imagery of sheep goes back a long, long way.  Probably the most famous of those is Psalm 23, and I’m going to read the whole psalm because it’s so amazingly applicable to our study today in John 10 –

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We may be sheep, but we have a shepherd that loves us, protects us, comforts us, gives us joy and eternal life.  Our cup should overflow every day because of this amazing promise.  We’ll come back to Psalm 23, but first, let’s back up to the beginning of John 10, when Jesus begins,

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.”

To appreciate the message of Jesus, it’s important to understand who Jesus is speaking to.  He’s not talking to Israelites or His followers.  He’s speaking to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people.

And I know already this is going to be a stern message.  Jesus is full of lovingkindness and mercy, but He often had a stern word for the Pharisees.  The Pharisees enriched themselves at the expense of the people.  The Pharisees imposed rules on others that they themselves did not follow.  And the Pharisees misrepresented God to the children of God.  I don’t recall ever where Jesus rebuked Jews, His followers, or even the gentiles.  But He had hard words against the religious leaders.

God’s words against bad religious leaders goes back a long, long way.  Here’s Ezekiel 34:1-4 –

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

What happened in the days of Ezekiel continued through the days of Jesus, and indeed, still happens today.  God’s people can be led astray by false shepherds who are not about preaching the justice and mercy of God, of preaching the gospel, of preaching the only way to salvation.  These false shepherds enrich themselves.  They only care to the extent that they’re able to take more.  And 2 Peter 2:1-3 puts in this way –

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Jesus says these aren’t even pastors, they’re just hired hands.  And God promises in the same book of Ezekiel that He would send a solution, v 11-16 –

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

One of the many ways you can identify a false pastor is listen to how many times he says “me me me me” or even “you you you you.”  In this verse from Ezekiel, God says it’s not you, it’s me.  God says I will look after, I will tend, I will rescue, I will gather, I will search and I will bind and I will shepherd.  If the pastor’s message doesn’t continually point back to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, he’s not a pastor.  He’s not a shepherd.  He may be a wolf.

Then God says in Ezekiel that He will send and place one Shepherd over all, verses 23-24,

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

In contrast to the many false shepherds, this will be the one true good shepherd.  In Israel’s history, David was a good shepherd, a man after God’s own heart.  But David lived around 1000BC, and Ezekiel writes this nearly 400 years later around 590BC.  So Ezekiel is not speaking of David himself, but the root and offspring of David.  This is the coming messiah that the Jews were expecting.

III.      John

Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  We’re supposed to be studying the book of John.  So let’s get back to John 10:11a,

I am the good shepherd.

This is the English, but it wasn’t really written this way in the Greek.  A more literal translation would be “I am THE shepherd, the good one.”  Jesus is saying, “I am THE Shepherd you have been waiting for.”

And not even the word “good” here is a thorough translation of the Greek.  The word in Greek is “kalos” and it means beautiful, excellent, surpassing, precious, magnificent, praiseworthy, noble, preeminent, morally good and honorable.  I’m guessing that putting all of that in front of the word “shepherd” doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well as “the good shepherd.”

So John 10:11a, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd,” but the Pharisees heard, “I am THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock… from the likes of you.”

And that is why, later in this passage in John 10:20, the Pharisees responded,

Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

Jesus continues by telling the Pharisees how the Messiah differs from all those who came before Him and how He differs from the Pharisees, John 10:11-13,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

The religious leaders that misled the people are like hired hands.  They’re paid by the hour.  When times get tough, they abandon the sheep.  It’s because they do not own the sheep, the sheep do not belong to them.

