A sermon preached by Bob Keller on August 12, 2012 based upon John 6: 35, 41 – 51.
Let me start with relating a brief story.
Three old men, tired of being old, sneaked off from their retirement village one afternoon to steal a dip in a nearby pool. It was an indoor pool, in one wing of a huge house that was apparently used only at night. Ignoring the strange glow near the bottom, they slowly, painfully entered the pool at the shallow end.
They had a wonderful time, floating in the water. Back home that afternoon they felt better than they had in years, so good in fact that they decided to do it again the next day and the next. Very soon it became clear that this was no ordinary pool. The same men who were creaking down the steps only days before were now doing cannonballs and back flips off the diving board. Back at the retirement village they were eating spicy Mexican food, dancing the tango, and flirting with their wives.
That’s not real, it’s a scene from the movie “Cocoon”, and to anyone who has ever grown tired of being old, or feeling old, it is a delightful fantasy- a pool in which old age is washed away. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!?
Hundreds of years ago, there was a belief that a “Fountain of Youth” existed somewhere in Central Americaand Spanish explorers tried to find it. Ponce de Leon searched in Floridafor a fountain of youth that would make those who bathed in it forever young. Can you imagine wrinkled skin becoming instantly tight and toned again? Arthritic joints growing suddenly supple and strong, or the pleasure of leaving your cane in the corner, throwing your pills away, and still keeping your membership in the AARP? If all that was possible, wouldn’t it be worth a search for the fountain of youth?
Now have a talk with a few young people. They will quickly tell you that youth isn’t all its’ cracked up to be. Yes, you can get out of a chair without groaning, but you can’t show off pictures of your grandchildren. And then there are all those things to worry about: Will I be able to go to college? Will I get a decent job? Will I ever get married? WillAmerica go to war? Ask a thirteen- year-old if she would like to stay thirteen forever and she will answer in one word: no. Although a youthful body would certainly have its advantages, it is not really eternal youth we’re looking for. It’s something else.
What it is is something that I found, not surprisingly, inFlorida. No, I didn’t discover the fountain of youth. It was in Disney World many years ago. My son, Jonathan, was only a little guy. It came time for the Disney parade. It’s a marvelous sight if you’ve never seen one. All of the fantasy of Disney is presented in real life right before your eyes.
We were just around the corner from Cinderella’s castle as we lined up to watch the parade and Jon, being just a little guy, had a tough time seeing. I hoisted him up on my shoulders and there he sat watching the parade for next half hour or so. I can still feel his weight there, but it was tempered by feeling him wiggle as he giggled and I heard his shouts of glee as his favorite characters appeared before us. Nevermind that his elbows “boxed” my ears every time he clapped his tiny hands.
We were far from home that day in Disney, both literally and figuratively. If you had been standing next to me, I might have turned to you and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”
I’m not trying to sell Disney here. You see, I also remember the struggle that it took to save up for that trip. And beyond that I remember the interminable nights of helping with homework or to finish a school project that was forgotten until the night before it was due. I also remember how weekends just evaporated as we rushed to Cub Scouts, Little League and roller hockey games. And soon Mike came along and we did it all times two! And now they’re both grown and fine young men, but it was only yesterday that Jon sat on my shoulders at Disney!
What I mean is that, young or old, “this” is the things of real living. This is what fills our memories and our scrapbooks. This is what brings a smile to your face at three o’clock on Monday afternoon. “This”.. is life. And if we want anything to last forever, it is this.
Not youth. Life.
You may recall that author Gore Vidal died recently. Vidal was recounted for his 2003 remembrance of the passing of his long-time partner, Howard Austen, “Didn’t it go by awfully fast?”, he recalled Austen saying.
Poet Allen Ginsberg wrote that it is “not nature that torments us, it’s man. Not death the torment, but the inachievement of Life.”
So, I don’t think Jesus could have come to us with any more provocative invitation than the one He brought, and the one He brings, the offer of eternal life. And reading that David gave us from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel this morning is filled with references to that offer.
Jesus said, “I AM the bread of Life……I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever”.
