I am the Bread of Life

Published 1:03 pm Saturday, August 18, 2018

by Charles Qualls

One of the things you’ll learn about Elizabeth and me is that we will travel for food. I am not particularly proud of this, nor am I ashamed of it. But, one of our recreational pursuits when we’re on the road is that we’ll find some unique, special or downright indigenous place and enjoy that as part of the local culture.

I mean, why eat something on the road when you could go have something quirky or representative that you can’t get anywhere else?

For the last several years, Elizabeth has usually had the Flavortown USA app on her smartphone. This app has all the restaurants featured by Guy Fieri on his show, “Drive-ins, Diners and Dives.” Nothing makes us happier than to visit one of his featured places when we are on our own somewhere new.

In Key West, it’s “DJ’s Clam Shack.” In Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the “Thirteen Gypsies.” In Philadelphia, it’s “Honey Sit and Eat.” In Tucker, Georgia, it’s “Matthews Cafe.” We’ve tried places you probably wouldn’t go.

Jesus had a group of people hot on his trail in John 6: 24-35. By his reckoning, they were following him around mostly because of that cool trick he had just pulled off with the fishes and the loaves the last time they gathered.

While he would wish their interest in him had more to do with a yearning for spiritual depth — every pastor’s dream by the way — he saw through the shallowness of their interest. They were traveling for food. And, maybe the show that came with it.

After all, seeing Jesus perform more amazing and cosmic parlor tricks like like healings, miracles and especially making bountiful food out of scraps, beat anything they could see on TV.

A bit of context. Our passage here features another one from a set of “I am…” statements Jesus made in John’s gospel. Some of them are more absolute. Mostly, they depict Jesus reiterating the notion of “I Am …” just as God the Father did with Moses in the Old Testament. These are powerful, in that Jesus establishes himself as a manifestation of the God of their Fathers, the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In all, there appear to be at least five of these absolute “I am…” statements curated by John in this collection. But, there are also seven metaphoric “I am’s…” found in this gospel. “I am the good shepherd; I am the light of the world; I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the true vine.” These are all in John.

You remember them. So, here we have Jesus also saying symbolically that he is the bread of life.

We all have our favorite parts of the Bible. Maybe a collection of favorite Scriptures or teachings. Left to ourselves, that’s all we’d want served to us. Your minister understands that the only responsible calling is to see that you get a balanced diet across time.

I think that’s where Jesus was coming from when he sat them down and got honest with them here.

Have you ever been pursued? Followed? Stalked by groupies? Jesus had, just the day before when he fed the crowd of 5,000. They listened to him talk, but they stayed for the meal. You may remember the story.

Well, between there and our text today there’s some literal back-and-forth. It all gets weird. The people look for Jesus. They can’t find him. He makes sure of it.

Jesus had had enough and got honest with them and told them that their only interest in him was the bread. It wasn’t his important teaching. They were just traveling for the food. That, and the sign it represented to them.

I don’t know if they could hear what Jesus was saying to them. But, I know that he told us what we needed to hear that day.

“Stop working for the bread that perishes,” he said. Pay more attention to what will nourish you for an eternity — not what will fill up your stomachs for a moment. The Son of Man will give you what you truly need.

Is all the other stuff, including all the rational answers to life, filling the empty hole inside you? Is the stuff you’ve bought … the jobs you’ve had … the romance you’ve chased …has any of that filled the longing for God?

“I am the Bread of Life.”

CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.