Jesus is different.  He has purchased the sheep.  He owns the sheep.  He has invested in the care and well-being of the sheep.  If one sheep is lost, Jesus will leave the 99 to seek the one that is lost.  He is the good shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

IV.      Not Just Israel, But Gentiles

When we looked at Ezekiel, the prophecy of the coming messiah was for Israel.  The same prophecy, by the way, is in Jeremiah 23:1-3,5,

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.  Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord.  “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number… The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”

This promise is for Israel, God’s chosen people.  But many Old Testament prophecies, such as Isaiah 6, foresaw that Israel would reject the coming Messiah due to spiritual blindness.  For thousands of years, Israel had been the one nation that looked to God while the Gentile nations generally rejected the light and chose to live in spiritual darkness.  Israel and the inspired prophets revealed the one true God who was personally interested in mankind’s destiny of heaven or hell, the path to salvation, the written Word with the Ten Commandments.  Yet Israel would reject the prophesied Messiah, and the promises of the kingdom of heaven were postponed.  Paul tells us in great detail from Romans 9 through 11 about this hardening on the part of Israel led to the blessing of the Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Jesus makes one of the first references in His ministry that this is occurring, that the promised Messiah would not be limited to Israel in John 10:14-16,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

We are those sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  We are the gentiles that are not part of the nation of Israel.  And the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd laid down His life to rescue us.  He rescued us while we were but sinners.

The Pharisees responded by saying Jesus was demon possessed.

Some time passes; Jesus has been speaking during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, and John 10:22 says now is the time of the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, so about 2 months have passed.  These Pharisees and other Jews have probably had time to ponder the words of Jesus that He is THE shepherd, the good shepherd, and now they ask in verse 24,

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus responded in v 25-26,

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

Amazing.  Jesus has been doing miracle after miracle, healing the lame and the sick and bringing the dead back to life, all the while saying, “believe in the miracles that you may know that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” quoting the Old Testament prophecies and demonstrating the fulfillment of those prophecies, and then saying directly to their faces, “I am THE shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock,” and the Pharisees response is…

Um… what are you trying to say?  I don’t get it.

It reminds me a few years ago when I was teaching apologetics, and it seems to me that untruths spread rapidly and non-Christians believe the lies, and the truth spreads far more slowly.  One year it’s “there is no such thing as truth.”  Of course, the proper response to that is, “is *that* true?” 

Another year, the untruth spreading was “Well, Jesus never said He was God.”  I’ve heard this repeated by non-Christians, that Jesus never made that claim.  It’s baloney.  Jesus made it perfectly clear that He and the Father were one, that he was the only begotten son of God, and that He is God.  Jesus said, “I did tell you, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

If you seek Him, you will find Him.  Is it any wonder that if you don’t seek Him, you won’t find Him?

  V.      The Sheep

Jesus continues with His response in verses 27-30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

One thing I’m really starting to appreciate after these bible studies over the years is the shear amount of information that Jesus can impart in just a few words.  Let’s start with this first statement –

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Who is a Christian?  Here’s a complete theological explanation.  Christians listen to Jesus.  Jesus knows a Christian intimately.  Christians follow the instructions of Jesus.

There are many people today that claim to be Christian but are not.  I would also hazard to guess that many of them don’t even know they aren’t Christian. 

So who is a Christian?  Do they follow Jesus?  Do they know what Jesus says?  Do they read the bible?  I don’t know any other way to hear the voice of Jesus.  Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus so that Jesus knows them intimately?  Do they follow Christian, biblical principles?

Now, I don’t want to swerve into a political swamp, but often I read a news article about Christianity that I know is false.  These people will paraphrase one word Jesus said out of context and use it to leverage an entire heathen livestyle.  True Christianity follows Christ, we’re good citizens until the state infringes on the church, we love our neighbors in service and words but not to the point were we’re enabling them to jump off a cliff of non-believers.  Far left is definitely not Christianity.

But neither is far right, judgmental Christians, setting rules and laws for other people.  We may know the law and we may know what Jesus says, but instead of telling people who Jesus is, we tell them what to do.  We become judgmental hypocrites because we are all sinners, too.  We become the Pharisees.  We become just like the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep, and we only care about the pen they’re kept in.

No, a Christian listens to the voice of his savior and develops a relationship with Jesus, and does their best to live a way pleasing to God but not man.  That’s what I believe this verse means.

Verse 28,

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Eternal life is a gift.  Every religion in the world is the story of man trying to earn his way to God.  But Christianity is God working His way to man.  No one is worthy of God, no one can earn his place in heaven.  We have all sinned, each and every one of us, and fallen short of God’s glory.