And when Jesus talks about living forever, you can be sure that He is not talking about merely existing forever. This is the same Jesus who says, in chapter ten of John’s Gospel,
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”
Abundant life is made up of those moments when you want to take a deep breath and hold it. It’s when you want time to stand still for just a little while. All those moments when you think to yourself, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” That’s real living, and we would do almost anything to make it last forever.
To be honest, I haven’t met many people who were that hungry for Christ- maybe not any, myself included. But I get the idea from this passage that if we could ever develop such a hunger, it would be satisfied, and that in that satisfaction we might discover what it is we have been searching for: not eternal youth, but eternal life. And in that moment we might turn to a friend with a look of perfect contentment on our faces and say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
But how can we know that? How do we know it doesn’t get any better? To understand the impact of what Jesus said, when he said, “I am the bread of life:” we must travel back in the Old Testament all the way to the moment when God revealed his personal name to Moses in the Book of Exodus. There God told Moses to tell His people that “I AM has sent you.” From that time forward the Jews associated this phrase as a claim of deity. When Jesus declares in John chapter 8 that “before Abraham was, I AM” he absolutely shocked his listeners, for they understood that He was saying, “I AM God!” At this point His enemies wanted to stone Him for blasphemy for either this was true or He was delusional and it was a lie. Seven times in the Gospel of John Jesus said who He was and each time He deepens our understanding of His provision for us.
“I am the bread of life.” (6:35)
“I am the light of the world.” (8:12, 9:5)
“I am the door.” (10:7, 9)
“I am the good shepherd.” (10:11, 14)
“I am the resurrection and the life.” (11:25)
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6)
“I am the true vine.” (15:1, 5)
John has gathered a collection of the statements of Jesus which show that the Savior of whom he writes is the one and only God. At the opening “I AM” statement John tells us that Jesus asserts “I AM the Bread of Life.” I think it makes it no coincidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means “the house of bread!”
He is claiming to be that which one needs in order to have life and continue to live. Without Him there may be existence, but not life! Christ gives eternal life. He not only has life in Himself, but He gives life to all those who will come to Him!
Not Only Is Jesus the Source of Life but He is the sustainer of Life.
When Jesus spoke of Himself as being the bread He was using an image that everyone understood. In Jesus’ day bread was more than a common part of the daily diet. It was “the” staple of the common man’s diet. It’s in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” If you didn’t have bread, you didn’t eat. If you didn’t eat, you died. The implication is that Jesus, like the physical loaves of bread, is sufficient for the need of mankind.
Jesus is also the satisfaction in Life.
Last week, Pastor Jeff alluded to the idea that some of the most dissatisfied people in the world live in the most developed countries of the world. The sad truth is that there are people all over the world who have more than enough to eat and a comfortable place to live, yet they are not satisfied. They are people who are hungry for more than just a full belly and a comfortable existence. There is a restlessness which says, “There has to be more to life than this.”
God does not want anyone to get the end of their earthly existence to find that it has all been futility and mistakes. The Lord spoke of His being the bread of life to rescue us from the emptiness of life without Him.
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
In the original Greek texts, a double negative is intentionally used here to emphasize just how powerful this statement is, “He who comes to me shall never ever hunger again.” In fact in addition to the double negative there is an added adverb so that it would literally be “He who comes to me will never ever at any time hunger.” Jesus is affirming in the most dramatic way possible the satisfying nature of the life He brings.
In Isaiah 55 (1-3 it says:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live…..”
What is being promised in these scriptures is a satisfaction of our spiritual hunger; the hunger for meaning; the hunger for peace, the hunger for contentment and the ability to believe that it doesn’t get any better than this.
I don’t know where you are today on your life’s journey, but I think, by the fact that you are here, that I know where you want to be. Take hold of what Jesus said 2,000 years ago and what He still says today. Take Him as the bread of Life. I can’t promise that you’ll always be happy or that you’ll become youthful overnight and be able to once again eat spicy Mexican food or carry a child on your shoulders or understand homework assignments any better, but I can promise you will have Life, and have it more abundantly.