This rescue is freely available, but we have to admit we need it.  I was thinking this week it was like walking down to Galveston Beach and saying, “You know, I think I’ll swim to Australia.”  And then I walk into the waves and start swimming, having no idea how far away it is.  The Coast Guard will send a boat to rescue me, but I just keep swimming.  I keep telling myself, I can do this, I don’t need any help.  I’m only rescued if I recognize I can’t make it on my own and then get in the boat.

And then I imagined the Coast Guard asking me, “Where were you going?” And I answer, “Swimming to God.”  And they say, why are you swimming to Australia?  You should swim toward the sun.

Jesus says if you’re seeking the Son, you will find the Son, and He will give you eternal life and you will never perish.  And your eternity is secure, never to be lost.  No one will be able to snatch you out of the hand of Jesus.  Not the devil, not the riots, not road rage, not even yourself.  We can’t be partially saved.  Either we get in the boat, or we drown.  And once we’re rescued, we are rescued forever.

Does that mean there won’t be challenges?  Of course not.  Even Psalm 23, which we read earlier, recognizes we walk through a valley of death and we are surrounded by evil and enemies.  But our eternal salvation is the one thing we don’t have to earn, we receive it as a gift, and we never have to fear losing.

Verse 29,

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Jesus has been given all authority, and He has always had all authority.  In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And our eternal security in Jesus is secure in the Father as well.  There is no higher power, no higher authority.  God is the Alpha and the Omega, and He holds our eternal life in His hands securely.  If God is for us, who can be against us?

And verse 30,

I and the Father are one.

If someone ever tries to claim that Jesus never said they were God, then then haven’t studied the words of Jesus.  The Pharisees say, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

A Christian who listens to the voice of Jesus and has an intimate relation with Jesus and follow Jesus, knows that He is the great I AM.  He is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way and the Truth and the Life, the True Vine.  He is THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

VI.      Conclusion

Psalm 95:6-7a –

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

To God be the glory.

Theresa Morgan(GoFundMe)

My co-teacher for the last – wow, 10 years or so – is Theresa Morgan, a lovely, encouraging, insightful, God-fearing woman of God.  Now she needs some assistance as she battle multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.

She’s undergoing a treatment that will require 4 weeks of attentive hands-on home care, and a GoFundMe account has been setup for her by her family.

If the Spirit moves you, you can contribute here:  https://gf.me/u/yqmdip

 

I AM the Bread of Life

Introduction

Who does Jesus say He is?

The book of John describes Jesus beautifully, beginning with in verse 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  But I want to skip to verses 9-13 because it gives a nice introduction to our lesson today.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus gave us the right to become His children, and all we have to do is believe.

We’re beginning a 7 week series on the “I AM” statements of Jesus.  Seven times Jesus said “I AM”, which in Hebrew times “seven” meant “complete”.  In Judaism, when Jesus said, “I AM,” it was no mystery to the people that Jesus was declaring His divinity.  In Exodus 3:14, when Moses asked God who told Moses to lead His people, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM.”  I imagine thundering rolling from the clouds as God made this pronouncement.

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The seven “I AM” statements from Jesus explain His ministry to us and His relationship to the Father.  These statements are –

      1. I AM the Bread of Life
      2. I AM the Light of the World
      3. I AM the Door
      4. I AM the Good Shepherd
      5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life
      6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life
      7. I AM the True Vine

We’ve probably all heard the phrase Jesus said, “I AM the Bread of Life,” but today we’re going to dig into it and understand what Jesus was saying.  Jesus was able to take a complex theological ecclesiology and make it easy to remember, “I AM the bread of life.”  But the meaning behind it eluded the people following Jesus, and it still eludes people today, despite its simplicity.

In John 6, which is all about food, it begins with crowds following Jesus.  Once Jesus had begun in ministry of miracles and healing the sick, people began to seek Jesus.  But the people are misunderstanding *why* Jesus is performing miracles.  The people just want Jesus to do more.  Jesus takes his disciples across the Sea of Galilea, which isn’t a huge distance, about 4 miles across.

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The crowd followed him to the other side and while the sea isn’t that large, it’s a long way from any restaurant.  There were 5000 men, and maybe an equal amount of women and children, and I imagine Jesus is grinning inside when He asks Philip in John 6:5,

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

You’ve heard the rest of this story.  A small boy has what might be his lunch, five small barley loaves and two small fish.  Jesus gives thanks, and then proceeds to feed the 5000.  Afterwards, in verse 12-13,

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”  So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

I believe Jesus intentionally uses bread here for His miracle, as well as having an abundance of bread after everyone was filled to illustrate his “I AM the bread of Life”  statement He will be making soon.  But how did the people respond?  Verse 14-15 –

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

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That evening, the disciples got in boat to go to Capernaum.  Jesus is still on the mountain.  It got dark and windy, the disciples became afraid, and then Jesus walked on water toward them, a miracle just for the disciples.

The next day, the crowd is wondering where Jesus is.  They know He didn’t get into the boat with the disciples.  When Jesus doesn’t return, they go looking for Him in Capernaum.  And when they get to Capernaum, there’s Jesus.  And they’re puzzled.  They say in verse 25,

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

And Jesus begins to teach, completely ignoring their question.  I can appreciate the deliberate ministry of Jesus.  The question of how he arrived in Capernaum is irrelevant.  Instead, Jesus immediately begins to teach.

Now, Jesus is not speaking to believers.  He is speaking to people seeking Jesus.  Remember, in verse 15, just after feeding the 5000, these people tried to make Him king.  These people were looking for a messiah to overthrow Rome, and they thought Jesus was that guy.  Jesus will save us from Rome, we’ll make Him king.  And remember, Jesus was disappointed and went up on the mountain by Himself after that.

Now when they see Jesus, they’re no longer calling Him “messiah” or “king”.  Now they call Him “rabbi” or “teacher.”  Ok, so you’re not the mighty warrior, you’re just a teacher.  A teacher that somehow magically appeared in Capernaum, but still just a teacher.

I think we can find many people like that in churches today.  People who claim they are following Jesus, who attach themselves to Jesus because they believe Jesus will give them stuff and solve their problems and heal their sickness, but have not understood what their relationship with Jesus is.  Jesus can do all things, but He does them for His purpose.  I think many people only call themselves Christian because of material things, which Jesus is about to explain misunderstands His purpose among us.  In verse 26, Jesus knows their confusion.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

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Jesus says the only reason the people are following him is because they want stuff.  They want to eat, to feed their stomachs for a day. That is what the fall of man has produced, a broken connection with our Creator.  And man cares about the natural, not the spiritual.  It cares about the temporal, not the eternal.  It cares about a full belly, not a clean heart. Jesus knows this – He knows what is in the heart of man because He created us.  We want our food, our entertainment, our bread and circuses.  Anything else?  Nope, we’re good, thanks.

Jesus wants us to recognize that our sin nature separates us from God.  People say, Jesus, fix my health.  Jesus, fix my business.  Jesus, fix my children.  Jesus, fix my marriage.  And Jesus says, “Hold on.  I came to fix you.”  Of course, Jesus cares for our physical circumstances, but that’s not why He came.  Jesus offers so much more.  Jesus wants to change us on the inside.

So Jesus tells the seekers in verse 27 –

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

Jesus offers the bread of life.  Jesus offers manna from heaven.  There are two Greek words used for our English word “life;” “Bios” refers to physical existence.  “Zoe”, used here, refers to quality of life both essential and ethical, not just merely living, but living for a purpose, living life to the fullest.  It answers the question, “why do we live?”

Jesus has the answer.  He has the authority and dominion.  He calls Himself here “Son of Man,” a title from this verse about end times prophecy from Daniel 7:13-14 –

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

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Jesus is claiming to be the son of man, claiming His deity, claiming to be God, and the people believed this to be blasphemy.  Jesus can give zoe, the answer to life.  Instead, the people just wanted their physical bread.  Instead of eternal life, they wanted a sandwich.

So how do you get eternal life?  Verse 27 tells us,

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

Jesus gives it to us.  It’s a gift.  We don’t earn it, we don’t purchase it.  We are saved completely, 100%, by the grace of God, not by works.

Did the crowd understand that it was a gift?  Do we understand it’s a gift?  Verse 28,

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

The crowd is clueless.  Still.  Jesus says, “eternal life is a gift I give to you” and the crowd responds, “well, how do we earn it?”

The human condition is fallen, but we all believe we have to do something to merit God’s favor.  Christianity is so unlike every other religion.  In every other religion, man is working his way to God.  In Christianity, God works His way to man.  It’s a relationship.

Fallen man wants to earn salvation.  Like the crowd responded, “What must we do?”  Works, works, works.  What do I have to do to please god?  Immediately after the fall of man, we started trying earn our way back.  In Genesis 3:6-7,

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

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They were naked, so they made loincloths.  The fall has happened and we have to do something to fix it.  This was the beginning of religion when we used to have a relationship.

Paul, writing to the Philippians, understood how fruitless his work were.  Paul had every reason to boast:  he was the perfect Jew.  Philippians 3:4b-6 –

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

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If anybody could fulfill the law, Paul did.  He lays out all the reason Paul should be saved, as though God owed Paul something for living a perfect life.

Does God owe us something?  So many people are mad because God doesn’t provide what they want.  Why does god owe you?  If you die tonight, people believe they should have eternal life because I go to church.  Because I’m a good person.  Because I give to the poor, I I I I me me me me I try hard I go to bible study I have the 10 commandments memorized…  but our relationship with God is not based on I I I I me me me me, it’s not based on what we do, but trusting in what He did for us.  The crowd asks, “what shall we do?”

Jesus corrects them in verse 29 –

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Jesus says, you wanna work?  Then believe.  Why do we want to work for our salvation?  I think it’s because we can boast when we walk into heaven.  Look at what I did!  But God doesn’t want our works if it’s taking credit for what He did.  He hates boasting.  Isaiah 64:6 says,

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

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Sing in the choir?  Filthy rag.  Tithing 15% instead of 10%?  Filthy rag.  Perfect Sunday school attendance?  Filthy rag.  Being a Sunday school teacher?  Filthy rag.  We have all become unclean, we all wear filthy rags.

So how do we fix it?  We can’t.  How can *He* fix it?  He already did.  All we have to do is believe.  Romans 4:4-5 says,

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.  However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

 

Slide20.JPGIt is our faith in the works of Jesus that saves.  When Jesus said this to the crowd of seekers who wanted a sandwich instead of manna from heaven, it drove them away.  The good news, the gospel, is a stumbling block.  It is offensive to fallen man because it takes away my ability to boast about myself.  We are all trying to earn something from God so that we can have bragging rights.  Man hates that message that salvation is paid for by somebody else.  We want to work for it so we can work harder than somebody else so that we can say, well, at least I’m better than that person.

That’s not the gospel.  John 14:6,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Slide21

Acts 4:12,

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

God fixed our problem, and there’s no other way, no way to fix it ourselves.  Remember immediately after the fall when Adam and Eve clothed themselves with a fig leaf?  Did that cover their nakedness, restore their relationship with God?  God provided a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus in Genesis 3:21,

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

God fixed the problem.  God fixed their nakedness by clothing them with the skin of a sacrificial animal.  God will clothe us.  We can trust that God will provide our sin sacrifice.  The gospel is that He did the work, not us, and we just believe in Him.  Remember Paul a little while ago, before he knew Christ, he considered himself the perfect Jew and earning his way to heaven?  But then Paul became a Christian, and how does he feel about his perfect works?  It’s the very next verse, Philippians 3:7-9 –

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Our righteousness is found in Him, no where else.  I have no righteousness of my own, only thru faith.  My works are garbage, filthy rags, compared to the glory of Christ.

So when Jesus told the crowd that all they have to do is believe in Him, did they understand?  Verses 30-31 –

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?  Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

The crowd is still confused, but if Jesus will just give them a sign.  We need a sign first.  This is what, like the 4th or 5th sign in the last 24 hours.  They are literally asking for a sign for more bread the day after Jesus gave bread to 5000.  But like many seekers, like many following prosperity gospels, the crowd wants Jesus to perform according to their schedule.

And we still do the same today.  Ok, so you’re Jesus, what have you done for me today?  Show me a sign if you’re God.  Like balance gravity and centripetal force so that I can stand on the surface of earth, neither being crushed by gravity nor being flung into space.  Like balancing the atmosphere with just the right balance of oxygen so I can breathe.  Like making the sun rise so I can work and the sun set so I can sleep.  Like giving me a soul that knows there’s more to life than just bread and circuses, that there must be a purpose.  Seriously, Jesus, what have you done for me lately?

The crowd tells Jesus, your signs aren’t enough like Moses.  What was manna the people wanted?  The Hebrew word “manna” literally means “what is it?”  The Israelites fleeing Egypt had no idea what it really was.  They had to gather it daily, depend on the Lord daily.  The people were still asking for a miracle that they wanted, they still wanted Jesus to rescue them from Rome like Moses did with Pharaoh.  And Christ corrects them yet again in verses 32-33 –

Jesus said to them, “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.”

 

Slide26.JPGChrist tells them that their thinking is stuck in the past.  The people want a rescue from Rome, but Jesus is saying them that’s like getting physical bread for one day.  Instead, focus on spiritual bread that feeds for eternity.  Focus on true bread that comes from heaven.

Notice Jesus says this with the words “very truly” or maybe your version says “truly truly.”  Or maybe you’re using King James, “verily verily” which for some reason wants me to add “life is but a dream.”  Literally, the Greek repeats the word twice, “Amen, amen.”  In the Greek, this means it’s absolute dogmatic 100% certain fact.  It means no doubt, no question, with certainty, completely true.  And Jesus repeats again that this is a gift, “it is my Father who give you the true bread.”  This gift is not obtained by any sort of human effort.

And the crowd still doesn’t get it.  Many Christians today don’t get it, either.   In verse 34,

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

First they wanted to make Him king.  Then they downgraded Him to rabbi or teacher.  Now it’s just “sir.”  Their question is confused, give it to us, where is it, how do we find it?  And then Jesus begins the first of the “I am” discourses, His teaching to us about His character, what He does for us, how to have a relationship with Him.  If you want to understand how to be close to Jesus, get to know Him, and verses 35-40 provides so much information –

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.  All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Jesus is the bread of eternal life.  He uses the same phrase for “I am”, in the Greek it’s “ego eimi.”  This phrase only belongs to God, but Jesus goes beyond that, “ego eimi” about himself.  I AM the bread of life.  “He who believes in Him” is the only condition.  if you receive it, there is no more spiritual hunger or thirst, original sin no longer alienates you from your creator, it is fixed once and for all.

Jesus says in John 4:13,

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This was Jesus’ purpose.  It’s why he was born, lives, and died for us.  Everyone that accepts that has eternal life, saved eternally from damnation.  And He will wipe every tear from our eyes, saving us from death and sorrow and pain, for the former things have passed away.  He did not come to make us a sandwich, and yet people still demand things they think they are owed.  I I I I me me me me.  Jesus wants us to accept what he gives freely and abundantly.  Eternal life.

And yet after all the teachings and miracles, people still won’t believe.  Verse 36 Jesus says the people have seen Him and still do not believe.  It’s because they’re focused on physical, not spiritual.  They’re focused on Moses, not Jesus.  They’re focused on temporal, not eternal.  They’re focused on I instead of being focused on “I AM.”

Conclusion

Jesus is the bread of life, life abundant, life eternal.  He says in John 6:51,

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Slide30

Jesus foreshadows His sacrificial death for all of us, giving up His life so that we may live.  It’s no coincidence that Jesus gave us his “I AM the Bread of Life” discourse during Passover week.  The Jews would be remembering that God provided manna during the Exodus, bread which symbolized God’s presence, sustenance, and provision.  Jesus is now saying, “I AM this bread.”

This salvation is open to everyone who accepts this sacrifice.  Not because of I I I I me me me me look at me.  We cannot boast about our salvation, but let the one who boasts boast in the work that Jesus did.

Jesus is the only true bread of eternal life.

To God be the glory.